Wednesday, 9 May 2007

NUMBER ONE by Graeme Montgomery

NUMBER ONE by Graeme Montgomery
On 7th May 2007, I walked into Graeme Montgomery's studio in Clerkenwell and, without realising it, my project had begun.
Graeme was extremely friendly and immediately put me at my ease. I wasn't frightened by the prospect of being photographed in the nude because for many years in Formentera I had walked and swum on the beaches there where many people are both clothed and unclothed. However, I was very excited about being photographed by a professional photographer.
Graeme had a wonderful studio kitted out with all the equipment - clearly he was a very successful practitioner of his art. He explained that this was the start of a project to photograph 'real' nudes with a view to publishing a book and that, eventually, I would receive a copy of the book and be invited to its launch. He intended to photograph the first 100 people to walk through his door and I was number one.

First of all, we used a grey back drop and, at Graeme's request, I assumed a number of poses both standing and sitting whilst he clicked away on this enormous digital camera attached to a large metal tripod on wheels. The camera was connected to his computer and, after every shot, Graeme would lean over to the screen and check what he had done. He seemed to be very clear and confident in what he wanted and worked quickly and efficiently. After a while, we had a break and looked together at the images. They were wonderful. The clever lighting picking up the lines and curves and the hairs covering my body like a soft carpet of down. I looked beautiful. We had a look at the second collection of photographs which again were superb. He asked me about myself and why I had wanted to be photographed and I told him briefly about my life as a lawyer and how,, through having Parkinson's Disease, I had come to answer his advertisement in Time Out.

I left after about two hours and walked out into the spring sunshine of London, my favourite place. I was born in London and lived there for the first thirteen years of my life. I returned later to read Law at Queen Mary College in Mile End and then returned again to complete my professional examinations at The College of Law in Lancaster Gate. During vacations, I worked in Barker's in Kensington whilst first living in Chelsea and then Meard Street off Wardour Street and then I worked at The Shaw Theatre in Euston whilst living in Leytonstone. Love, love, love it.
As I walked down the road after saying goodbye to Graeme, to the pub in Farringdon to have lunch, I thought how bloody lucky I was to have Parkinson's Disease. It had enabled me to stop working and now I had all the time I wanted to do anything I liked. That day, I had been photographed by a professional photographer and I looked ok.  I didn't look like a middle-aged fat man getting his kit off. I looked like me. Human. Not perfect but not imperfect.
A few weeks later, the print of the photograph arrived in the post and I felt very proud as I pulled it out of the wrapping. I looked very potent in the photograph. Not sexy or sensuous but strong and masculine. I showed it to Jane. I wanted to hang it on the wall straightaway but the kids wouldn't have been keen so I put it away.
About two years later, once the project was under way, I wrote to Graeme saying that since I last saw him, the project had unfolded and I explained that I wanted his permission to use his image. For some reason, I was afraid that he would say no. However, I need not have worried. He replied saying that my email had made his day and told me that, since we were last in contact, his life had changed. He had fallen in love and his partner was now expecting his baby and that he was very excited about the project and that, of course I could use his image in the exhibition which by then I had begun to plan. Happy, happy day.
I decided to call it Number One because I was the first of Graeme's subjects to pose for this set of photographs and he was the first photographer I had seen as part of the project which had subsequently unfolded.

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