Tuesday, 31 May 2016

JAMAIS by Itziar Olaberria

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. 

WEBSITE: http://www.itziarolaberria.net

Monday, 30 May 2016

INSOMNIA IN SILK by Richard Nicholson

INSOMNIAC IN SILK by Richard Nicholson

What or who caused me to meet Richard? Was it my wife who had seen the advertisement for the sale of the contents of a house in Fournier Street and arranged for us to go to the sale that day thus prompting me to jump ship (or rather the Tube) at Temple on the return journey in order to look round the Photo London exhibition at Somerset House? Or was it her sister who was going to go with Jane but didn't so I did? Or was it Imogen Freeland who mentioned that she was going to Photo London which, until then, I didn't know was on? Or was I always going to meet him? Whatever - meet him I did as I rushed round Photo London looking at as much as I could in the hour I had set aside for this (never again - the rushing, not Photo London). Richard was at the end of one of the "wings"of the exhibition area sitting next to five wonderful prints of his, three of old cinema projection rooms and two of old darkrooms, all of which are now barely used. He introduced himself and told me something of his project. He knew about mine but I told him of my children's and my love of the cinema and of the story of the Odeon 1 sign which l had picked up following the demolition of the old Guildford Odeon in 1997.

I liked talking to him and, when I got home, I looked up more of his work on his website and wrote suggesting that l could try to squeeze him in before the last shoot, particularly if he was willing to come down to Brighton which it turned out he was. He wrote saying that he would bring a camera, tripod and some battery-powered lights with the intention of working with the same aesthetic he was developing in his 'projection' pictures. This would involve pushing me far back in the frame, allowing the space, and the object it contains, to take over. He said that Michael Fried discusses this in the context of Jeff Walls' work in his book "Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before". This also meant that he was interested in having his subject absorbed in something (rather than looking into the camera) and, when he came down, the cricket was on TV and he said how much he had liked Ben Roberts photograph of me listening to the cricket on the radio. This all sounded good to me ("You just keep doing the thinking, Butch - that's what you're good at").

I collected him from the station and we had a cup of tea and initially watched a slideshow of all the images I had so far received. We talked a lot whilst he fiddled with his lighting and I told him that I had never, at any time, tired of watching the photographers fiddle, either with lights or objects in the shot or the dials on the camera. It was all part of the enjoyment of the shoot - apart from anything else, it showed their commitment to the shoot. His aim was to show me concentrating on the cricket in the middle of the night and, although this shot is a fiction, in that it was the afternoon, it is an honest representation of so many things. I used to be much more nocturnal before my DBS surgery and the silk dressing gown was a present from my brother when I was in hospital for the DBS. When I used to wake up during the night, if I didn't write poetry, I would certainly have watched the cricket on TV if England were playing in Australia. 

Richard sent this the next day - it was the most natural pose he said. He also added that photographing me was a great way to spend a bank holiday and I certainly felt the same way about being photographed by him. I love this photograph - the light, the position of the door, the cushion on the right in the foreground, my father's Neville Cardus book on the table and my left hand on my thigh, half in shadow. What a stroke of luck going to Photo London that day. 

WEBSITE: www.richardnicholson.com

Thursday, 26 May 2016

LOVE IS REAL by Matthew Finn

LOVE IS REAL by Matthew Finn

It was a day of sunshine, of good vibes, a day of love. I hesitated over that word "love" - I wondered if it was going too far but I have learned that there are varying degrees of love and that everyone has an infinite capacity for love. So, yes, love did have a place in that day of sunshine in May. I drove up to London to collect two things my wife and I had bought in a contents sale in a house in Fournier Street. If you have never been to Fournier Street, I urge you to go and witness a place from another world, another time. The guy who was selling these things was the executor of the owner of the house who himself was described as an aesthete. When I entered the building, I wanted to buy everything in it but what I really wanted to buy was the life the man had lived there amongst the books on theatre, the pretty cups and plates and cheese dishes, rugs and chairs. I wanted to buy a piece of time in the hope that, by doing so, I would stop time. But time never stops and by going there and taking a chair and a small cupboard away, I was ensuring that was the case.

