Friday, 29 May 2015

ALL THINGS MUST PASS by Olivia Poppy Coles

ALL THINGS MUST PASS by Olivia Poppy Coles

As I uploaded this photograph onto this page, there was a cloudburst followed by a hailstorm. It has stopped now and there is just the sound of water dripping onto the windowsill outside. These last ten or so years have been like that, my brain full of everything I have ever thought exploding and now ending with the remaining vestiges of energy dropping down, in slow motion, as I slide into becoming an old man squeezed out like that tube of tomato puree that has been living on a shelf in our fridge since God know's when. This photograph was taken on one of the good days. In fact, it was a beautiful afternoon. It had rained heavily in the morning on my way to another shoot but the sun came out to light up my time with Poppy in her family home. Poppy is young, intelligent and talented. I am none of these things but I know how to close my eyes and bow my head when I am asked to and Poppy asked me to.

I came across Poppy's work in a group exhibition called "The Shot I Never Forgot'' in Brighton during Photo Fringe 2014. I hadn't read the information label properly and thought that the shot by Poppy had been taken at the exact spot where Edward S Curtis had taken his photograph "Before the White Man Came" in 1924. I love the photography of the Native Americans by Curtis so I wrote to Poppy banging on about how brilliant it must have been to find the exact location etc, etc but she put me right on this pointing out that, in fact, she had seen the image taken by Curtis in a gallery in New Orleans earlier that day which had clearly captivated her and then later when she and some companions visited the City Park, she was amazed to discover an almost identical scene to that used by Curtis so she had placed one of her party in a similar position, moved her around a bit and then took the shot. As she says on her website, "A moment from another time and another place, taken on a mid-summer's day in Louisiana". Typically, I had only read what I wanted to read on the label. Nevertheless it prompted me to look at Poppy's work on her website which I found very moving and inspiring. 

We met at her parents' beautiful house in Tufnell Park and she photographed me in their conservatory. It was a good shoot. We talked and she introduced me to her father just before I left and we discussed briefly the effect of my Deep Brain Stimulation surgery. And that was it. She returned to San Francisco where she was studying for her MFA at the California College of Arts and I returned to Brighton to await receipt of these two wonderful pictures. And they are indeed full of wonder. We both preferred the one with my eyes closed. It is not a passive image. My brow is furrowed, my lips tight, my eyes squeezed, my head bowed. Either in acceptance of my lot or in defiance, depending on the day of the week but the wonder is that Poppy captured this on camera; the mixture of emotions becoming increasingly entangled with a continuing search for new experience as I get older but not much wiser. 

"The bee escaped into the open air,
She asked me to bow my head, close each eye,
I asked a question which I did not share
To which I gave my answer "No, not I"

Beads of silver lay on the grass,
Words arrived in truth and lie.
"Do you know when moments pass?",
To which I replied "Know?Not I"

The station is in there, (I shall not guess)
Along with Dalkeith, Ross and old Mackay
"Do you live still in the past? No or Yes?"
To which I respond "No. Not I"


THE BEE - Olivia Poppy Coles Part One

The room was hot from the sun which had begun to break through the scudding grey clouds which had followed me into London. Poppy asked if I was warm enough as she abandoned her camera briefly to lean over the setee to open the door leading out into the garden where the pale and the dark of the stripes on the lawn glistened as the rain from the recent shower drained through the rich green of the grass into the earth below. I welcomed the puff of cool air from the open door; not so the honey bee which flew into the room, confused by the sudden change of atmosphere. Poppy did not hesitate; she picked up a glass and some paper and stepped onto a chair but the bee escaped this first rescue attempt, buzzing, not with menace but with exasperation and fear. Again, Poppy did not pause and, as I watched her, it was as if everything went into slow motion and I felt that familiar tinge of envy as her young limbs climbed onto the furniture, sure of their balance, confident of their strength as she caught the bee in the glass and then set it free outside. Having Parkinson's Disease makes me appreciate my body and its abilities so much more but at the same time the combination of ageing and illness makes me aware of my mortality and I grieve but, 


life carries on

...and on. 

The bee could have only been there for a few seconds, the time it takes for a tear to build in the eye and roll down a cheek. A thought brushed through my mind - how proud her mother and father would be to see their daughter save that little frightened creature and how proud I am of my own children when they show their compassion by such a simple, selfless act. Meeting vibrant young people like Poppy informs me. It confirms that the present and the future is in good hands.

