|JAB by Wendy-Lee Warne|
If I could remember how I came across Wendy's work, I would tell you but I can't, so I won't. However, looking back, I do recall being intrigued by her project "A Woman's Fate" which is a series of photographs which explores female identity through her own experience of growing up as a girl in a traditional chinese family in Singapore. It is a wonderful set of images and includes some old family photographs mixed with later staged self-portraits and it caused me to think on my own family and the heavy influence which my mother (widowed at the age of 34) had on the early lives of my three sisters. One would think that a mother as a single parent would be more understanding of her daughters' needs when they were growing up but it was my brother and I who were cut a great deal of slack and our sisters who were watched closely and dealt with harshly if they stepped out of line.
I took only a few months of email correspondence to arrange a time for me to meet Wendy for the shoot at one of the studios at the London College of Communication in November 2015. She was with her friend and fellow student, Camille Valbusa, who assisted her with a large format camera. we started off with some clothed portraits but ended up with me naked and trying some fun shots of which this was one.
It is beautifully lit and direct. It is a fiction in that I have never boxed in my life although I do remember that my brother and I owned some worn leather boxing gloves when we were little. I can remember the feeling of putting them on and not being able to pick anything up but I don't remember using them to actually hit a punch bag or a person - maybe the odd cushion perhaps. Since then, I have fought a few battles and so, in that respect, the photograph represents the fighting side of my character . The shoot felt very easy and relaxed and that was due to some extent to Wendy's very tranquil way she went about her work and the fact that we had met briefly at the Portrait Salon exhibition a few weeks before. She is a lovely person with a beautiful smile and an excellent photographer as you can see. If you don't agree, I suppose that I could always punch you in the face but, fortunately for all of us, that won't be necessary.
WEBSITE : http://wendyleewarne.com
Friday, 27 November 2015
|THE MOON AND I by Wendy Lee-Warne and Camille Valbusa|
It was at my shoot arranged with Wendy Lee-Warne that I met the charming Camille Valbusa who had kindly agreed to assist Wendy that day. For some reason, Wendy went off to get something in the middle of the shoot and this gave Camille and I the opportunity to chat to each other. She comes from Brazil and has a leaning towards both Documentary and Fine Art Photography. She has a serious face but when she smiles, one can feel the warmth of her personality. She worked well with Wendy that day and it was pleasing to see them support each other and also she made a number of good suggestions during the shoot.
They began to take turns at photographing me (i.e. clicking the shutter) but, in the end, when they produced this image, they could not work out who had taken it but they had worked so much as a team that they suggested that they both be credited with authorship. One tends to make lifetime friends on a long educational course and the mutual co-operation and help they gave each other suggests that this is a friendship which will endure.
Again, the light in this picture is what is so striking on first viewing, the ivory tone (almost the colour of moonlight) given to my skin is accentuated by the black background - of course, l have no idea how they achieved this or what I am really talking about but all I can say is that it is an excellent photograph taken by two very talented and resourceful students and, most importantly, we all had a great time that day. It is interesting noting the ageing process - my shoulders are more hunched, my neck fuller and my mouth set in what has become a familiar, Parkinsonian and post DBS, downward curve and my eyes staring ahead - maybe I was also tired that day, who knows? I do find myself sometimes looking at this photograph and saying "Sit up straight, shoulders back, relax" and then at other times accepting me as I was caught at that moment.
I recall my daughter speaking the words of Yum-Yum in the Mikado -
"Yes, I am indeed beautiful! Sometimes I sit and wonder, in my artless Japanese way, why is it that I am so much more attractive than anyone else in the whole world, Can this be vanity? No! Nature is lovely and rejoices in her loveliness. I am a child of Nature and take after my mother"
Monday, 23 November 2015
|COMFORT by Gemma Day|
I first heard of Gemma when she answered my request for a selfie when I had the idea to compile a slideshow for Stuart Pilkington after he had suffered a stroke. She addressed the email "Hello Andrew.." but she signed off "Bye for now.....Gemma" which I thought maybe was significant until I realised that she always signs off in this way. Well, next she retweeted a tweet about me and so I looked up her work on her website and I really liked it; everyone seemed to be having a good time on her shoots. Given my insatiable thirst for having a good time, I thought, yeah, why not and I emailed her. She replied "Hello Tim...." and we were off.