Before I went to collect these things from Fournier Street, I had an appointment with Georgina Howard who was shooting me for a set of photographs which will form part of Over the Hill. We had a good meeting (more of which will be revealed in a later blogpost) and then after Fournier Street, I called Matthew Finn who had said that he would be in the area and ready to meet and photograph me. We met in a Trumans pub in Whitechapel just opposite Spitalfields Market. The double doors to the pub were wide open to the warm spring air and light bounced off the rough lacquered table tops and bar inside. It was one of those days when one felt good to be alive and in London. Matthew introduced himself and his companion, James Meek, who was assisting him and explained that he had done something to his back which was clearly causing him some discomfort. We didn't have a drink at first because the woman who ran the pub and who I learned later had been there for thirty odd years had gone out for ten minutes and asked Matthew and James to keep any eye on the pub until she got back. We did a few shots in the pub anyway and, whilst we did so,  something rather strange occurred - at one point, Matthew asked me to face a large mirror on the wall and either he asked me to look at myself in the mirror or I did so while waiting for Matthew to tell me which way to look. But when I did so, it felt like the first time ever that I had looked directly at my face during a photographic shoot. And it felt weird. Why? I don't know why but it did. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was seeing myself for the first time as others had seen me. When I received some photographs a couple of months later, they gave off a feeling of melancholy and possibly this had something to do with looking at myself and/or a feeling of finality about the project but, either way, Matthew captured this forlorn sense of loss which perhaps began in Fournier Street.  

We then walked (in Matthew's case, hobbled) over to Spitalfields and did some shots there with Matthew asking some stallholders if they minded me being photographed in front of their wares. He took this shot outside the market and it is this one which I have chosen because it is unlike any shot I have done before. That is not the only reason - I love the composition, the feeling of despondency, the words on the wall from which I have taken the title. It may not say "LOVE IS REAL" - it could be "Love is Kev" for example but it is good not to know. 

We returned to the pub for a quick beer and then I said goodbye to them both and drove home to the person I love the most - the artist, the mother of my children. On the way, I thought of Matthew and his kind face and the warmth of his interest in my project. I first heard of him when he won the Jerwood/ Photoworks Award after which I wrote to him in early 2015 asking him to photograph me. I was fascinated by his own beautiful project involving his mother who he had been photographing in her home for over 28 years. I was struck immediately by his compassion as well as by the artistic acuity which were evident in the pictures. I guessed that he would bring both these elements to any photograph of me and you know what? I guessed right but I had not bargained for the importance of love, both his and mine, which would influence how the photographs turned out

"Love is real, real is love

Love is feeling, feeling love

Love is wanting to be loved
Love is touch, touch is love

Love is reaching, reaching love

Love is asking to be loved
Love is you

You and me

Love is knowing
We can be

Love is free, free is love

Love is living, living love

Love is needing to be loved"
                        - John Lennon

WEBSITE: www.mattfinn.com

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

GRAHAM AND TIM by Amy Grantham

GRAHAM AND TIM by Amy Grantham

Yes, the day I met Graham Nash, Singer, Composer and Artist photographed by Amy Grantham who is a delightful person and can take an excellent photograph of her boyfriend and some bloke who walked up to him in the GLive car park in Guildford and asked to be photographed. But not only that, she is an excellent photographer in other circumstances as I found out when I looked at her work online. She is described as a mixed media artist and photographer and she also wrote and starred in a film "Lily" loosely based on her life after cancer which was played at both the Tribeca and Deauville film festivals.

It seems so weird that she and Graham met me in Guildford having myself lived in the area for so many years. My mother's father was the curate at the church in Godalming for a few years in the 1920s. My wife and I move there in 1983 after Tom was born. In1988, we nearly bankrupted ourselves to buy our beloved Ravenswood in Milford. I took the kids regularly to the Guildford Odeon to watch films, the same Guildford Odeon where my wife watched "The Hollies" play in 1965 and had no idea that her future husband would meet the guy playing the guitar and singing beautiful harmonies with the lead singer, Allan Clarke in 51 years' time in a car park opposite the cinema. 

So, thank you Amy for recording this special moment for me and for, inadvertently, becoming an important part of "Over the Hill". 



So, this guy, a Scottish soldier called Robert the Bruce, took shelter in a cave and pondered how on earth he was going to defeat the English and, as he sat there, he saw a spider trying to make a web. Time and time again, the spider would try to attach a web to the wall of the cave but it kept falling until, eventually, it succeeded. Robert was so inspired by the tenacity and patience shown by this spider that he went into his next battle with the English at a place called Bannockburn with fresh hope and won the day. "If at first you don't succeed, try, and try and try again". I have sent tweets to Graham Nash, I have tried to contact his agents but no luck. Last night, after the concert had ended at the Union Chapel, I approached a man who appeared to be his head roadie and tried falteringly to explain about "Over the Hill" but he said Graham was busy entertaining his guests but suggested that I come to Guildford the next day and try again. I did. Guildford turned out to be my Bannockburn but without the carnage.

Just as Graham got off his tour bus with his lovely girlfriend on his arm, I went up to him and asked if I could have a few minutes of his time. He looked a bit mystified but I managed to make some sense as I told him about "Over the Hill". He said "That is a great project!" I asked him if he would photograph me but he didn't quite understand my request "So, you want me to photograph you??" he said. "Yes!" I replied. He looked almost relieved. "Of course I will!" he responded. I gave him my camera and he suggested I stand in front of his tour bus. I did and he clicked five times. Then I asked if I could have a picture of us both together. He agreed readily and his girlfriend, who said she was a photographer also, took the camera whilst I put my arm around  my new mate - Graham Nash, Photographer, Artist, Musician, Composer, all time nice guy.

