Thursday, 18 October 2012

EYE SEE YOU by Martina O'Shea

EYE SEE YOU by Martina O'Shea

Martina is a lovely Irish woman currently based in London who takes wonderful considered photographs. She seems never to be quite satisfied but I do not say that as a criticism. Rather it is a compliment to her artistic endeavour. True artists never feel that they have quite succeeded. Her compositions seem so natural and then she has the greatest skill of all - the element of surprise!

She asked me recently what motivated me to ask her to photograph me. Well, I came upon a photograph on the Blog of Alex B, the model, in September 2012. It was a photograph of Alex taken from behind as she was stretching and it was bordered by a black circle, a ring of some sort. Alex's pose, if indeed it was posed, was unusual but I loved the body shape and the fact that it was framed by the circle. I liked the way Martina had thought about the composition or perhaps had suddenly noticed it and caught it at exactly the right moment. I liked her thought process almost as much as the image itself. That would have been enough motivation to contact her but the work on her website gave off the same message and, if I had been in any doubt (which I wasn't), that would have sealed it for me. I wanted that mind to be applied to a photograph of me. We met for an initial chat and, after discussing various locations by email, we decided on Hampstead Heath and Martina asked me to wear pyjamas for the shoot. I don't have any pyjamas so on the way to meet her, I bought a pair from Marks & Spencer.

The shoot took place on 18th October 2012 and it was a nice early Autumn day just right for strutting around a public place in my pyjamas - as it happened hardly anyone seemed to notice or care. We strolled around the Heath and used various different locations. At one point, I stood in a puddle by the side of one of the lakes. Martina really wanted me to get in the lake but there was no way I could. If I had had some plastic shoes and no Parkinson's, it might have been different. One of the last shots was this one and by then it was getting late and a bit dark. I did think it might have been good to have stripped off at this point but I was scared of potential rapists creeping up on us, overpowering Martina and then ravishing me in the undergrowth. Well, you never know - there are stories like that in the Daily Mail all the time!

We walked back to the Station but stopped for some tea and I think we had some cake too. As Martina got up to leave the cafe, I noticed that she put on some little black leather gloves. We caught the train together and said goodbye at Highbury & Islington where I alighted to catch the tube to Victoria. I sat on the train to Brighton and reflected on the day and smiled. 

Martina had shown me some of the shots at the back of the camera and so I thought I had some idea of what the images from the shoot would look like. Well, I had no idea. They were astonishingly different and very, very good. I was overjoyed to receive such fantastic work. All that concentration had paid off. Martina is an exceptional photographer and a very interesting person too. She is sensitive and fun. Aren't I a lucky guy? Lucky Tim they call me.




Only 8 days left to see my namesake in BULLY BOY at St James Theatre in Victoria. It is a great new play by Sandi Toksvig and starring Andrews, who gives a brilliant performance, and Joshua Miles an incredibly talented young actor making his West End debut. Book now to avoid disappointment!! Nothing to do with my project but just had to tell you all.

Monday, 15 October 2012



Reuben Wu must be one of the world's greatest treasures - well, he is as far as I am concerned. I have rarely come across anyone so determined to get the picture he wanted. I saw his work on Flickr in January 2012 and, although there were only a few photographs, there were enough to tell me that this man was an unusual person with great talent. I had to be in one of his photographs. He had heard of my project and said that he would love to be involved and suggested we get together in a few months' time. For one reason or another, I left it for another five months until I wrote again asking if he was still interested. He was and he sent me a picture of a cement works which he thought would be a good location. Again, I left it a few months (2012 was like that) and this time he asked me if there was a favourite place where I would like to be photographed. I thought about this and replied saying that it would have to be West Wittering in Sussex, my childhood home and that I would love to be photographed on the beach. He thought that sounded great and said that he had an idea which involved finding a small rock or a boulder sticking out of a rock pool or the sea - he sent me a photo of such a rock (see below). It needed to have a mountainous look if viewed up close. He wanted to photograph me under the same light conditions but the idea was to place me (via post-processing) on the summit of the rock as if it were a full sized outcrop of rock say, 50 feet high. He explained that he wanted it to look huge rather than me to look miniature so he would have to think about his depth of field. He thought either would be interesting but making it huge would be very nice if he could do it. He added that he had never done this before so it would be very interesting and very rewarding if it worked!

The Rock on West Wittering Beach

We chose a day and hoped that it would be slightly overcast and also that there would not be too many people on the beach. I collected Reuben from Chichester Station and we drove down what to me was the very familiar road to West Wittering. So many memories come flooding back every time I make this journey; my chest heaves with the weight of the recollections of my childhood and my late mother who lived there for so long. 