She wanted to photograph me at home and then proposed this idea about Comfort. She quoted some dictionary definitions of the word and asked me to think about what things gave me comfort. Over the next few days, I sent her a trail of things involving comfort eating, watching DVDs and even weeding but mostly comfort eating to sustain my increasingly bulbous stomach. Unfortunately, Gemma latched on to the comfort eating (result!) and therefore is totally to blame for me exceeding 14 stones for the first time. She arrived for the shoot with bags of equipment as well as bags of chocolate and mango slices but she also brought a lovely sense of humour and a beautiful smile and we had a lovely shoot. It helped that I had met her and her chum, the adorable Louise Haywood-Schiefer at the opening of the Portrait Salon exhibition a few days before but even if we hadn't I knew that it would go well. The email correspondence had been easy and chatty and the shoot followed on in the same way. Chat, eat, drink, swallow, joke, eat, chat, swallow, drink, another joke - you get the drift.
I received the photographs shortly afterwards and, as I looked through them, it began to dawn on me what she had done. She had gradually got me to relax and become Andrew...I mean, Tim. Just Tim. Just me. And that is the best example of comfort - being happy with what you are and so, when you look at this photograph, you are looking at the real me. Normally, I would include other photographs that were taken on the same day but this time I'm not going to because this shot is sufficient. It says it all. I wrote and told Gemma which one I liked best and why and she replied and said she agreed and signed off "Bye for now.....Gemma x"
Thank you Gemma........Tim x
Friday, 20 November 2015
|(c) Lenka Rayn H.|
I sleep on trains now, proper sleep not littles napettes here and there but this time, I wanted particularly to build up some energy for my final assault on London this week. I had been up twice already for a shoot with the charming Jay Brooks in Haggerston on Monday and also to see my lovely niece, Naomi, play Elgar's Cello Concerto brilliantly and passionately in St. Stephen's church in Gloucester Road on Tuesday, all the time travelling around looking over my shoulder for terrorists. My train arrived at Victoria on time and within about 15 minutes, I alighted at Southwark Tube Station. "I alighted at Southwark" - isn't that a phrase one would only hear an English person say? "Je descendis a Southwark", "Me apee a Southwark" "我下了车，在南华"- just doesn't sound the same does it?
(c) Neil Spence
Anyway, I made my way along Union Street and I saw the Embassy Tea Rooms before they saw me and I entered the world of Portrait Salon Exhibition 2015 created by James O Jenkins and Carole Evans, and quite frankly, it blew me away. There was some gorgeous work on display, not least the beautiful portrait of Ami by Lenka Rayn H. The peace and quiet of her contemplative pose allied to the wash of green grey that Lenka has achieved is simply stunning. Before I began to have a good look around, I bought the sticker catalogue and said hello to the smiling Jim Stephenson of Miniclick who was chatting to Alma Haser and Jocelyn Allen and I picked up a beer and started to wander and almost immediately bumped into Louise Haywood-Schiefer and her friend, Gemma Day, who is going to photograph me on Monday. Magda Rakita cut in which enabled Louise and Gemma to escape my boring story of hiring display boards at Goldsmith's College.
Then I turned back to the photography and found myself staring at General Sir Michael Jackson by Justin Sutcliffe. This is some portrait, beautifully lit and composed with the subject giving the minimum time ( I learned later that it was 7 minutes 30 seconds) for the photographer to capture what he was all about but throwing him a look that said it all. "Excuse me, but are you that model?" asked the slim, cheeky, pretty Clare Park accompanied by her loyal and equally good looking chum Genevieve Stevenson. I had noticed Genevieve's picture of her son a few minutes earlier. It is small and perfect. I didn't know it was her handsome son but I did see a clear connection with the photographer and the clever positioning behind him of the fairground trailer, the bright red of which contrasted beautifully with the unruly dark brown quiff of his hair.
