Saturday, 16 May 2015

LEE MILLER

LEE MILLER (Self Portrait)
It is really because of Lee Miller that my photographic project started. Years ago, her photograph of "The Picnic" was published in a national newspaper and I loved it. That is what got me interested in Photography. And imagine how proud I was when her son, Antony Penrose, asked Jane and I to exhibit at her former home, Farley Farm, in 2013. I popped in to The Friends' Meeting House in Brighton today to say a quick hello to Tony and his daughter, Ami, and the sale looks wonderful with loads of great prints for sale at reasonable prices He told me that an exhibition of her work had just opened in Vienna with another to follow in Edinburgh later this year and then a big exhibition in London. 

I urge you to go along to the sale - details below - you won't be disappointed.


Lee Miller Archive : http://www.leemiller.co.uk/

Film of "Over the Hill and Don't Look Back : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42xRYBaxTTM

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

SAME DIFFERENCE by Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Number One

On her website, Louise Haywood-Schiefer (officially one of the nicest people I have ever met) says that, through working with with photographers like Pal Hansen and Gemma Day, she found that she was able to marry her sociable nature and fascination with people' characters with her love of photography and so began to specialise in Portraits. And her nature is sociablE with a capital E. It is interesting that I found her in Time Out because that is where all this started in May 2007 when I answered an advertisement placed by Graeme Montgomery who wanted models to pose for a book of "real" nudes (as opposed to professional models). I looked up her work on her website and I loved her portraiture, often if not exclusively using natural light and in every photograph, the subject appeared to be having a great time. And I thought, I want to have that sort of great time too and so I wrote to her. 

Number Two

She replied positively and pointed out that she had assisted Pal Hansen quite often but, for some reason, she had not done so on the day of my shoot with him in 2011. She said that she would give the shoot some thought and then come back to me. Well, she kept me waiting for another ten days but then came up with what turned out to be a brilliant idea. This is what she wrote:-

.......It seems to me that so many people have taken your portrait and imposed their own ideas on you, but maybe the way they picture you isn't necessarily the way you see yourself so I would like to explore that idea a little and thought that perhaps we could take your portrait together. Yesterday I had some spare time before a job in Margate so visited the 'Self Portrait' exhibition at the Turner gallery. Whilst there it struck me that it could be an interesting experiment for you to take your portrait of how you see yourself, and then I could take a portrait of you that is either displayed side by side or double exposed on top.

Perhaps we could set up the camera in a fixed spot with fixed focus, then I would leave the room and you could have as much time as you need to take 5 images of yourself, of how you see yourself I suppose. You could be clothed on one or all, nude, wearing different guises, standing or sitting, crying, laughing, whatever you wanted. Then you would return to exactly the clothes you were wearing when I left and I would then proceed to take my five frames without looking at what you had already taken, again I might change your outfit midway through if it was relevant. The images would be used in sequence either side by side or double exposed over the top of what you had already taken.
It's kind of an experiment really, to see if my fleeting understanding of you after meeting just once, is similar to how you see yourself. We could impose a time limit of  up to an hour, for me to complete my five frames, which would allow us time to have a chat in the interim.
I would want it to be collaborative though.......

Number Three

And collaborative it was. I gave this suggestion a great deal of thought (about three seconds) and replied that I would love to do and we set up a shoot at the house of a friend of hers who lives near Crystal Palace. I felt it should be somewhere neutral and she felt that it should have the feeling of "home"and this fitted both bills.

Number Four

So, the day I walked into this flat, I met Louise for the first time although she explained that, in fact, she had seen me o the Tube a few weeks previously. She gave me a very warm welcome and we were friends immediately. We both admitted that we were nervous but also that we were very excited. We had a coffee to help us calm down and we talked about what we were going to do. She had set up a mini studio in her friend's sitting room and had taped a small area in the corner by the window where I was to stand - she then checked the focus again and finally, eventually, well, she left me on my own (gulp). 

