Tuesday, 9 June 2015

BEAST OF TWO BACKS by Vanessa Mills

BEAST OF TWO BACKS by Vanessa Mills

The Beast is within
It fucks me day by day
It fucks me when I work
It fucks me when I play

Yet, I play the fool
Play The Fool on the Hill
I play it day after day
For the good and for the ill

I remember, my brother,
The time that you ran away
Did you know I was blind when
I saw you perform the play?

My eyes are open now
I allow myself to stray
To leave the path prepared for me
Why? I cannot say

It is within me and without me
This game of chance and jacks
I am fucked I am free
I am the Beast of two backs


I found Vanessa through the Blog of Alex B. the model. In fact, I have nicked quite a few photographers from her blog - I hope you don't mind, Alex. They have all been excellent. Vanessa's response as very positive and her initial ideas comprised using a carousel, a swimming pool and a classic portrait. Gradually over a period of weeks, these ideas were decanted down to "a light filled portrait of me under a stream of light coming through trees" and, funnily enough, that is what we ended up with. 




Vanessa booked this great studio near Cambridge (where she lives) which consisted of an old Windmill and large grounds as well as a wooded area. We mooched around to begin with and had a cup of tea and then got started. The first few shots were clothed and taken through one of the windows of the windmill. After that, I took my clothes off and they didn't go back on until the shoot was finished. The next sequence of shots were taken inside with my body lit by the natural light from another window in the windmill. I was trying to think of the name of Jan Saudek (but failed) as I described to Vanessa the photographs he had taken in front of a similar window but I'm glad that I didn't get very far because these shots by Vanessa have her own very personal stamp on them. 



Then we ventured back outside and tried few shots on and near a wrought iron fence. I climbed up and grabbed the bars but wished I had the strength (and nerve) to hang with my feet dangling in a sort of crucifixional pose. We stopped at an isolated line of fruit trees and I climbed on one and tried to hang there like a human branch. We rejected the old deserted swimming pool on health grounds. 



We ended up in the wooded area and dragged this cage like structure over into a pool of light and I climbed in and crouched and then stretched my back upwards against ironwork as if I was constrained by this 'thing' which was clamping me down and not allowing me to escape. A metaphor for the continuing war with my illness and the intense pleasure I derive from these various skirmishes on the battlefield. I love this image - my body has become another piece of architecture within the iron cage bathed by the soft light that is falling through the trees. The muscles of my arm show that there is life in the old dog yet. The photographs Vanessa sent to me afterwards were all excellent but with this one, above all, we achieved what we wanted. A mixture of light, beauty, body, nature, repression, freedom and fight. 

I think that on that day,  both Vanessa and I were battling with inner constraints and together we escaped, temporarily, from them and ran wild and free and we felt the better for it. 

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