I got home just now and downloaded the pictures on to my computer and it was then I saw Graham's reflection in the window of the bus. It was as if he was he was looking through the window at me. And do you know what you see when you look through any window? Smiling faces all around. Well, in this case, my smiling face. I shook his hand and congratulated him on his performance last night. He said that he was going to do a couple of different songs tonight and he looked at me out of the corner of his eye and said " 'Cos I've written a lot of good songs, you know" I know you have Graham and you have taken a lot of good photographs. He asked me which was my favourite song of his. "Our House " I said straightaway and, as I said it, I recalled how beautiful it sounded when the audience joined in and sang it with him last night. I said goodbye and, as I sat in my car to call my wife to tell her, I wept. Why? Oh I don't know - because life can be so bloody wonderful sometimes. Ask the spider. 

POSTSCRIPT - My wife's brother-in-law called, slightly pissed, late on the night of Graham Nash's concert in Guildford to say that he had had just spoken to his brother who had been at the concert and who said that Graham Nash had told the audience at the end that he had met a guy called Tim Andrews that afternoon who had Parkinson's Disease and who had asked him to take his photograph and that he had asked him which of his songs was his favourite and had received the answer "Our House". "This one's for you, Tim" he said.

I'll light the fire

You put the flowers in the vase that you bought today

Staring at the fire for hours and hours while I listen to you
Play your love songs all night long for me, only for me

Come to me now and rest your head for just five minutes, everything is good

Such a cozy room, the windows are illuminated by the

Sunshine through them, fiery gems for you, only for you
Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard

Life used to be so hard

Now everything is easy 'cause of you
And our la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la

Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard

Life used to be so hard

Now everything is easy 'cause of you
And our I'll light the fire 
You put the flowers in the vase that you bought today

GRAHAM NASH - Photographer

GRAHAM NASH with Shayne Fontayne
Last night, at The Union Chapel Islington, I witnessed one of the best concerts I have ever seen. It was performed by Graham Nash accompanied only (only!) by Shayne Fontayne on lead guitar and vocals. It was truly wonderful from the very first song, "Bus Stop" right through to the end when he finished off with "Our House" and "Teach your Children" and finally "Just a Song before I Go". We all rushed off into the night humming not only our favourites but also the beautiful tracks from his new album, "This Path Tonight".

But he is not only (only!) a musician but a great artist and his photographs are filled with the same wit, romance, despondency and hope as drive his songwriting. And I am off to Guildford today armed with a letter which I shall deliver to his dressing room and hope that he might, just might, read it and that he might, just might, photograph me. I don't want to be a pain and so I would rather he didn't if he felt that I was but......wish me luck.

The Letter

Dear Graham,                                                                             25th May  2016

I am outside.

I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2005 and so you could say I have been an outsider for 11 years.  But that would not be correct.

In 2007, I answered an advert in Time Out from Graeme Montgomery a photographer looking for people to photograph for a book of ‘real’ nudes as opposed to professional models. I thought “Why not?”  I had retired from my job as a lawyer and so I no longer had a reputation to consider.

Well, to cut a very long story short, eventually I started approaching photographers explaining that I wanted to continue on the path of being photographed by different people during the course of my illness. 

Since 2007, I have been photographed by 405 photographers, some amateur, some student but mostly professional including Rankin, Mike McCartney, Grayson Perry, Jillian Edelstein, Steve Bloom and Jill Furmanovsky and it has been wonderful. I have raised funds for the charity, Parkinson’s UK and awareness of the disease by holding 9 exhibitions and appearing on The Culture Show on BBC TV and being featured in many Newspapers and photographic journals.

I have loved your music since the days of the Hollies, through the times with CSN & Y and then last night when I watched your superlative performance at the Union Chapel. I also think you are a wonderful photographic artist. I live in Brighton and I have travelled here today to ask you a question.

Will you please photograph me?

I am outside.

Tim Andrews

Friday, 20 May 2016

POUR ME ANOTHER by Jill Furmanovsky

POUR ME ANOTHER by Jill Furmanovsky

Jill likes a smile. It reassures her. I think I smiled in this shoot almost as much as in all the other shoots put together - partly because Jill wanted me to but mainly because I was having a good time. Jill has a studio in Kentish Town and collected me from the Tube station and took me there in her car. Although she had told me beforehand that she was a shy person and wanted to meet me in advance of the shoot in order to get to know me, we had not yet met but I felt in tune with her the moment she approached me outside the station - she was smiling. I like a smile. It reassures me.