Number Five

I had thought about my poses and all I had decided was to dance in one and be nude in at least one other. I plugged in my ipod shuffle and found "Dreamer" by Supertramp which I love to dance to but when I pointed the remote control at the camera, it didn't work. It tried it again and again and then it clicked and so the first shot shows me looking genuinely worried - not posed at all - and so it is completely unique in that respect. The next shot was ok and by then I was dancing although I felt slightly constrained by having to point the remote control at the camera. For the third and fourth shots, I thought I would first lean against the wall, clothed, and then adopt the same position naked.  The fifth shot was also naked and for that I pressed myself against the wall. All the time, I was conscious of Louise waiting in the other room and also I had this feeling that the camera was watching me so, even when I wasn't pressing the shutter, I felt like I was being examined. Then I moved the chair into the taped off area and crouched and looked into the lens. I knew I should try to relax but I was driven on to the next shot where I turned my back and tensed all my puny muscles into a sort of agonised pose flicking the remote control over my shoulder. The next shot was more of the same but this time I knelt down on the floor. 

Number Six

That was enough nakedness. I put on my jeans and tried to look powerful and menacing and that was it. It could only have taken about fifteen minutes at the most. I felt very strange - as if I had been caught out and that there was nothing I could do to rectify the situation.The pictures were on that camera and Louise would be exposing them to the world very soon indeed. And yet, how exciting is that? Through Louise, I had taken some of the most honest self portraits I had ever done and, when I called her back into the room, I felt almost euphoric.
Number Seven

Of course, then the pressure was on Louise. It was odd that I had had my photograph taken by 339 photographers and Louise had taken thousands of professional photographs and yet here we were in a real state over this. Louise asked me to put on the jacket I was wearing when I arrived and to hold my bag and so that was her first picture. Then we chatted. Before, over our coffee, she had started to ask me about how the whole project began but then stopped me and said that could wait until later and so she asked me again to talk about the beginning but of course, she had to rein in her normal practice of clicking away as I talked. She restricted herself to three of those clicks and then asked me to put on a different jacket and trousers and to come to the front of my little space and lean forward. Then she liked the way I put my hand to my face and she asked me to do that again but to be menacing. I removed my jacket at her request and leaned back against the wall and I think this was when she captured me making a funny face about the awkwardness of the situation. The last two were more normal. One leaning against the wall and smiling and then finally, looking out of the window and thinking of something very pleasant. And that was it. 

Number Eight

Of course, we were desperate to look at them and so we skedaddled back to the kitchen like a couple of kids to look at them on her laptop. It was fascinating and even more so when she put our respective shots side by side in the order in which they were taken at the same time discovering that we had taken the same number of shots. They all seemed to work so well together. I tried to choose one set that I liked best of all and so did Louise but I realised that they all had to be included and, if they are ever exhibited, they should be together in one frame. Well, we had done it. We both felt a real sense of achievement but there was one more thing to do - take a picture of us both together. We returned to the space and Louise suggested a Kung Fu Kick Boxing type pose. 

Number Nine

And that was it - a thoroughly fulfilling experience with a thoroughly nice person. I am so bloody lucky meeting and working with people like Louise. We had a quick look at one of my films, with her friend who by then had returned from her pregnancy yoga class, and then said goodbye and wandered back to Gipsy Hill train station. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and I was smiLing.......with a capital L. 

Me and Louise

Monday, 11 May 2015

OVER THE HILL: A PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY

OVER THE HILL by Roberto Foddai

          
‘Alright boys, this is it, over the hill’ is the intro of the song “Bring on Lucie” by John Lennon and, although the phrase ‘over the hill’ has somewhat negative connotations, it is announced on the record in a very positive way by Lennon who goes on to sing ‘Do it, do it, do it, do it now!’ and so, for me, the title of this exhibition is optimistic despite the double meaning.

In May 2007, I answered an advertisement in Time Out from Graeme Montgomery, whom I know now to be an extremely talented professional photographer. He was compiling a book of nudes and wanted to photograph the first 100 people to answer the advert so I thought ‘why not?’ and went along and found that I was number one! Strangely enough, two other photographers advertised in the following two issues of Time Out, this time for people to pose for portraits, and they both photographed me subsequently. That was that for a while until, in February 2008, I answered an advert in our local newspaper from a student, Daisy Lang, who wanted to photograph people with illnesses for her final year’s project. Subsequently, I discovered that there were many photographers advertising on the Internet for models for particular projects. I wrote an email to the first photographer explaining that I was 57 and had Parkinson’s Disease and that ‘I wanted to continue on my path of being photographed by different people during the course of my illness’. Suddenly, as I wrote those words, I realised that I had my own project.

Since then, over 300 different photographers have photographed and filmed me and it has been incredibly interesting and exciting as I have seen the project develop day by day. I have met many wonderful, skilful people many of whom, normally, I would never have met let alone spent several hours with them.

