Friday, 22 January 2016

SURF'S UP - Daniel Regan Part One


"Give me a hug"
And I did.
"You're my friend now" he added.
And so we are.
Daniel smiled and got off the bus without looking back. I watched him merge into the crowd of pedestrians walking on the pavement, every so often his red coat marking him out. He crossed the road (ensuring that the walk sign was green) and stopped at a cash machine as the bus circled the roundabout and Daniel disappeared over my right shoulder. And that was it - the end of my day with Daniel. A lovely day.

I was kind of glad that it was wet that day as it meant that we stayed inside to "experiment" as Daniel put it. I like studio shoots because of the intimacy, the freedom. He was planning to shoot me in a wood and, in fact, knowing Daniel as I do now, I think it would have had the same intimacy  because his eyes demand it as they look into yours. He is so fascinated by faces that he is unafraid of connection. He relishes it and I love it.

We met at Highgate Station. He said he would be wearing red - his favourite colour. He had come to see me in Brighton a few months before to talk about he shoot but I couldn't quite remember what he looked like but I recalled that he was young and good looking. So when a youthful, handsome guy, dressed in red with yellow boots skipped down the stairs into the ticket hall, I knew it was him. 

We took the 134 bus to his flat and, as we alighted (is there a word for "alighted" in any other language?), I didn't take any notice of the other buildings in the vicinity as we crossed the road. The purpose built block housing his flat and several others had been built in the fifties I would think and was typical of that part of London where I had lived for the first thirteen years of my life. Parts were modernised but the front doors to the flats were original, topped with small framed windows above which the numbers were mostly made of chrome. The interior of the flat had a nice feel to it; it was light, clean and tidy. The floors were light polished wood adding the lightness. We had a coffee and Daniel showed me his "faces" on his computer - again the desk was clean and tidy and ordered - unlike mine as I write this, dusty, cluttered and with the keyboard overdue for a good scrub. I had seen the faces a few times before but, in his presence, they took on a gravitas, a poignancy that was special. He moved from one face to another slowly and deliberately and I began to get a sense of how Daniel's character dictates how he approaches each of his subjects - with care and an almost forensic examination, tinged with love. A deep love of his art. 

We talked easily and without breaks unless he was shooting. Then it was silent, broken only by "....Chin up...bit more....down....that shoulder was tense before, can you do that again?.....close your eyes....open....straight at the lens....now down....up....up....now move your head to your left...." He had made notes beforehand and, every so often bent down to check he had completed each of his allotted tasks. For some reason, I felt that we didn't do everything on the list. Then, after about two hours, he said "That's it". But it wasn't it. As he cleared away the lights and other equipment, he noticed as he went into the bedroom that the sun had come out making a reflection on the wall. "Tim! Come into the bedroom and sit against the wall" There were more directions "....look up at the window....no here ( he held up his hand)....down....up....eyes closed...." Until he announced that really was it. But it still wasn't it. 

I thanked him. It had been special. And curiously emotional although neither of us had openly emoted. 

I put on my coat whilst he went to the bathroom. I told him that there was no need for him to come back to Highgate on the bus with me but he responded saying that he would come with me part of the way as he had to go to Muswell Hill. I said that that was where my Grandfather's church was. Whilst he had a pee, I was somehow drawn to the view out of the kitchen window over the main road which we had crossed a few hours before. There was a church. It was my Grandfather's church. St Peter Le Poer. My heart missed a beat. Daniel came out of the bathroom. I said "That's it. That is my Grandfather's church!". Daniel was up for having a look and, as we approached the red brick building, we saw an "open" sign outside the front door - the front door outside of which, in 2001, I had hugged my siblings as we all burst into uncontrollable tears as our mother's coffin was carried out and placed in the hearse. Daniel and I walked into the church and I looked at it for the first time in 15 years but with new eyes. The figure of the Virgin Mary wearing her blue shawl looked beautiful. It was so familiar, as if it 'belonged' to me. Daniel suggested that I wander and he took photographs as I did. I examined the pulpit and thought of my grandfather standing there. I pointed out his name "GERALD PERCY COOPER BA " on the list of incumbents painted in gold on the board by the door. Daniel asked me to stand in the aisle with the stained glass window behind. The same aisle along which we followed the pall bearers at the end of the funeral as John McCormack sang "I'll walk beside you". In her directions for the funeral, she had asked for this song to be played adding "and I will, so watch out, all of you". When I read that out to my gorgeous brother over the phone after we had discovered the piece of paper on the afternoon of the morning she died, there was silence at the other end. Why do these things mean so much? I told Daniel the story of the three old ladies who introduced themselves to me before the funeral explaining that they had been in the choir the day that my mother married my father in 1944 when the marriage was officiated by her father. I pointed out the depictions of the Stations of the Cross which lined the side walls of the church. I said that I wasn't sure I believed any more but I did find these things very romantic and he understood. 

We left and that really was it. We caught the 134 and at Muswell Hill, we each hugged our new friend goodbye. I caught the train home to Brighton and, when Jane came in from the studio, I told her the story of my day as I used to tell my mother when I came home from school........

WEBSITE: http://danielregan.com/

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