Thursday, 27 June 2013

'TIL THERE WAS YOU by Emli Bendixen

'TIL THERE WAS YOU by Emli Bendixen

I was informed by Twitter on 20th February 2013 that I was being followed by Emli who described herself as being Korean/Danish and living in North  London with a little dog. It also said that she was a photographer so I looked up her website, liked what I saw and wrote my usual email saying that I thought her work was wonderful and unlike anything I had ever seen before and it was and it is. If you look at the photographs on her site, they may not seem unique or amazing at first but look closely because what comes through really strongly is that all the photographs have been composed with real love and care. Again, there are plenty of artists who create with love and care but Emli has her own way with things and to me, it is totally and genuinely unique.

We corresponded and eventually agreed on 27th June as the date to meet certainly and, possibly, to do the pictures too which we did. It was a lovely day not only because Emli is the sweetest person but also because we played Beatles' records all the time and everyone knows how much I love their music,. We chatted a lot too and Emli met Jane and adored her paintings.

I received the photographs very quickly and they were all magnificent but this was my absolute favourite. Fortunately, Emli agreed and bob's your uncle! She mentioned afterwards that, although she and the other photographers come close to me, they don't really know me so there is something between us but not in a bad way at all. Indeed, as Emli said, the grainy glass panels placed me in a slightly alternate 'place'.

What a lovely day, what brilliant little images and what a nice person for me to meet. Hat-trick!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

DARK AND DEEP by Al Brydon

DARK AND DEEP by Al Brydon

If you happen to go down to the woods in the Peak District today then you can be sure of a number of surprises including bumping into a very strange man called David Spew. Actually, I made that up - as far as I know, there is no-one called Spew in the Peak District or anywhere else in the UK unless he is ex-directory. No, if you do go down to the woods in the Peak District, you might come across a man taking wonderful landscape photographs that take your breath away and, if you do, it is likely that you have met Al Brydon. And if you have met Al Brydon, then you will have discovered also one of the nicest men you could wish to meet in the dark, deep woods of north east England.  My introduction to Al was through Twitter (for me, the new Flickr, the new Gumtree) via the great Rob Hudson. Having seen how an approach to a primarily landscape photographer like Rob worked out so successfully, I had no qualms about approaching Al and when I did, he agreed to photograph me. He lives in Sheffield - a place from my past. I fell in love with a girl called Susan in 1971 but soon after we started going out, she went to Sheffield University to study music and I went to London to read Law. But I was not only in love with her, I was in love with love and so I went up to Sheffield to see her and carried on doing so every second weekend until we split up six months later. One day, we decided to catch a bus to the countryside south of Sheffield and we got out at a stop on a road in the middle of a place called Nowhere and walked into the woods and..............well, I was curious to revisit the woods again. However, I had no idea where Nowhere was which is just as well because a pilgrimage is not necessarily conducive to a good photographic shoot.

I met Al at Sheffield Station and immediately he was friendly and chatty and I knew that our day together was going to go well and so it came to pass. We did a lot of walking and set up some shots in one location and I posed as Al asked me and, whilst he fiddled with his camera, I looked around me and marvelled at the beauty of England which suddenly seemed much bigger than the country described by the weird journalists at The Daily Mail writing recently about the population explosion (bloody single mothers) and the end of the world as we know it. Daily Wail more like. Anyway, enough of all that - back to Al. We then moved on to this place which was below a large bank. I don't know what it is about large banks but, so far, when me, a large bank and a photographer come together an incredible image is created and this is no exception. 

We travelled on to a few more locations and in the middle, took a short lunch break but basically we worked together until it was time for Al to take me back to Sheffield to catch the train home. I received his selection of shots shortly after. God, I was so excited by them and so proud. Proud to have met Al, proud to be a part of his work. This image was the one for me and Al agreed, thankfully. So I now have a wonderful new image for my project and a very nice man not called Spew as a new friend.

Susan died of breast cancer only recently. I had not seen or communicated with her for almost 40 years. Unfortunately, I couldn't go to her funeral but I wrote to her daughter Olivia and we met in Dartford and I gave her a bundle of the letters her mother had written to me in 1971. She was my first love. She was witty, bawdy and beautiful. She had dark hair and brown eyes. 


Saturday, 22 June 2013


Ken from the series "The Final Sitting" by Miles Holder

Last Thursday evening, I attended the Private Views of the Final Degree Shows of a number of Universities and Colleges at Free Range held at the Truman Brewery Building in Brick Lane, London. I have been going to Free Range since 2008 when I attended the show by Middlesex University and saw the work displayed by Gavin Phes,  Petra Kubisova and Emma Davies, all of whom have photographed me. This year, I started off with the University of the West of England but I would have missed it if I hadn't got to Brick Lane early and been directed to The Rag Factory by a guy in the street.