(c) Genevieve Stevenson
Then they all came in a rush, Wendy Lee-Warne, who is also going to photograph me next week, Anastasia Trahanas whose photograph of me as a Dirty Old Man burns into the brains of everyone who stops to look with its mixture of vulnerability and fearsome challenge, Sarah Lee who introduces me to Justin Sutcliffe and Amit Lennon, my friend Sheryl Tait and her partner Jordi who reminds me that the last time we met was on the beach on a bitterly cold day in January when he was assisting Sheryl as she photographed me wearing nothing but a long red piece of cloth, the witty, tall and delectable Kristina Salgvik, Clare's husband Toby Sedgwick recounting jolly stories of his day with Jim Broadbent in rehearsal for "A Christmas Carol", Travis Hodges and his friend from Metro Imaging (mentioned in glowing terms by many that evening) whose name I regret I have forgotten but who engaged me in interesting conversation and Astrid Schulz with her typically zany idea for a second shoot. As I whizzed around the intoxicating riches on display, I noticed the names of many people who have photographed me and, each time, a little potted film of memory of my shoot with them flashed into my brain. This was a great evening with far too many wonderful works on display to mention specifically. Gosh, I've just remembered the amazing print of Julia Fullerton-Batten's contribution (one day, Julia, one day...) and Laura Pannack's superb shot.
But, but.......amongst all this bonhomie, the rise and fall of the hum and clatter of conversation, the squeezing past shoulders to get a better look at all the incredible work on display, a golden light burned in the corner from a picture of such excellence and grace that it made my heart miss a beat - there it goes again as I think of it - it is the photograph of me by Jennifer Balcombe. I looked at it in wonder and then turned away and dropped into Jennifer's eyes as she smiled and said hello and then gave me the warmest hug and introduced me to her boyfriend Charlie. And there I shall end this piece but not before showing you Jennifer's picture. Is it not beautiful?
Monday, 16 November 2015
|I USED TO BE A SOLICITOR by Jay Brooks|
It seems so long ago now. My day began at about 6.30am and, after running through my morning routine of reading a chapter of my book followed by my stretching exercises and a shower, I would arrive at my office in Grayshott at about 8am and often stay until 8pm. It was a general village practice and we offered services such as Domestic and Commercial Conveyancing, Wills, Probate but no litigation. I was not a confrontational lawyer; indeed, as my late principal, Mr Underhill, used to say to me during my articles of clerkship at Raper & Co in Chichester, clients wanted matters to be resolved and not fought over for the sake of it although he could certainly fight another solicitor if he needed to. Academically, I was not suited to Law but I had a strong sense of duty which meant that, once I had set out on the road to becoming a solicitor, it was never likely that I would give up a legal career unless, of course, something forced me to such as an incurable neurological condition...........
So, how did I find myself standing in a studio in Haggerston wearing a gorilla suit? Well, it all started on 22nd September 2011 when I saw Jay's photograph of the actress, Hayley Atwell, at the National Portrait Gallery. I looked at his website and immediately was struck by the dynamism, humour and crispness of the images. In response to my usual opening email, Jay said that he had heard of my project and a month later, we met for a coffee in London. Jay is an attractive guy and has a lively and witty disposition and so I left the cafe with the feeling that the shoot would be fun. What neither of us realised was that it would be another four years or so before the shoot was to take place. Nevertheless, four months later, Jay wrote with his Gorilla idea. He wanted to create something cinematic, surreal and darkly humorous and to shoot this outside in woodland. We kept in touch on and off over the next few years until suddenly we both had space in our diaries and it all came together but in a studio setting rather than on location.
And it was a jolly affair. Jay's enthusiasm was infectious and the longer the shoot went on, the more excited he became. His assistant, Rob Parfitt, worked hard to help set the shots up and kept us sustained with sandwiches and drink. Finally, after about 3 or 4 hours, Jay called a halt and I was able to slide out of my suit. With a smile and a hug, I took my leave of them both with a real feeling that Jay had been as committed to this shoot as he would to any of his more important commercial shoots but that was no surprise. Jay clearly loves having a camera in his hand and using it creatively and imaginatively and treats all his commissions in exactly the same way. Afterwards, he wrote thanking me for being such a sport and going with his rather quirky ideas and said that it was really fun to work on something totally free and with only ourselves to satisfy which is a rarity for him these days.