Her studio felt very comfortable and it was dotted with all sorts of interesting stuff - a collection of old vintage cameras, various photographic books, photographs of bands including a wonderful collage of pictures of Oasis in rehearsal. In fact, it was a photograph of that band in the Guardian Weekend magazine which caught my eye and prompted me to write to Jill. She is a child of the 60s/70s and took her first rock picture in 1967, of Paul McCartney, with an instamatic camera. Soon after starting her course at the Central School of Art, she went to see "Yes"in concert at the Rainbow and somehow blagged her way to the front of the audience pretending to be a professional photographer and ended up taking a whole roll of film and then, with a further bit of blagging, she got offered a shoot by another photographer and, not only that, she was offered and accepted a job as the Rainbow's official photographer - not bad going for a shy person, eh? She has never looked back since. She worked with some of the biggest names in Rock music including the Rolling Stones, Madness, Pink Floyd,  U2, the Pretenders and Rod Stewart. I told her that I was at University in London in the early 70s and we talked about the NME and people like Nick Kent and Charles Shaar Murray. She told me little snippets of stories about Mick Jagger, the Gallagher brothers, Madness and Chrissie Hynde but she never betrayed any confidences.

Initially, she took some close-ups and at one point, she showed me her famous photograph of Charlie Watts, and continued with even more close shots of that kind. The last shot was me holding a roll of paper with my date of birth and then a dash after which there would be a blank but I told Jill that my daughter used to get upset at the thought of me dying and I would tell her that I wasn't going to die but that I was going to live forever (cue Oasis).

Jill called a halt and, after giving me her signed copy of her book, "The Moment", she returned me to the Underground and I was able to ponder on my few hours with one the foremost rock photographers of our generation. I received some photographs fairly soon after the shoot and, although, I had the feeling that I would choose a close-up similar the one featuring Charlie Watts, I found myself increasingly drawn to those inspired by paintings. They had a dynamism about them plus the smile, of course, or maybe due to the smile. I was spoilt for choice because they were all magnificent. I looked through them again and kept stopping at this one. I was the right choice. I was reassured. After all, we all like a smile. Don't we? 

Monday, 16 May 2016

SACRIFICE by Ameena Rojee

SACRIFICE by Ameena Rojee

.......and then Ameena and I moved to the other end of the crypt to the small chapel lit by the beautiful dappled light pouring through the stained glass window. Ameena asked me to stop at the entrance with the black cloth wrapped around me and I stood there like Jennifer Jones in the film Salome, although Jennifer Jones never appeared in Salome but, if she had......

I cannot recall who decided that I should lie on the ground in front of the altar but I do know that we were of one mind in this respect. Ameena arranged the cloth about me and I waited. She asked me to move a little to the left - click - and then to the right - click. Silence for a while as Ameena looked at what she had taken. "Close your eyes" - click - "Open them" - click - "Look up" - click. More silence as I heard her move the dials back and forth (I have never ceased to love hearing that noise). "Can you move your right arm behind you?" I do the best I can - click - "Leave the other hand where it is - it looks great" -click - "Right leg up and left leg straight" - click - "Now your legs the other way round". As I lie there waiting for the next click or direction, I begin to feel cold and my mind wanders ahead to handing the keys in at the vicarage opposite. I wonder how the photographs will look - it feels right being naked in this place; there is a curious innocence about it. And why not? Why should the naked body automatically suggest otherwise? It is a difficult subject - there are as many arguments as there are people discussing them. 

It was getting late and we had done all we could and Ameena called a halt. We both felt completely satisfied. We had done this place justice. I was shivering as I pulled on my underpants and Ameena started to pack things away. I suggested to her that we took a picture of both of us on the timer, maybe under the cloth facing each other. She set the camera up on the tripod as I stood waiting with half the cloth over me and then she dashed forward and we both laughed as she disappeared under the other half just in time. We tried two more and that was it. 

We packed everything away and re-instated what we had moved and then blinked as we stepped outside into the welcome warmth of the sun. We chatted briefly to Henry the vicar and handed the keys back to him. We were both in need of a little smackerel of something so we stopped at an expensive looking cafe/restaurant at the edge of the canal and had a snack and a drink and talked about the day and Ameena's forthcoming road trip across the States. She said that she would have time to send me some photographs before her departure and so she did. And they did not disappoint. There were so many good images that I began to look at them in two sections and realised that I would have to chose one from each.

This was my and Ameena's choice from the chapel. The kaleidoscope of light on my body and on the tiled floor together with the beautiful gold of the reredos, the white altar cloth embroidered in crimson and the green and gold twists of the column at the side combine to create a picture of such richness. Ameena described it as decadent and there is a wanton feel to it but I remembered how I felt as I lay there and so.....oh I don't know, maybe it is decadent now I look at it. Either way, it is a gorgeous image of light and colour and that hand........