Life carries on
In the people I meet
In everyone that's out on the street
In all the dogs and cats
In the flies and rats
In the rot and the rust
In the ashes and the dust
Life carries on and on and on and on
Life carries on and on and on

                    - Peter Gabriel


60 MINUTES by Tina Rowe Part Two

60 MINUTES by Tina Rowe

So this is how they all ended up -  brilliant isn't it? I had to ask Tina to remind me what the hell she was doing and how she was going going to do it and she told me so now I can tell you. She took the photographs over the period of an hour during which we chatted and she told me of her life in Worcestershire and Poland.

Getting there

The photographs were taken with a polaroid back on a Hasselblad camera and afterwards, after I had gone, Tina removed the emulsion from the backing of each print, leaving a transparent image like an old slide but very thin. This was done by pouring hot water on the image and soaking it until the emulsion comes off and then each image was moved to another surface, in this case wooden blocks. She said that knowing she was going to effectively destroy the shots certainly made her more considered.

That's me under there

I love the fact that these are so delicate and are not digitised. I have absolutely nothing against digital photography but I do like the fact that, in this case, the image exists in this state rather than in computer land. 

TIna at work

Tina explained at the outset that she was very new to portraiture but she had all these weird and wonderful ideas that I felt the combination of her fertile imagination and my figure would produce something very interesting and so it came to pass. To be part of such a process makes my toes curl, with pleasure, and I want more. I had do idea what the collaboration with Tina would produce but I knew from the work shown on her website that it would produce something unique.


TEN INTO SIXTY - Tina Rowe Part One

The photograph I wanted to take
Yes, this was the photograph I wanted to take when I saw all the polaroids laid out on Tina's worktop after the she had finished the shoot but I forgot and so I am very pleased that Tina thought along the same lines and did so. When I had my exhibition in Brighton as part of the Photo Fringe in October 2014, a guy who came to the exhibition left a copy of the Photomonth brochure with me and, in fact, put a cross next to his name but I have lost the magazine now and so I don't his name which is a shame because he seemed like a nice person and I am particularly grateful that he introduced me to Tina's work which is exceptional. There was a link to Tina's work and, when I saw it, I was hooked.

I sent her a message asking if she would photograph me and she replied agreeing to this but asked what parts of he work appealed to me because she had not really done much portraiture. What she didn't know was that it wasn't purely portraiture I was after. I wanted to be in a photograph taken by her. I liked the way her mind worked. In particular, I liked her series "My Mother's House" as I very much identified with this having made a documentary about my own mother's house a few years ago.

Tina is going to work on these images and I shall report on the the final picture in due course.

I love polaroids - they are like magic.


Thursday, 28 May 2015

A LITTLE BOY by Agnes Yu Hsin Su

THE LITTLE BOY by Agnes Yu Hsin Su

My mother was called Agnes - Geraldine Agnes Andrews. It is an old-fashioned name. When I met Agnes Yu Hsin Su, she did not appear to be part of the present. She was of a different time. A different place. In fact, I wonder if all that took place on that day did happen or did I fall asleep in the long grass and dream it? I met her for the first time on the concours at Brighton Railway Station. She was looking around, like me, awkwardly. We both raised a hand in acknowledgement and we came together and, as we greeted each other with a formal handshake, we were at one.

We drove to the Seven Sisters Country Park on the other side of Seaford. Oh, what memories. I had been to Seaford many times before - for the Hoffman Process and before that, to visit my younger sister at her new home which she shared with her new husband, a man with a mission which, unfortunately, did not include my sister. We left the car under some trees and crossed the busy road into the park. The sea and the cliffs were some way off but Agnes began to look for some long grass. We had been talking to each other since Brighton; two people who had not met before and who were unlikely to meet again locked in a conversational embrace which now and again included the serene silence of friendship. 

We stopped alongside a large open area next to the path and she asked me to lie on my back at first and then on my side and then to close my eyes and allow myself to drift away in thought and deed. She went up on to the hill above me and the sound of her feet brushing the grass faded as she moved further away or was I falling asleep? I heard the other visitors strolling by, their chat and laughter muted as if they were in another room. Then, click, beside me. Agnes had come back or maybe she had never gone away. I opened an eye and through the fresh green stalks of meadow grass, I saw her kneeling very close, looking at me intently. It was one of the few times that I would have liked to photograph my photographer. I closed my eye and I felt her circle my body. 