Some months before, I had visited an old acquaintance who lived only yards from the beach. Her husband had died recently and we had corresponded briefly following his death. Very kindly, she said that, if I ever wanted to go to the beach, I could park in her drive. This was marvellous because it is a long walk from the main road and there is limited access for cars because the road leading to the beach is private. We parked but did not see my friend and so we set off to the beach. It was incredibly windy as only West Wittering can be in October. Lately, I had been suffering a bit because I was beginning to experience "On/Off" periods that is, when the pills ceased to have effect and I was waiting until it was time to take a new one. We walked eastwards but did not find any rocks and so I suggested we walk in the opposite direction because I knew the landscape would be more interesting. The wind blew stronger and I felt myself struggling but I was so impressed by Reuben's desire and determination to find the best location. We never did find a rock but I have to say that I was mightily relieved when he decided to use employ instead a line of breakwater posts sticking out of the sand. He then got out a Polaroid camera and explained that he was only going to use that! Very carefully, he sized up the posts and took pictures from various angles, each time carefully examining the picture he had taken. The amazing thing was that all the time the wind blew harder and yet he stopped to compare a bunch of Polaroids by pinning them to his leg with his finger. If I had been doing this, the pictures would have disappeared immediately! I marvelled at his calmness whilst he assiduously compiled the images and then, at last, he called me forward and photographed me separately. Eventually he agreed that he had got what he wanted and I was very glad to start retracing our steps along the beach back to the car. But even then he stopped every so often and took yet another shot of the sky. By this time it was raining and the wind was so hard that the spots of rain were like little razors as they hit our faces. 

We reached the shelter of the car (with some relief as far as I am concerned) and just as we were getting ready to leave, my friend came out of her house with her daughter whom I had not seen since she used to play with my sister almost 40 years ago. They said that they were worried about us having been on the beach so long on such a day as this. It was very nice to see them both again and it marked a pleasant end to the shoot. On the way back to the Station, we stopped for tea and cake at a little cafe and chatted. Reuben told me that his main occupation was as a musician which surprised me . I mean there was no reason why he shouldn't be a musician but the way he had gone about the photographic job in hand was so impressive that one would think it was his only passion and maybe it is.

Well, I received only one image from him but what an image! And it was all compiled from a set of polaroids! It is utterly amazing and really says so much not only about the day but about West Wittering beach as well. Those who know the beach also know that it can be a unforgiving place as well as beautiful and that day it was both and Reuben captured that dichotomy in a very unique way. Reuben has a very special talent. He is curious and sees beauty everywhere and then reproduces it with such artistry and such care that it absolutely blows your mind. This is a simply wonderful picture and I am so very proud to be able to say - I have been photographed by Reuben Wu. 


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

FOCUS by Jonathan Stead

FOCUS by Jonathan Stead

Jonathan was recommended by Alex Boyd but nothing really prepared me for the incredible work displayed on Jonathan's website, especially the very moving pictures of his grandmother when she was suffering from Dementia. Jon specialises in Dry Plate Photography and all his photographs were just so exciting and innovative and so I had no hesitation in contacting him about my project. He had seen the pictures taken by Alex and was clearly impressed. No surprise there! And he said yes which was a real thrill. This was in September and, within a month, I found myself on a train to Sheffield for the first time in about 40 years. The last time was to visit Susan, my first serious girlfriend, who sadly died of cancer about two years ago. I was at Queen Mary College, London University at the time and she was at Sheffield University. I was so serious that I attempted to be transferred onto the Law course at Sheffield to be nearer to her and we even talked of marriage but then I thought of marriage to just about any girl who turned her head towards me in those days. I was, and still am, an incurable romantic but the relationship was doomed to failure because we were both young and I was incredibly immature.

But, I digress.

I arrived at Sheffield Station on 10th October 2012 and everything looked so different - all much more modern than it had been all those years ago. I was really looking forward to the day with Jon and that helped banish that heavy breathless feeling in my heart as I thought back to Susan (stop it!). Jon collected me from the station in his motor car and immediately he struck me as a very personable and warm man. He had admitted to me beforehand that he knew little about Parkinson's Disease and asked me for more information on the condition and how it affected me specifically so he could decide on poses etc although he did say also that he tended to work with what sees without making too many plans. Love it, love it.