Another gap of a few months whilst Jay struggled with a busy schedule. I announced that the project was about to end and Jay wrote a few days later saying "And so, like an out of shape marathon runner, I duck under the rope at the finish! haha". And I am so glad that this lovely man was able to be part of it all and look at the photographs which he produced. Dynamic, humorous and crisp. How could I have expected anything else? He had taken some straight portraits but it was the gorilla suit which he loved best as they had a slightly dark sense of fun which he tries to find in a lot of his work. He thought that they were the truest to the original plan to create something a bit surreal with a slightly unhooked narrative. And he added "I could pontificate forever on the skin we are in, the personas we develop and the search for truth but at the end of the day...everyone loves a gorilla suit!"
Jay is a master of his craft - is craft the right word? I'm not sure because there is so much more to his work which says so much about him. He is funny, serious, kind, knowledgable, creative, sensitive and hardworking. All these attributes make him a great photographic artist. But there is something else....what is it? Ah, yes.......Panache!
I used to be a solicitor.
Thursday, 5 November 2015
|SLEEP, GENTLE SLEEP by Yasmina Podgorski|
My mother used to say that, when I was small, I would often go to bed before I was told to because I knew that I was too tired to stay up. But then I would ''wake up with the birds''. I love remembering things that my mother used to say. In more recent times before she died (in 2001), her memory wasn't so good and so the stories she had trotted out in the past and which were so familiar to us gradually faded from her mind. I go to bed early now too and I often wake at about six o'clock in the morning or even earlier in the summer. Shortly after my mother died when we were on holiday in Formentera, I had a dream about her. She was young again, about forty, and she had bright red lipstick and she was laughing and the wind was blowing her dark brown hair, no longer flecked with grey as it was when she died. I rarely remember my dreams but that one was so vivid that it has stayed with me ever since.
I don't know what she would have made of my photographic project. She worked as a dancer in the theatre and, at one time, she appeared naked on the stage in the days when naked performers weren't allowed to move. But she could also be strangely prudish about nudity and, although only a relatively small percentage of my photographs are nude, I reckon that she would not have been too enthusiastic. However, she was proud of the fact that I qualified as a solicitor and I remember that, when I qualified, she had some business cards printed for me which I found very touching.
So, Sleep and Mothers. What has that got to do with Yasmina's beautiful photograph? Well, the picture was taken by Yasmina as I lay in a birthing pool she had obtained and filled with water in the living room of her family home. My eyes were closed and I felt so comfortable there, especially after the initial shots where Yasmina wanted me to lie on my back with my head just submerged. I just couldn't do it without swallowing water resulting in a coughing, splurting fit. In this pose I was much more relaxed and, in fact, it is the position I take up as I go to sleep at night. And Mothers? Well, Yasmina's mother was assisting her that day on the shoot. She had collected me from St. Albans station while Yasmina set everything up at home. This was a first - a shoot where the photographer's mother acted as assistant - but what I learned on the way to their house was that her mother was very supportive of the career which Yasmina had decided to follow and that she and her husband were both very proud of what she had achieved. There was another connection in that her mother worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital which is just round the corner from the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery where I had my Deep Brain Stimulation operation. It felt comforting having a medically trained person there whilst I was swallowing the contents of the birthing pool.
I first saw Yasmina's work on the Free Range site in the summer of 2015 - she was a recent graduate from Falmouth University. I had not been able to make it to the degree shows themselves and so I looked through the site and came across the most amazing photographs by Yasmina. They were absolutely stunning but even more stunning were the original prints which Yasmina showed me at her house.
I suppose that I must have spent about an hour and a bit at Yasmina's place before I dried myself off and took my leave of her. Her mother drove me back to the centre of StAlbans and very kindly dropped me off at the Cathedral which I had always wanted to visit. It was magnificent and,as I wandered around, I reflected on the time I had spent with Yasmina. What a refreshingly committed young photographer she is. She has a lovely character and a clear and incisive mind as was confirmed by the images she sent through afterwards. They were all superb - it came to a choice between two and I plumped for this. The light, the pose, the gentleness of the cloth draped over me all combine to create a picture of sheer grace and delicacy. And what is more exciting is the thought that Yasmina will be producing photographs of this quality for years to come. Wonderful.