|THE MASTER by Andy Weekes|
I was at the opening of Portrait Salon exhibition and came upon a photograph of the actor Adam Pearson who appeared with Scarlet Johansson in the film, "Under the Skin". Pearson has a condition called neurofibromatosis which is characterised by the growth of non-cancerous tumours on nerve tissue. I didn't know anything about this condition or indeed about Adam Pearson at the time but, as I looked at the portrait, I thought fleetingly of the times before I was diagnosed and I would see people in wheelchairs and wonder how I could handle such a disability. But then I concentrated on the photograph itself and the beautiful light which the photographer had captured. I came home and the next day, I went on the Portrait Salon site and found the photograph and then went on Andy's website and found more treasures. the black and white portraits showed men, well-known men such as Boris Johnson and John Hurt, portrayed in such a way that brought out their inner strength - the one I was most surprised by was the picture of Richard Briers. He was a favourite actor of mine and I was a huge fan of "The Good Life" and of his character, Tom Good, and I found it interesting that Briers felt that Tom was not a very likeable person even though he was so funny. Andy had found in him a strain of that ability that great actors have to discover all aspects of someone's personality and, by doing so, they give a performance that is multi dimensional as all humans are. Is it any wonder that I wrote to Andy asking him to photograph me?
I wrote to Andy on 21st November and ten days later, I opened the door to this very tall man with a kind face who had come down from Lincoln to photograph me. I showed him around the house and he decided to use the sitting room as his mini-studio and put up a backdrop and asked me to pose in front of it as he adjusted the lights and clicked away. After a while, he asked me to undress and then he enquired about how angry I felt being ill with Parkinson's Disease but I told him that I had not felt angry; frustrated but not angry. He asked me to tense my body and allow those feelings to come out in my stance. And then he took this photograph. It is more gentle than the others but it shows a fear in my eyes, a fear of the unknown but also a determination to live a life and to control my illness which has become so much a part of everything I do. I have been to that place, that place I never thought I would inhabit, when I was wheeled in to the hospital for my surgery and so I know what is out there. I am afraid but I am ready.
I received four photographs from Andy and the one I chose was also Andy's favourite but I really like the others not only because they are excellent photographs but because they tell the story of the progression of the shoot. It is the shoot that I love most of all - the search for an answer, the discovery and the discussion and burgeoning of the relationship between me and the photographer. I have now experienced that in almost 400 different ways and it has been a wonderful, cathartic experience and one which I had no idea that I would have. Andy has been one of many who have contributed to this but he is such an important part of the whole jigsaw because he has brought this totally unique image to the table and every time I see it, I shall remember our day together and his lovely personality and warmth as well as his exceptional ability.
Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Friday, 27 November 2015
|JAB by Wendy-Lee Warne|
If I could remember how I came across Wendy's work, I would tell you but I can't, so I won't. However, looking back, I do recall being intrigued by her project "A Woman's Fate" which is a series of photographs which explores female identity through her own experience of growing up as a girl in a traditional chinese family in Singapore. It is a wonderful set of images and includes some old family photographs mixed with later staged self-portraits and it caused me to think on my own family and the heavy influence which my mother (widowed at the age of 34) had on the early lives of my three sisters. One would think that a mother as a single parent would be more understanding of her daughters' needs when they were growing up but it was my brother and I who were cut a great deal of slack and our sisters who were watched closely and dealt with harshly if they stepped out of line.
I took only a few months of email correspondence to arrange a time for me to meet Wendy for the shoot at one of the studios at the London College of Communication in November 2015. She was with her friend and fellow student, Camille Valbusa, who assisted her with a large format camera. we started off with some clothed portraits but ended up with me naked and trying some fun shots of which this was one.
It is beautifully lit and direct. It is a fiction in that I have never boxed in my life although I do remember that my brother and I owned some worn leather boxing gloves when we were little. I can remember the feeling of putting them on and not being able to pick anything up but I don't remember using them to actually hit a punch bag or a person - maybe the odd cushion perhaps. Since then, I have fought a few battles and so, in that respect, the photograph represents the fighting side of my character . The shoot felt very easy and relaxed and that was due to some extent to Wendy's very tranquil way she went about her work and the fact that we had met briefly at the Portrait Salon exhibition a few weeks before. She is a lovely person with a beautiful smile and an excellent photographer as you can see. If you don't agree, I suppose that I could always punch you in the face but, fortunately for all of us, that won't be necessary.
WEBSITE : http://wendyleewarne.com
|THE MOON AND I by Wendy Lee-Warne and Camille Valbusa|
It was at my shoot arranged with Wendy Lee-Warne that I met the charming Camille Valbusa who had kindly agreed to assist Wendy that day. For some reason, Wendy went off to get something in the middle of the shoot and this gave Camille and I the opportunity to chat to each other. She comes from Brazil and has a leaning towards both Documentary and Fine Art Photography. She has a serious face but when she smiles, one can feel the warmth of her personality. She worked well with Wendy that day and it was pleasing to see them support each other and also she made a number of good suggestions during the shoot.
They began to take turns at photographing me (i.e. clicking the shutter) but, in the end, when they produced this image, they could not work out who had taken it but they had worked so much as a team that they suggested that they both be credited with authorship. One tends to make lifetime friends on a long educational course and the mutual co-operation and help they gave each other suggests that this is a friendship which will endure.