I was drifting into slumber when she asked me to stand up. 

The wind was brisk and Agnes was fascinated by the sea foam which was blowing on to the bank of the inlet which snaked into the park - it looked like a special effect in an old and not very good British film with a small snow budget. I feared Agnes was going to ask me to lie in it but she merely asked me to stand near it for the final shots. She was satisfied with what she had got and, although she had also intended to photograph me inside a favourite cafe, we both knew that we had some good photographs and, anyway, it was getting close to the time by which she had to return to London. We bought some ice creams and ate them before crossing the road to the car. We arrived in Brighton and we hugged goodbye like brothers, brothers in arms, and then she turned to walk into the station and I turned towards my car. 

Had it happened? It must have done because who could have taken these beautiful pictures? 

No-one but Agnes. 

Saturday, 16 May 2015


LEE MILLER (Self Portrait)
It is really because of Lee Miller that my photographic project started. Years ago, her photograph of "The Picnic" was published in a national newspaper and I loved it. That is what got me interested in Photography. And imagine how proud I was when her son, Antony Penrose, asked Jane and I to exhibit at her former home, Farley Farm, in 2013. I popped in to The Friends' Meeting House in Brighton today to say a quick hello to Tony and his daughter, Ami, and the sale looks wonderful with loads of great prints for sale at reasonable prices He told me that an exhibition of her work had just opened in Vienna with another to follow in Edinburgh later this year and then a big exhibition in London. 

I urge you to go along to the sale - details below - you won't be disappointed.

Lee Miller Archive :

Film of "Over the Hill and Don't Look Back :

Friday, 15 May 2015

BACK TO FRONT by Mila Nesterova

BACK TO FRONT by Mila Nesterova
Mila was born in Moscow. She travelled arounf the world from an early age performing with a troupe of young dancers in productions by her mother who was a ballet choreographer. However, lucky for me that she left Moscow for Paris at the age of 19 to pursue a passion for Photography. She now lives and works in London where she has exhibited her work as well as in Paris, Moscow St Petersburg and Kiev. I came across her work on the Saatchi site and had no hesitation in contacting her with my request that she photograph me. She said yes straightaway.

We were going to meet first and then arrange a shoot on another day but that never happened and we ended up arranging to go straight for the shoot. Interestingly, her studio in Hackney Wick was where the artist Melanie Blackwell lived and worked when she painted my portrait. I realised this when I turned up there on 15th May 2015 and I was greeted by the lovely Mila. You can see by her bearing that she was a dancer. Her studio, which she shares, is also very neat and she goes about her work with a certain poise and with firm direction. I relaxed immediately but I am sure that all her models do that because she clearly knows exactly what she is doing. She had two basic ideas and those were that, first, she would be painting me with light and secondly with glitter. But around these, I found that she was very interested in experimentation and improvisation. I felt that I could really suggest anything and she would try it. 

She was very inclusive and often showed me how the images looked as we spent quite a few hours trying different poses and exposures. I loved it. 

We had a break for lunch and then got the glitter on and did some close ups to begin with but again adopting the painting with light idea and then we went on to try images where clearly there were two separate Tims in the same photograph relating to each other in different ways. By then we were running well into the afternoon and Mila admitted that she was very tired. But we had had a great time playing with light and movement and composition.

Then, a few weeks later, I received these amazing images. They were all so good that I found it impossible to choose one favourite so I asked Mila and this was the one she chose. I find it very moving that she should have poured all her experience and talent into making these work so well. Why did she do that? Why do all my photographers give up their time so willingly? But not just that, they employ all their expertise and love of their art in producing such great pictures. It is because, like Mila, they are true artists who cannot just turn off what is in their blood. Their desire to express themselves artistically is burned deep into their soul and, as they are such nice, genuine, generous people, they are willing to share this with me. And I appreciate every moment I spend with them as I appreciated every moment I spent with Mila -  a great artist and a beautiful person inside and out. 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

SAME DIFFERENCE by Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Number One

On her website, Louise Haywood-Schiefer (officially one of the nicest people I have ever met) says that, through working with with photographers like Pal Hansen and Gemma Day, she found that she was able to marry her sociable nature and fascination with people' characters with her love of photography and so began to specialise in Portraits. And her nature is sociablE with a capital E. It is interesting that I found her in Time Out because that is where all this started in May 2007 when I answered an advertisement placed by Graeme Montgomery who wanted models to pose for a book of "real" nudes (as opposed to professional models). I looked up her work on her website and I loved her portraiture, often if not exclusively using natural light and in every photograph, the subject appeared to be having a great time. And I thought, I want to have that sort of great time too and so I wrote to her. 

