Tuesday, 17 June 2014

I'M ONLY SLEEPING by Carolyn Cowan

I'M ONLY SLEEPING by Carolyn Cowan

When I came out of hospital after my Deep Brain Stimulation ("DBS") surgery, I felt quite odd partly because, having been institutionalised for two weeks, I was back home to  a different, albeit familiar, routine. So the hospital stay had sort of dislodged everything for me and I found myself thinking that it was another opportunity for change. Also, before I had gone into hospital I had been losing more usable time each day- I have likened it to having a small area of a huge lake fenced off for me to play in and then I came out of hospital to find that the fence had been removed and now I could play anywhere I liked in the whole lake. I was very unnerved by it all and even considered making the 300th photograph (which had been taken in the hospital operating theatre) the end of my project. However, on 17th June 2014, I found myself travelling by train to Sanderstead on my way to a shoot with Carolyn Cowan. 

I came across Carolyn when I was making cards and stuff for Jane's 60th birthday; I needed to find a photograph of the Sissors (sic) Hair Salon where Jane had worked in the late 1970s and, in the process of research, I came across an item where Carolyn described how she had worked there at around the same time.It also said that she was a photographer and so one thing led to another and Bob's your Uncle, I found myself corresponding with Carolyn. 

On the day of the shoot, I went to her house which she had bought quite recently and it had a lovely feel about it. Her studio was in a large room with french windows leading out into a very pleasant, slightly overgrown garden. It was the height of summer and bees were buzzing and birds were singing and wasps were wasping and it felt good to be back in the swing of things. I really liked Carolyn; she is tall and striking, slightly laid-back and she has interesting stories to tell and I love her photograph of me. She had the idea of the single light bulb at the outset but we tried various poses with it and this was the one that jumped out at me when I received a selection of images soon after the shoot. A simple but very effective idea beautifully realised. It has the look of an Old Testament plate showing a man lying on top of a shroud which has fallen or been taken off his body - but I'm not dead. I'm only sleeping. 

I came away from her house thinking that the project was going to continue for a little while yet. Thank you, Carolyn.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


SHADOWS by Joan Alexander

I hear Jane creep into the bedroom but I drift back to sleep for about half an hour. I haul myself up and swing my legs over the side of the bed and stagger to the door hoping that I do not freeze on the way. I go to the loo on the next floor down to avoid making a noise and waking Jane. As usual, I back into the loo and then slowly sit down. After I finish, I hold the sides of the door frame and pull myself up and then edge round to the basin and wash my hands. I turn slowly, a few inches at a time and take a deep breath and step out onto the landing. I mimic a side step past the door and slowly walk back up stairs to the spare room. On the way in, I switch on the light and sit on the side of the bed. I pick up the notepad on the floor and begin to write..... 


Go to sleep my darling
And let me wander through the night,
Looking for the answers,
Looking for what is right.

Allow me to stumble
Upon your dreams both dark and bright,
Then leave me on my own,
To wander through the night.

I have seen what is wrong,
As it changed me in your eyes,
I have seen all too clearly,
The sweet and bitter prize.

So when you awake
From your travels both far and near,
Call me, my darling,
Overcome your fear.

The fear of failing
To understand the black and the white,
The fear of looking,
And finding what is right.

Go to sleep my darling.
Fear not, I know now what is right.
It is you, my love,
You, you are my light.

I put down the pad and gear myself to turn out the light and, as I stretch over to the wall, I notice with fascination the shadow of my tremulous hand reaching for the switch..... 

So there I was face down on a massage table and luxuriating in a Lomi Lomi massage being given to me by Rosalie Mamet in Hove and, afterwards, I mentioned my Photographic project and she said that she knew a very good photographer called Joan Alexander. So, on 10th June 2012, I wrote to Joan asking if she would photograph me having seen her great work on her website. She replied saying she was interested in proceeding but that it would not be until November because of other commitments. She then got lost in the the dark hole that is my inbox but, thankfully, she wrote to me 15 months later re-introducing herself. We met and talked about her work with shadows and I told her of my idea of filming my shaking shadow when I got up during the night to go to the loo. 

Eventually, we set a date for the filming and agreed to postpone the still shadow photographs until the warmer weather in the spring/summer as we planned to photograph outside on the balcony of the top floor of Embassy Court on the front in Brighton. The filming went well but I shall tell you more about that, dear readers, after the film has been edited. Eventually, Joan and I visited Embassy Court on an extremely windy day and it all looked good. We set it all up with help from a very pleasant woman there and then on a hot day in June, I arrived at Embassy Court and Joan met me at the door and took me up to the roof terrace. Her idea was to create a shadow portrait based on the process of her shadow dial pictures which I had seen on her website. Using natural sunlight, she intended to trace my shadow on a wall over a period of of 1 to 2 hours, every 5 or 10 minutes. She would trace it on to tracing paper so we had a chart of my shadow profile over this measured period of time which would then be re-photographed on a window. They would become primal clocks and quasi sun dials, the final tracings are called Shadow Maps. Joan had never made a shadow map with a human profile before and so l was very proud indeed.

The shoot was fun and we had a very pleasant lunch afterwards. The shadows had not worked particularly well and so we had another session earlier in the day and we got better tracings although the paper misbehaved. Throughout the shoot, Joan took photographs of me of this was one. I adore this shot. It speaks to me of the heat of the day, the beautiful views of the beach and the great relationship I was gradually building up with Joan. She is so nice with a soft Irish lilt to her voice and an infectious smile and sense of humour to match. But she is also an intelligent artist with a strong desire to experiment and to collaborate.

VIDEO - "SHADOW STUDY: NOCTURNAL PATH" - https://vimeo.com/112514304