Wednesday, 16 May 2007

AT HOME IN THE DINING ROOM by Mark Russell

AT HOME IN THE DINING ROOM by Mark Russell

In the week following the publication of the issue of Time Out in which Graeme Montgomery had advertised there was another advertisement calling for volunteers to sit for a portrait at their home by professional photographer, Mark Russell. It was strange to find another advert of this kind in the magazine because, with the advent of the internet, most classified advertisements of this kind are now to be found online.
I contacted Mark and he came down to our house in Milford, Surrey and took a series of portraits of both Jane and myself. 
Mark's work explores themes of identity and interpretation. he looks at cultural issues through portraiture and this photograph is one of a series of twenty portraits of his under the title "At Home". Each portrait in the series allows for a casual look into the sitters' lives and how their personal environment contains them.
In strong contrast to Graeme, Mark used a Large Format camera which was a beautiful piece of equipment made of wood and polished brass. Each photograph took a while to set up as Mark painstakingly went through a careful process of composing the shot and then inserting the slides. However, l was fascinated by the whole procedure of taking the photograph and, in particular, how Mark would spend some time adjusting the position of the camera, the focus and checking the light and then finally would insert the slide containing the film and then,"click", the photograph was taken.
Mark Russell
My room at my office was very untidy with files all over the desk and all over the floor. Very soon after I retired, l commandeered our dining room for writing and dealing with household admin and gradually the room took on the appearance of my old office. Mark was keen to capture that and other small but significant details such as the shape of my wallet stuffed into the pocket of my jeans and the sports books l had inherited from my late cousin which l intended to sell and which were all shoved into a collection of carrier bags under the pianola.
It is now three years on from when that photograph was taken and we are having to sell the house to rid ourselves of a large mortgage so this image is, in many ways somewhat poignant as it records what that room looked like. The pianola has now gone, sold on Ebay in a move to de-clutter the room to make it more attractive to potential buyers. My daughter was particularly sorry to lose it as it was on that that she first learned to play the piano. Her framed grade certificates are seen hanging on the wall beside the pianola. She was not at home when the buyer came to collect it but Jane climbed into the back of the van and played a short extract from Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata for old time's sake.
The ornate wine glasses on the mantlepiece above the fire were given to me by an old friend of mine called Gina, under her Will. She had informed me previously, over a glass of sherry, that l was to inherit them and l promised her that every time l drank from them, l would give offer a toast in her memory. We always had our Christmas lunch in the dining room and, before we started eating, we toasted the Queen, absent friends, the cook (Jane) and Gina.
So, a photograph with a great deal of resonance and detail and full of memory.

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