The standard of work by the students from Bristol was very high. This was particularly the case with Urte Ursule Sutkute whom introduced herself to me. The other images which took my eye were the simple self-portraits by Kathy Foote and the beautiful pictures of the hands of the victims of Alzheimers by Natalie Morrell. In all three cases, I felt very moved by what I saw. I asked the students if their tutor, Shaun Sobers, was around and, although they expected him to come along, he had not yet arrived. Shaun filmed me last year on Brighton Beach.

From the series "Hands" by Natalie Morrell
I moved on to the main building and there was a lot of good stuff to see. I do want to make a special mention about the young photographer, Miles Holder from UCA Farnham and his amazing series of images under the title "The Final Sitting". I spoke to Miles very briefly. A very unassuming man with an open face which went some way towards explaining how he had persuaded the hospice to advertise his desire to photograph the patients residing there. What is so surprising is that the people in the photographs look so happy. Clearly, they enjoyed the session with Miles and the opportunity to pose for one final photograph. I said to Miles that it must have been a very emotional experience for him. He said that it was and that he was surprised by how affected he was by it.

By this time, I was weaving in and out of different shows and stopping at displays which really caught my eye. These included the stunning "Disclosure" by Alice Flannery (to whom I spoke briefly), the gorgeous landscape by Kaylee Gorman and the beautifully presented series of pictures of gypsy travellers by Sophie Brocks which brought to mind the work of Vanessa Winship.

I talked at some length to Barbara Dixon who was showing her excellent self portraits which she has taken since being diagnosed with cancer. It was interesting to hear how she had used photography to challenge her illness.

On the way out, I bumped into Tichelle Norman and Derrick Kackembo in exactly the same place I had met Derrick the year before and then dashed home, pausing briefly again at The Rag Facory to see if Shaun had yet arrived. He hadn't.

So, lots to see - it is on over this weekend I think so anyone reading this should try to get down there to see what the next generation of young photographers is coming up with. It is not at all bad. It is very good.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

DIRTY OLD MAN by Anastasia Trahanas

DIRTY OLD MAN by Anastasia Trahanas

I don't have a clue where I first saw Anastasia'a work but I do know that I really liked it from the start. It shows a deep interest in humanity and a real love and appreciation of the human body. So, I had to write to her didn't I? Yes, of course. But guess what? She said no! She originally suggested that she photographed me as part of her "Naked Britain" project but then withdrew her invitation. That was in 2010. However, we kept in touch and in 2012, I proposed again that she photograph me and this time she said yes.

Fast forward to Spring 2012 and we finally met at King's Cross Station and had a lovely chat. I had seen a beautiful photograph on her site of some plastic animals on a female model's pubic area and I had asked if we could do the same but she explained that the image I had seen was a very spontaneous shot and she had since tried it on a male but it didn't work. Nevertheless, I brought some plastic toy soldiers along to our meeting. I think she was impressed!

Her idea was to photograph me as a dirty old man - literally - with dirt all over my naked body. The things people make me do! I came to Anastasia's home studio and stripped off almost immediately and didn't put my clothes back on until two or three hours of fun and laughter had been enjoyed with her and Astrid who is a good friend and colleague of both of us. First of all I got good and dirty. Astrid helped me with the undercoat and then prepared the topcoat of dark mud and water which I then proceeded to smarm all over my naked body. I was in my element and the great thing was that both Anastasia and Astrid were too. I continued to smarm and dirty myself and tried a variety of poses, some suggested by Anastasia and some by Astrid and some by me. It felt so nice and easy and connected. We were at one. 

We finished off with an attempt to photograph plastic figures on me but it didn't really work. I think by then, we had exhausted our creative vigour and so we brought everything to a halt and I proceeded to flush an awful lot of dirt down the plughole of Anastasia's bath/shower. 

As I always say - I love the shoot most of all and this was a special one because we were all in tune with each other  - BUT then I got the photographs and this one leaped out at me from the computer screen. Anastasia liked it too as did Jane. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I proudly present the wonderful, the amazing, the stunning "Dirty Old Man" by the wonderful, amazing, stunning Anastasia Trahanas. Look me in the eye and say otherwise! You can't can you? It shows me standing up for myself, challenging the viewer but I am fearful as well so there is vulnerability too and one looks and one wonders and wonders and carries on looking. That is what Anastasia Trahanas is all about and I was the lucky beneficiary of it.


Monday, 17 June 2013

WISE UP by Kenny McCracken

WISE UP by Kenny McCracken

I first met Kenny at Create Studios in Brighton when he helped Patrizia Burra to set up her shoot with me and we got talking and, as a consequence, I looked up his work online and I really liked his style. His style of photography I mean, although he is a very stylish person in other ways. He looks so cool with his white blond hair and his magnificent quiff and beard. I wrote to him after Patrizia's shoot and immediately he came back and said yes.

