|THE MASTER by Andy Weekes|
I was at the opening of Portrait Salon exhibition and came upon a photograph of the actor Adam Pearson who appeared with Scarlet Johansson in the film, "Under the Skin". Pearson has a condition called neurofibromatosis which is characterised by the growth of non-cancerous tumours on nerve tissue. I didn't know anything about this condition or indeed about Adam Pearson at the time but, as I looked at the portrait, I thought fleetingly of the times before I was diagnosed and I would see people in wheelchairs and wonder how I could handle such a disability. But then I concentrated on the photograph itself and the beautiful light which the photographer had captured. I came home and the next day, I went on the Portrait Salon site and found the photograph and then went on Andy's website and found more treasures. the black and white portraits showed men, well-known men such as Boris Johnson and John Hurt, portrayed in such a way that brought out their inner strength - the one I was most surprised by was the picture of Richard Briers. He was a favourite actor of mine and I was a huge fan of "The Good Life" and of his character, Tom Good, and I found it interesting that Briers felt that Tom was not a very likeable person even though he was so funny. Andy had found in him a strain of that ability that great actors have to discover all aspects of someone's personality and, by doing so, they give a performance that is multi dimensional as all humans are. Is it any wonder that I wrote to Andy asking him to photograph me?
I wrote to Andy on 21st November and ten days later, I opened the door to this very tall man with a kind face who had come down from Lincoln to photograph me. I showed him around the house and he decided to use the sitting room as his mini-studio and put up a backdrop and asked me to pose in front of it as he adjusted the lights and clicked away. After a while, he asked me to undress and then he enquired about how angry I felt being ill with Parkinson's Disease but I told him that I had not felt angry; frustrated but not angry. He asked me to tense my body and allow those feelings to come out in my stance. And then he took this photograph. It is more gentle than the others but it shows a fear in my eyes, a fear of the unknown but also a determination to live a life and to control my illness which has become so much a part of everything I do. I have been to that place, that place I never thought I would inhabit, when I was wheeled in to the hospital for my surgery and so I know what is out there. I am afraid but I am ready.
I received four photographs from Andy and the one I chose was also Andy's favourite but I really like the others not only because they are excellent photographs but because they tell the story of the progression of the shoot. It is the shoot that I love most of all - the search for an answer, the discovery and the discussion and burgeoning of the relationship between me and the photographer. I have now experienced that in almost 400 different ways and it has been a wonderful, cathartic experience and one which I had no idea that I would have. Andy has been one of many who have contributed to this but he is such an important part of the whole jigsaw because he has brought this totally unique image to the table and every time I see it, I shall remember our day together and his lovely personality and warmth as well as his exceptional ability.