It has been a fascinating journey. I have always loved photography but never had the patience or skill to practice it successfully. However, being a model has enabled me to collaborate with brilliant practitioners of the art and to be part of the artistic photographic process.

I decided on "Over the Hill" as the title of the project in January 2009 but I had not discussed this with anyone until I met Roberto Foddai a few weeks later to talk about his ideas for our shoot. He produced two pieces of headgear he wanted me to wear and said that one of them had some wording on it which he felt was somewhat ironic. He turned it over and on the front were the words  – ‘Over the Hill’.


This project is dedicated to my wife the artist, Jane Andrews, who has taught me about integrity, truth and wisdom through acts, words and deeds all of which are encompassed in her truly wonderful paintings which can be found on www.janeandrews.co.uk

Free the people, now.
Do it, do it, do it, do it now.

Tim Andrews


Friday, 8 May 2015

THREE IS NOT A CROWD - Al Brydon and Jacqui Booth.

8th May 2015 - Election Day. I was up early and walked to the Polling Station and received a pleasant smile from a guy wearing a Lib Dem badge and wondered how much he would be smiling later. I can't help feeling that his party had been weakened by allying themselves to the Conservative Party in the Coalition Government not necessarily because it was the Tories but because they had not really seemed to have flexed their muscles whilst in government but, quite frankly, what do I know?

An hour and a half later I was on my way to London. Two hours later, I was on my way to London. Two and a half hours later, I was on my way to London. The driver explained that it was a signalling fault which appeared to be cured by a guy in an orange jacket wielding a train-sized spanner. But, by then, I had missed my connection to Sheffield at St Pancreas - not sure how much more I can stomach unexplained delays on the rail network. I caught the next train and an hour and two minutes later we arrived (bang on time) in Leicester and the delightful Jacqui Booth clambered on with what looked like a large yellow case of bricks from the way in which she struggled to lift it on to the luggage rack. We were off - on our way to meet the great Al Brydon in Sheffield for a double shoot - I am pretty sure that this was the first time I had been photographed by two photographers at the same time - oh apart from when Suzanne Plunkett came along to record some of the shoots - not quite the same as this though. 

Al met us at the station and our little band was complete. Al put all our stuff in the boot and I swear that, when Jacqui's case went in, the front of the car lifted up. And then......and then......well, that is for next time. I am going to close my eyes now and think of.... of Al and Jacqui chatting in the front and Al looking in his rear view mirror as I chimed in whilst outside the streets of Sheffield were transformed into country lanes bounded by hedgerows bearing the luscious green of spring......fields bounded by dry-stone walls (how long it must have taken to build them in the first place)......we pass a field with what looked like two ostriches in it......two tractors parked on a grass verge......a pub....I tell a story of a recent shoot and there are laughs when I came to the punchline.........Al having met both Rob Hudson and Brian David Stevens recently........tales of Leicester life from Jacqui......

I open my eyes. I am home thinking back on a wonderful time with two of the nicest of nice people but..........that's all for now........

Thursday, 30 April 2015

SLIPPING IN THE UNKNOWN by Kathy Foote

SLIPPING IN THE UNKNOWN by Kathy Foote

I walked into the reception area of Bristol South Swimming Pool and Kathy jumped up and said "Hi Tim!" - we had never met before but it was such a warm, friendly greeting that really set the mood for the rest of the morning. Kathy originally wrote to me in May 2014 asking if she could photograph me as part of the project but it could not have been a worse time to write to me as I was just about to undergo my Deep Brain Stimulation surgery and I was not at all good. It is unusual for me to receive such a request as it is normally the other way round - I contact the photographer. Anyway, unfortunately for Kathy, although I replied to her initial email, my correspondence with her got forgotten by me in the aftermath of the operation - but not by Kathy. She sent me a private message on Twitter some months later to which I eventually responded (forgetting that we had already been in contact) and we were back on track again. Her first idea was an underwater shoot and that is why I found myself in Bristol South Swimming Pool on 30th April 2015.

