Wednesday, 20 August 2014

WHAT DOES THE LION SAY? by Antonio Olmos

WHAT DOES THE LION SAY? by Antonio Olmos

If you log onto the website of Antonio Olmos, you will see some of the most beautiful of photographs. 

This photographer is a genius because he dives deep and he searches for and he finds a jewel but he knows that, if he dives even deeper, he will find the real treasure, he will find the real truth, the real essence of the man sitting before him. How does he do this? What special power does Antonio have? He doesn't. He is a human being like you and I. But he knows that the more he discovers, the more the man sitting in front of him uncovers. He takes hold and he leads his subject along this path of discovery and he opens him up for all to see. Look at this photograph and tell me I am wrong. 

After the shoot, Antonio sent me sixteen photographs saying that he could not choose between them. I looked at each of them and then looked again and again but I could not decide. It was like that scene in the wonderful film by Wayne Wang, "Smoke", when Harvey Keitel's character shows William Hurt his album of photographs all taken at the same spot at the same time each morning with the camera pointing in the same direction. "But "says Hurt,"They are all the same". Keitel replies "Look again, my friend". I looked again and although the shots were taken at different times and in different locations, slowly I began to see each of them on their own merits.  Finally, I looked at his one which was, in fact, similar to several others. But this one had a spark. There is a glint in my right eye. A glint of hope. It says "I am moving forward. I have made a discovery today. About myself. I am Tim. All is revealed''.

I was recommended to Antonio by the lovely Sarah Lee and it took me a long time to get round to contacting him. Sarah took my photograph in April 2013 but I did not write to Antonio until February 2014. He wanted to come to Brighton to photograph me but he said that he was a nice guy and pleasant company and he promised me that he would not be a pain in the ass. Well, I delayed seeing him until after my Deep Brain Stimulation surgery. He admitted that he was worried that I had gone off the idea of him photographing me. We set up another date for him to come to Brighton. In the meantime, however, my son Tom had had a serious back operation and was at home recuperating with us but experiencing post operative complications so I asked Antonio if he wouldn't mind if I came to his place instead. He agreed and I am so glad he did. 

I arrived and we had a coffee and a chat. The house was empty as his family were away. He took me outside and he asked me to sit on a chair in different parts of the garden. At this point it all felt quite serious. He asked me to take my shirt off. All the time, we talked and slowly our companionship grew as we each revealed more to each other about ourselves. He said that he was pretty sure that he had got the shot he wanted but suggested we go to the park nearby. The park was almost empty and we wandered around and he asked me to stop at various points and he photographed me with my shirt on and with it off. At one point, I lay on the ground and he asked if I minded him straddling my prone body for the shot. 

Eventually we made our way back to the exit and then he pointed to some long dry grass bleached by the sun. He asked me to sit in the middle of it. Then he looked around and I knew what he was going to ask."Can you take your clothes off?'' he said. I was worried that this was a public space and that we might be seen. He assured me that hardly anyone came to the park at this time and any case he would keep an eye out and warn me if they did. I took off my clothes and lay down as he requested with my hand on my thigh. Then he said I could get dressed which I did extremely quickly as he admitted that this was his first male nude photograph. I felt quite proud. We returned to his house but he wasn't finished. He took me upstairs and photographed me some more and I am pretty sure that the photograph I have chosen was taken at this time.

So you see, he thought he had got the shot he wanted in the garden. But we both discovered that there was more to come. It is this that I find so wonderfully exciting. I was tempted to choose the nude shot - it reminded me of a lioness resting in the prairie grass. It is a beautiful shot but the one I chose eclipses it. 

And he was right  - he is a nice guy, a very nice guy and pleasant company, extremely pleasant. He is Antonio Olmos, photographic explorer and genius.


