Friday, 31 July 2015



I almost called this "My Blue Shirt" because this shirt, one of my favourites, was blue originally but the colour has slowly drained out of it with each wash. However, what is most important to me about this image is my face. Lenka suggested that it might be nice to meet before the shoot because she did not want me to treat me as a model when I arrived but to know me more as a person. Well, we did not manage to meet beforehand and so I was determined to feel as relaxed as possible on my arrival, as if we had met before and it is this that is reflected in my gaze.

One of Lenka's favourites

What was it that I liked about Lenka's work that moved me to invite her to photograph me? Colour. There is a self portrait on her website where Lenka is in a room crouched next to a wall painted bright red. She is wearing a top which is the same colour and the buttons are undone revealing part of a white breast. Lenka's face is without expression but her stance is dramatic like the colour. It made me smile. Like these images on this page, many of her portraits have a gorgeous bleached tone from the natural light. Revelation. Many of her portraits seem to reveal the inner nature of her subject. Often their expression is blank but the more ones looks, the more one sees. And their skin is uncovered showing bare shoulders or, in her self portraits, a bare body. Emotion lies just beneath the surface. Lenka creates the atmosphere where Colour, Revelation and Emotion combine to produce images of stunning brilliance.

Another Lenka favourite

On 31st July 2015, the sun was shining in a blue sky dotted with high fluffy cloud. I got off the train at Forest Hill, established my bearings and got lost! A kind person put me right and I found myself walking up the wrong street but I could see from my map that it ran parallel to the right street and that there was a footpath which joined the two. The wrong street was typical of any such thoroughfare in suburban London whereas the right street was anything but. Its surface was cobbled for a start and the noise and bustle from within the attractive artisan buildings on either side revealed the feel of a thriving artistic community. It was like a small oasis tucked away and out of sight. I rang the bell on Lenka's gate and, as we greeted each other with a kiss, I knew that this was going to be a very good shoot. Her house, which she shares with her husband (also a photographer) was painted grey and soft white and beautiful photographs decorated the walls.

We chatted as I sipped a glass of water. I took off my jacket and sat on a stool in front of a back drop already set up. We started. She approved of my shirt and I told her the story of its blueness. She did not have much direction to give me; sometimes she asked me to lift a chin (I have several) or move a little forward or back. At her request,  I took off my shirt. Lenka bobbed up and down covering the windows with curtain or board to keep the bright sun at bay. For some reason, I loved it when she opened a door onto a patio and positioned her tripod on the threshold and then knelt on one knee to view the shot before clicking the shutter. She had mentioned that she might exchange her digital camera for a large format camera and, when she did, I felt I had really earned it. She used up three or four plates and then, it was over. She made me some toast with cheese and salami and I showed her some of my films on her laptop. I said goodbye and walked away from an excellent shoot with a very nice woman. I received a set of images a few days later. Her favourites are shown here and, although they did not coincide with mine, they were all so uniformly good that really, I could have chosen any one of them - as you can see. 


Thursday, 30 July 2015



Why do I like cricket so much? Does it come from the feel of the bat or the ball in my hand when I played the game a boy and later as a solicitor in the annual Perverts v Lechers match on the green at Lurgashall? Is it because of all those times as a child, I would pore over the cricket results in the paper and marvel at the names of Cowdrey, Grout, Sobers, Barrington, O'Neill, Pollock, Trueman and Hanif? I still find myself transported back to my childhood when I look at today's results in the daily paper. Is it because of the times I was taken to Lord's or the Oval either by my cousin Ian or by Father Michael, the curate at St Michael's Church in Golders Green, where I sang in the choir? Ian adored cricket and I remember coveting his collection of Wisdens at his house at Goring-by-Sea in Sussex where I stayed once with my late sister, Janet. Many years later, Ian invited me and my twin sister, Sally, to come over to the house to take away what books and records we liked as he was moving to Thailand but the Wisdens had already gone. 

I enjoyed the days at cricket with Father Michael because he also took with him an older member of the choir, Sylvia, who he (and I) rather fancied. In those days, we sat on the grass behind the boundary rope and I saw my heroes from the results in the paper such as Ted Dexter, Brian Close, Brian Statham etc. Or do I like cricket because the game is so interesting and enthralling? I was once at a dinner party and the men were talking about the then current Test Match and a woman said something like "What on earth is so interesting about cricket?" and I responded by saying that it wasn't just the game itself so much as the characters in it and that, for example, whenever David Gower went out in front of 20,000 people to face Merv Hughes bowling like a titan for Australia, we were to witness a contest between Supreme Skill, Grace and Vulnerability (Gower) and Brawn, Raw Power and Speed (Hughes). It wasn't about who scored what and who won but about individuals with the same fears, dreams, competitiveness and bodies as our own coming together in that one moment when a ball is hurtled at the batsman at 80 or 90 miles an hour from only 22 yards away. Either the stumps are shattered or the batsman leans back and executes a perfect cover drive as if he hasn't a care in the world. 