Kathy introduced me to the manager of the pool, Max Wilshaw, a very nice guy who was also very enthusiastic about the project and helping both Kathy and I to set up the shoot. By then the pool had been cleared for us and, apart from one of the lifeguards, it was completely empty. Kathy closed all the curtains in the cubicles which surrounded the pool as I got into my brand new scarlet trunks. I couldn't wait to get into the water. I am not a great swimmer but I do love swimming and having the pool all to myself was glorious. Kathy got changed into her swimsuit and first of all took some overhead shots from the balcony but then joined me in the water. She had borrowed a tiny underwater camera from Shawn Sobers, who had filmed me in 2012 and who is her former tutor at UWE Bristol. She had already sent me some test shots and so I had some idea of what to expect. Fortunately, it was quite sunny outside and so every so often the sun shone through the windows of the building and lit up patches of water and my body under it. We tried various moves eg me curled up under the surface of the water and then treading water to produce a rush of bubbles although I don't think that I was so good at the latter but I was pleased at the amount of time I could hold my breath underwater.


We had talked beforehand about also shooting me in the nude and Kathy asked me to remove my trunks fairly early on and I think she felt this was much more successful because the light on my body looked beautiful whereas I think the bright red of the trunks (snazzy as they were) was a distraction. I love swimming with nothing on - it feels so natural to me and I loved every minute of this shoot because I had the whole pool to myself and Kathy was very clear with her direction and also very encouraging with her comments. I suppose we had been in there for about an hour when Kathy called a halt and said that she was very happy with what she had got. Often, when the photographer brings a shoot to an end, I feel frustrated but my fingers were just beginning to get a little chilly and mottled so I didn't mind.


We got dressed, said goodbye to Max and went for a drink at the local cafe and a very nice chat about this and that. Kathy is a very easy person to talk to and I was very interested in her this and she appeared to be equally interested in my that and vice versa. It was then time to say goodbye and we hugged in the street before she went her way and I went mine to catch the bus back to the centre of Bristol.

Kathy and me

It had been a lovely couple of days in Bristol. I travelled up there the day before the shoot and stayed the night with my very good friend, John. We went to university together and have remained the best of friends ever since. He is very kind and very witty and I love spending time with him. Also, before meeting John, I nipped over to the BBC to have a quick chat with Lucy whom I had met in Brighton when she was making a film about her grandfather who has Parkinson's although I felt my age when the receptionist in the lobby of the BBC said to Lucy ''Is this your Dad?". After the shoot, I had an extremely enjoyable lunch with Lin, another very good friend from University so all in all, an excellent trip.

But then, guess what happened? I received four photographs from Kathy and they were amazing. They were assured and professional but they were also inspiring and beautiful. The one at the top which I chose for the project is marvellous. It speaks of isolation but at the same time of collaboration and of pain but also of pleasure and fortitude. I wasn't expecting that. I felt confident, having seen Kathy's test shots, that they would work artistically but I wasn't prepared for how much they would move me. This main image bursts with life and vigour emphasised by the beautiful light on my body which is seemingly trapped in what looks like an alien world. Kathy has produced a picture that bears comparison with many of the shots in this project taken by more well known photographers. It is simply wonderful. 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

EVAN HAS A SISTER

There is no photograph to accompany this post but it has everything to do with my photographic project. In the the eight years I have been photographed I have met many wonderful people, hugely talented artists each one, but what I have loved most are the friendships I have forged with people that, in the normal course of events, I would never have met.

One such person is Natalie Dybisz who some of you may be aware lost Evan, the son born to her and Matthew. Well, Evan now has a sister and she is Lilith and I am so happy for the family that has borne such sadness and such joy. They have learned things about our existence in this world that many people will never learn - it is all so magical. 

Natalie, Matthew, Evan and Lilith - I send my fondest love to you all and my grateful thanks for having been guided towards you by Natalie's wonderful, beautiful and magical artistry and love. 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

PERFECTION by Marta Kochanek

PERFECTION by Marta Kochanek

Marta has now sent me the remaining images from our shoot in March including this beautiful photograph. This says everything about her skill and and love of her art and of people and our professional relationship. She is fearless and committed and she makes me feel so in tune with her during a shoot that I relax totally and I know for certain that she will produce perfection - not in every shot but each shot is taking her closer to the perfect image and this is it.

I would travel any where and at any time to be photographed by Marta. I shall never forget seeing her lovely smiling face as she opened the door of her studio and let me in - I had not seen her for about 4 years but her eyes and her smile were infused with enthusiasm and excitement. And look at this photograph. The light is gorgeous and my skin looks beautiful. My thoughts seem to be looking beyond the room but in reality they are there intermingling with Marta's vision which is being fully realised in this one shot. 