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

FROM THE EARTH by Claire Nathan

FROM THE EARTH by Claire Nathan

I have a niece, Amy Samantha Andrews, known to me and everyone as Sammy. She is charming, pretty and kind and utterly adorable. She decided that she wanted to learn more about Photography and when she was performing at a wedding (she has the most beautiful singing voice), she went up to the photographer and asked her if she could help and advise her with regard to this new pastime. The photographer agreed to help and they became friends in the process. The photographer was Claire Nathan. 

Sammy came to visit me in hospital just after I had undergone my Deep Brain Stimulation surgery and mentioned that she knew Claire who was interested in my project and that I should contact her. I did so after looking at her website. Her portraits were very good indeed but what clinched it for me was her picture of Sammy - it captured her lovely fresh and lively attitude to life so perfectly. There then followed a series of emails to and fro with photographic and artistic references as we slowly began to create an idea of what we wanted to achieve. For me, it was the connection to Claire and for her, it was a splash of colour, of brightness to create an uplifting image in the face a some of the awful things that life can throw at us. We needed a make-up artist and Claire said that she had worked with Alice Hopkins before and that she was tremendous. 

We met at Notting Hill tube station on the morning of 13th August 2014 and she drove us  to her house where I met her charming husband, the film maker, Dan Nathan, and Alice. We chatted a fair bit but eventually got down to the make up which took a while to get on. Claire was very clear as to what she wanted and Alice was very patient as she made the final touches before the shooting began in Claire's home studio. It was a very happy shoot and we all talked about good times and bad but in a way which enabled each of us to take a few faltering steps towards a greater acceptance of our lot and to reconcile ourselves to tragic events even if we still did not yet fully accept them and understand their meaning for us. People say that I was brave to have my surgery - I wasn't brave, I had no choice. When my sister died, life carried on.

And I can feel you dreaming
And I'm dreaming of you
Together slowly drifting
Into the powder blue

You expect the world to stop but it doesn't. You have no choice but to walk through those empty dark days and hold hands with those close to you and find solace there and eventually you come through to the other side. What has this got to do with this photograph? Well, everything actually. It was part of a journey where I have walked along a path which at some point crossed another path on which Claire is travelling and there we met. And there she took this photograph which, if we hadn't met, would never have been taken and the world would not have seen this part of me or this part of Claire. It is a great photograph. I have recently uploaded a slideshow of my project onto Vimeo and this song by Madness is part of the soundtrack...... 
So can't we just stay?
Can't we just stay?
The world is giving up
And there's just me and you
Together slowly drifting into the powder blue
Into the powder blue 
Into the powder blue
Into the powder blue
Into the powder blue

                     - ALICE:

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

TIM IN HIS STUDY by Rosaline Shahnavaz

TIM IN HIS STUDY by Rosaline Shahnavaz

When I came to write this post, I looked up my email correspondence with Rosaline and found that, although I had first written to her in July  2014, she had in fact first written to me in December 2013. At that time, she was working as Gabriella De Martino's assistant and Gabriella had recommended that she contact me to suggest that she take my photograph as part of the project. Rosaline was too polite to mention this when I contacted her. However, if you had seen me in December, you would have understood why I had not responded. At that time, my Parkinson's had got much worse and the number of usable hours in the day very much reduced so it is no wonder that I didn't reply although I'm sure I would have done if I had looked at her work. As it was, when I did look at her work through some links on Twitter, I was entranced. Every person is very much a part of their environment. There is a placidity in each and every portrait which shows this. And this is what Rosaline did with me. She was hardly here for any time at all but, after a quick tour of the house, she plumped for various spots that she felt were where I liked to be. And then she was gone! I hardly got to know her and her partner, Ben, who accompanied her which was a shame but, in some way, that makes her shots even more impressive.

She sent me two shots afterwards but this was the one that immediately grabbed me. It also harks back to the second photograph I had done by Mark Russell in 2007 with me sitting there surrounded by all my "stuff". And also, it is beautifully composed and captures a peacefulness in my demeanour that I noticed from her other work on her website. 