Again, the light in this picture is what is so striking on first viewing, the ivory tone (almost the colour of moonlight) given to my skin is accentuated by the black background - of course, l have no idea how they achieved this or what I am really talking about but all I can say is that it is an excellent photograph taken by two very talented and resourceful students and, most importantly, we all had a great time that day. It is interesting noting the ageing process - my shoulders are more hunched, my neck fuller and my mouth set in what has become a familiar, Parkinsonian and post DBS, downward curve and my eyes staring ahead - maybe I was also tired that day, who knows? I do find myself sometimes looking at this photograph and saying "Sit up straight, shoulders back, relax" and then at other times accepting me as I was caught at that moment.
I recall my daughter speaking the words of Yum-Yum in the Mikado -
"Yes, I am indeed beautiful! Sometimes I sit and wonder, in my artless Japanese way, why is it that I am so much more attractive than anyone else in the whole world, Can this be vanity? No! Nature is lovely and rejoices in her loveliness. I am a child of Nature and take after my mother"
Monday, 23 November 2015
|COMFORT by Gemma Day|
I first heard of Gemma when she answered my request for a selfie when I had the idea to compile a slideshow for Stuart Pilkington after he had suffered a stroke. She addressed the email "Hello Andrew.." but she signed off "Bye for now.....Gemma" which I thought maybe was significant until I realised that she always signs off in this way. Well, next she retweeted a tweet about me and so I looked up her work on her website and I really liked it; everyone seemed to be having a good time on her shoots. Given my insatiable thirst for having a good time, I thought, yeah, why not and I emailed her. She replied "Hello Tim...." and we were off.
She wanted to photograph me at home and then proposed this idea about Comfort. She quoted some dictionary definitions of the word and asked me to think about what things gave me comfort. Over the next few days, I sent her a trail of things involving comfort eating, watching DVDs and even weeding but mostly comfort eating to sustain my increasingly bulbous stomach. Unfortunately, Gemma latched on to the comfort eating (result!) and therefore is totally to blame for me exceeding 14 stones for the first time. She arrived for the shoot with bags of equipment as well as bags of chocolate and mango slices but she also brought a lovely sense of humour and a beautiful smile and we had a lovely shoot. It helped that I had met her and her chum, the adorable Louise Haywood-Schiefer at the opening of the Portrait Salon exhibition a few days before but even if we hadn't I knew that it would go well. The email correspondence had been easy and chatty and the shoot followed on in the same way. Chat, eat, drink, swallow, joke, eat, chat, swallow, drink, another joke - you get the drift.
I received the photographs shortly afterwards and, as I looked through them, it began to dawn on me what she had done. She had gradually got me to relax and become Andrew...I mean, Tim. Just Tim. Just me. And that is the best example of comfort - being happy with what you are and so, when you look at this photograph, you are looking at the real me. Normally, I would include other photographs that were taken on the same day but this time I'm not going to because this shot is sufficient. It says it all. I wrote and told Gemma which one I liked best and why and she replied and said she agreed and signed off "Bye for now.....Gemma x"
Thank you Gemma........Tim x
Friday, 20 November 2015
|(c) Lenka Rayn H.|
I sleep on trains now, proper sleep not littles napettes here and there but this time, I wanted particularly to build up some energy for my final assault on London this week. I had been up twice already for a shoot with the charming Jay Brooks in Haggerston on Monday and also to see my lovely niece, Naomi, play Elgar's Cello Concerto brilliantly and passionately in St. Stephen's church in Gloucester Road on Tuesday, all the time travelling around looking over my shoulder for terrorists. My train arrived at Victoria on time and within about 15 minutes, I alighted at Southwark Tube Station. "I alighted at Southwark" - isn't that a phrase one would only hear an English person say? "Je descendis a Southwark", "Me apee a Southwark" "我下了车，在南华"- just doesn't sound the same does it?
(c) Neil Spence
Anyway, I made my way along Union Street and I saw the Embassy Tea Rooms before they saw me and I entered the world of Portrait Salon Exhibition 2015 created by James O Jenkins and Carole Evans, and quite frankly, it blew me away. There was some gorgeous work on display, not least the beautiful portrait of Ami by Lenka Rayn H. The peace and quiet of her contemplative pose allied to the wash of green grey that Lenka has achieved is simply stunning. Before I began to have a good look around, I bought the sticker catalogue and said hello to the smiling Jim Stephenson of Miniclick who was chatting to Alma Haser and Jocelyn Allen and I picked up a beer and started to wander and almost immediately bumped into Louise Haywood-Schiefer and her friend, Gemma Day, who is going to photograph me on Monday. Magda Rakita cut in which enabled Louise and Gemma to escape my boring story of hiring display boards at Goldsmith's College.
Then I turned back to the photography and found myself staring at General Sir Michael Jackson by Justin Sutcliffe. This is some portrait, beautifully lit and composed with the subject giving the minimum time ( I learned later that it was 7 minutes 30 seconds) for the photographer to capture what he was all about but throwing him a look that said it all. "Excuse me, but are you that model?" asked the slim, cheeky, pretty Clare Park accompanied by her loyal and equally good looking chum Genevieve Stevenson. I had noticed Genevieve's picture of her son a few minutes earlier. It is small and perfect. I didn't know it was her handsome son but I did see a clear connection with the photographer and the clever positioning behind him of the fairground trailer, the bright red of which contrasted beautifully with the unruly dark brown quiff of his hair.