Well, I had the most fascinating day at his studio watching him work with the dry plate method. He developed the photographs there and then and explained the whole procedure very patiently for me. He holds workshops on this way of working and I guess they are very successful because he is a born teacher because he has so much enthusiasm for his art and his craft. We tried various poses topless at first and then some naked ones at the end. He knew what he wanted and it all felt so easy. He was looking to capture the difficulties I had in keeping still particularly as the effect of the pills wore off during the afternoon and he chose the paper negative process as the slow speed made for longer exposures. 

COMING BACK by Jonathan Stead

He took me back to the station in time for the train to St Pancras and as the train pulled away, I was glad to have a new memory to replace the old ones. I leaned my head against the window and smiled as I thought how very lucky I am to have these days with people as nice as Jonathan. I have said many times that it is the shoot I love and the photograph at the end is like a bonus, a little present at the end of it all. However, in this case, I had had a preview of the final images and so I was very much looking forward to receive the photographs from Jon. They arrived shortly afterwards . He sent me three and all of them were just fantastic. He had displayed the images alongside the paper negative as, in his words, "they disorientate and, at first glance appear unconnected'' which he felt mirrored the disconnection I felt over my own body. I am always so touched by the thought and care invested by the photographer in the shoot and post production and this was no exception.

ONE MINUTE by Jonathan Stead

It was so difficult to choose just one image for my project so I asked Jon which one he preferred and between us we plumped for "Focus" but look at the others - see what a difficult job I had?

Jon has asked me to return to Sheffield which I shall do as soon as I can. Why? Because, Jonathan Stead is a true artist and innovator and all round nice guy. I am very honoured to be one of his subjects.


Thursday, 4 October 2012

SOFTLY AS YOU LEAVE ME by Jennika Argent

SOFTLY AS YOU LEAVE ME by Jennika Argent
A return to Gumtree ended very happily indeed as, in February 2011, I found an advertisement from Jennika which said "Female Photographer specializing in Portraits, Nude, Glamour and Boudoir". There was an example of her work shown and it had that certain something. I don't know, I think it was a boldness of a kind that I felt I hadn't experienced before. So, I wrote my usual email but said that possibly we could collaborate on something. She replied asking first if I was happy to pose nude and then going on to say that she didn't know much about Parkinson's other than it makes you shake a lot and that it would be great to have a chat and get a feeling of my energy and what we might do.

We were originally going to meet for a shoot in the office block in the City where she worked but that didn't happen and, what with one thing and another...and another and then another, we didn't meet until August 2012 but we set the shoot up in Hampstead Heath fairly quickly thereafter. We got on very well at our initial meeting and so I had a very good feeling about the shoot. Jennika is a real Londoner and has a very warm personality and I get the feeling that she likes herself and her life and I found that very inspiring, almost moving. She is a good person.

It was a lovely day when we met on the Heath for the shoot but I was very anxious not to upset anyone with my nudity. As I said to Jen afterwards, I sometimes wish I could be more brazen but I can't. I love being nude especially in the open air but I just don't like shocking or upsetting people.

But it all worked out fine. Jen, ably assisted by her lovely friend Sammi, climbed up a tree and I lay down in the leaves below and covered myself up and she shot a few photographs from up there and then we did a shot of me walking away from the camera as I threw leaves over my shoulder. Neither of us were sure that the throwing had worked but it turned out looking as if I was waving the branches out of my way and looks far more natural as a result. One of those happy accidents that end up perfecting a photograph. The idea was to produce a diptych of the two shots. I really loved all the images that Jen sent through but I was undecided about some aspects and certainly found it difficult to choose one for the project. We went around in circles and ended up at the beginning with these shots which I love. I wasn't sure about the leaves sticking to my bum but Jen loved that because it looked like I had just been lying there for a while and had nature imprinted on me which was exactly what had happened.

As for the title, well it originates from a Frank Sinatra song, ''Softly as I leave you''.  I am not a huge Sinatra fan but he sings this song so beautifully. It has wistful sadness to it and that was brought to mind when I saw the look on my face as if I was reflecting on the fact that the me I used to be was slowly, softly leaving me.

Looking at the two shots again has reminded me of what a lovely day it was. I find Jennika such a refreshing person and the photographs reflect her personality. Natural, warm and clear. A lovely woman and a very instinctive and intelligent artist. 


