|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"