(c) Genevieve Stevenson
Then they all came in a rush, Wendy Lee-Warne, who is also going to photograph me next week, Anastasia Trahanas whose photograph of me as a Dirty Old Man burns into the brains of everyone who stops to look with its mixture of vulnerability and fearsome challenge, Sarah Lee who introduces me to Justin Sutcliffe and Amit Lennon, my friend Sheryl Tait and her partner Jordi who reminds me that the last time we met was on the beach on a bitterly cold day in January when he was assisting Sheryl as she photographed me wearing nothing but a long red piece of cloth, the witty, tall and delectable Kristina Salgvik, Clare's husband Toby Sedgwick recounting jolly stories of his day with Jim Broadbent in rehearsal for "A Christmas Carol", Travis Hodges and his friend from Metro Imaging (mentioned in glowing terms by many that evening) whose name I regret I have forgotten but who engaged me in interesting conversation and Astrid Schulz with her typically zany idea for a second shoot. As I whizzed around the intoxicating riches on display, I noticed the names of many people who have photographed me and, each time, a little potted film of memory of my shoot with them flashed into my brain. This was a great evening with far too many wonderful works on display to mention specifically. Gosh, I've just remembered the amazing print of Julia Fullerton-Batten's contribution (one day, Julia, one day...) and Laura Pannack's superb shot.
But, but.......amongst all this bonhomie, the rise and fall of the hum and clatter of conversation, the squeezing past shoulders to get a better look at all the incredible work on display, a golden light burned in the corner from a picture of such excellence and grace that it made my heart miss a beat - there it goes again as I think of it - it is the photograph of me by Jennifer Balcombe. I looked at it in wonder and then turned away and dropped into Jennifer's eyes as she smiled and said hello and then gave me the warmest hug and introduced me to her boyfriend Charlie. And there I shall end this piece but not before showing you Jennifer's picture. Is it not beautiful?
Monday, 16 November 2015
|I USED TO BE A SOLICITOR by Jay Brooks|
It seems so long ago now. My day began at about 6.30am and, after running through my morning routine of reading a chapter of my book followed by my stretching exercises and a shower, I would arrive at my office in Grayshott at about 8am and often stay until 8pm. It was a general village practice and we offered services such as Domestic and Commercial Conveyancing, Wills, Probate but no litigation. I was not a confrontational lawyer; indeed, as my late principal, Mr Underhill, used to say to me during my articles of clerkship at Raper & Co in Chichester, clients wanted matters to be resolved and not fought over for the sake of it although he could certainly fight another solicitor if he needed to. Academically, I was not suited to Law but I had a strong sense of duty which meant that, once I had set out on the road to becoming a solicitor, it was never likely that I would give up a legal career unless, of course, something forced me to such as an incurable neurological condition...........
So, how did I find myself standing in a studio in Haggerston wearing a gorilla suit? Well, it all started on 22nd September 2011 when I saw Jay's photograph of the actress, Hayley Atwell, at the National Portrait Gallery. I looked at his website and immediately was struck by the dynamism, humour and crispness of the images. In response to my usual opening email, Jay said that he had heard of my project and a month later, we met for a coffee in London. Jay is an attractive guy and has a lively and witty disposition and so I left the cafe with the feeling that the shoot would be fun. What neither of us realised was that it would be another four years or so before the shoot was to take place. Nevertheless, four months later, Jay wrote with his Gorilla idea. He wanted to create something cinematic, surreal and darkly humorous and to shoot this outside in woodland. We kept in touch on and off over the next few years until suddenly we both had space in our diaries and it all came together but in a studio setting rather than on location.
And it was a jolly affair. Jay's enthusiasm was infectious and the longer the shoot went on, the more excited he became. His assistant, Rob Parfitt, worked hard to help set the shots up and kept us sustained with sandwiches and drink. Finally, after about 3 or 4 hours, Jay called a halt and I was able to slide out of my suit. With a smile and a hug, I took my leave of them both with a real feeling that Jay had been as committed to this shoot as he would to any of his more important commercial shoots but that was no surprise. Jay clearly loves having a camera in his hand and using it creatively and imaginatively and treats all his commissions in exactly the same way. Afterwards, he wrote thanking me for being such a sport and going with his rather quirky ideas and said that it was really fun to work on something totally free and with only ourselves to satisfy which is a rarity for him these days.
Another gap of a few months whilst Jay struggled with a busy schedule. I announced that the project was about to end and Jay wrote a few days later saying "And so, like an out of shape marathon runner, I duck under the rope at the finish! haha". And I am so glad that this lovely man was able to be part of it all and look at the photographs which he produced. Dynamic, humorous and crisp. How could I have expected anything else? He had taken some straight portraits but it was the gorilla suit which he loved best as they had a slightly dark sense of fun which he tries to find in a lot of his work. He thought that they were the truest to the original plan to create something a bit surreal with a slightly unhooked narrative. And he added "I could pontificate forever on the skin we are in, the personas we develop and the search for truth but at the end of the day...everyone loves a gorilla suit!"
Jay is a master of his craft - is craft the right word? I'm not sure because there is so much more to his work which says so much about him. He is funny, serious, kind, knowledgable, creative, sensitive and hardworking. All these attributes make him a great photographic artist. But there is something else....what is it? Ah, yes.......Panache!
I used to be a solicitor.
Thursday, 5 November 2015
|SLEEP, GENTLE SLEEP by Yasmina Podgorski|
My mother used to say that, when I was small, I would often go to bed before I was told to because I knew that I was too tired to stay up. But then I would ''wake up with the birds''. I love remembering things that my mother used to say. In more recent times before she died (in 2001), her memory wasn't so good and so the stories she had trotted out in the past and which were so familiar to us gradually faded from her mind. I go to bed early now too and I often wake at about six o'clock in the morning or even earlier in the summer. Shortly after my mother died when we were on holiday in Formentera, I had a dream about her. She was young again, about forty, and she had bright red lipstick and she was laughing and the wind was blowing her dark brown hair, no longer flecked with grey as it was when she died. I rarely remember my dreams but that one was so vivid that it has stayed with me ever since.