HIDDEN by Ameena Rojee

HIDDEN by Ameena Rojee

Now this was an excellent day.

It all started in November 2013 when I was invited by Shawn Sobers, a senior lecturer in Photography and Media at the University of the West of England (UWE), to speak to his students about my project. Ameena was one of those students. She then started to follow me on Twitter and after receiving a few tweets from her, I decided to look at her work on her website and there was one self portrait in particular which shone out. It was like honey and it had deep, beautiful dark tones and I thought "Yep!" and wrote to her in April 2014 asking if she would be interested in photographing me. She replied saying that I had made a miserable and rainy day much better. I am so surprised when people say such nice things because I am so honoured that they will even consider photographing me for one moment. I mean, they have produced all this brilliant work and all I have done is sit/stand/lie/run/dance in front of a camera a number of times. Anyway, so the answer was yes and yet, even though we were both so keen, it took two years to get the shoot together. In the meantime, I went along to the Private View of the UWE Degree Show in London and there I met Shawn of course but I also met Ameena who was absolutely charming and we chatted briefly about working together and she said that she would send me a moodboard which she did - twice! There then followed a lot of ideas being sent backwards and forwards until I sent her some photos of a church crypt where I had been part of a group shoot. I adored the natural light which poured through the windows and Ameena felt the same and so shooting there became our aim. But then..........silence..........broken only by a short period of correspondence when Ameena kindly invited me to be interviewed online for the printspace which would be included in a regular guest spot for the World Photography Organisation. That all went well and then..........more silence....................I got tied up with other things and then one day I went to see the new Tarantino film "The Hateful Eight" which I did not like at all and I tweeted my views. Ameena 'liked' my tweet and I remembered that I had not followed up the idea about the church crypt by contacting the vicar. I said that I would do so but then..........even more silence.........until Ameena 'liked' another tweet and this time I picked up the telephone and did what I should have done months before - I called the vicar and set up a shoot and, within a few days, I was standing outside the church watching Ameena crossing the road towards me and we greeted each other enthusiastically. I had already obtained the key and so had a look at the crypt and reminded myself how brilliant it was for the shoot and Ameena was suitably impressed as I showed her around.

One of her early ideas involved using a translucent black cloth. She had brought a cloth with her but it wasn't translucent but it turned out to be just what we wanted. We started shooting in the chamber lit only by the light coming through the clear window. I undressed and she placed the cloth over my head and I faced the light and then turned away. There were some lights down there and although these provided a variation to the tone of the photographs, Ameena preferred the natural light. 

We then tried various other poses, with and without the cloth, until eventually we moved into the small chapel at the other end of the crypt but that is another story because for only the fourth time in nine years, I decided to choose two photographs from the same shoot for my project because they were both so good. I love this one - particularly the light on the cloth highlighting the folds of material and the fact that my head is slightly bowed in awe.....of what? The wonder of friendship, the coming together of an old man and a young woman in companionship and collaboration in the pursuit of an artistic vision which has provided me and Ameena with such joy and fulfilment. I am going to miss these feelings so much but it has to end. The time is right. But I tell you what - I am so glad that Ameena waited so patiently for our afternoon in the light for this is a beautiful photograph taken by someone who is assured and confident, talented and perceptive. Not hidden away but revealed as an artist of great stature - and perseverance!

WEBSITE: http://www.ameenarojee.co.uk

LIGHT by Ameena Rojee

LIGHT by Ameena Rojee

Well, this hasn't happened before - choosing a third image from a shoot but I had no choice. This is magnificent. It was taken by Ameena on film using her medium format camera. It is typical of Ameena's work in that it is invested with total care and a calm assurance both of which attributes were so noticeable throughout our shoot. It is gorgeous. It is more, much more than I could ever have hoped for from working with her. A gem indeed.

WEBSITE: http://www.ameenarojee.co.uk/

RUSH HOUR by James O. Jenkins

RUSH HOUR by James O. Jenkins
For me, and I guess for many people, the name of James O. Jenkins will be associated forever with Portrait Salon which James founded with Carole Evans in 2011 as a response to the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize. Its aim is to showcase the best of the rejected images from the Taylor Wessing prize. Strangely, I had never met James even though I have worked with many photographers whom he knows well and probably I have attended many exhibitions where he has been present, not least the Portrait Salon exhibition in 2015 at the Embassy Tea Rooms. But I quite like the idea that we had been in many rooms at the same time over the years but never met. However, equally strangely, when I did meet him that day on London Bridge, I felt that we had met before - his face lit up by a lovely smile, seemed very familiar. So what, you might say. So nothing really but these things interest me.