Number Two

She replied positively and pointed out that she had assisted Pal Hansen quite often but, for some reason, she had not done so on the day of my shoot with him in 2011. She said that she would give the shoot some thought and then come back to me. Well, she kept me waiting for another ten days but then came up with what turned out to be a brilliant idea. This is what she wrote:-

.......It seems to me that so many people have taken your portrait and imposed their own ideas on you, but maybe the way they picture you isn't necessarily the way you see yourself so I would like to explore that idea a little and thought that perhaps we could take your portrait together. Yesterday I had some spare time before a job in Margate so visited the 'Self Portrait' exhibition at the Turner gallery. Whilst there it struck me that it could be an interesting experiment for you to take your portrait of how you see yourself, and then I could take a portrait of you that is either displayed side by side or double exposed on top.

Perhaps we could set up the camera in a fixed spot with fixed focus, then I would leave the room and you could have as much time as you need to take 5 images of yourself, of how you see yourself I suppose. You could be clothed on one or all, nude, wearing different guises, standing or sitting, crying, laughing, whatever you wanted. Then you would return to exactly the clothes you were wearing when I left and I would then proceed to take my five frames without looking at what you had already taken, again I might change your outfit midway through if it was relevant. The images would be used in sequence either side by side or double exposed over the top of what you had already taken.

It's kind of an experiment really, to see if my fleeting understanding of you after meeting just once, is similar to how you see yourself. We could impose a time limit of  up to an hour, for me to complete my five frames, which would allow us time to have a chat in the interim.
I would want it to be collaborative though.......

Number Three

And collaborative it was. I gave this suggestion a great deal of thought (about three seconds) and replied that I would love to do and we set up a shoot at the house of a friend of hers who lives near Crystal Palace. I felt it should be somewhere neutral and she felt that it should have the feeling of "home"and this fitted both bills.

Number Four

So, the day I walked into this flat, I met Louise for the first time although she explained that, in fact, she had seen me o the Tube a few weeks previously. She gave me a very warm welcome and we were friends immediately. We both admitted that we were nervous but also that we were very excited. We had a coffee to help us calm down and we talked about what we were going to do. She had set up a mini studio in her friend's sitting room and had taped a small area in the corner by the window where I was to stand - she then checked the focus again and finally, eventually, well, she left me on my own (gulp). 

Number Five

I had thought about my poses and all I had decided was to dance in one and be nude in at least one other. I plugged in my ipod shuffle and found "Dreamer" by Supertramp which I love to dance to but when I pointed the remote control at the camera, it didn't work. It tried it again and again and then it clicked and so the first shot shows me looking genuinely worried - not posed at all - and so it is completely unique in that respect. The next shot was ok and by then I was dancing although I felt slightly constrained by having to point the remote control at the camera. For the third and fourth shots, I thought I would first lean against the wall, clothed, and then adopt the same position naked.  The fifth shot was also naked and for that I pressed myself against the wall. All the time, I was conscious of Louise waiting in the other room and also I had this feeling that the camera was watching me so, even when I wasn't pressing the shutter, I felt like I was being examined. Then I moved the chair into the taped off area and crouched and looked into the lens. I knew I should try to relax but I was driven on to the next shot where I turned my back and tensed all my puny muscles into a sort of agonised pose flicking the remote control over my shoulder. The next shot was more of the same but this time I knelt down on the floor. 

