|JAMAIS by Itziar Olaberria|
We met at The Fleet Street Press cafe near Temple. Memories. My mother was a dancer but, by the time she gave birth to me and my twin sister, she had given up that career. Two years later, my youngest sister was born and two months after that, my father died leaving my mother with five children under the age of eight. She retrained as a hairdresser and got a job at Clifford's Hair Salon in Fetter Lane near Temple. Why is this relevant to a set of photographs by Itziar Olaberria? Well, apart from the connection to Temple, it tells a little bit of who I am which is what I did with Itziar that day in the cafe. She was very uncertain about photographing me partly because of the number of photographers who had preceded her and partly because of a number of other factors. I told her some of my history and she did the same and I felt that, by the time we said goodbye, she was more relaxed about the proposal. But why else is the story of my mother relevant? It is because in these images, Itziar has looked for and found ME and what I am about and where I came from. The hand above is my mother's hand. The knuckles, the nails are hers. It hangs limp like the hand of the King of Siam on his deathbed in "The King and I", an image in the film that never failed to bring tears to the eyes of this woman who was full of faults but who needed to be as hard as iron to survive the loss of a husband of only ten years and then to bring up five children with love and devotion and, at the same time, with strictly enforced rules of behaviour.
But what of the rust? Neil Young sings ''It is better to burn out than it is to rust'' and maybe he's right but rust reminds you of what was there before ''The king is gone but he is not forgotten'' and the colour is beautiful. The brittle burnt orange structure is slowly turning to dust and yet it still seems alive and strong in its decay. It took a while for Itziar to send me these pictures and so much has happened since the shoot at the end of May that I had no idea what they would look like. I recalled that she was very keen to incorporate rust in them but, when I saw them, I was utterly overwhelmed by their beauty and power. Each one said something different and yet they all connected with each other, with me and with Itziar.
What thoughts are going through her head as she takes this close-up? Is she thinking of San Sebastian and the sea where she loves to walk? Is she thinking of her husband who she left behind that day? She had intended to bring him with her but I was glad she didn't not because I would not have been pleased to meet him but it would have impinged upon the mutual understanding and connection between Itziar and I and, as a consequence, the photographs would not have had the same potency. Indeed, the presence of anyone else would have been similarly detrimental.
And what about my own thoughts? This is not a mere glance in another direction - my mind is travelling through a lifetime of memories, of sights and smells and sounds.
I could go on but I would rather say no more now. I shall leave the viewer to soak up the colour, the silence, the thoughts, the passion evoked by this stunning work and, like I did that day, taste the salt in the air, feel the splits in the wood and hear the soft lap of the sea upon the shore.
After I received these, I put them way so that I could bring them out again and regard them with wonder - were they really as good as I thought when I first saw them? Yes, yes, yes! This morning, before I began to write this, I looked again at Itziar's website to remind myself what it was that persuaded me to contact her. Look at it now. I needed no persuasion. It was inevitable that I would contact her.