So, this is what this photograph is about. Life. Love. Communication. Childhood. Respect. Success. Failure. Memory. Heroism. Oh yeah, and Cricket. I love this picture because I am not really there. I am being photographed by Ben and I am looking at the camera but my mind is elsewhere. It is on the field with the England team winning the Ashes. His beautiful American girlfriend Francheska, is in the background admiring Jane's paintings whilst Ben shoots me. It is a lovely Summer's day and I am spending it with two people I have never met before. They are in love and are getting married in a few weeks' time. They have travelled over from their home in Madrid to marry in England where Ben was born. I show them some films, we talk about cricket, art, nudity, marriage, TV, films, photography. 

We wander down to the sea and Ben photographs me there too, on the brick pier near where I swim some mornings if the sea is not too rough. Every so often, as we stroll along the front, I listen in to the score. Gulls wheel over over our heads barking like bandits in that coarse way of theirs, a few people brave the cold and totter tentatively into the water holding their hands up until they dip down slowly and then rise up rather more quickly. We have a drink and chat some more and then we wander back home where they collect their things and go off in search of Fish and Chips which Ben has promised to buy for Francheska. About ten days later, I receive four photographs from Ben who declares that the one with my eyes closed is his favourite. I think about them for a while and plump for the other one. About a week later, I remember to text Ben my congratulations to them both on their wedding day. I imagine them smiling and kissing as they are told that they are husband and wife. What has life in store for them? Who will they meet on the way? What will they talk of as the sun goes down? Who knows? All I do know is that Ben is a now a friend, that he has married Francheska and that he is a superb photographer who has captured all this in one simple image.
"What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?
                                                                   - CLR James


Thursday, 23 July 2015

ALMOST THERE by Ania Mroczkowska

ALMOST THERE by Ania Mroczkowska

Almost there. Looking forward.

There was film a made in 1964 called "I'd rather be rich" in which the American crooner, Andy Williams, sings a song to Sandra Dee called "Almost There" whilst he is driving a car. They are happy and carefree and in love with each other and with life and why not? Life is wonderful. Certainly when there are photographers like Ania about to take photographs like this. I came across Ania's work on the Portrait Salon site and immediately said to myself ''Yep, she's the one for me!'' Her portraits were large and out there - they demanded my attention. There is a guy pulling at his beard but looking you straight in the eye, a girl parting some curtains looking intently through her glasses and a man drawing on a cigarette fixing you with his gaze through the plumes of smoke. But it is the picture of an older man with his eyes closed which really grabs me but more subtly than the others. His skin around his neck is lined and wrinkled, his bare chest flecked with brown hair which contrasts with the soft grey whisps on his head, two vaccination scars are sunk into his left arm and the glint of the gold of his wedding ring replicates the sparkle in his gentle, accepting eyes which have opened in the two pictures which follow. He has been examined by Ania's camera lovingly and carefully and it was no surprise to hear from her on the shoot that this is her father. 

Ania is an interesting person. The furniture in her tidy flat which she shares with her husband is neatly set out. There is no junk. And she proceeds with the shoot methodically and calmly. We talk a lot about life and photography. She asks me to remove my shirt, to sit this way and that, to lean on a walking stick. We talk some more, about my project, about nudity and then seemingly in the blink of an eye, I am at her door saying goodbye. But in that time, her mind is whirring, sorting, shifting and examining and she produces another glorious portrait but this time it is of me. And one thing I notice in it is the little flash of light from the handle of the walking stick like a drip on the end of my middle finger and I look up to see a ping of light in my right eye and I wonder if she has noticed it too and that is why she chose this particular image. Light, harmony, detail, investigation and purity. Just some of the elements which Ania harnesses and then sets out for all to see. It was indeed an honour, Ania.

Yes, I am almost there.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

TIME PASSES by Amanda Harman

TIME PASSES by Amanda Harman

To begin at the beginning...........

We turn off the A27 to The Witterings and my heart begins to beat faster. We pass the block of flats where I once babysat (in about 1971) with my girlfriend at the time. She lived with her family in Grosvenor Road but, as we pass that road a few yards further down, I think not of the girlfriend but of my late sister, Janet, who died at the Hospice there in 1996. Another quarter of a mile or so, on the left is where a very nice old man called Mr Broadbridge used to live. When I was articled to Raper & Co, solicitors, in Chichester, my principal, Mr Underhill, sent me to see Mr Broadbridge about a planning application. He lived on his own in an ancient cottage surrounded by a large area of garden. He died some years ago now and the house has gone, replaced by modern light industrial buildings - the planning application was successful. Then we come to the turning to Dell Quay where we all had that last drink with Janet after she had taken communion in the hospice garden. The road swings round a bend and we head for the Birdham Straight. I am now almost breathless with memories pumping through my brain. My eyes are soaked with sadness and wonder as I drive through Birdham and past the nursery where I once worked, the Lamb Pub where my mother, working behind the bar, met her great friend Sue, past Redlands Lane where Keith Richards lives still. I am getting closer now - Malthouse Cottages, along the road where Jane and I travelled, as friends, drinking whisky from the bottle as we drove, Nunnington Farm, Gaiety Fair, Royce Way where there were once only fields and trees, The Old House at Home which we rushed to arrive at before closing time on a Sunday, the Village Green where I caught the Number 53 bus to school and where the garage and Miss Marmont's grocery store once stood and then round one bend and then the other and it comes into sight. Berry Cottage. The house where we lived from 1964. The house where I grew up, where we had buckets catching the rain dripping through the roof, where I would run down the hall and leap and pretend to head the ceiling light as I would head a goal, the house with the latches and light switches that clacked and clicked, the fire that would smoke the lounge out if the wind was in the wrong direction, the downstairs loo with the postcards stuck to the walls, the red front door, the barn where we kept the goat, the field where we kept the cow, the wall over which Barker the dalmation leaped to his death, the biscuit tin painted red by my mother and nailed to the wall to impersonate a burglar alarm, the larder, my bedroom, the cat door, the birdbath, all surge through my head as the car passes and I look and remember. 