Number Six

That was enough nakedness. I put on my jeans and tried to look powerful and menacing and that was it. It could only have taken about fifteen minutes at the most. I felt very strange - as if I had been caught out and that there was nothing I could do to rectify the situation.The pictures were on that camera and Louise would be exposing them to the world very soon indeed. And yet, how exciting is that? Through Louise, I had taken some of the most honest self portraits I had ever done and, when I called her back into the room, I felt almost euphoric.
Number Seven

Of course, then the pressure was on Louise. It was odd that I had had my photograph taken by 339 photographers and Louise had taken thousands of professional photographs and yet here we were in a real state over this. Louise asked me to put on the jacket I was wearing when I arrived and to hold my bag and so that was her first picture. Then we chatted. Before, over our coffee, she had started to ask me about how the whole project began but then stopped me and said that could wait until later and so she asked me again to talk about the beginning but of course, she had to rein in her normal practice of clicking away as I talked. She restricted herself to three of those clicks and then asked me to put on a different jacket and trousers and to come to the front of my little space and lean forward. Then she liked the way I put my hand to my face and she asked me to do that again but to be menacing. I removed my jacket at her request and leaned back against the wall and I think this was when she captured me making a funny face about the awkwardness of the situation. The last two were more normal. One leaning against the wall and smiling and then finally, looking out of the window and thinking of something very pleasant. And that was it. 

Number Eight

Of course, we were desperate to look at them and so we skedaddled back to the kitchen like a couple of kids to look at them on her laptop. It was fascinating and even more so when she put our respective shots side by side in the order in which they were taken at the same time discovering that we had taken the same number of shots. They all seemed to work so well together. I tried to choose one set that I liked best of all and so did Louise but I realised that they all had to be included and, if they are ever exhibited, they should be together in one frame. Well, we had done it. We both felt a real sense of achievement but there was one more thing to do - take a picture of us both together. We returned to the space and Louise suggested a Kung Fu Kick Boxing type pose. 

Number Nine

And that was it - a thoroughly fulfilling experience with a thoroughly nice person. I am so bloody lucky meeting and working with people like Louise. We had a quick look at one of my films, with her friend who by then had returned from her pregnancy yoga class, and then said goodbye and wandered back to Gipsy Hill train station. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and I was smiLing.......with a capital L. 

Me and Louise

Saturday, 9 May 2015


Ramona Guntert
This is a piece of driftwood sculpture found and fashioned by my mother who numbered running a stall in an antique market among the many jobs she undertook during her life. Born in 1919, she trained and then worked as a dancer appearing in many West End shows before, during and after World War II. After the death of my father which left her to care for five children under the age of 8, she retrained as a hairdresser and later, following our move to West Wittering in 1964, she worked in a mushroom farm, a garden nursery, a pub and then she began to restore and sell antiques. 

When Ramona came down to see me in advance of our shoot, she was taken particularly by this piece and I love the solarised effect she has achieved on this shot but this picture is one of a series of five images, the remainder of which are shown below. Ramona admitted that she was not a classical portrait photographer but I wasn't worried about that because my project is not a portrait project nor is it a project about Parkinson's  - it is a project about me at a time when I happen to be ill. Ramona's work on her website does not include any portraiture but it does contain wonderfully seductive still life images which display real thought and vision.  It was these that inspired me to approach her.
We met on 8th March 2015 at my house and talked a lot about how we could collaborate. I showed her my mother's sculpture and other keepsakes and also we talked about my illness and its effect on my life. Soon after, she wrote with some ideas and suggestions and the proposal that we shoot outside on location in some woods. I welcomed this idea because I feared that the interior of the house might have been rather overdone as it had been the setting for quite a few photographs already. However, after Ramona watched my film "Help", she changed her approach and decided that she wanted to examine the idea of "Control" and that we were more likely to shoot inside. 
She wrote to me saying that the darkness in my film inspired her and that she "started thinking about the idea of control. Not just losing control because of suffering Parkinson's Disease, but also the loss of control within photography''. She explained that most of the time the sitter passes the control to the photographer. But maybe the sitter isn`t in control at all even he thinks he is ? This question began to interest her and she wanted to explore that together. She went on to say that maybe this collaboration could become more about me rather than just her and her ideas. She referred again to the sculpture being like a dancer and we both noted that the element of movement involved control. Moreover, it was the lack of control over my limbs that I found particularly challenging.
For the shoot she used film (and polaroid) as she liked the slow process of it and setting it up carefully. At times, she closed her eyes and allowed me to 'perform' in front of her camera without exerting any control by directing me to pose in a particular way. At the end of what I recall was an incredibly exhausting yet incredibly fulfilling and thought provoking shoot, Ramona asked me to write and send her some words about control and immediately I thought of the panic attack which I suffered in 1999 which, as I discovered later, was the first indication that I had Parkinson's Disease.