I don't know what she would have made of my photographic project. She worked as a dancer in the theatre and, at one time, she appeared naked on the stage in the days when naked performers weren't allowed to move. But she could also be strangely prudish about nudity and, although only a relatively small percentage of my photographs are nude, I reckon that she would not have been too enthusiastic. However, she was proud of the fact that I qualified as a solicitor and I remember that, when I qualified, she had some business cards printed for me which I found very touching.
So, Sleep and Mothers. What has that got to do with Yasmina's beautiful photograph? Well, the picture was taken by Yasmina as I lay in a birthing pool she had obtained and filled with water in the living room of her family home. My eyes were closed and I felt so comfortable there, especially after the initial shots where Yasmina wanted me to lie on my back with my head just submerged. I just couldn't do it without swallowing water resulting in a coughing, splurting fit. In this pose I was much more relaxed and, in fact, it is the position I take up as I go to sleep at night. And Mothers? Well, Yasmina's mother was assisting her that day on the shoot. She had collected me from St. Albans station while Yasmina set everything up at home. This was a first - a shoot where the photographer's mother acted as assistant - but what I learned on the way to their house was that her mother was very supportive of the career which Yasmina had decided to follow and that she and her husband were both very proud of what she had achieved. There was another connection in that her mother worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital which is just round the corner from the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery where I had my Deep Brain Stimulation operation. It felt comforting having a medically trained person there whilst I was swallowing the contents of the birthing pool.
I first saw Yasmina's work on the Free Range site in the summer of 2015 - she was a recent graduate from Falmouth University. I had not been able to make it to the degree shows themselves and so I looked through the site and came across the most amazing photographs by Yasmina. They were absolutely stunning but even more stunning were the original prints which Yasmina showed me at her house.
I suppose that I must have spent about an hour and a bit at Yasmina's place before I dried myself off and took my leave of her. Her mother drove me back to the centre of StAlbans and very kindly dropped me off at the Cathedral which I had always wanted to visit. It was magnificent and,as I wandered around, I reflected on the time I had spent with Yasmina. What a refreshingly committed young photographer she is. She has a lovely character and a clear and incisive mind as was confirmed by the images she sent through afterwards. They were all superb - it came to a choice between two and I plumped for this. The light, the pose, the gentleness of the cloth draped over me all combine to create a picture of sheer grace and delicacy. And what is more exciting is the thought that Yasmina will be producing photographs of this quality for years to come. Wonderful.
Wednesday, 28 October 2015
Friday, 16 October 2015
|ALMOST BLUE by Michela Curti|
I have walked down this road so many times on my way to a swim. I play music as I go. I undress and then plonk into the cool water and I push out towards the rising sun and after a few strokes I turn and float on my back and it feels glorious. This day though, I am meeting Michela to whom I wrote in July after seeing her work on her website via a Twitter suggestion. What was it that inspired me so much about her work? I think it was that I understood it. I am a bear of little brain but, in this case, I felt almost that I could have taken these photographs myself. They would not have been so good of course but I felt I understood the mind behind them.
And there she is. Standing at the rail of the bandstand looking out, utterly bewitched by what she sees. I hope that she will not turn round before I reach her - she doesn't and I come up behind her and introduce myself with the words "Guess who?" She turns to say hello. She is wearing glasses and immediately, I want her to take them off so that I can see her eyes. I don't know whether we kiss or shake hands but we settle into easy conversation. I take her down on to the beach and we sit for a while and she takes this photograph. It says everything about that day and yet we met only ten minutes before. It shows that, from the very first moment we met, we knew each other. We then move round to the apron at the front of the small brick pier and this is where I take this photograph of her.
She takes more photographs during the afternoon and they are full of discovery and empathy but these two are all you need to comprehend the friendship that we were both given this day. We then go to The Mock Turtle Tea Rooms because I want her to sample the Welsh Rarebit. It is our waitress' first day and she doesn't know what Welsh Rarebit is but I point it out on the menu. Michela says that she likes it. I hope she does. We wander back to my house and on the way, we talk about everything - our families, her boyfriend Matteo, her work, my project, the sea. She struggles with her English and apologises for it but I know what she is saying. At home, I show her some of my films and the book I devised about my mother's theatrical photographs. I ask her to choose a record from the stack of 45s on the shelf in our sitting room. It is "I Go to Sleep" by The Pretenders. The words don't fit but the lazy warmth of Chrissie Hynde's voice does. The evening beckons and it is time for her to go. She lingers by the door and then we hug, as she said, like old friends. I tell Jane about my day with Michela and she smiles. In the meantime, Michela goes down to the shore and sits and thinks.
We meet one more time - the next morning, briefly, before she travels up to London with her young cousins. I arrive on the front and text her "I am here". She replies immediately "Me too" and I see her walking quickly along the path towards me. She does not have much time. We hug. She gives me a present she had forgotten to bring yesterday. I touch her cheek gently with the back of my hand and she turns to go. I turn to go and I reach the pavement just in time. I watch her walk away and for a short while after she disappears, I carry on looking at the empty space she occupied a few seconds before and then slowly I lift my eyes to the sea beyond.
It is almost blue.
