|MAD HATTER by Kandy Ackland|
It was almost exactly a year ago that I first met Kandy in Hove and here we were on 8th May in a rape field in the middle of the Sussex countryside creating more brilliant photographs. It was wet underfoot (as the Headmaster at my grammar school in Chichester used to announce in Assembly before telling us the bad news that we couldn't play on the sports field at break time - all those fields sport now is an ugly estate of newish houses and a small artificial games pitch.....but I digress). It was very wet and muddy underfoot and quite misty but otherwise it was a beautiful morning, all the more so for seeing the lovely Kandy again. I don't know what it is about her which is so uplifting but maybe it's because she is so game for trying things out (and succeeding) or her generally positive nature but I did feel that we were brothers-in-arms, as it were, that damp spring morning.
We parked at the side of the road and tottered (I did the tottering whilst Kandy strolled) over to the other side to negotiate an iron gate whilst a few very early morning commuters whizzed by in and out of the fog wondering who the fuck we were and what we were doing, especially once I took everything off and donned just a tailcoat, mascara and my grandfather's silk top hat. He worked as an accountant for a railway company and presumably the hat was used for special occasions such as the opening of a new waiting room or even a new station or branch line. I never knew him but he has a lovely warm expression in the few photographs we have; he was widowed twice and married three times and had many children including my father. I digress again.
Initially, Kandty shot me using a fish-eye lens on her digital camera and then took some shots on film whilst I sat on a chair first of all and then stood up for the final shots. We then climbed back over the gate to the car. I can't really climb anymore, at least not without difficulty - the spirit and desire is still there but the flesh and muscle is weak - but, with Kandy standing by in case, I managed it. A minor triumph on an all round successful expedition.
We went on to some bluebell woods further up the road near Ditchling - it was getting lighter by now and the woods looked beautiful with the fresh green of the new foliage on the trees washed by the misty rain and set off by the soft colour of the bluebells made even more gentle due to the fact that the petals were slowly beginning to fade. I was wearing my wellington boots and assumed Kandy would want me to remove them but she asked me to keep them on and shot me again on both digital and film in a variety of poses. She then called a halt but I wanted MORE and I think we did do few more but she knew it was time to stop but the trouble with me is that I never know when to stop. Anyway, we squelched our way back to the car which was parked near a small puddle into which drops of rain were slipping intermittently off the leaves above. It looked so beautiful and I wished that I could have captured it on film. Kandy suggested I filmed it on my 'phone and so I did and, once I work out how to get photos and film off my bloody mobile, I shall add it to this post.
Well, the aftermath of the shoot was interesting. I received a set of digital photographs from Kandy very soon after the shoot and, when I looked at them for the first time, I loved so many things about them - the colour, the contrast of black against yellow and green, my engagement with the viewer and the wonderful grainy effect. However, I found the full length nudes troubling not least because I looked so fat. But, as I explained to Kandy, I have learned two things during my project; first that other people look at at you without vanity and judge the image purely on its merits and, secondly, it is essential that you walk away and come back and look again as I did the following morning. And the following morning, it was all quite different. I loved them all, although this one was my favourite as it had been at first glance. Not only do they all look stunning, they pose so many questions - who is this guy and why is he here, half dressed in evening clothes with the remnants of make up on his face possibly from the night before? I liked the why.
I threw all this plus my intitial doubts at Kandy and she responded by saying that the images were unsettling for the obvious reason that it is wholly unconventional. The images have a sense of humour about human nature and also a quite sweet 'to hell with it all' message conveyed in them. She was experimenting with the child-like confidence in the ridiculous that counteracts the seriousness of adult life and, of course, mortality. She was attempting to articulate the 'why' and this could be read in different ways. She saw the images as a lark about, a stress relieving silliness which of course, I fully identify with and that is what is important, not my bloody stomach.
"The vibrancy of nature is like a chamber of jewels in which to flaunt and revel in the majesty of it all. Your own kingdom from which we all came and will return" - Kandy Ackland.
These are so good that, only for the fourth time, I have included a second photograph from a photographer in my project