I have to say that this has been one of the most interesting and unusual and testing liaisons I have experienced during the last eight years. Ramona's intelligent and articulate use of the medium has taken my project to a new level and I am hoping that her time at The Royal College of Art will allow for some further collaboration between us. If not, in any event, I shall be eternally grateful to her for all she has given to me.

Friday, 8 May 2015

HELPLESS by Jacqui Booth and Al Brydon

HELPLESS by Jacqui Booth and Al Brydon
There is a cave in Birchover......which forms part of the Rowtor Rocks site which Jacqui, Al and I drove to after visiting the quarry (see previous post ). We parked in the road alongside a neat grass verge onto which some modern houses fronted - at least, my memory says they were of recent construction certainly in contrast to the Rowtor Rocks which were fashioned over three centuries ago. We walked past the aptly named Druid Inn and up along the path which encircled the pub until we reached the ledge outside the cave, the walls of which had been chiselled and sculpted like rocky feathers. Jacqui had brought a light with her and the photograph on the right above was taken by Al although they both clicked away in there before I put my clothes back on just before a jolly old couple (old? Well, they must have been at least 64....) turned up for a look at the cave. We clambered over some more of the rocks and tried different shots including one which foretold my death - yep, it will come to even me. 

At one point in the day, we ate our sandwiches bought from M & S, the standard of which (according to Jacqui) were not quite equal to the quality of those available at the Spar shop which Al usually patronises. Our next point of call was Doll Tor south of Stanton. This was in a beautiful clearing  which we reached by walking a few hundred yards from the main road, pausing only for Al to climb a very large rock - see below. 

Again, when we were shooting, I felt totally relaxed and in touch with the earth as I lay on part of what was an ancient burial ground. I did not feel at all that this was disrespectful to the dead or anyone else  - indeed, it felt quite the opposite. The photograph of me on the left above was taken by Jacqui. By this time, early evening, we were all famished and had a superb supper in a pub (it might even have been the Druid Inn) where we enjoyed a very easy conversation with each other whilst eating the delicious food. Then the moment we had all been waiting for - the BIG CAVE - we set off again in Al's car and drove through Hartington on the way which is where Jane's father was evacuated during the Second World War and where his ancestors (named Lomas) lived. We stopped in Church Street outside the Old School House which was owned by Jane's Great Great Great Grandmother. Since Jane and I had visited the town some 14 years ago, the house had been refurbished. I knocked on the door but there was no reply. 

We carried on and eventually I saw the gaping mouth of the cave from the road. It looked enormous. I felt excited at the prospect of being photographed there. By now, it was almost dusk and we started our tramp along the rutted track leading to the first style but, as I walked, I noticed that my gait was a bit more wobbly than it had been. We crossed another field and I began to feel increasingly uneasy. I said so and we halted at the next style and Al said the mouth of the cave was around the next bend of a narrow track which ran around the top of the steep hill (you get the picture don't you? Uneasy, wobbly, narrow, steep - not a good combination when one has Parrkinson's and suffers from vertigo anyway). We pushed on for another twenty yards or so but I gave up at that point. I felt very sorry for Al and Jacqui as this was the main reason for my visit - a night shoot in this amazing cathedral like cave. They were very nice about it and obviously, the success of our day up to that point provided some balm but the silence in the car journey back to Sheffield said it all - if only. But we'll always have Paris. 

Al dropped Jacqui off at her hotel and we went on to Al's house where we crept through the door as his partner Jen and their son Finn were both fast asleep upstairs. We chatted over a cuppa and then we retired too. I hoped to see Jen before she left to catch an early train to London the next day and, although I woke early, I drifted off almost immediately and she was gone by the time I surfaced. Al introduced me to his beautiful boy, Finn, before taking him to the nursery while I watched the Conservatives win the Election on TV. Al returned and we chatted some  more - he is the loveliest of men - before we went to collect Jacqui who had not slept so well but had grasped the opportunity to take some early morning photographs. We parked at the station and had a coffee together before hugs and goodbyes were enjoyed and said respectively and I skipped on to the train for London. 