I am sitting in the same room as I write this. I have just been down to the sea but I didn't swim because the tide was too far out and it would have taken me ages to get in far enough to swim properly but there was a gorgeous moment when the sun, almost orange, rose behind the pier. I love living here and that love and the satisfaction with my lot are all part of the expression on my face in this great image. It is very representative of me. Sometimes, I feel that life is going far too fast for my liking. 

Stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
But honestly won’t someone stop this train
- John Mayer

Monday, 11 August 2014

THE HORNS OF HELP by Andrew Meehan

THE HORNS OF HELP by Andrew Meehan

Who is Andrew Meehan? You may well ask and I may well tell you. If you had asked that question ten years ago, I would have said he is an estate agent who works in the same village where I practice as a solicitor that village being Grayshott in Hampshire. If you had asked that question 36 years ago, I would have given you the same answer except we both worked in the same town - that town being Haslemere in Surrey. It all seems a long time ago - it was a long time ago.  He has retired now and he lives in Somerset and I have retired and I live in East Sussex. 

Well, what is so special about all this? The special bit is in between. The day we first went out for lunch when he was a young estate agent working for Messenger May Baverstock. The day he came to see for some advice on his contract of employment when he had decided to work for Cubitt &West in Godalming. The days he invited me to the Varsity Match at Twickenham. The day he sold our house in Dean Road Godalming and sent us flowers which we received when we arrived at our beloved Ravenswood. The day we met him in Es Pujols in Formentera and he couldn't stop talking about work. The day we heard that Harry had died and I wrote saying to him and Susan that we loved them. The day he joined me at Lord's in the front row of the Edrich stand facing the Pavilion. The day I went to his house to watch an England Rugby game on his TV. The day we went to Twickenham and he got hit by a car and he slammed the door so hard that the glass smashed. The day he opened his new business as Keats Meehan in Grayshott. The day I met his brother. The day I sent him my first client. The day he sent me his first client. The days when he banged on about how we solicitors should get computerised. The day he joined me in the pub to celebrate my 20 years as a solicitor. The day he came to our Christmas Drinks party. The day I told him I had Parkinson's Disease. The day he advised us to sell Ravenswood. The day he called me to say he had retired. These days and so many more go to make up a friendship deep and fulfilling. These days and such friendships are priceless.

He is a lovely man, a bit of a crazy mixed up kid but aren't we all? He has two strapping sons of whom he is very proud and a beautiful wife, Susan, with whom he is very much in love. 

I went to stay with them in Somerset in August 2014 and we saw some cricket together in Taunton and we ate and drank and chatted and watched the golf on TV. He then surprised me by saying that he was going to photograph me as part of my project. Now, originally, I contacted anyone who held a camera but latterly I have only contacted those photographers whose work I like. However, I wasn't going to say no my host and my friend and I am so glad I didn't for two reasons. First, why shouldn't he photograph me? Secondly, it is a superb photograph. He had given it a great deal of thought and, as he explained afterwards, he was attempting to portray the light and dark of my life with Parkinson's. My dark side represents the lack of controlled treatment and the light side the switching on of that treatment. He added that "the irony is that "The Horns of Help" (his name for the image) look almost demonic...."

Who is Andrew Meehan? He is my friend. Who am I? I am his friend. You need know no more.



I came across Nisha's work through another photographer, Joanna Burejza, but how I am afraid that I don't have a clue! We started corresponding in May 2013 and, at that time, her first idea was to do a head shot portrait involving using a studio and multiple mirrors at Southampton Solent Unversity but first of all some exhibitions and the Parkinson's Disease got in the way and so it was not until August 2014 that. on a trip to meet a friend near Taunton that we finally met at Bridgwater Station. We spent the morning and early part of the afternoon in Tea Room and very nice it was too. Nisha was very chatty, I was very chatty and the food was good. What I particularly like about Nisha is that she is not afraid to take photographs. I suppose that can be a bit of a drawback if you are a photographer but I have found that one or two are a bit tentative at first whereas Nisha was not and started photographing me almost immediately.