I first wrote to James in May 2013 - 3 years, 156 photographers, a Baby (his, not mine), a brain operation (mine, not his) and 54 emails later, we met at 8am on London Bridge for the shoot. It had always been James' idea to photograph me on the bridge in the rush hour only with me not rushing. Originally, we conceived the idea of a much more crowded bridge and perhaps trying out Waterloo Bridge as well and from a more elevated position (him, not me) but I think this shot as it is works better as a portrait with a bit of space around me. I look as if I am wearing fancy dress but my wife remembers when her father used to dress like this in the 1950s and 1960s as did all the other commuters who rushed across this bridge at this hour of the day.

I like being photographed but the best part of the morning was when James and I went for a coffee and a croissant and had a good long chat about matters photographic. He is such a nice guy and it was an easy and relaxing conversation. Eventually, it was time to go and I said goodbye to photographer number 404 and walked back to the Underground over an almost empty London Bridge. I received the images fairly quickly and they were all excellent but we both agreed on this one. 

A nice morning, a nice shoot, a good chat, a lovely guy (him, not me) and a very satisfied model (me, not him). 

Saturday, 14 May 2016

UN PORTRAIT by Nicolas Laborie

UN PORTRAIT by Nicola Laborie

C'est bon, n'est-ce pas?

Don't worry - I am not going to subject you to a blogpost in French, especially my French. This was, in terms of organisation, arranged quite quickly even though I first contacted Nicolas in October 2015 after coming across his work via Twitter. There were only a few emails between us but I had this distinct feeling that it was all going to come together because we both really wanted it to and every email seemed an important and significant step forward. 

I found Nicolas' website when his name came up on Twitter - I am always a sucker for the Wet Plate Collodion method but the work on his website was particularly beautiful and well, modern. So I wrote to him and he responded and immediately we tried to arrange a date to meet but it didn't happen and before I knew it, we were in May and I had announced that my project was to end. Nicolas was one of the people I pursued in order to squeeze him in before the end and at last we arranged a day when he had an hour to spare - and I was late! I arrived outside his studio, panting and sweating and called him as I wasn't sure I had got the right entrance. He said he would come down. This guy appeared wearing what looked like a butcher's apron which was blotchy with all the collodion, silver nitrate and whatever else he had been getting messy with that morning. He beamed as he walked towards me and I felt very welcome. He took me up to his studio which, like many photographers' studios, was an organised mess. I put my bag on his sofa and noticed the pictures of old Hollywood stars on the wall as I did so.

So, in the end, we had about 45 minutes not helped by a plate which kept sticking. But Nicolas knows his stuff and worked quickly and methodically, scuttling to and fro with an infra-red torch on his head, and we got this shot done and I was so pleased with it. Apart from the wonder of seeing it suddenly appear, I was very moved by it for some reason - I think it is something to do with the method of producing the photograph - each one is totally unique and has the stamp of the photographer on it and the little imperfections were there that day and then apart from all that - there I am with downturned mouth, my DBS scar just visible and a little quiff of hair on my otherwise bald pate. 

We were running out of time but Nicolas agreed to do a couple more including a nude which worked well and we both liked the fact that, in the process, my head was obliterated thereby emphasising the nakedness. Yes, I know there is this question of the difference between being nude or naked and what the two words mean but it doesn't concern me - I am either dressed or undressed and if it the latter, then I am nude, naked, bare, unclothed, whatever.

The time was up and Nicholas showed me downstairs where we said a fond farewell and c'est ca! All over in less than an hour. So, voilĂ ! Un Portrait by Nicolas Laborie. Merci beaucoup, Nicolas!

WEBSITE: http://www.nicolaslaborie.com/

Friday, 13 May 2016

PLINTH by Mike South

PLINTH by Mike South

It was a very warm day in May when Mike and I ventured down to the beach at Southwick which has been the location for a number of previous shoots in my project. The beach is unofficially a naturist beach and, as this was the warmest day of the year so far, it was sprinkled with bare bodies but, ironically, mine wasn't one of them. Normally, there would have been nothing I would have liked better than to go for a naked swim but Mike and I had a lot to get done. 

Mike's original sketch

Mike is an extremely agreeable guy with an enthusiasm and a positivity which drive everything he does. I think I first met him in 2014 when I was asked to judge the Film section of the Mervyn Peake Awards which were set up by the family of the writer, the late Mervyn Peake, who suffered with Parkinson's Disease for many years. The awards are administered by the charity, Parkinson's UK, of which I became a member immediately after my diagnosis in 2005. Mike was also judging and we hit it off and he got on well with everyone that day because he is basically that kind of bloke. We exchanged emails tentatively but did not really get down to discussing the possibility of him photographing me until early 2016. Mike works for Parkinson's UK and has produced several films about the illness. As well as being in charge of all the filmmaking for the charity, he has been the photographer at the Mervyn Peake Awards and other functions arranged by them.


