Friday, 24 January 2014

LIZ ORTON - Examinations

Liz first photographed me in December 2009 (see previous post) and we have had several more shoots since. She mentioned to me recently that there had been a resurgence of interest in her photographs of me in that they have been featured in "The Story Behind the Photo" section of The Photographer's Gallery website. They are also going to appear soon in the online magazine TRIP.

Liz is an amazingly energetic photographer and is so willing to experiment. She is a very engaging person and, as soon as I started working with her, we clicked. The feature does not in fact tell the whole story behind the photo in that, when we did the "Box" photos in her garden, there was an old couple gardening next door. As we finished the shoot and I emerged form the cardboard box stark naked, they said hello to us both over the low fence dividing the two gardens without batting an eyelid. But then later, Liz and I and her assistant went to a local Victorian cemetery where the above photograph was taken. Liz wanted to find a suitable gravestone next to which she intended to place the box and photograph me again. The cemetery was beautiful - it was full of birds singing away in the summer sun which was peaking through the lush green leaves sprouting from the heavy solid dark branches of the trees which had grown from nothing over the last hundred years or so. There was hardly a soul to be seen as we strolled along the narrow pathways on either side of which were graves large and small, gothic and simple. All was peaceful both for us, the visitors, and for our deceased ancestors lying in their final resting places surrounded by the glorious woodland, the floor of which was covered by a crochet of ivy and bramble and dead twigs which snapped and crackled under our tentative footsteps.

We found a spot in a clearing and I undressed but, just as I climbed into my box, we heard a voice ring out "Oi! What are you doing? That's my parents' grave!" I was out of there in a flash and threw my clothes on whilst Liz started explaining to an old man, who seemed quite distressed, that it was an artistic project and I had Parkinson's disease and that no disrespect was intended. I began to shake for good measure and then I began to shake some more as three policewomen rode up on their pushbikes. As Liz repeated her explanation to these fine young officers of the law, a rather strange thing happened - out of the surrounding woodland there slowly appeared several single men holding carrier bags and knapsacks and they stood around us not saying a word, like silent witnesses. Meanwhile, the old man began to back off - in fact he seemed suddenly so amenable that I wondered if it really was his parents' grave and whether, in fact, he was merely challenging our mini invasion of his and his non-speaking friends' little home from home. The Police were fine and suggested we chose a different time on another occasion and they departed leaving these men to slowly melt back into the undergrowth.

We sat down on a bench and Liz said that we could start again in a while but I politely demurred saying that I was somewhat freaked out by the whole episode, which I was. So we left the woods to the various creatures which inhabited it and we haven't been back since.

These are some more of the wonderful photographs which you can see online. I am not at all surprised that there is renewed interest in Liz's work  - it is very special.


Monday, 20 January 2014

I AM by Jeronimo Sanz

I AM by Jeronimo Sanz

Jeronimo lives in Brazil but, when I saw and fell in love with his work on Flickr, I was not aware of that and thought that, wherever it was that he lived, perhaps just perhaps he might be willing to take my photograph and produce an image in his unique style. I am very fortunate in that most of the photographers whom I approach agree to photograph me; nevertheless, every time one says yes, I am always thrilled and surprised and so it was with Jeronimo. The images on his Flickr Photostream are full of gorgeous colour and vitality. One particularly called "Branch" caught my eye and it wasn't just the beautiful wash of red and blue and gold but the untold story of a small boy out on his own casting a glance at the shadows of the birds flying overhead and thinking possibly ''what is it like to fly?". Indeed, his pictures do have an unashamed childlike quality that reflects his open eyed wonder about nature and the worlds, both real and make believe, that children inhabit. Jeronimo was very excited by my approach and asked me to send him a picture of my full body with a good amount of space around it where he could work his ''magic'' that is, edit a seemingly ordinary image and turn it into something more poetic through multiple exposures.

I had taken a number of self portraits over the last few years and thought it would be good to send him some. In the end, I sent him about a dozen and, abracadabra, he worked his magic and produced this. It was accompanied by a poem, the english translation of which is set out below. The image says so much - I am stepping carefully, as I do now increasingly because of my ''freezing'' and problems with balance and yet I am bearing the almighty burden not only of my illness but of my unrelenting desire to live my life to the full. The other ''me'' is bursting out of my brain and opening my arms out wide to embrace whatever the world has to offer, good or bad. As I have said so many times before, it is the shoot that I enjoy the most in any collaboration but in this case, I had already enjoyed that but I have had the joy of communication with this magical man.

One day we shall meet and hug in the warmth of a true friendship that has grown from nothing in such a very short time. I am an earthquake!
I Am
I am an earthquake
My roots dance
Ballrooms of tectonic plates
Rivers of lava
My blood boils
Flowers of fire
The spring trembles through my skin
In an ongoing eruption of life
Explosions that pronounce my name
My commitment is intensity
My association is the change
I am allied to the space
See, my fianceƩ approaches
And when this horizon lifts me up
Like a whip of stars
I will dive to whip
And kiss the back of the land
Since I am a force of nature
And you didn't see me coming
I am an earthquake!