Mm-mm! 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Marta Kochanek, one of the great photographers.

WEBSITE: http://www.martakochanek.com/



  

MARTA KOCHANEK Part One



I wake at about 5.30am and take my medication, "my little beauties" as I used to call them, I go downstairs to watch the highlights of the England football game which was played last night but which I missed, willingly sacrificing the pleasure of watching Harry Kane, "one of our own", making his debut in order to take Jane out to dinner and have a serious talk. Of course, our 'Arry scores. I creep back upstairs to wash and the bedroom door is open. Jane wants to be sure that I say goodbye before I leave to catch the train to Birmingham.  I wash, I shave, I clean my teeth, I dress and I smell the soft familiar mugginess of sleep on Jane as she stretches up that elegant neck of hers into a soft farewell kiss. There is wisp of warmth in the air as I step outside and run to catch the Number 6 bus to the station where I collect my tickets to Birmingham New Street.

Why Birmingham? Because over the past few weeks I have nagged away at Marta to photograph me again. She photographed me in 2011 and we had such fun that day with flour and water and complete and utter abandon. Yet, no matter how delirious the shoot is with Marta, she is always running to a well thought out plan; a plan that still allows some improvisation, some high jinks and laughter. 

The rest of my journey is unremarkable except that I read that the Agnes Varda is coming to the Brighton Festival and I try in vain to book some tickets over the telephone. 

As I emerge from the packed New Street station in Birmingham I feel Marta pulling me to her like a magnet. I am a little lost and so I ask a flower seller to direct me to Snow Hill where I am to catch the Metro to the Jewellery Quarter. A man handing out MacDonalds vouchers near a surprisingly small cathedral redirects me (in return for a voucher) and, for a return trip to the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham, I pay the princely sum of £2. It feels like a special gift to me to charge that small amount to travel where I want to go. I arrive and share the lift with a fellow passenger, an old woman, whom I ask to direct me to Vyse Street - it is the road abutting the station exit. I find the address within moments and Marta comes tumbling down the stairs to hug me. She shows me into her studio and immediately it feels right. She introduces me to Barbara, another Polish photographer, who shares her studio and I accept her offer of a cup of tea. As I settle down on the bright green setee, the tea arrives in the most exquisite cup and saucer with jug and sugar bowl to match. Marta explains that these were a gift from her grandmother and immediately I want to be transported to Poland to meet her and the rest of Marta's family. Marta is ready to go but she has allocated time to catch up on the last four years. She talks about the development of her work and finding the studio with the magnolia paint on the ceiling and I talk about the the progress of the project. Marta asks after Jane.


But we both want to get started. Marta has asked me to bring a coat and a hat and I assumed incorrectly that some of the shots would be clothed. However, she asks me to undress and, as four years ago, I do not put on my clothes until the last shot is taken. Every shot is pre-planned and logged in Marta's head and she introduces each pose with a glint of delight in her eyes. She loves what she does. She talks intermittently of directing clients who come to her studio and I realise that the student I met before has become the teacher. Marta Kochanek was always going to succeed. I make the odd small suggestion after she shows me how she wants me to sit, to stand, to lean, to lie, to look whilst she and Barbara move props and platforms, a curtain and the setee around the room. 

Marta and me by Barbara Gibson

There is nothing negative about Marta - everything is possible. We have a cup of coffee, again served in her grandmother;s cup and I make a joke about stealing them before I go. It is time to go and I hug Marta once again, even harder than before. I need to take some of her positive energy away with me. I hug my new friend, Barbara, too and wish her well with her English which she is slowly but surely finding the confidence to speak. As I leave, Marta asks me to give her love to Jane whom she has never met although I know they would like each other. I arrive home and text to tell her that I have reached Brighton safely as she insisted I did. Before I turn off the computer, there is a rush of tweets with two photographs of the day and then, in the morning an email with her thanks and, as she promised, a photograph of the cup and saucer. The wind rushes and whistles against the window as I write this. Marta is waking and maybe has already got up to look at the photographs from the shoot that she has decided to edit. I feel a connection across the country from my brain to hers. I feel a deep friendship. A respect. Love and understanding.
Our Selfie

Sunday, 15 March 2015

TALK at CITY OF LONDON & CRIPPLEGATE PHOTOGRAPHIC SOCIETY

BOX by Liz Orton
I am giving a talk on my project, "Over the HIll" at 6.45pm on Tuesday 17th March 2015 at The City of London & Cripplegate Photographic Society a St Joseph's Church Hall Lamb's Passage London EC1Y 8EL. 