Thursday, 15 October 2015
|STAY....! by Lucy Ridges|
It is a wet, grey day.....the sun suddenly appears from behind a cloud. You are in the supermarket and you move left to avoid another trolley....the person pushing the other trolley moves right and you both laugh. A letter arrives in the post....it is a personal letter addressed on the envelope by hand. It is spring.......you notice for the first time that the buds are beginning to open on the trees.
You know how you feel when beautiful things like that happen? Well, that it what is like working with Lucy Ridges. Everything is suffused with warmth, smiles and beauty. She doesn't waste a moment but you feel that, if you interrupt her movement or train of thought, it won't matter because she will just use the time she has lost on another day or catch up after you have gone. And when you go, all you want is to stay. And look at these lovely photographs - they are almost as delightful as she is. Full of wit, clarity, charm and love.
And she writes and sings wonderful songs too. Songs about all the things I have written about. I cannot say that she sings like an angel because I have never heard an angel sing but if angels have got any sense they should sing like her.
This was my second shoot with Lucy. It could have been my first because it was like everything was happening for the first time - all fresh and full of life, intensity and wonder. It could have been the hundredth because everything was so familiar, easy, relaxing and connected. How can that be? I don't know and I don't care. "Let's never stop" she wrote. Look! There is the sun. Listen! I heard someone laugh. I read a letter. I saw the beginning of Spring. No, we will never stop. These days will last forever.
Tuesday, 13 October 2015
A simple plan. To breathe life into the past. To stand where others have stood but without their fear and without their pain.
I had noticed that on Twitter, Steve was a good friend of Al Brydon and eventually I got round to looking up his website on which I left a message asking if he would be interested in photographing me. I beat him to it - he was about to write to me suggesting the same thing. After several emails back and forth, we set up a date for the shoot. He explained that he had a grain of an idea. "I am particularly interested in time and age within the landscape, with a subdivision into how man has changed the landscape and yet the landscape will endure far longer than any man. We are a frail species and yet we can cause immense change, not always for the good. Part of my project centres around quarrying, mainly in the slate quarries of the Lake district, created as the Industrial Revolution kicked in and most of the working class population migrated to cities and urbanisation - a massive social shift that saw poor living standards etc and which took a century to address."
We arranged that I would travel to Penrith where he would collect me. I had been photographed by Al Brydon a short time before and he told me that he would be joining us. At Penrith, it was Al I saw first and he greeted me warmly as the good friend he has become and then he led me past the cars parked outside the station to Steve, tall and built like the number eight he once was. But, and this is a big but, the grip of his handshake betrayed immediately the tenderness within, the vulnerability and the enthusiasm. Steve is passionate about his photography and his printing. He takes pride in what he does whether at his daily work or out in the landscape he loves. He wants more. I want more. Many of us want more but each of us deals with the denial of it in different ways. Steve is on a journey but has not yet reached his destination and it is my good fortune that we have met at the crossroads and he has placed me in front of his lens and recorded the event.
That evening and the following two evenings I ate too much, I drank too much and certainly I talked too much but l enjoyed all three...... "I wish I was smarter" - as l write this, those words written by David Bowie pound around my head to an accompaniment of drums and strings furiously playing out their pulsating rhythms and luscious melodies. Ooh - ooh - ooh -aah.
Al being there was a bonus. He came along for the ride and he observed and contributed; his presence was a gift because, as always, he brought his unique humour, sincerity and insight with him. It was a good mix.
Steve drove us patiently in his big white fuck off Audi all the way to Hodge Close in the Tibberthwaite Valley and we parked between a pair of white vans and a school mini-bus and, as I alighted, it felt good to stretch my legs and breathe in the fresh Lakeland air. We climbed through a fence next to which stood a notice saying "Do not climb through fence" and Steve and Al walked down and looked over the edge of a quarry which they said looked amazing. I took their word for it and hung back using said notice to break the vertiginous pull towards the bottom of the quarry and certain death. Al and Steve then set off to have a closer look while I sat in safety and pondered my lot. My project had taken me to so many different locations - one week Exeter, the next week Sheffield, then Nottingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Norwich and now Cumbria. Different people, same country, parts of which would be unrecognisable to the quarrymen who had carved their place in the history of the hills which were spread out before me under the warm October sun. A group of schoolchildren returned to the mini bus and then took up occupancy of the huge slate boulders which bounded the parking area and ate their sandwiches and quaffed their pop. Although they were only a few yards away, their chatter was muffled and indistinct in the empty air. After about half an hour, Al and Steve returned. Al was so overcome by what he had seen that he found it difficult to find the words to describe his feelings. It augured well for the shoot. Steve lead us to another quarry along a path through orderly piles of rubble and red rusting metal and past a boulder on which were painted the words "Danger Keep Out".
We looked around the quarry and finally, Steve chose the place for the first shot. He set up his large format camera, checked the as light reading, the focus, my position and then disappeared under the cover and checked the composition. Then he checked it all again. He withdrew from the cover, asked if l was ready and then clicked the shutter. He smiled, I smiled and Al smiled. We had begun.
|A SIMPLE PLAN by Stephen Segasby|
12th October 2015 - I was drifting in and out of sleep, looking at my watch and willing the time to pass. I had woken early to drive over to Chichester on my annual pilgrimage in memory of my darling sister, Janet, who had died on this day 19 years ago. As usual, it had been an emotional trip but, as I have said many times before, the emotion I experienced at the time of her death was so deep that it was beautiful. I think part of the reason for my annual visit to the places we used to walk together is to open up and lick the wounds that were inflicted at that time as well as to be with her again. Anyway, enough of all that - if you would like to know more then watch "Sister". The point of mentioning this is to explain that I was sleeping off one experience to ready myself for another - that is, my shoot with Steve Segasby. Finally, the train pulled into Preston where I had to change and the ornate wrought-iron bannisters on the stairs leading to the exits reminded me of the visits to Preston previously, first to to meet the lovely Pat Moss for our shoot and then to see the framer who made the frames for the Southport Exhibition; the framer who, when he was asked to make 55 frames, thought it was for just another show but quickly realised that it was something completely different when these amazing prints began to arrive at his door.
