Wednesday, 23 October 2013


TRACEY EMIN  by Michael Birt

So, I was on a number 28 bus from Brighton to Lewes and hoping that my tremor would calm down before I arrived at Michael's house for our shoot today. It didn't but, as soon as I saw Michael's smile as he answered the door, I knew that it was going to be alright -  and so it was. 

I don't often write about a shoot in advance of getting the photographs but now and again, I have such a nice day that I just want to tell everyone about it. Michael is handsome, slim and he owns a beautiful smile which seems to play on his lips and around his eyes continuously. He is a fan of The Beatles and - hang on, stop there, what is there not to like? He tells interesting and sometimes moving stories and is very generous when you tell him a story. He is a gentle man and a gentleman. He cares and that is what being a gentleman is all about.

It was a thoroughly satisfying shoot. This is a photograph of Tracey Emin he took and I have included it here because we talked about it and her - it seems that we are both fans. It is also a great picture - centred, intimate, challenging - like all his photographs. We talked about The Beatles, Southport, Ken Dodd, Clive James, Marlene Dietrich, Margaret Thatcher, Danny Devito, Richard Griffiths, Grandchildren, Mike McCartney, Roger McGough, Marilyn Monroe, The Graduate, Blue Jasmine,
Charleston, Monk's House and Peanut M&Ms and a lot more besides.

After the shoot in his sitting room which benefits from a north facing light and a view of a lovely Biwa tree in his garden, he asked me to share some home made soup and salad with him, followed by a mug of tea and a biscuit. By then, I really felt that I had outstayed my welcome but the warm handshake and another flashing smile at the door said otherwise. 

This is why I have enjoyed this project so much. It is full of nice people like Michael Birt who also happen to take very good photographs. 

Thank you, Michael.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

SPELLBOUND by Svetlana Masterova

SPELLBOUND by Svetlana Masterova

Svetlana is bonkers but bonkers in the most delightful and endearing way and notwithstanding her bonkerism, she is a very dedicated and talented photographic artist. I came across her work on the Women Erotic Artists (WEA) website. Yes, I know what you're thinking - what was I doing in the Lingerie Department of Marks & Spencer last Tuesday afternoon? Well, I was looking for a present for my plumber and lost my way if it's anyone else's business. No, seriously, Jo Wonder (who has also photographed me) was in email correspondence with me concerning the inclusion of my "Wiggle Woggles" film in an Open House she was organising and in her email there was a link to the WEA website so naturally I clicked on the link to look for photographers and found Svetlana's work and a link to her website. The work on her website was excellent and I could see in her portraits that she was really engaging with her subjects and that is what I love to do with a photographer and so I had no hesitation in writing to her asking if she would photograph me.

She agreed straightaway and said that she would like to come to Brighton to do the shoot and mentioned that she had only photographed a male nude once before and that, apart from that, it had always been women and that she felt men were more body conscious and therefore had little experience in this area but that if I was still interested we could choose a day and shoot something beautiful. She then looked at some of the other images in my project and admitted that she was now "officially nervous".

Anyway, she came down and she burst into my life like a mini tornado. She is such an emotional vibrant personality with a wonderfully droll sense of humour. It was such fun and, as we got to know and trust each other, we relaxed into the dizziest of dizzy shoots and the time flew by. I loved this image when I received it shortly after and told Svetlana that I loved it and that I loved her and, of course, did the honourable thing and asked her to marry me. Of course, she was completely overcome and admitted to crying on reading this but not hysterically. But, seriously, I love the picture because it completely sums up how we were motoring at that stage with complete abandon. It was a special day with a special person and it is documented in a special photograph, the specialness of which is almost too difficult to put into words, as you can see. 

So, here we are "Spellbound" by the magical wizard of photography, Svetlana Masterova - Красивый, веселый, специальный человек.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

HEADS AND TOES by Holly Oliver

HEADS AND TOES by Holly Oliver

The word, "Lovely", is somewhat overused, especially by me, but sometimes when it is used to describe some experience, some person or some thing which (or who) is unique and special, it is the perfect adjective to choose and so it is in the case of this shoot, this photograph and this photographer. I don't use Twitter that much (I tweet about once a week on average, I guess) but when I do, I often put UK photographer into the search engine and, on one such occasion in August 2013, I came across Holly Oliver who was not only a photographer and a very good but also she was based in Brighton, now my home town.

So lucky (and lovely) Holly received my usual email which differs very little from the inaugural email sent out at the beginning of the project in 2008 (NB although the first photograph in the project was taken in 2007, I didn't realise it was a project until early 2008). She apologised for taking a whole day to reply (lazy) but thanked me (polite) and said that she would love to photograph me (lovely her and lucky me). Over the course of the next few weeks, we slowly formulated an idea for the shoot which ended up taking place on the Harbour Wall at Brighton Marina with Holly, in the main, using her polaroid camera. Holly was a bright and breezy email correspondent but even so, it was a very pleasant surprise to experience the brightness and breeziness at first hand when I met her for the shoot on 5th October 2013.

The main memory I have of our time together was that it was so easy. We met in the Red Roaster, a cool little coffee place in Kemptown and, after an initial chat, we caught the bus to the Marina and walked to the Sea Wall which that day was populated by a number of fishermen. The sea was quite calm and wore a beautiful silver blue sheen as it rose and swelled and pushed gently towards the beach stretching across to the Pier. The anglers seemed a happy bunch and, although they reminded me of the scene in ''Play it again, Sam'' when the exultant Woody Allen thumped a fisherman joyously on the back sending him headlong into the river below, I managed to resist letting my joyousness get the better of me and the worse of any of the anglers. It was a close run thing though.
Eventually, we found a suitable spot and, two packs of old polaroid film later, it was all over pretty quickly. We ambled back to the bus stop chatting all the while and then parted at the Old Steine. A few days later, I received these two sets as well as individual scans of each picture. They are not as "finished" as most of my photographs and, by their very nature, they were never likely to be. However, what they do is really conjure up the whole feel of the shoot. Individually, I like them all but, when I saw this montage with Holly's toes in the shot, I felt that this had to be the one for my project.
Holly brought round the original polaroids the other day and it was like being given a piece of glittering jewellery. Each print is a diamond. A precious unique item that I can touch and look at and put back and take out again. And every time I do so, I feel rich, as rich as a very rich man with a loving family, a good and happy life, loyal and devoted friends, laughter in my life, freedom, favourite books and LPs and singles, photographs, DVDs and amongst them all in a small cardboard box some treasure which was given to me that day that Holly took me to Brighton Marina.

Holly and Me


Friday, 4 October 2013



So, Jane discovered the work of the amazingly quirky JoWonder, Artist, Performer, Filmmaker, Photographer and even Stand-up comedian and, what with one thing and another, Jo found herself living in a our basement for a couple of months, having decided to move out of London. Jane and Jo became friends and, as their friendship grew, I began to get to know her as well. She is like a little fairy who flitters about delivering little wandfuls of magic dust to people, sometimes whether they like it or not. Well, they usually end up liking it because she is such a unique bundle of fun. She looks like a pretty doll but has a cackling laugh which is beautifully infectious.

She is interested in so much and liked the sound of my project and either because of that or because she recognised something angelic in my make up or because of nothing, she suggested this photograph which I was more than happy to do even though I had not really seen much of her photography but had seen some of her movies which in turn are bizarre, witty, animated, fresh and intelligent. 

So very early one morning, I walked down Montpelier Road with her and she photographed the empty street and then photographed me dodging the the odd car that roared through the 20 mph limit recently imposed in certain areas of Brighton.

And then she presented me with this fun diptych. The Brighton Angel by the one and only wonderful JoWonder!