|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.