My first contact with the people at the Head Office of Parkinson's UK was in connection with my appearance on the Fourth Plinth in 2009 and I think that this may have influenced Mike's idea for a manipulated photograph of me on a plinth waving to another person with Parkinson's standing and waving on a second plinth. This was the main idea and so we started on that one first in front of our naked audience. I wore my trusty old charcoal grey suit and brought along my bowler hat. Then we did the passage shot with me moving into position and finally, I returned to the sea and with the water up to my calves, Mike took a shot of me and then, using the automatic timer, a shot of both of us. Then we packed up and, on our way back over the pebbles, a nude sunbather enquired about what we had been doing and I told her about "Over the Hill".


When I received the set of photographs from Mike a while later, I expected to choose the Plinth shot but also I really like "Passage". Aesthetically, I love the less distinct versions of me in the image - they are like charcoal or water colour dabs rather than parts of the photographic process and I feel that this line represents the passage of time during which the illness has gradually taken a tighter hold although the main figure shows that I have not been completely rubbed out by the condition. The composition is excellent and, for all Mike's infectious bonhomie, it shows that he takes such matters seriously even though we had a lot of fun that day. Mike is a very good photographer and this picture is evidence of that. The other person in the main photograph is Emma Lawton who was diagnosed with Parkinson's three years ago at the age of 29 - I haven't yet met her but hope to do so one day. It is rare for another person to appear in one of the photographs in my project but I think in this case, it is very apt. The project is not about Parkinson's but, without it, there would never have been a project and I would probably never have met or worked with Mike which would have been a great shame.

Me and Mike


Mike's You Tube PLAYLIST
Website - http://mikesouthmakes.com/
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/mikesouthmakes/

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

INTIMACY by Agatha Nitecka

INTIMACY by Agatha Nitecka

Agatha was about three feet away from me when this was taken and so it could hardly have been a more intimate space. We had talked quite a bit before she began shooting (on film) but I think I surprised her (and myself) by how quickly I locked on to the lens in her camera. This could even be the very first shot. It is all in the eyes. The right eye is slightly impassive whilst the left eye is definitely smiling. Afterwards, Agatha said that this photograph seemed to represent the session best and it had the right balance in that it contained something of both of us. She loved the silver tones as well. In fact, everything was grey and silver that day. Horace, Agatha's pet whippet, who lay in the corner seemingly ignoring us, has a beautiful smooth and svelte grey coat. The sky was grey when I arrived in the small estate in South London where Agatha has her studio and the rain fell hard like silver shards being shot from a cannon above. Agatha came running out to welcome me and usher me into the dry. The room where Agatha had set up a back drop was clean and ordered and there were photographs dotted about and all was white with shadows of grey. Agatha's grey was warm and inclusive.

I came across Agatha's work in 2012 and she responded positively to my email but her reply then disappeared into the black hole of forgotten emails for another four years. However, happily this exchange of correspondence meant that my name found its way on to her mailing list and, consequently, I received an email from her in April 2016 promoting her work with silver and I discovered my failure to have answered her last message. I looked at her incredible work again and wrote apologising, begging for forgiveness and another chance. She sent me a delightful reply waving away all my grovelling expressions of remorse and within a few days we had set a date for the shoot. 

I looked again at her work and, in particular, the section headed "Fragments" on her website which contains a series of photographs exploring the intimate and how it is shared. It is based loosely on Roland Barthes' "A Lover's Discourse, Fragments" and she quotes a short excerpt which I shall not repeat her because I want you to read it on her site and then look at her work and understand why I wanted her to photograph me. 

Agatha said that magic would happen and it did but that did not surprise me. I could tell from the way she spoke and the gentleness of her writing that she would conjure up a trail of exploration, discovery and experience and that three feet would seem more like three inches. She asked me to look in different directions and I followed her hand as she did so. She took 36 shots and asked me to wear my white shirt, my black T shirt, no shirt and a white T shirt. The roll of film was used up. It had stopped raining. I put on my coat, said goodbye to Horace and I was glad when Agatha said she would walk to the station with me. I felt that I needed to unwind with her on the way back to the train. I told her of my previous shoot in the area with Lucasz (aka Lucas Lockie). It was so long ago (was it just dream?). We stopped outside the barrier and said goodbye. I watched her walk away without looking back. She didn't walk fast but then, she didn't walk slow.

Monday, 9 May 2016

SILENT MOMENT by Katariina Jarvinen

SILENT MOMENT by Katariina Jarvinen

Not that this was a noisy shoot but we did put on a record - I think it was "Dreamer" by Supertramp - to which I danced in our sitting room either before or after this was taken so this image did mark a silent moment in the day.  Katariina lives locally but I cannot recall exactly how her work came to my notice but come it did in the early summer of 2015. She said that she had not really photographed men before and also that she would like to meet me beforehand so we arranged a meeting at the cafe at Hove Lagoon but, unfortunately, it was the school holidays and, therefore it was full of children who were really not that noisy but loud enough to make it difficult to relax but we were able to begin to get to know each other. Nevertheless, it still took another meeting, this time at my house, to enable us finally to begin to plan the shoot. Katariina had two shoots in mind, one interior probably our house and the other exterior in a morning or evening or even a daytime mist. By this time (late Spring), there were not so many misty days so we put the exterior plan to one side and Katariina came to the house on 9th May 2016 and shot me inside. We spent most time in the sitting room and, as is the usual custom, I put on a vinyl record and that prompted Katariina to suggest that I danced which I did.

