|AT REST, AT PEACE by Kamil Szkopik|
I contacted Kamil through seeing his work showcased in the Professional Photographer magazine. He responded saying that he would be pleased to photograph me. I was thrilled - it is always a thrill when someone says yes! We had some correspondence by email during which he explained his initial idea for the shoot. He said that, back in Poland, there used to be a tradition (and maybe still is in some places) that people would prepare for their death by putting to one side an outfit in which they were to buried. He remembered his Grandmother reminding him many times where her death robes were just in case..... He thought it was amazing that people were concerned how they would look, how they presented their body to the world after they died. Anyway, he went on to say that he wanted to shoot me wearing the garments in which l would like to be buried but that, if I wanted to be buried naked then fine, I could be naked. He felt that such an image where the dress code is taken on to another level of understanding would be very strong. I said that, as I loved being naked, that would be my dress code but that I would bring a suit as well.
Incidentally, it is interesting how many photographers have ideas about death and mortality when they contemplate photographing me. I suppose it is understandable - after all, why do I want to be photographed? It must have something to do with my mortality because, even though Parkinson's Disease won't kill me as such, it makes death slightly more likely (my neurologist said that I was likely to die one year earlier than I might otherwise) and when the illness gets appreciably worse, it could be termed as a living death. But enough of all that, let''s get back to the lovely Kamil.
Eventually, I arranged to come up to his home town of Milton Keynes and on 23rd August 2011, Kami collected me from the station and took me to his new studio that he had recently rented which was situated in the middle of an arts centre comprised of some ancient buildings in a beautiful rural settingwhich is not quite what one expects when coming to Milton Keynes. The studio itself was magnificent - quite large, light and airy. It had a good atmosphere but maybe also I was beginning to relax and get to know Kamil whose fresh faced enthusiasm was infectious. He said that his idea was to photograph me lying down naked and thereafter to create a collage of the shots and, although we tried some alternative shots and poses, it became clear that this first concept was the strongest.
Kamil was a delightful companion for the day; we talked at length about my project and his work and then, after the shoot, he took me to see a local exhibition of his work, the high standard of which reminded why I had wanted to be photographed by him in the first place. After a delicious meal at his family home, he deposited me back to the station. I felt very lucky - it had been a great day. Shortly afterwards, Kamil came to visit me in Brighton and he met Jane and fell in love with her paintings and our house. He brought with him some rough images from the shoot to show me and I liked them a lot although Kamil explained that they were not finished. Indeed, they remained unfinished for quite a while afterwards because I heard from him that the very next day, he had had an awful accident at work which unusually for him, brought him right down for a while as he had suffered some awful injuries.
However, by the time he sent me this final image, he had got a lot better. It is strange that when my untrained eye saw this final version, I was completely and utterly knocked out by it because partly I suppose it was the final edit and I knew that I could relax and enjoy it. I had already chosen the title and this ultimate image seemed to fit it like a glove. It is a glorious piece of work with a beautiful tone and structure created by an artist of the highest calibre, a man whose strength of character and ambition will ensure success in his future career but most of all, he is a man with love in his heart and passion in his bones and are not these important too?
Kamil, you are a prince.
Link to website: kamilszkopik.com (from April 2012)