And then I received some photographs from her - four photographs to be precise. I chose this one mainly because, although I am looking into the lens, it has caught me in between poses so it is a pause but it is a natural pause which seems, to me anyhow, to say a lot about who I am; I recognise that guy in the photo. Also, there is seemingly no barrier between me and Nisha and yet, we had met for the first time only about 30 minutes before which says a lot for a photographer especially one as young as Nisha. That said, I have no idea how old she is but she is certainly young compared to me. The colours in the shot are so good too. The dominant colour is blue (my shirt) but this contrasts so beautifully with pallor of my skin and the soft pattern of the wallpaper beyond. Gorgeous. 

A few months later Nisha came to the exhibition in Brighton but it was  just about to close for the day so we didn't get much chance to talk. It was also a little strange to see her other than across a table in a Bridgwater Tea Room but what a lovely person she is - quite the most perfect companion on that day and, hopefully, other days to come

And, get this, we're going to work together again!


Friday, 8 August 2014

SO NEAR by Alys Tomlinson

SO NEAR by Alys Tomlinson

So near. So near where? So near the Arsenal Football ground for a start. This was taken by Alys right at the end of the shoot in the Eco-Reserve. It was a nice, warm day but without much sun which was perfect for taking photographs. We also discovered that if was perfect for an illicit lunch hour snog - not Alys and me but the couple on the other side of the clearing where we stopped to take first set of photographs. Eventually, they found that they couldn't give each other the attention they required and pushed off. 

I first contacted Alys in December 2012 after coming across her work by way of Portrait Salon and Twitter. She answered almost immediately and suggested a location shot in the Spring using film. However, it was not until September 2013 that we met in London for a chat - by that stage, she had already suggested the Eco-Reserve as a location. I was pleased because she was chasing me rather than the other way round. She continued to pursue me and eventually we met at Arsenal Tube Station and spent a very pleasant hour talking and photographing in the Reserve. Initially I posed in the snog clearing, some with my shirt on and some without. Actually, come to think of it,  this shot came sort of in the middle of the shoot. There was a point when we we went into the bushes and Alys photographed me through the branches heavy with green leaves, that I thought about how much I love this project. She looked at me so intently through the lens and I looked back and we communicated. 

Why do I like this shot so much? Well, it is a great photograph, full of colour and contrast. Also, and this doesn't sound that momentous but, physically, I was so much better after my Deep Brain Stimulation surgery a few months earlier that it was quite a big deal that I was able to lie down on a park bench like that. Interestingly, Alys shot it from the top so that my scalp is in focus and, of course, that is where the electrodes are whirring away sending their little messages to all parts of my body to enable me to do things like lie down on a park bench. I have often said that this project isn't about my illness but about me at a time when I happen to be ill but I cannot really separate one form the other as the illness has such a hold over me. However, at the moment, we are equal partners. So near.
Anyway, back to Alys and the photograph. 

Yes, I love how the colours contrast with each other and are so rich and deep which I do feel that one can only achieve to that extent on film. I am not a photographer and so some excellent digital photographers may take issue with this but it is a point of view held by many photographers I have met and worked with.

Afterwards, we went back to Alys' flat just round the corner and had a cup of tea and a chat. Alys is a lovely person and a very talented photographer and it was an absolute pleasure spending time with her. And then, I went home and told Jane all about it.

"Twas so good to be young then,
 To be close to the earth
 Now the green leaves of summer,
 Are calling me home"

