|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
- John Lennon