I shall be showing about 30 photographs and 3 films during the first part of the evening and then there will be a Q&A session and discussion in the second part.


Non-members are welcome but there will be a small charge (No, I don't know how much but it will be small) on the door

Friday, 6 March 2015

TRANQUILITY by Celine Marchbank

TRANQUILITY by Celine Marchbank
I liked Celine's work a lot when I first looked at her website after coming across her name on Twitter but it was the way she talked about her late mother that affected me particularly. I wrote and told her so and explained that my late sister had died in the month of October, although many years before her mother who had also died in the month of October. Nothing especially significant in that except Celine loved her mother and I loved my sister, Janet, and when one knows that someone else has experienced the same loss, there is an immediate connection. I don't know. Somehow, it was important.

The shoot was arranged quite quickly and on 6th March 2015, Celine arrived on our doorstep. Her eyes said a lot about her sensitivity and calmness and it did not surprise me to hear that two of her photographer friends were Laura Hynd who had photographed me in 2011 and Briony Campbell who had photographed me in 2014 as both Laura and Briony are thoughtful and empathetic people. We chatted with Jane for a short while and then I showed her around the house and she plumped for our sitting room as a suitable location. I am in the process of making a special film for Easter one scene of which was going to involve a jigsaw - I say 'was' because I am not a jigsaw person and so, based on my progress so far, I think this jigsaw scene may have to wait until 2016. Anyway, Celine was happy to record me puzzling over it whilst I chatted about various things - family, possessions, previous shoots. 


It was a very laidback and quiet shoot and we both knew when it had come to the end. Normally, I can be quite frustrated that I have to stop but this time it didn't seem to matter so much. The morning just rolled out like a rug and when the last bit flopped down with the last click of Celine's camera, we stood back and thought "Yeah, that will do". Celine indulged me by watching some of my films afterwards and then she left as quietly and unobtrusively as she had arrived.

A couple of weeks passed. I received a set of five photographs all the same, all different, all beautiful. I could have chosen any one of them and it would have been the perfect choice. I wrote to say that I was very pleased and very proud of Celine, her work and the image that I had chosen. She replied approving my choice and she ended her message by saying that she hoped our paths cross again at some point. They might do. They might not. But what a nice thing to hope for.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

ROGER A. DESTROYER by Stewart Weir

ROGER A. DESTROYER by Stewart Weir

Many years ago, Jane and I were having dinner with two of our greatest friends, whose names will not be divulged in order to protect the innocent. Anyway, these two friends, Helen and Nick, produced a book of weird real names one of which was "Roger A. Destroyer". So he is out there somewhere. Following this discovery, I began to write to to Helen and Nick as Roger who gradually evolved into this ex-Army colonial guy with a bad-tempered, suspicious wife. Then I discovered You Tube and Roger became an overnight sensation over night, racking up as many as 45 views per film. Viral was not the word - in fact more of a small sniffle than a virus. Nevertheless, Roger carried on undaunted and soon he became the regular host of the Christmas and Easter specials produced by Ravenswood Films and, in so doing, cornered the ex-Army colonial market in seasonal film specials. In fact, I don't know why I am bothering to write all this as he is now so well known.

Seriously, I am very fond of Roger because he is a thoroughly likeable person. So when Stewart suggested that he photograph Roger, I was elated. So, where did Stewart come from? Well, unusually, I was approached by him rather than the other way round. First of all, in July 2014, he wrote to a photographer who had already photographed me and his message was forwarded on to me. But that was a slightly strange time for me because I had only come out of hospital about six weeks before and I was feeling a bit odd and lacking in confidence and so Stewart became lost in a morass of unanswered correspondence. But Stewart did not give up: he wrote to Jane asking her to ask me to contact him and contact him I did and we set up a meeting in cafe where we talked about the project and his enthusiasm for it. He is such a nice bloke and so I knew that we would have a good shoot. I cannot remember how Roger Destroyer became the focus of our collaboration but, in the weeks that followed, we exchanged emails about a possible location for Roger to be photographed but this never really came to anything and eventually, we ended up agreeing that Roger should be captured in his own habitat - my house.