Katariina also took some shots through the mirrors - I couldn't take a shot through a mirror for toffee but I do feel that sometimes shots through mirrors don't always work maybe because it is a method often used by portrait photographers. That is not necessarily a bad thing but I think it is important to bring something different to shots like these. Well, as you can see, I ended up choosing such a shot as Katariina's photograph in my project. There are three main reasons for this. First, I love the stillness of the picture. It is quiet and subdued; there is a silence in that it doesn't clamour. Secondly, although it is a strong image, it is passive and my face is without expression; it gives nothing away and I like that because it keeps the viewer guessing. Thirdly, and in some ways, this was the clincher, I love the reflection of the pink of my skin along the right hand side of the shot showing the blurred features of my face squeezed into the bevelled edge of the glass. These factors all combine to make this photograph special and they all come from the delicately probing mind of Katariina who had the skill and acumen to see it before her and to capture it in this wonderful image.

She took some more photographs in other rooms as well as some of me on the balcony (one of which replicated an old photo of a maid standing on our balcony in the 1800s - see above). It was not necessarily an easy job to choose just one shot - I would have been very pleased with a number of others but this was the one I kept coming back to. How lucky am I to have met Katariina? Not only is she an exceptional photographer but she is lovely, friendly person with a smile as warm as an Irish whisky on a cold day; one cannot help but smile back. She is delightful.

"And what is more, we still have a misty shoot to come!", he declared as he danced around the room 

Sunday, 8 May 2016

MY RIGHT FOOT by Imogen Freeland

MY RIGHT FOOT by Imogen Freeland

Now, do you know what this foot has done during the last 65 years? No? Well then I shall tell you. I was always predominately right-footed when I played football unlike the great Glenn Hoddle of Tottenham Hotspur and England who could play sublime football with either foot. I had Polio when I was 7 and it was thought that it only affected the muscle in my right thumb but I loved playing so much that I think, in a small way, it probably affected the whole of the right side of my body. I scored a lovely goal in the University Five-a-side match in about 1973. I was standing on the edge of the penalty area and I called for the ball and smacked it straight into the goal. With my right foot.

Before that I kicked a dent in the door of the sitting room at Berry Cottage, our childhood home in West Wittering. We had no money and my mother, who was terribly romantic, bought a Great Dane from the local Dog Rescue Unit. I couldn't believe how she could do this when we hardly had enough to live on. I didn't understand that, sometimes, we have to fulfil our fantasies and who the hell was I to make a big deal about it? Anyway, it left a dent after I kicked the door. With my right foot.

Two more things. The first relates to my right shin rather than my foot but, as my shin is in this photograph, it has relevance. On 26th September 2011, I was photographed by the great Kirsty Mitchell for her Wonderland project. After the first shot, we moved to a new location. Stupidly, I carried a box of stuff as we set off through the woods and because of this, banged my right leg on a thick branch and a huge lump appeared under my stocking. Eventually, after some weeks, it went down but it never completely disappeared. You can just see it in this photograph. And, finally, I got Cellulitis in my right foot in December 2015 - it was not fun. So nothing very exciting about all that but what is exciting about this picture is that it was taken by Imogen Freeland who spent a few hours at my home photographing me. 


I had never met Imi before but we got on very well. She asked me to undress from the start and we moved from one room to another. The photographs are very stark and bright. Your eyes have nowhere to hide. My body is presented in such a way that challenges the viewer to answer the question - what is a body? A conduit, a casing that houses......me, my essence, my brain, my beliefs, my memories and my fears. This photograph is beautiful. It shows a part of me that is slowly disintegrating but still boasts a resilience, lines from the past and a faltering strength. It speaks for my whole body. It has almost had enough... but not quite. For, as long as I have that urge to run up and kick a ball that comes bouncing my way, I shall keep going. That urge. That urge is me.

I came across Imogen''s work in March 2016. It was intrusive, honest, raw, beautiful. Perhaps at last, I had found what I had been searching for? Someone whose work I could dive into, let it wash over me, drown in. As I answered the door, I wasn't sure. As I made her a cup of tea, I wondered. As I showed her around the house, I hesitated. As I removed my clothes, I blinked. Then she took the first photograph. Yes, this could be it - yes, I think so. Then she photographed my right foot.