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

SAME AGAIN, NATURALLY by Jillian Edelstein

It was about 3.30pm and Christopher and I left school and walked down Holders Hill Road and then across the bridge over Dollis Brook, turning right along the path which ran alongside the water, its familiar trickling sound welcoming us back again on another warm afternoon. We dumped our satchels down on to a small pebble beach which jutted out forming a small chicane through which the water squeezed before being let loose for a few yards before hitting another obstacle in the form of a fallen branch swaddled in wet brown leaves causing more bubbling and rippling. The camp which we had started building on the far bank was as we had left it the day before when, with our friend, Ricky, we had sat on the dry ground and shared a packet of biscuits and a bottle of lemonade in the shade of the roof made from some old fence panels which we had found in the undergrowth. 

Fifty years later, I return to the brook on another sunny day with a view to sending Jillian a message suggesting a shoot there. She agrees and the following week we meet at her house and set off to Hendon in the car with her assistant for the day, Christina Theissen. When we arrive, we are met not only by grey clouds hovering above but also by two employees of the Environment Agency who are wearing thigh-length boots and are busy clearing the banks. Fortunately, they are moving away from the place I had earmarked for the shoot the week before but they warn us against putting our hands in the water and then into our mouths because of the rats, adding merrily that luckily the recent rain had washed most of the sewage away. As I lead Jillian and Christina to the spot, heavy drops of rain begin to fall and we come together under an umbrella and listen to mothers in the adjoining parkland scuttle away with toddlers to escape the downpour. 

Eventually, the rain stops and the sun re-appears and I feel relieved that the park is now devoid of visitors as it will avoid any potential embarrassment for me and them when I remove my clothes. Jillian then realises that she has not packed her memory cards for her camera and looks at me and says that she does have a polaroid camera as well as a film camera and one roll of out of date film. Shall we go back to the house and get the cards and risk the return of rain, mothers and children and the Environment Agency workers? Shall we cancel and go home and try something else or shall we work with what we've got? We go with this last choice and it changes the whole mood. We are all determined to make it work. Jillian takes test shots on polaroid and we gather round and purr over the results which bode well for the shots on film. Jillian asks me to crouch and look away and purrs again as the shutter clicks. She asks me to lie down - I go to lie on my back but she says no, on my front with my head over the water. As I lie there and look deep into the stream, the memory of those beautiful days after school with my friends replays in my head and I just know that these shots will be everything that I wished them to be.

Jillian sends me the contact sheet - I adore these images. The sallow green tinge, the arch of my back, the feeling of the passing of time. It is entirely appropriate that I am naked. It places me in a world of my own.  A world of distant sounds, earthy smells and dancing light. Jillian has captured all this on one roll of film which I suppose any capable photographer could have done but not with quite the same sensitivity and understanding and that extra special something that is unique to her. 

I walk home up Hendon Avenue past the house where Vera Lynn lives, across Hendon Lane and then down Gravel Hill to Church End. I look into the grocery store and see Mr Sparrow busily serving a customer and then I cross Stanhope Avenue and carry on past the Baptist Church and up to Templars Crescent. Mrs Middelton is at the door of number 5 and waves and I smile at her and she smiles back. I reach our house and my mother greets me. "Where have you been?" she asks. "Nowhere....." I feel my lip tremble as I reply. Then I stand up and brush the mud and grit off my skin and get dressed. 


MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR (or the night I met Paul)


No, it hasn't got anything to do with my photographic project but I had to write something about my experience last night. I am a huge fan of The Beatles and happen also to be a member of the British Film Institute and so, when I saw that the new Arena Documentary about "Magical Mystery Tour" was scheduled to be shown, with the film itself, on 2nd October, I made sure that I booked a ticket online the moment that member's priority booking opened in August. I like to sit in the middle of the front row of the cinema whenever I watch a film and my favourite cinema is NFT! So, it is safe to say that I was delighted to book Seat A5 in the NFT1 for the early showing. It was billed as a Gala performance and so there were only a few tickets available to the public.

I arrived early to collect my ticket from the Box Office, bumping into my good friends Nick and Helen on the way in and then meeting Gordon Murray on the way out and then I heard over the loudspeaker that the audience had to take their seats for the 6.30pm showing even though it was only 5.45pm. On the way to my seat, I passed Liam Gallagher and also saw Paul Gambaccini and Paul Weller in the audience. The reason the start of the showing was delayed became clear when Paul McCartney was ushered to his seat towards the back. Anthony Wall stood up and spoke very briefly about the film and said that Arena had a long history of covering many amazing art works and artists but that, in his view, nothing was as important as this programme about the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour.

