|MAN IN STREAM NO. 1|
I guess that the offices of Saatchi are as far removed as can possibly be from the part of Devon where Annette and her family live but it was on the Saatchi site that I discovered Annette's work and what a discovery. Each section of her website reveals a person very much in tune with her fellow humans but also a person on a voyage of continual discovery. And she discovers because she has what seems to be an unquenchable desire to find out what makes the world, and the people in it, tick. So, when I received a positive reply to my request, it was very exciting. That was in November 2014 but, what with one thing and several others, I was not able to follow it up until May 2015 and I received Netti's reply. She told me that she and her family lived in an ancient woodland in Devon (about an hour's drive from Exeter) and that that was where she proposed to photograph me. She explained that the woods had not been touched for a long time and had a rather magical quality. This stretch of Devon featured in the work by James Ravilious who photographed it intensively and she suggested that we would walk in the woods and visit a number of locations.
We arranged a date in July for the shoot and Netti wrote to me in advance with more details. She said that she thought we would end up shooting both clothed and nude and she sent me some stills from Andrei Tarkovsky's film "Stalker" and recommended that I watch it. It is a film that has been recommended to me many times before but I just haven't got round to watching it. There was then a longish gap due to Netti coming down with a chest infection and so it was not until 3rd September that I stepped off the train at Exeter station to be met my Netti. Of course, we had an hour to chat on the way to her house which was in the middle of nowhere although oddly, there was another house within a few yards of hers. On the way, she told me the basic plot of Stalker which I shall not recount here in case, reader, you have not seen it. All I shall say is that there is a famous scene in the film where a man is lying in the middle of a stream and a dog runs up to him!
We arrived at the beautiful little cottage where she lived and, as I entered the kitchen, I was utterly bewitched. The lunch was cooking and a young woman who was looking after Netti's two boys welcomed me with a friendly smile. Then I was introduced to the boys themselves, Ziggy (short for Siegfried) and Kurt, whose faces when they said hello were beautiful. I am sure that they are not always angelic but, for that brief moment, they looked like angels. We finished lunch fairly quickly and I changed into my suit and me, Netti and Alvin the dog set off into the woods. After a while, Netti found a place where she wanted me to stand in the middle of a wigwam of branches which she built up around me. But the main location was next to a bend in the stream which ran through the woods. Here, she asked me to lie down next to the stream and in the stream itself. She asked me to call Alvin over to me which he was very pleased to do, licking my head and wagging his tail furiously in unison. Then I removed my clothes and we repeated these two poses with me naked. Netti had brought a flask of tea with her which was very welcome as the water in the stream, although not deep, was very cold.
Eventually, we reached the end of the shoot and hurried back to the house as we were tight for time. The property was originally owned by the poet, Laurence Whistler, and Netti showed me where he had etched poems on some of the windows each of which described the view one could see from that particular window. I changed quickly so that we could set off for Exeter in good time. I said goodbye to the house and the two boys, their minder and also the indefatigable Alvin. If they could somehow harness the energy created by his tail, the family would never have to pay an electricity bill again.
I was tired but we talked a lot on the way to the station about mutual acquaintances and of her new life with the family in Devon after years of working in London. Her partner is the manager of a firm of architects in London and commutes up to town. The change of air and atmosphere and the different pace of life must be very strange but delightful. I caught the train and promptly fell asleep and dreamed of wandering naked in ancient woodland with only a mad dog for company but it wasn't a dream, was it? Or maybe it was. Did I really meet golden haired angels in a old house with a stone floor, with poems engraved on the windows and did I lie unclothed in a beautifully cold stream and drink tea and talk to a woman called Annette who I had never met before and who l may never see again? And did she photograph me and is that photograph shown here in all its exceptional glory, showing me lying there in a cradle of twigs and grass and leaves like a creature who lives and walks and runs through the trees and who will one day lie down and take his last breath as he looks up to a canopy of green and then slowly sink into the earth? Yes, yes, yes, yes!