Wednesday, 22 June 2011

A NEW DAWN by Pal Hansen

A NEW DAWN by Pal Hansen

I saw Pal's great photograph of John Cleese in a Weekend Newspaper supplement and I loved how he had captured the elderly statesman of comedy but with a twinkle of youth in his eye. Ove the years, I have often been told that I look like Cleese. Some people seem to enjoy linking one with a celebrity - I suppose we all do it on occasion but I don't really get why celebrities are celebrated so much.

Anyway, I wrote to Pal and received a charming heartfelt reply in which he explained that his grand mother suffered from Parkinson's Disease for 40 years and that, therefore, he had seen the changes that the condition can impose on people. He said that his experience was less uplifting than my own.  He suggested that we exchange emails and wait  for this correspondence to trigger ideas. Eventually he wrote saying:-

''I truly admire you for your approach and way of dealing with it and want to show that through imagery.  My visual idea is to show you as a someone who flourishes and shine in a situation that many would find dark and unbearable.  I would like to suggest that we find a forested area in the winter time.  A time when all trees are bare and the landscape is dark and grey.  I imagine photographing you amongst the bare trees and dark landscape.  The major challenge for you is that I imagine you to be bare like the trees and the landscape.  The slight warm tones of your body would bring you out of the dark/dead nature and show you as a lease of life in the dark surroundings.  You being naked in a naked forrest also shows the vulnerability of the human body, how we are all from nature and how nature shapes us.  You mention that the Parkinson Disease has given you a new positive look at life and I hope that you and the natural skin tones would be representable of this whilst the dark, bare surroundings serve more as a visual reminder of my experience of the disease and maybe how many would take such a diagnostic.  This would mean that the shoot itself would have to take place in the evening or morning (dusk/dawn) and that you would for a short while be naked in the cold''

I was very touched by the thought and time he had put into formulating these ideas. By then, we were living in temporary accommodation in rural West Sussex so we had the perfect location. At the same time, I was dealing with Sarfraz Manzor for his feature on my project for The Culture Show. The director was Maurice O'Brien who asked if he could film me being photographed for the programme and Pal kindly agreed. 

                                                                               Maurice O'Brien and his crew

I had never met Pal before but I liked him immediately; he was tall and handsome and had kind and caring eyes. Maurice and his crew soon after Pal at about 7am by which time Pal, his lovely assistant Ryoko and I had inspected likely spots for the shoot.  So it was that we all trooped down to the woods where I shed my clothes in the cold dawn and this amazing photograph was born. Pal was very anxious to keep me warm but, in a weird and wonderful way, I like suffering for art. All the while, Maurice filmed and, at odd intervals, he stepped forward to interview both Pal and myself. After an hour or so, Pal had to leave to catch a plane.  I was sorry that we had not had longer to get to know each other and that our bond had been somewhat punctured by the presence of the film crew but I do hope we meet again and maybe work on more photographs. 

                                                                                              Pal Hansen

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