The Documentary was very good indeed and there are contributions by Paul, Ringo and George (from 1993) as well as Paul Fox, Paul Merton, Terry Gilliam and Martin Scorsese and it leaves you eagerly anticipating the film which followed after a short interval. During that interval, I chatted to this guy sitting next to me and he and his father both of whom went up to Paul and got his autograph. Years ago, I would have done the same but Jane has rammed it into my head that that is very, very uncool. I am the last of the very, very uncool but I controlled myself. 

The film followed and, quite frankly, in my humble opinion it is a minor masterpiece. I began thinking that it was way ahead of its time but it's not - it is absolutely OF its time. It is a very significant piece of Pop History and, like other examples of stunning works from the 1960s eg A Hard Day's Night, French New Wave Cinema etc, it is also timeless. It is a swirling extravaganza of colour and silliness (cf The Goon Show and Monty Python) and full of weird, strange characters that call to mind (well, mine anyhow) Fellini's "Amarcord" made some six years later. The new print is impeccable. And then, of course, there is the music. "Fool on a Hill", the instrumental "Flying", the incredible majesty of "I am the Walrus", the thumping introduction of the Title song and then the gorgeous, whimsical, magical, fabulous "Your Mother Should Know" not the best song on the record but accompanied and augmented by the deliciously surreal visuals. Bloody Hell, even "Blue Jay Way" sounds good! There were tears streaming down my face as the credits went up and there was a roar of approval amidst loud applause from the audience. I had to thank one of the architects of this wondrous piece of art. I moved swiftly up to the now vacated row behind Macca and rudely tapped him on the shoulder as he was talking to a friend in the row in front. He hesitated before he turned around and I proffered my hand and shook his and said "Thank You". I said that I was a good friend of his brother (I think I qualify as a good, if not a close friend don't I Mike?) and said thank you for all the pleasure he had given me over the years. He seemed a bit nonplussed but said "Oh, right, good". I bade him goodbye and left him to probably instantly forget yet another fan who had thanked him but I left floating ON A BLOODY ENORMOUS CLOUD. I realise many other people have met him but this was me. I called Jane and cried as I told her what had happened.

"Why so sad, old friend, why so sad on such a night? Not sad, not sad old pal, just happy to be alive"

I love all the Beatles but, for one reason or another, Paul has carried the flame more than the others and so I do have a big soft spot for him. Yeah, I know his voice is not quite as strong as it once was and yes, I know he has released some ordinary stuff over the years but it might seem ordinary because the other work is brilliant, and yet very often, there is a pearl that ranks amongst his best work.

I urge you to watch the Arena Show on 6th October -
and then the film - on a big screen if you can and at top volume for the songs, especially "I am the Walrus" and, if you like good melodic pop and exciting experimental cinema and you are sufficiently "out there", I guarantee that you will be humming one of the songs as you skip off to make a cup of tea at the end. 

"......the Magical Mystery Tour is coming to take you away!!" and a splendid time is guaranteed for all. 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

SO? by Silvia Anguelova

SO? by Silvia Anguelova
Silvia Anguelova was born in Bulgaria and I saw her work showcased on the London Photographers' Association website and then looked up her gloriously dark and bloody images on her own site and just had to write to her asking if she would consider photographing me. I was not entirely sure she would say yes as she had declared on one particular site that the Woman takes a central role in her work. She went on to say that she wanted to question the nature of women and femininity in today's society. However, what interested me was the similarities between this investigation and my wife Jane's recent series of paintings "Station of the Skirt" where women's roles and status are examined sometimes quite severely. Apart from this, Silvia's photographs were so luscious that I was eager to be given the same treatment as her female models not least because I have always wanted to be a woman myself. As I have said many times, I am a lesbian.

Silvia said yes and, in a very short period of time, I found myself in her home studio in Barking having false blood dripped on me and holding a dead bird both naked and dressed in my suit. Silvia was a delightful companion for the hour or two it took to complete the shoot and she was ably assisted by her lovely friend, Svetla Georgieva. We had good fun and chatted about all sorts of things and I was even given the opportunity to show them a couple of my films on You Tube!

Silvia sent me two images afterwards both of which I loved but this one was clearly my preferred choice because of the look that the dressed me is giving to the camera  - hence the title. Silvia was very happy with my choice and the title so I give you a wonderful photograph by the very talented Silvia Anguelova whose reputation will grow and allow her to become one of the most successful visual artists of our time. I'm not kidding - her work is superb and she has a drive and energy and a free style that will ensure that she enjoys great success in the future

I read somewhere that Silvia's work is a combination of "wonder, beauty and disbelief". Why would I not want to be photographed by her?!? Hang on a minute, I didn't imagine it - I have been photographed by her! 

It was a dream.