I caught the train to Penrith and, within an hour, I found myself chatting to Steve and Al Brydon in the car on the way to Steve's sister's house in Keswick where we would all be staying. It was early evening by the time we arrived in Keswick and, after dumping my stuff off in the bedroom I would be sharing with Al, we walked round to one of the local pubs and I had what the 64 year old version of myself would call a skinfull or maybe half a skinfull i.e. three pints and then returned to the house for some delicious bottled beer provided by Al. The next morning we were all up pretty early and Steve provided a wonderful cooked breakfast before we set off to the Tibberthwaite Valley. All this time, Steve and I were slowly getting to know each other as we swapped stories of our respective families, relationships and photographic projects and Steve listened patiently while Al and I purred over the three shoots on which we had both collaborated. I came to the conclusion quite quickly that Steve is a good man searching for peace in his busy life to enable him to get the time to concentrate on what he really loves - his photography and printing. He loves other things too - his daughters especially, the Lake District, History, bacon sandwiches and 'The Misfits', the little coterie of photographer friends of which he is a member - but Photography is his passion. I decided against going down into the main quarry at Hodge Close but we found another nearby with beautifully chiseled walls of different shapes, hues and colours as well as a little shallow pond which I ended up stepping into naked for one of the first shots.
I love watching a large format camera being set up and loaded and all the little knobs being twiddled. I have no idea what it all means but what I do know is that, when it ends with a click of the shutter, I feel a part of history; the history of Photography, the history of that particular camera and, in this case, a part of Steve's story.
We spent quite a time in this quarry but none of us were too fussed about this. All we had in mind for the rest of the day was to get some shots in the Cathedral Cave. Cathedral Cave - sounds wonderful doesn't it? And, do you know what? It was fucking amazing. After we parked in Little Langdale, we took a short walk along a track and then up a steep slope to a hole in the hill leading to a short tunnel which then opened up into this glorious hall of slate the roof of which was seemingly supported by a rude rod of slate stretching from the floor to ceiling and bathed in the light from a huge hole at the top out of the edges of which sprouted leaves of the brightest luminous green; the same green with which special lakeland painters must venture out at night and decorate the landscape in this extraordinary part of England. My England. For all its problems politically and socially, I feel blessed to have been born in this country and to live here as I feel blessed to have met Steve and Al and Rob Hudson and Alex Bamford and others who have taken me to places I have never seen before and enabled me to breathe in the pure air and to touch trees and rocks and sand and put my hands, feet and body into streams and walk barefooted on grass and sometimes without clothes in these magical places. And here I shall end because although we did more that day (e.g. met Alastair Cook, photographed a telephone box, had more beer, talked a lot more and then the next day, Steve and I said goodbye to Al and spent a glorious day doing more at Hope Close and ate Cow Pie in the evening in front of a fire in the pub), I want to end on magic.
Magic is defined as ''the power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.'' Is anything more mysterious than the meeting of two quite different minds moulded and influenced by different genes, surroundings, familial pressures, loves, desires and yet brought together by the magic of photography to create the photographs you see here? And yet these images are not supernatural or alien in any way. These places exist. Steve photographed me in them. But they look magical. They feel magical. He captured all this by a combination of his skill, his passion, his love, his need to communicate. How do I know this? I know because I was there.
Postscript - I have chosen the image at the top to represent Steve in my project. It is simple, direct, strong, silent and full of history. One day, it will be on the wall of a gallery in an exhibition of Over the Hill and I shall look up at it and feel very, very proud.
Postscript - I have chosen the image at the top to represent Steve in my project. It is simple, direct, strong, silent and full of history. One day, it will be on the wall of a gallery in an exhibition of Over the Hill and I shall look up at it and feel very, very proud.
Thursday, 1 October 2015
|DANGER MAN by Blake Lewis|
On 12th September 2015, I went to the Unitarian Church in Brighton to be photographed by Sean Hawkey and found myself caught up in MiniClick's 5th Birthday celebrations of which I had been notified but had forgotten about. I was sitting and listening to one of the photographers who had been invited to speak about their work when the lovely Melissa Campbell tapped me on the shoulder and said hello. I left the party early because I had to get home but, on my way out, I saw Melissa again and it was then that she introduced me to Blake Lewis, explaining that he was also a photographer. We all had a nice chat including a short discussion about Western Films - quite how we got on to that subject I don't know but it is one I love to talk to people about. I got back home and looked up Blake's work and, well, wow! I was immediately captivated by his Opaque Photography experiments which were full of verve, glorious shapes and colour. So, I lost no time in writing to him asking if he might be interested in photographing me even if I was just a splodge.