Kenny is a very organised guy  - I suppose you have to be when you run a successful photographic studio - and on the day of the shoot, I arrived to find that everything was ready. He is a very good person to chat to because he has interesting things to say about all sorts of subjects. He used to be a full-time musician and periodically plays with a band to this day and so we were treated to some good music whilst we were there.

The shoot was quick and easy and we tried some clothed shots first and then I posed topless. I was pleasantly surprised when I received the images from him. First of all, I loved the silvery tone to the pictures but then, the more I looked, the more I saw. My crooked mouth, the default mode of which is downturned due to my condition. Also, the tiny crease in my skin on the left hand side of face just below the crooked bit of my mouth. My late sister, Janet, had little creases behind her ears, something I noticed on her death bed (although I had seen them before). I said goodbye to the creases as well as to her strong straight nose, her little flat mouth and the bony hands which had encased her head only a week before as she sat in her chair in the hospice, feeling miserable and ill. Why is all this relevant? Well, because the more I am photographed and I examine the person I see, the more I understand about whom I am and where it all comes from. Janet and I were quite similar in looks and thoughts and my daughter is the same and she identifies with Janet most of all amongst her many aunts and uncles.

Kenny knew nothing about my relationships with these people but he was astute enough to search for (and find) something true in me which was the character inherited from the father I never knew but passed on by him to Janet and myself and which comes through so vividly in his shots. He works very quickly but he doesn't miss anything as one of the very best portraits taken of me clearly shows. 

Friday, 7 June 2013

HOLDING ON by Patrizia Burra

HOLDING ON by Patrizia Burra

It was her beautiful smile which I noticed first. It was full of warmth, friendship and love and yet we were meeting for the first time. How could that be? Well, it is easy to explain. Patrizia Burra is as passionate a person as her wonderful photography suggests. She instils her work with a love of the medium certainly but also with a love of life, a love of her fellow human being and a clear understanding of what is good in this weird world of ours. One only has to look at the images on this page to realise this. 

When I saw her work on her website (after it was featured in Professional Photographer magazine), I knew that I had to write to her and tell her how much I loved it and to ask if she might consider photographing me even though I knew that she lived and worked in Italy. She replied the same day saying that she would be pleased to come to England to photograph me. I was so pleased. We corresponded at length and gradually began a countdown to the day of the shoot. I had such high expectations of the shoot that I suppose there was a danger of disappointment. No way. First of all, I met her very handsome husband, Corrado, whose kind eyes told me, in one glance, so much about them both (that is Corrado and Patrizia - not his eyes) and then I went to find Patrizia and was met with her smile and then her slightly awkward words of greeting - awkward because she doesn't speak English very well. They suggested that we went outside so they could smoke and we could get to know each other better which we did but it was too late. I knew enough already to realise that I could throw myself into the shoot with complete abandon and trust that the images would be stunning. I did and they were.

I told them that Patrizia was the 250th photographer to photograph me and I felt very emotional as I did so because I suppose it is a sort of milestone. Also, I had wondered from time to time whether I ought to stop at 250 and say to the 250th photographer "you're the last one" but I knew that it wasn't going to happen - I enjoy the shoots far too much.

We returned to the studio and Kenny McCracken helped them set up the lighting and eventually Patrizia was ready and I took off my clothes and she directed me as to what I should do mostly with a large piece of white gauze material. She was very business-like and knew exactly what she wanted but every so often she would stop and smile with the sheer pleasure of it all. It was a very carefree atmosphere but at the same time, very professional. After we finished, I took them back to our house and introduced them to Jane and we all went down to the local cafe for a snack. They then took their leave of us and so ended a magical day but not the magic itself which reappeared with the images which Patrizia sent to me. I was so very impressed and moved because they were produced with the same love and care that she applied during the shoot. I knew very quickly which one was my favourite and Patrizia approved of that as well as the title which, in fact, was suggested by her. I love the way the light catches my face in such a way that suggests a real innocence (and, yes, Patrizia, tenacity too), a real clarity of purpose and thought and love for the world and this life. I think that it says much the same about Patrizia.

So, there we are,"Holding On" by the one and only Patrizia Burra. A beautiful person with an adorable husband and a huge amount of talent. What more can you ask for?


Thursday, 6 June 2013

HOLDING ON - Self Portrait

HOLDING ON by Tim Andrews

I love taking self portraits. It is very therapeutic and almost comforting. I suppose that it is also
a means of continuing with my project whilst waiting for the next shoot. This was taken in the
morning at our home in Brighton. Everything was on Auto as I know nothing about cameras
and how they work although sometimes I put the camera on Manual and fiddle with the dials.

What does this photograph say about me? That I have something wrong with my brain and that
it affects my whole body which is all I have. I would love it if someone found a cure or a new
drug that worked all the time, day and night. But the strange thing is that I am excessively happy
and fulfilled. I realise that my self confidence has soared in recent years because what I am doing
comes from me, from deep inside me. And I am holding on tightly to that. Holding on. Tightly.