|MILO AND ME by Viveca Koh|
As is often the case with some photographers, I am afraid I cannot recall exactly how I came across Viveca's work but come across it I did and I was very impressed so I sent a message to her in August 2014 and about 9 months later Viveca was going through unread messages and came across mine. She explained in her response that, unfortunately, her DSLR had been stolen but she had been experimenting with iPhoneography and she suggested that I come up to her in South London and that we meet for lunch and she would snap away. Now, with someone else, this may not have sounded too thrilling but this was the person responsible for some wonderful images displayed on her website which showed her to be an exciting and imaginative photographic artist and so I was very keen to proceed on this basis.
I caught the train to East Croydon but forgot to bring with me not only my directions but also Viveca's mobile number but I just about remembered where she said she would be parked. As it was, she called me once I stepped on to the ancient streets of Croydon and, when I told where I was, she confirmed that I was walking in her direction. I had no idea what she looked like but I recognised her car from the scraps of information she had given me and that lay scattered about in my brain. As I approached her rather snazzy and sporty motor, she got out and hugged me hello. She looked very pretty in a long flowing summer dress. It was a beautiful June day and the portents were good. We started chatting immediately and she told me that she had decided to photograph me at her home against a plain wall and that she would stop to buy some sandwiches for lunch. I love the sound of those two words; Sandwiches and Lunch. They remind me of the time when I read The Famous Five books written by Enid Blyton. I didn't say this to Viveca at the time because the thought didn't occur to me then although, funnily enough, she offered me some Ginger Beer when we arrived at her place. Hurrah!
We proceeded to scoff our sandwiches and quaff our pop (please forgive the excess of Blytonese) and it was absolutely topping (sorry) and we began a longish discussion about my diagnosis, my project and Siamese cats, the latter subject prompted by the presence of Viveca's gorgeous little Chocolate-point cat, Milo. He was a bit shy at first but then started showing off and generally making loud yowling noises as he misbehaved in the garden room which was normally out-of-bounds. We swapped cat stories and I told Viveca of our love affair with Siamese cats which began with Indiana and carried on with Ernest, Theo and Henry.
Then we got down to business. Viveca explained that she had subscribed to an App on her iPhone called Hipstamatic which basically gave her various different lenses to produce different effects with the camera on her phone. But, even more interesting was a feature which picked a lens at random out of the many on her phone whenever it was shaken. She said that she wanted to use that feature and for me to adopt a different pose or expression every time she shook the phone. This reminded me of the scene in "Hard Day's Night" where George Harrison is being photographed by a press photographer during an informal junket where journalists and other guests were invited to interview and take pictures of the Fab Four. Viveca wanted to produce a square collage of these random portraits and we eventually agreed on 49 and so, each time she rattled her iPhone, I adopted a different expression. Of course, Milo joined in and this was my favourite of all of them.
It was all over pretty quickly but, as you know, these shoots are not all about photography - they are about communication, friendship and discovery. We talked about our respective families, the books on her shelves, her interest in the History of The First World War, Saving Private Ryan (not a great film, apart from the thrilling sequence when the troops disembark on the Normandy beaches), Lee Miller, my films and respectively Viveca's friendship and my shoot with Louise Haywood-Schiefer the latter which had taken place only a few weeks before in the same neighbourhood.
I had arrived in Croydon at 12 noon and it was almost 4pm and yet the photographs had only taken about fifteen minutes. Viveca showed me the shots on her laptop and I purred with appreciation and so did Milo as I tickled him behind his ears. Time to go and Viveca drove me back to East Croydon and we hugged goodbye. It had been a grand day. The sun was shining as I walked towards the station and picked up an Evening Standard. The train arrived within a few minutes and I turned to the Crossword over which I dribbled biro ink as I nodded off and dreamed of smugglers' caves, egg and cress sandwiches wrapped in waxy Wonderloaf paper, bells on handlebars and Victoria Sponge Cake until the train gently came to a halt in Brighton. My shoot with Viveca is another lovely memory now to go with all the others; Viveca herself is another person who, as I sat at my desk in my office some 9 years ago, I could never have imagined meeting and this photograph and the collage are reminders of a beautiful day in Gipsy Hill.