Well, here we are - me in a splodge and I love it. Blake and I agreed to meet at St Bartholomew's church off the London Road in Brighton but, as I arrived early and the church was open, I decided to spend a few minutes wandering around the building which I had never seen before. I was stunned - not only was it vast but it was beautiful and vast. The greyish brown brickwork stretching up to the rafters provided a wonderful backdrop to the statues and icons the beauty of which was enhanced by expertly placed lamps. However, just in front of the altar rail there was a glorious pool of soft ivory light the tone of which was completely different from the artificial lights. I walked down the centre aisle and stood in the pool, turned and looked up. Sunlight was pouring through a large circular stained glass window above the entrance door. A steward later told me that this window faced south and at noon on a clear day, the sun created this incredible glow. As I stood there, I felt a glow within me and infuse me with a determination to press on and continue to fill my days with experiences like this. I stood there for a few minutes looking up to the window in wonder and then I made my way out and, as I stepped into the daylight, Blake appeared before me grinning a grin.
We walked to the car park where he had decided to photograph me and we talked on the way about this and that and I found him to be a very convivial and interesting companion for the next half an hour or so. The shoot was over pretty quickly and I caught the bus back home thoroughly satisfied with my day's exploits.
I received this shot and, as I say, I loved it. Blake has placed me in the midst of colour and light. I am an interloper, maybe an observer of what photography is capable of producing. In this sense, it is almost my most complete photograph - it combines two completely different fields of photographic art - the figurative portrait, the depiction of me and the more abstract forms of opaque photography which interest and inspire Blake so much. And yet, are they so different? Are we not made up of splodges and atoms and shapes and colours and liquids? I have never been a scientist and so I would not know but I feel that is where I want to be heading in this project - towards the discovery of what we truly see when we look at ourselves and the world about us. There is a path linking the shapes of my body in the images by LIz Orton, the movement of my body in Karen Knorr's film captured in the still image she took to the colours and lines and structures of the trees in the photographs by Al Brydon and Rob Hudson and to this depiction of me in a mass of shapes and lines created by the collision of particles of light and energy. It will take a better interpreter of photographic art than me to explain this fully but this is my modest take on the whole thing.
Tuesday, 29 September 2015
|SILENT SONG by Al Brydon and Jacqui Booth|
There is a silence in my head when I am asked to close my eyes. Of course, there are noises all around me but in my head, all is quiet. Then the shutter clicks and the volume is turned back on. I open my eyes and I look at Al and he is smiling. I turn to look at Jacqui and she is smiling too. I smile. There is nothing to say. All three of us have heard it. It is the silent song of complete contentment. Of understanding. Of companionship.
When I answered that advertisement in Time Out in 2007, I could never have known that it would lead to days like these. When I wrote to Al Brydon on 6th April 2013 asking if I could be a speck in a landscape, I could never have known that it would lead to days like these. When I wrote to Jacqui in June 2014, I did not imagine that it would lead to this. But it did. And all I do is stand there and close my eyes and this, this is what comes of it. Two images of such majesty and imagination that I find it hard to find the words to describe how I feel so I look, in silence, and then I close my eyes and I think back to the day. I see Jacqui's happy face as she clambers on to the train. I hear Al's soft voice say hello at Sheffield Station. I hear the twigs crack under our feet as we climb up to the deserted building jutting out of the bank like an Inca Palace. I hear the cars rush past, the drivers oblivious to the naked man looking out. I hear the birdsong in the quarry and the man talking about badger's poo. I hear the fizz as Jacqui and Al suck on their cigarettes. I hear Jacqui lose her phone and I hear Al find it. I hear the breeze on the trees. I hear nothing. I open my eyes and I see these images. I look out of my window, up into the sky and I wonder what each of them are doing now.
Are they too listening to the silent song?
"Nobody told me there would be days like these....."
- John Lennon
Sunday, 27 September 2015
|JOURNEYMAN by Dave Wares|
I was a solicitor from 1st October 1977 to 24th June 2006. I was articled at the firm of Raper & Co in Chichester, West Sussex and then, when I was qualified, I joined the firm of Burley & Geach in Haslemere, Surrey first of all as an assistant solicitor and then as a partner. I worked hard, I worked long hours and towards the end, I found the job very stressful. I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in November 2005 and I retired in June 2006. I think I found the job stressful because of my illness. It is a slow moving condition and certainly, the first signs had appeared in 1999 but, at that time, I had no idea that they were the symptoms of Parkinson's. It maybe that I had the disease well before 1999 but suffice to say that I was battling with an unknown foe for the last seven years of my legal career. I used to dream of giving up the law. Indeed, I had always wanted to become an actor but although I managed to do some acting and even find an agent to represent me, my financial commitments (e.g. mortgage, school fees, fast women, slow cars - spot the lie) were such that I could not really contemplate early retirement and a change of career. I would have had to be extremely foolhardy or brave to have retired in those circumstances. But it was handed to me on a plate. It was as if God had said to me [God speaks in booming voice from Heaven] "I shall give thee what thou desirest but there shalt be a catch....". The catch was Parkinson's. So Lucky Tim was plucked by the angels out of a legal career and dropped on a beach in East Sussex at sunset with a guy called Dave who photographed him facing the sun and holding a case. Hang on, I've missed a bit. The bit in between from 2007 to 2015, during which time I have been photographed by over 360 photographers. A photographic journey full of wonderful people and places. Full of images of me swimming in the sea off the coast of Scotland in my suit, lying naked on a ledge in a wood near Huddersfield, dancing on the steps of St. Pauls, running along a beach in France, dancing to Madness on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, sliding into an MRI scanner and hanging on to a branch of a tree wearing only underpants on a freezing day in February.A journey full of films about Zorro, The Black Thumbnail, Mr Merryweather QC, The Wiggle Woggles and Roger A Destroyer. A journey accompanied by my colleague Parkinson's Disease and its incessant attempts to make things more difficult by giving me a tremor, stiffness, slowness, dyskinesia, freezing of movement, slurred speech, loss of sense of smell, erectile dysfunction and loss of balance. A journey from lovely Ravenswood in Milford, Surrey to Brighton, East Sussex.
