|TIM TAKES A BOW by Ben Smith|
I am not normally comfortable having my photograph taken in public in front of lots of people but on this day, it was fine, partly due to having had a good long chat with Ben beforehand and partly due to the fact that Ben was standing very close to me and we were very much in the same zone, cut off from everyone else. It helped that we positioned ourselves right outside Oxford Circus Tube Station where everyone was rushing past and in and out of the station itself, not stopping to look at this guy taking a bow.
The people from Twitter recommended Ben as someone I might wish to follow and I looked up his work and found that I was smiling whilst I was looking and even talking to myself. Every photograph tells a story and makes you chuckle at the same time. It seemed to me that Ben would make an interesting picture and so he did. We arranged the shoot very quickly and met in a cafe off Carnaby Street, a place where weirdly, I had never been to before. We left London in 1964 but I was only 13 then and, by the time I returned to go to London University in 1971, the Swinging Sixties were over. I was always lagging behind in the fashion and music scene. When the Beatles grew moustaches, I was still at school and so I grew mine after they had broken up. I started wearing bell bottoms late and I was still wearing them when everyone else had discarded theirs or taken the bells out of the bottoms. I got into Leonard Cohen years after his heyday and never got into Dylan or the Stones at all until they (and I) were old. Never mind, I have kept my fair isle sleeveless jumper so I can wear it when "Magical Mystery Tour" is finally accepted as the masterpiece it has always been to me. Yep, I am so out of fashion that I am almost in fashion...but not quite.
Anyway, back to Ben. He asked me if there were any places in London which meant a lot to me and I gave him a long list which did not contain the exit from Oxford Street Tube Station but I have come out of that entrance many times over the years - for example, when I went to see "The Great American Backstage Musical" at the Regent Theatre in about 1974, when I went to see "WR Mysteries of the Organism" at the Academy Cinema in 1971 and then later when my wife and I were interviewed on an obscure BBC TV news channel about our joint exhibition at Farley Farm in 2013 which was roundabout the same time I wangled my way into Nadav Kander's Private View of his "Bodies" exhibition. Yes, the same Mr Kander who has now missed the chance of photographing me. Look at me, off on a tangential journey down Memory Lane again.
So Ben and I met in this cafe. He was immediately warm and welcoming in his manner and we had a good old gossip about the photographers we both knew. Ben is the kind of chap that it is easy to bow in front of in a busy London Street. Just look at the expression on my face - see? That's what Ben is like. He said that he had asked someone to assist and after about twenty minutes' natter, a lovely girl called Jess Heale arrived. We chatted some more about what we were going to do and then set off for the station where we set up and I started bowing and Ben started clicking and Jess held the reflector and urged people to keep walking past so that their movement contrasted with my static pose. I suppose we were there for about 45 minutes, maybe more with me bowing to Ben in front of gawping passengers in buses and taxis and shoppers rushing by on the street. We then made our way down to the Photographers' Gallery and Ben took some plain shots outside.
We then all had a snack for lunch and more chat about photography and what Jess was up to following her graduation from Westminster University the year before and that was it. We hugged and said goodbye. Very soon afterwards, Ben sent me three versions of the bow and we both agreed on this one. I love it - it has colour, movement, a dash of poignancy, more than a dash of wit and, as such, it has Ben Smith written all over it. As my namesake, Eamon Andrews, would have said "Tim Andrews, Lawyer, Actor, Model, fashion Icon - This is Your Life!"
Postscript: Ben suggests in his blog on his website that he kind of fucked the photograph up by not using a flash to fix me more sharply. It is a great image for all the reasons mentioned above. It is what it is. It was once to suggested to Paul that it might have been better if some of the songs on The Beatles' White Album had been jettisoned to make an even more brilliant single album to which he replied "But it's the White Album!"