On the day of the shoot, Stewart arrived, raring to go. I showed him around the house and he went for the basement first because of the lovely gentle light down there. He wanted to experiment and we talked about various poses, both topless and clothed and ended up with me naked and screaming silently, raging against my illness and we checked the images in the back of the camera and they really worked well. 

But Roger was waiting in the wings and we went into the sitting room for those and I have to say that these worked superbly. Stewart really understood Roger and my fondness for him and I think he has captured the essence of the man wonderfully well in this shot. And, by then, we were both more relaxed having got some good shots already under our belts. Stewart sent me a selection very soon after the shoot - in fact I  think it was the next day -  he doesn't let the grass grow under his feet - and they were good, very good but there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that Roger was going to be Stewart's contribution to my project. I am always impressed by how good photographers capture the inner truth of the person whose portrait they are taking and this is no exception. Yes, I am not really Roger but he is real to me and Stewart recognised this and has produced this wonderful image. I am so proud of this.

Stewart Weir : www.instagram.com/stewartweir

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

A PINTOF BEER by Kathy Archbold

A PINT OF BEER by Kathy Archbold

If I go into a pub for a drink, I have to order a pint of beer. Not a half pint, not a glass of wine or a soft drink but a PINT of BEER. There are some great London pubs and this was a nice one on Vauxhall Bridge Road in Victoria but I regret that I cannot recall its name. If I do remember or if I come across the pub again, I shall amend this post. 

I saw Kathy's work on Flickr in 2011 and I wrote to her and she agreed to photograph me but, at the time, we were right in the middle of moving to Brighton and so the email correspondence got buried under all the stuff that surrounds a move. But I saw some of her work again in early 2014 and I was reminded of her talent. She has an eye for people and places, a more colourful and optimistic celebration of today's Britain than that displayed by more celebrated photographers (I can think of one in particular) but maybe that has something to do with her own tendency to look for what is good and bright and hopeful in our world rather than for what is coarse, depressing and dull. Both attitudes are valid but I know which one I prefer. Kathy and I met outside WH Smiths on Victoria Station and went round the corner for a coffee where we chatted and got to know each other. She told me about her celebrity cat who paid for his keep with his pictures on Getty Images. She told me about how she got into photography in the first place and her subsequent career which took her to New York for a while. Now and again, she raised one of her cameras (she had both a film camera and a digital version) and clicked.  She asked me to stand by a glass partition. I didn't really feel I was posing which was fortunate because often I am uncomfortable when I am photographed in public. 
The Glass Partition shot

We then left the station concours and wandered down towards the river and stopped at various places on the way where Kathy took photographs of me in front of buildings which she would have photographed anyway, if I had not been there. By  now, it was getting a bit chilly and so we ducked into the nearest pub after a couple more shots and thereby abandoned our trip to the Thames. We both had a drink and this is where this shot was taken. What do I like about this shot? Well, I have my pint of beer. I am smiling. I like the red leather of the armchair next to me contrasting with the blues and the browns. My left hand is hovering at the edge of the table, ready to pick up the glass. I like the light coming in through the window but most of all I like the photograph because it reminds me of Kathy who was a real pleasure to meet and spend time with. She illuminates ordinary things and makes the world a better place in the process. No one else other than Kathy could have taken this picture because no one else apart from Kathy would have elicited such an expression on my face.

She sent me about five shots afterwards - she wasn't entirely sure about the shot in front of the glass partition on the station because of her doubts as to the layering and maybe because of this uncertainty on her part, I didn't choose it but looking at it again, it is an excellent shot. Kathy was particularly taken by the woman in the red coat behind me who, due to the layering, appears twice.

Well, there we are -  Kathy Archbold. Good isn't she?

Friday, 20 February 2015

MISSING BUILDINGS by Thom and Beth Atkinson


I was born in 1951, only 6 years after the end of the Second World War, and I remember a number of shopping trips and other visits to central London with my mother from my home in Finchley when, from the top of the bus, I would see bombed out buildings awaiting demolition. Therefore, I found it really interesting to hear from Thom Atkinson who came to photograph me in 2009. He has told me about a self-publishing project he and his sister, Beth, have been working on. There are some pictures and information here at their imprint website - www.hwaetbooks.com

The project they are publishing is entitled Missing Buildings and, in a nutshell, it is about the physical and mythological legacy of the London Blitz. 

