Wednesday, 23 September 2015

THINKING OF JANE by Valentina Quintano

THINKING OF JANE by Valentina Quintano

What is the connection between this photograph and Hove Cricket Ground? Well, on 11th May 2015, I was there with an old friend watching Sussex play and, during a break in play, I went to the loo and on the way, I passed a set of photographs displayed on a wall. They had been taken by Valentina Quintano who had been commissioned by FotoDocument, an art education organisation, jointly with Photoworks to create a One Planet Exhibition by means of a photo essay on the theme of One Planet Living. She was one of ten photographers chosen to represent ten sustainability principles and Valentina's was "Health and Happiness". The photographs were good. I could see that Valentina had thought very seriously about the project and what I liked particularly was the respect and admiration she showed for the people she photographed. I noted down her name and, when I got home, I looked at the work on her website. It was full of emotion and vitality and throughout there was a strong sense of empathy for people using what tools they had at their disposal to live their lives but more than that, the pictures had bravura. The movement and colour were wonderful - the billowing grey cloak being dragged across thick green grass, the rich gold of blazing candle light reflected in a man's spectacles. I wrote to her straightaway.

Valentina's response was interesting. She had had a look at my project and she proffered three potential subjects for consideration. First, she asked if there had been a specific question I had been asking myself recently either in relation to my illness or not. Secondly, she asked if I felt like sharing with her something I had never shared with anyone (a thought, action, story, nightmare or dream) and that, upon seeing my work, I felt I wanted to share with her. Thirdly, she asked if there was an aspect of my life that was normal and ordinary for me but which would not be for other people. She explained that she was fascinated by the relativity of the concept of normality. We met in a Dalston cafe (no, not that one) and had an enjoyable time talking around these questions but it needed a further meeting to settle on a specific way forward. Subsequently, we agreed a location and then, on 23rd September, my Mother's birthday (she would have been 96), the shoot took place. 

We shot in the woods, the inside of the house, the pool and on the trunk of an enormous tree which had been cut down. The photograph below is one of Valentina's chosen favourites and it was not easy to reject this as I loved it. The photograph in the pool reflects the despair I felt (thankfully not too often) of the disease slowly pulling me under and yet paradoxically, I love the water. I am not afraid to confront and play with the idea of my mortality and Valentina is not afraid to photograph it. But the image which means so much to me is the one above. I stood there and gazed up into the sky and thought of someone, the difficulties we had encountered alone and together, her strength, her honesty. I have spoken of her before in relation to some of the photographs in my project but I have never had my thoughts of her photographed. If it is a beautiful image it is because she is so. If it is a brave image, it is because of her that I dare. If it is a brilliant photograph, it is because Valentina is an excellent photographer and she took it having planted the question in my mind. 

Other people love each other, other people are beautiful, other people have honesty and courage but no-one thinks what I was thinking. 

What was I thinking? 

I was thinking of Jane.




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