Where was I? Oh yes, Dave Wares. Well, I found out about him through a link to his work on Twitter. I went on his website and there were glorious photographs of castles, deserted buildings, landscapes, seascapes and street photography. I contacted him by email. He hadn't heard of my project but he looked at my blog and my film of my talk at Brighton Medical Centre and he said yes. So, not very long afterwards, I was on the beach at Birling Gap at sunset, holding a case and being photographed by Dave who had driven all the way from Hastings to Brighton to collect me. He had several ideas most of which were very successfully executed. This was the first to be tried - holding my case and looking out to sea and beyond. It might be thought that this was a representation of my past and in some ways it is but it also shows me now, still travelling with a case full of memories and tools with which to cope with a unknown future, a future that we all contemplate every now and then.
After these shots, we tried others including different poses in front of the sun, which was slowly sinking, and with a flash attached to an umbrella shade. We also played a bit with the case so that Dave could work on the shots on photoshop later. Dave had brought with him a snickers bar for each of us but, as the sun disappeared over the horizon, we agreed that we had done well and now it was time for a beer and something a bit more substantial to eat. All this time, we had chatted mainly about the photographs but in the car he had told me of his own photographic journey from taking snaps on a small digital camera to 35mm slides to his present DSLR. In the pub, we talked more and carried on talking on the way back to Brighton when it dawned on me how extraordinarily kind and selfless he had been to do all that driving.
I received a set of photographs from Dave shortly afterwards and I thought they were wonderful. I loved the ones with the flash which, as Dave said, had a very surreal quality to them. I was also very drawn to the two of me dancing and initially I earmarked one of those as the photograph for my project. The one of me jumping could have worked but it didn't quite. It was my idea to jump and Dave caught it beautifully but my leap wasn't as graceful as I had imagined it. In the end it was a choice between the one of me standing with the case and one of me dancing. I began to feel that the latter, as great an image as it is, was not quite as genuine as the former. This spoke to me in a variety of ways. It is a fantastic shot, it speaks of the past, present and the future. It means more. The title is Dave's but I was happy to adopt it too. Both the image and the title recall the words of Ralph McTell's song "The Ferryman". Dave has introduced yet another brilliant picture into my project. Fuelled by his imagination, his love of photography and the skills he has picked up over the years, he has created an excellent image. And, yet again, it has been proven that all photographers are really, really nice people
Oh, the traveller, moving on the land,
Behold I give you I give you the travelling man.
And he's very heavy laden
With the questions of his burden.
Lo, and I give you the travelling man.
He has crossed the mountains,
He has forded streams,
He has spent a long time, surviving on his dreams.
Wednesday, 23 September 2015
|THINKING OF JANE by Valentina Quintano|
What is the connection between this photograph and Hove Cricket Ground? Well, on 11th May 2015, I was there with an old friend watching Sussex play and, during a break in play, I went to the loo and on the way, I passed a set of photographs displayed on a wall. They had been taken by Valentina Quintano who had been commissioned by FotoDocument, an art education organisation, jointly with Photoworks to create a One Planet Exhibition by means of a photo essay on the theme of One Planet Living. She was one of ten photographers chosen to represent ten sustainability principles and Valentina's was "Health and Happiness". The photographs were good. I could see that Valentina had thought very seriously about the project and what I liked particularly was the respect and admiration she showed for the people she photographed. I noted down her name and, when I got home, I looked at the work on her website. It was full of emotion and vitality and throughout there was a strong sense of empathy for people using what tools they had at their disposal to live their lives but more than that, the pictures had bravura. The movement and colour were wonderful - the billowing grey cloak being dragged across thick green grass, the rich gold of blazing candle light reflected in a man's spectacles. I wrote to her straightaway.
Valentina's response was interesting. She had had a look at my project and she proffered three potential subjects for consideration. First, she asked if there had been a specific question I had been asking myself recently either in relation to my illness or not. Secondly, she asked if I felt like sharing with her something I had never shared with anyone (a thought, action, story, nightmare or dream) and that, upon seeing my work, I felt I wanted to share with her. Thirdly, she asked if there was an aspect of my life that was normal and ordinary for me but which would not be for other people. She explained that she was fascinated by the relativity of the concept of normality. We met in a Dalston cafe (no, not that one) and had an enjoyable time talking around these questions but it needed a further meeting to settle on a specific way forward. Subsequently, we agreed a location and then, on 23rd September, my Mother's birthday (she would have been 96), the shoot took place.
We shot in the woods, the inside of the house, the pool and on the trunk of an enormous tree which had been cut down. The photograph below is one of Valentina's chosen favourites and it was not easy to reject this as I loved it. The photograph in the pool reflects the despair I felt (thankfully not too often) of the disease slowly pulling me under and yet paradoxically, I love the water. I am not afraid to confront and play with the idea of my mortality and Valentina is not afraid to photograph it. But the image which means so much to me is the one above. I stood there and gazed up into the sky and thought of someone, the difficulties we had encountered alone and together, her strength, her honesty. I have spoken of her before in relation to some of the photographs in my project but I have never had my thoughts of her photographed. If it is a beautiful image it is because she is so. If it is a brave image, it is because of her that I dare. If it is a brilliant photograph, it is because Valentina is an excellent photographer and she took it having planted the question in my mind.
Other people love each other, other people are beautiful, other people have honesty and courage but no-one thinks what I was thinking.
What was I thinking?
I was thinking of Jane.