Helpless? That sounds negative but it isn't. Without the medication and my DBS surgery last year, I would be pretty helpless. Without friends like Al and Jacqui, we would all feel a little helpless. Thank God for irony and thank God for Al Brydon and Jacqui Booth. Amen.

There is a town in north Ontario
With dream comfort, memory to spare
And in my mind, I still need a place to go
All my changes were there

Blue, blue windows behind the stars
Yellow moon on the rise
Big birds flying across the sky
Throwing shadows on our eyes

Leave us, helpless, helpless, helpless

Baby can you hear me now?
The chains are locked and tied across the door
Baby, sing with me somehow

Blue, blue windows behind the stars
Yellow moon on the rise
Big birds flying across the sky
Throwing shadows on our eyes

Leave us helpless, helpless, helpless
Helpless, helpless, helpless
Helpless, helpless, helpless
Helpless, helpless, helpless
Helpless, helpless, helpless
                                    - Neil Young


SPECIAL OFFERING by Al Brydon and Jacqui Booth

SPECIAL OFFERING by Al Brydon and Jacqui Booth
There was a marvellous film made in 1958 called "The Big Country". For me, it had everything - it was a western, it starred Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons and Charlton Heston, it had a stirring musical theme and it had a great story. What more could a seven year old boy want? Well, not Polio which is what I got that year but, I survived and it only affected the muscle in my right hand although I have always felt that my co-ordination on the right side of my body was affected too and that is why I never ever reached the level of playing football to which I aspired.

Anyway - back to The Big Country. The closing shoot-out of the film takes place in a canyon which looked very much like the quarry where these shots were taken but unlike the canyon in the film, this quarry had been formed by unknown human hands decades ago and I could sense the presence of these quarrymen in the air. The walls of this huge pit looked down on us with a benevolence that invited us to put the space to a different use.

And then something happened, a tiny thing which I have not discussed with Al or Jacqui and so I don't know whether they will agree but I felt they were both tentatively waiting for a signal from me before we could start. As we slithered down the side of the quarry on to the flat auditorium I saw the boulders as altars and I saw myself lying on top of them as a human fossil waiting to be sucked into their core. There was a silence between us even though we moved among the stones and wondered at their size and shape but there was palpable joint sigh of relief as I suggested I took off my clothes and lay on one of the rocks - we were off.

There was no more awkwardness that day as we all concentrated on what we had come there for. At one point, Al walked back up to the lip of the quarry and photographed me below while Jacqui shot me close up and the images shown above came from this. Sometimes, I imagine how a particular shot will turn out and a lot of the time I get it wrong but these two were very much how I envisaged they would be, my only surprise being how good they were. Why I should be surprised when they were taken by two such intuitive and talented artists I don't know - of course I do; people like Al and Jacqui are always striving for excellence and end up going beyond what they have achieved before. One identifies them with the level they have previously attained and then suddenly the bar is lifted even higher.

I adore these two pictures. They say everything about the moment, the day and my friendship with Al and Jacqui as well as the excellence of their photography.

Fat Boy Tim and slim Al


THREE IS NOT A CROWD - Al Brydon and Jacqui Booth.

8th May 2015 - Election Day. I was up early and walked to the Polling Station and received a pleasant smile from a guy wearing a Lib Dem badge and wondered how much he would be smiling later. I can't help feeling that his party had been weakened by allying themselves to the Conservative Party in the Coalition Government not necessarily because it was the Tories but because they had not really seemed to have flexed their muscles whilst in government but, quite frankly, what do I know?

An hour and a half later I was on my way to London. Two hours later, I was on my way to London. Two and a half hours later, I was on my way to London. The driver explained that it was a signalling fault which appeared to be cured by a guy in an orange jacket wielding a train-sized spanner. But, by then, I had missed my connection to Sheffield at St Pancreas - not sure how much more I can stomach unexplained delays on the rail network. I caught the next train and an hour and two minutes later we arrived (bang on time) in Leicester and the delightful Jacqui Booth clambered on with what looked like a large yellow case of bricks from the way in which she struggled to lift it on to the luggage rack. We were off - on our way to meet the great Al Brydon in Sheffield for a double shoot - I am pretty sure that this was the first time I had been photographed by two photographers at the same time - oh apart from when Suzanne Plunkett came along to record some of the shoots - not quite the same as this though. 