We carry on, Amanda and I, down Berry Barn Lane and we park in the drive of a dear friend who allows us to do so but whom I ask every time, to be polite. The sea is out and is almost invisible. We amble along and Amanda stops at some dunes and takes some photographs ending with this one, her favourite. My feet dig into the sand not wanting to let go of that feeling of powdery warmth. I lean forward playfully under the leaden sky and 'click' the last photograph is taken. There is one more memory. As we walk back along the path linking the beach to The Strand, a man passes us riding his bike. I look at the wheels pressing the patterns of the tyres onto the mixture of sand and chalky stone and I see the wheels of my bike. I see my feet on the pedals, I see the 13 year old boy slowly falling in love with all that life can offer. I see the past. I taste it. I inhale it. 

Earlier in the day, Amanda arrived at our house in Brighton, which coincidentally, also has a leak in the roof and we chat and drink tea and I showed her snippets of the documentary I made of Berry Cottage. Amanda had favourited a tweet about my shoot with Kathy Foote and I was very impressed when I looked at the work on her website. She asked me which work of hers I was particularly taken by. Well, take your pick. The girl in blue in Rwanda, the pictures of empty spaces full of story and the section entitled Tidal Reaches which I said reminded me of my beloved West Wittering where I had lived as a child. She then replied that Wittering had played a part in her life as a child also. It was then that we decided to shoot there. We met subsequently at the the degree show of UWE Bristol which was held at The Bargehouse on the South Bank. Amanda was very friendly and I knew that we would get on well. We did. She concentrates on each photograph and knows exactly what she wants from it and gets it. She goes straight to the heart of her subject. In my case, the beating heart of life and love, of experience which informs the present, of me. She is an excellent photographer who sweeps by but then stops, takes a step back and takes a shot and then carries on to the next, pauses, considers and clicks and before you know it, there is a chronicle of time and emotion frozen by the combination of her expert eye, her innate sense of composition and her love of people and the places they inhabit. 

Time passes. Listen. Time passes.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

MR MERRYWEATHER QC by Justyna Neryng

MR MERRYWEATHER Q.C. by Justyna Neryng

I wanted to be an actor from a young age but, when I was about 18, Mrs Anderson, my English teacher and the wife of the headmaster at my secondary school, asked me what career I wanted to follow. I had just recently finished reading "We, the Accused" by Ernest Raymond which was a story about a man who kills his wife and is tried for her murder. There is a long sequence in the book covering the trial and I marvelled at the description of one of the barristers; he was handsome, quick witted, articulate and eloquent. I told Mrs Anderson that I wanted to be a barrister. "That won't do" she said and when I asked why, she said that all barristers were actors and she had seen no evidence that I could act. Admittedly, I had not really done any acting apart from a memorable playing of Buttercup in HMS Pinafore when I was 12 - memorable for the flatness of my voice - but I knew that I could act and set about proving it by performing in three plays one after the other at school and then ended up as a solicitor. Eventually, I did some acting and even acquired an agent at one point but I couldn't afford to give up my day job and so I had to squeeze it into my spare time. However, playing Mr Merryweather in my films means that my wish has been granted in some small way and, when Justyna and I got together to discuss our next collaboration, Mr Merryweather seemed the perfect choice especially given her execution of the beautiful Childhood Lost series.

Whenever I visit Justyna in her flat in Hove, it reminds me of our very first shoot in 2010, a year before we moved to Brighton. We clicked then and we click now. As usual, Toby Slater-Hunt assisted her and we shot a number of photographs in different poses but, when some weeks later, we went through them on her laptop together, this one leaped off the screen. It seemed to capture the character of Mr Merryweather in so many ways. His seriousness, his flamboyance and his romanticism. The picture itself has so much to commend it - the light which brushes the right side of his coat, the way in which Justyna has highlighted the richness of the colour of the coat and the contrast with the dazzling white of the wig and ruff as well as the blood red of the ribbon around the roll of papers containing his brief. The landscape format of the photograph places him on a stage rather than squeezed into a portrait.

As usual, Justyna has created a wonderful image capturing all the facets of Mr. Merryweather's character to bring him to life and I am proud to say that this is the third photograph of hers to be included in the project.