Wednesday, 6 August 2014



Gary is my oldest friend. My family moved form Finchley in North London down to West Wittering in Sussex in 1964 and in about 1965 or 1966, I got a job at The Harbour Chalet situated in the car park next to the beach. The Chalet sold everything from Candy Floss to Li-Los including sandwiches filled with leather (masquerading as beef) and Sun Tan Lotion. It was run by a Mr Gubb who also owned a shop selling similar goods (but not 'food') in Shore Road, East Wittering. Gary worked at The Harbour Chalet too but he also attended the same school as me, Chichester High School for Boys and I cannot remember whether we first met and became friends at the Chalet or on the Number 53 bus from Wittering to Chichester. my guess is that it was the former because he was (and still is) four years younger than me and I don't suppose I would have made friends with someone so much younger on the bus. Whatever. We had the same daft sense of humour and so we clicked and I was always disappointed when he wasn't working at the Car Park or when we didn't catch the same bus. He was (and still is) a dangerous individual. I could recount any number of silly stories of the scrapes we got into - whatever it was, we always ended up laughing our heads off whether it was climbing up the steps of Waterloo Station on our stomachs pretending we were mountaineering or singing with Manchester City supporters in a pub in Wembley after watching our team (Tottenham Hotspur) win the 1981 Cup Final Replay. It may not sound very funny to anyone else but, with 3 or 4 pints (or was it 5 or 6?) of beer inside us, it made us laugh. There are others stories involving mops on the London Underground, Table Tennis bats, Newspapers, Jane pouring beer over Gary in a pub in Kingston, a potentially disastrous delivery of manure which I won't recount here but, suffice to say, it was always silly. Apart from sharing a friendship, we also shared a love of Tottenham Hotspur FC and The Beatles with the latter generally performing better than the former. The Beatles broke up in 1970 but Spurs have had to keep going and we have supported them through thick and thin. 

Apart from being a respected and respectful doctor, Gary is also a keen amateur photographer and so I asked him if he would photograph me as part of the project. He accepted the invitation and came up with two ideas - one was too photograph me on the zebra crossing in Abbey Road which appeared on the front cover of the Beatles' album of the same name and then possibly photoshop the Fab Four into the photo. We went up there last year and took the photographs but Gary wasn't very happy with the results. The second idea was for me to dress in a Spurs kit under a raincoat and to flash my kit in and around the Arsenal ground. For the uninitiated, Arsenal and Spurs are arch rivals. So when I say that Gary is still dangerous, this is what I mean. I was certain that we would run into trouble doing this especially in the Summer when Arsenal louts would be short of opportunities of giving people in general and Spurs' supporters in particular a good kicking. 

As it turned out, we had a very pleasant day. We got off the tube at Arsenal Station and I was surprised to find ourselves in a sedate leafy suburb with not a yob in sight. We started shooting outside the entrance of Arsenal's old Highbury ground and that calmed my nerves a bit. Then we walked round to the new ground only a few minutes away. We asked the people in the Arsenal shop if they minded us taking photos and explained that I had Parkinson's and it was for a project so they would take pity on me. They were extremely friendly and slightly bemused but allowed us to do what we wanted really - s we trashed the place. We didn't actually - that was a lie. Then we walked around the ground and couldn't help admiring it and the contrast with Tottenham's less palacious ground at White Hart Lane. We then found a great statue of Tony Adams (or Donkey as he is known to Spurs supporters - I can put the boot in a bit can't I?). Actually, Adams was a great defender for both Arsenal and England and justly warranted a statue. All the more reason to flash him - which I did. Eventually, we decided to leave before we got seduced by the place and, on the way back to Victoria, we stopped off at a pub for a light lunch and two pints. 

We moved to Brighton three years ago and I love it here not least because we see more of Gary. He is married to the darling Susie - the real love of his life (sorry Spurs) and who has always tolerated our jokes. I knew his father, Robert, quite well - a great man with a hearty sense of humour but who, sadly, died many years ago now. I am very fond of his mother, Gwen, whose humour is quite dry but no less amusing and he has two lovely sisters, Jane and Joanne and two charming children, James and Emma. I love them all.

I am very lucky to have met Gary and very proud to call him my friend. I would not presume to say that he feels the same about me but if he doesn't, I'll buy him a pint and change his mind. So, this is a very special photograph taken by a very special man and, in the words of Michael Palin at George Harrison's Memorial Concert, a man so overwhelming special that in his epic and superhuman specialness he surely transcends all previous specialnesses. Oh, I didn't want to write this....I wanted to be.....a LUMBERJACK!!