Al met us at the station and our little band was complete. Al put all our stuff in the boot and I swear that, when Jacqui's case went in, the front of the car lifted up. And then......and then......well, that is for next time. I am going to close my eyes now and think of.... of Al and Jacqui chatting in the front and Al looking in his rear view mirror as I chimed in whilst outside the streets of Sheffield were transformed into country lanes bounded by hedgerows bearing the luscious green of spring......fields bounded by dry-stone walls (how long it must have taken to build them in the first place)......we pass a field with what looked like two ostriches in it......two tractors parked on a grass verge......a pub....I tell a story of a recent shoot and there are laughs when I came to the punchline.........Al having met both Rob Hudson and Brian David Stevens recently........tales of Leicester life from Jacqui......

I open my eyes. I am home thinking back on a wonderful time with two of the nicest of nice people but..........that's all for now........

Wednesday, 6 May 2015


Still from the film DOPPELGANGERDYSMORPHIA by Matilda Thomas

Matilda is like a little bird. I don't know her well enough to say whether she is bird-like all day and every day. But my guess is that she flies and flits about and then she notices something interesting, something that will feed her intellect, satisfy her curiosity and make her laugh and she pecks at it and turns it over and pecks at it again and then she takes a camera of some sort (she seems to have many sorts) and films it and then sits down and scratches out a script on the back of the Evening Standard or a fag packet (do they sell Marlborough any more?) and then she records her words and it comes together in a little film like this. Her films are seriously wonderful little gems. They are like songs which catch you delaware and europrise you - I mean, what was Perry Como thinking when he recorded that song? That song that my sister and I would sing together but no more because she is dead. I think she would have liked Matilda. Matilda would have liked her. Yes. 


She sought me out. She wrote to photographers who had photographed me asking if they could pass on the message that she wanted to talk to me about making a film. We met in a cafe. Did she have a cup of tea? I can't remember. What struck me was her enthusiasm. For everything. It was infectious. I became infected. I am like a little kid - if anyone says "Let's do..." I am with them all the way. Sometimes, I run on ahead and afterwards, in the cold light, I go back over what I have said and wish I could press a delete button - a retrospector delete button. Let it be. Why the hell did they get him to produce it? Because they did. It is "Let it be" and nothing can change it. 

So, I rolled up at her studio/bedsit/place and I sat on a table and slurped fruit and milk in my suit and not in my suit. Then we had a second shoot at this deserted shop in King's Cross. In between, I went home before her film. Another delete moment. She was so kind that evening, so very kind. She was a little merry on her wine but she showed "Mr Merryweather" to a collection of poets whose slightly muted applause rang in my ears as I hurried home to apologise. What was I thinking? 

We met at King's Cross - now anyone who meets Matilda Thomas at King's Cross is in for a pleasing surprise. I don't know if she will wear the sheepskin coat when she meets you but she was wearing it when she met me. She looked like something out of a French New Wave film - chic, pretty, cool. Not French but that is a whatever. She took me round the corner, well several corners and, as I leaned against wall in black and white and smoked a Gitanes, she collected the keys and let us in to the deserted shop. We looked around. It was so cool this place, Peeling striped wallpaper, a sink on a wall, an old wardrobe, a bed, threadbare carpets. A shop half filled with sculptures with willies (well, some of them) made by this guy Jim Geddes. We reshot some scenes in my suit and out of my suit and I slurped and swallowed and spat and dribbled while Matilda said "Yes!" and "Great!" in the secure knowledge that she could edit in or out afterwards. They sat on the floor and bottom danced to Françoise Hardy singing "Comment Te Dire Adieu". I said adieu. I said it in English.

Then I ran all the way home, skipping over the cracks in the pavement, squashing the dark red berries below the trees and my mother opened the door and I didn't stop talking until I had told her EVERYTHING about my day. If anyone asks me if I had a happy childhood, I shall answer "Had??" 

Matilda is............comme un petit oiseau. Elle est très jolie, très intelligente et très drôle. I have pressed the delete button - did you see me do it, children? We, or rather, I have talked about making more films but I'm not sure we will. I am not sure that I shall ever see her again. But then, one never knows with the Movies............

Matilda on Vimeo: