Saturday, 14 December 2013



I should say at the outset that the title to this photograph is taken from the subject heading of the email from Michael to which his photograph was attached - I am not having the gall to call myself a very handsome man. I have no idea whether I am or not. But, but - this is a beautiful photograph. The tone and colours give it such depth and he has captured a look in my eyes which is not a complete smile nor is it completely engaged nor is it blank - it has everything. It seems to me to reach back in my life and to represent all the stories I recounted to Michael on the day of the shoot; stories of childhood, of music and comedy, of art and love, of pleasure and disaster. 

It also says a great deal about how we communicated with each other. I had met Michael quite a few times before and I noticed that I always felt that we were friends and yet we hardly spoke and had no other history than these meetings which were often at photographic events. Now, having spent such a long time together on the shoot, I know why I should have felt this way. He is a human being with a love of life, of living, of people and of his chosen occupation. For these reasons, I do not feel that anyone else could have taken this portrait. Once, years ago, I said to a photographer that I supposed that with the advent of such super-duper cameras, anyone could take a good photograph now but he replied saying that that was not the case and I think it is true. Really good photographers have to love what they do and know how to do it. They have an innate skill and an imagination. They have to love all that they do and Michael is just such a man.

When I received this photograph, I leaned forward to the computer in anticipation and then looked at it and leaned back in my chair with a purr of pure pleasure. It is a glorious portrait. I felt that it was so good that really I should bring my project to an end now so that this is the last one. I'm not going to do that because I am just too bloody greedy - I want MORE.

I cannot think of anything else to say except feast yourselves on some great photography by Michael Birt, a very special man. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

THE BIG FREEZE by Alison Palmer

Still from The Big Freeze (movie) by Alison Palmer
I met Alison at the talk hosted by Mini Click in Brighton in the summer of 2013 when we got chatting with a few other people in the break. She was very direct and serious but, as I was to discover, she has a nice laid back sense of humour which comes out when she has relaxed with you. It  is clear from my emails that we discussed working together although I don't remember doing so. I wrote to her asking what she had been thinking since the talk and she replied with a loooong email first of all saying how moved she was by the talk particularly because she had had first hand experience of illness in her family. She laid out some ideas for the shoot but, reading them now, I'm not sure that any of them ended up in the final film but that often happens - it is not always what you write but rather, it is the act of writing that opens your mind allowing it to become creative. 

She suggested a few dates for filming and eventually, she came to our house to have a chat and we watched some film of my mother and the documentary I made about her house, my childhood home, and both got quite tearful in the process. Alison said that this shared emotion tapped into the idea that, no matter how and what our current physical vessels are experiencing right now today, we are all intricately connected through our DNA make up, our physiology and our mindscape, to all of those family members who have gone before us, some of whom leave very powerful markings on our personalities, physical stature and reside within and under our skin whether we want them to or not. Afterwards she wrote again at some length with various ideas, some of which never transpired including me carrying my mother's old wrought iron gate down to the beach! If you have ever seen that gate, you'll know why this was never an option - it weighs a bloody ton. 

On the day of the shoot in December it was quite cold and initially, we stayed inside and Alison interviewed me and did some filming. It was a long day and I remember feeling quite whacked at the end of the day but also very satisfied as I felt that we had got some good footage. That was December and I did not get to see the first version of the film until the following August (after the editing was completed by Ken Plas) because we were both so busy. Jane and I watched it and we were very moved by it because it showed me as I was before my operation. I made a few comments to Alison on this first version and was concerned that Alison didn't feel put out by my suggestions as I know how I tend to take over films in this way because of having made so many myself. However, she took it as constructively as it was intended. I have now seen the final version and this time I was a bit more detached and I think it is excellent but I do feel that it is for others to judge because I am too close to it really.  What I can attest to is its authenticity and the fact that, although it will move some people, there is no surfeit of sentimentality. It takes a committed and talented film-maker to achieve this and that film-maker is Alison Palmer.

The film will be shown at upcoming exhibition at Create Gallery as part of the Brighton Photo Fringe from 4th to 17th October.

Monday, 2 December 2013


Arthur Wiggle and Maurice Woggle

These are "The Wiggle Woggles" who appear in my short film of the same name which you can find on You Tube. This has nothing to do with my photographic project, "Over the Hill" as such except that, if it wasn't for Parkinson's Disease, I would never have started the project in the first place and may never have had the time to start making my own silly films such as this classic. 

The film started off as so many of mine do with the purchase of a record at our local Oxfam charity shop (one of the best in Brighton). This record was a 78rpm recording of a Xylophone tune. I was at a loose end one day and so, inspired by the tune, I raided my dressing up box (doesn't everyone have one?) and put on these clothes and within about an hour, The Wiggle Woggles were born.

This film is one of Jane's favourites and it is now enjoying its first public performance at "!MAGICK! House", an artist's open house at 43, Orange Row, Brighton BN1 1UG (at the back of Gardner Street) as part of Brighton's Christmas Open Houses. It is being shown along with lots of other very interesting exhibits including a brilliant new painting by Jane "2 Steps Back" which can now be viewed on her website. The house is open for viewing from 11am to 4.30pm on weekends only from now until 15th December (incidentally, our 34th wedding anniversary). 

Wiggle Woggle cards can be purchased for £1 each at the Open House and a DVD containing two films can be ordered for the cost of £5 each by emailing me at - all profits will go to Parkinson's UK.