Monday, 21 September 2015

TIM by Lydia Goldblatt

TIM by Lydia Goldblatt

On 22nd May 2010, I wrote to Lydia Goldblatt having seen some photographs of hers in the Guardian Weekend magazine. She did not respond but I am sure that she must have received a massive response to her work. Fortunately, I was reminded of her talent when some more of her work was published in the same magazine a year later. I wrote again and this time she replied, thanking me, praising my project but explaining that she wasn't sure it was the right thing for her. However, about two years after that, I saw her speak at a Mini Click event in Brighton and, after the various speeches, we talked and she was very kind and explained that her previous reluctance to collaborate on a shoot was due to the fact that her father had been been very ill and she had been photographing him and that, therefore, it simply wasn't possible for her emotionally to fit me into that mix but that now she was very keen to do so. Another two years passed but this time we kept in touch regularly trying to pin each other down to a meeting at her flat in London. Finally, we did it and had a wonderful hour or so talking about what we could do. I realised then that Lydia was an extremely committed artist. She takes her work very seriously indeed and, therefore, she does not take it on if she is not in the right place to give it the attention she feels it deserves. 

So, why was I so surprised at the quality of the photographs she took? Why was I so moved when I first saw them and every time I look at them? Well, of course, I knew they would be good but they are not just good, they are superb. And you can see the amount of thought she has given to producing them. I am constantly amazed by the time and effort that photographers invest in taking my photograph but these are special. The colour, the depth, the contrast, the gentle eye that she has cast on my hands. The light which bathes my back in a honeyed glow. The daring displayed in the close ups of my face; I feel almost as if her lens has touched my skin in the process, as if she has climbed into my eye to really discover and understand what lies behind it. But she did all this so gently, so quietly, so intimately.  

She presented them as a grid first of all but then took all the images and presented them as a slideshow of three screens which she preferred. She said that, from the start, she knew how she wanted to make these 'fragments' that built together for a couple of reasons: first, I had been photographed so many times that she felt it was almost impossible to think of me and my image representation any longer as singular - as the project had grown, they had become myriad, multiple. Secondly, given the nature of Parkinsons as something that repeatedly shifts and moves the body and expressions, she wanted to think about how she could represent that photographically and the slideshow of images was like the idea of slowly moving round the body and exploring its movements, in an almost cubist way. 

I understand this but in some ways, the images do not need any clarification. They are simply beautiful. They come from a mind that is beautiful. If you know Lydia, this will not surprise you. If you do not know Lydia, you then have an opportunity to discover this. It will be like watching a butterfly break out of a chrysalis and slowly reveal its beauty before lifting off into the sky and then dropping every so often to touch gently on what interests and inspires it and fires its imagination; each touch is so light, one can hardly feel it and yet one is left so enriched by its short visit that life will never be the same again. She is there, she is gone. Like the fingers of a pianist brushing, rushing delicately over the keys of a piano, like the water in a stream lifting up over pebble and rock in a symphony of sound and sparkle. Yes, if you do not know Lydia Goldblatt, look hard upon the these images. Not hastily. Take your time to enjoy each one before moving on to the next. Then look again at an object or person you love and you will find that your mind has been prised open and that you will discover elements which were present before but which only now are revealed to you. 

Then you will know.

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