It is an amazing book full of wonderful, haunting pictures of these buildings. I found myself looking at the weird outlines of the missing buildings against the ones which had survived and wondering who had been living there, were they killed, what pictures had been fixed to the exposed interior of the party wall? There is so much to see and ponder on even though it is just an empty space. And now, 70 years after the end of the War, there is still a presence there.

You can pre-order one of a limited edition of 100 copies of the book individually numbered and signed by Thom and Beth Atkinson which will include a numbered and signed 10x8 print of your choice and your name will be printed in both the Limited and the forthcoming Trade Edition. To pre-order your copy, you should contact Hwaet Books direct. 




Saturday, 14 February 2015

FAITH by Alison Bettles

FAITH by Alison Bettles
At four o'clock in the afternoon on 12th November 2014, I walked into The Basket Makers pub in Brighton and bought a pint of beer and sat down at a table near the wall. The pub was dark and comfortable, the barmaid's welcome had been pleasant and well meaning and there was a lazy hum of conversation in the air. I took off my coat and took a sip from my glass. The door opened and Alison stepped into the bar and looked over to me and smiled. It was a confident smile of recognition, of delight, of expectation. I knew from that moment that our collaboration would work well. We talked for a long time and, during the conversation, she said that she would like to use Lucien Freud's paintings as a reference for the shoot. I was beginning to be seduced, not by Alison but by her ideas. I wrote a rambling email to her the next day with vague ideas about brush strokes on the body but, as we had discussed at our meeting, these were really just notes and thoughts which would never be likely to end up in the final images but might influence how the shoot would progress. She replied with some examples of early Victorian nude photography and gradually we were creeping towards the unravelling of the feeling of total abandon which I was able to express at the shoot.

We agreed to meet at the gallery where the shoot was to take place and she showed me this enormous space and described how she intended to set up the shot in the middle maybe with a sheet for me to sit and lie on. It was now coming together in our minds and the anticipation was growing. The shoot itself took place on St. Valentine's Day 2015. That morning, I had shown Jane, Tom and Florence the Valentine's Day film I had made and I felt very much connected and in love with them all and so, it was with a song in my heart that I set off for the shoot. 

Alison welcomed me with a quiet warmth that spoke of a recognition of a short-lived but trusting friendship. We had a cup of tea and I was introduced to a few of her colleagues as they left to go home and then we made our way into our temporary studio. Everything was ready - Alison had created a bed covered by a crumpled sheet and had had the forethought to place a soft mattress underneath. She showed me some of Freud's paintings and then we got started. After about half an hour, I took a break and we looked at the photographs she had already taken but I knew that we had not yet achieved what we were looking for - or rather, that of which I was capable. I owed her more than this. I returned to the sheets with renewed intent and I went for it. I opened myself up and almost forgot that Alison was there but she was there clicking away as I twisted myself into shapes and spams of emotion and passion, all the while aware of Freud's own intensity and lush strokes of the pink and brown of flesh and skin.

Alison's recent work had been still life pictures of piles of books and jugs and glasses - domestic, normal household objects which spoke of the people who used them, rubbed their hands on them and picked them up and put them down. I had thought that photographing me was a departure but it was more an extension, a viewing of the body as yet another object which can inhabit a home space like any other. A rude, ruddy shape of bone and muscle. 

This photograph was taken in this second session and speaks of the communion of artist and subject, each with total faith in the other's ability to capture the beautiful baseness of humanity and hold it aloft and let it crumble and fall where it will, to be sucked into the earth, to feed and nourish, to regrow, to live and die. I love this photograph.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

FACE UP by Auriane Defert



FACE UP by Auriane Defert

It is messy. It is raw. It is simple. It is vibrant. Auriane's work is all these things and more. She captures everyday life in all its ordinariness and plonks it in front of you for you to stop and think and wonder who these people are. It is not pretty or stylised but it it honest and true and, when I saw it, I wondered how I would look in a photograph by Auriane Defert. She doesn't ask you to pose for her - she sets you down in a place and she points the camera at your face, your world and there we are. As it is. Everything is stripped away. The veneer has been scraped off, roughly, but it is done quietly and with thought. This was not a quick shoot. We talked when she arrived at the house, we had tea and then we moved slowly around the rooms before Auriane decided where to start. She asked me to remove my shirt and it began. She seemed nervous but that was a nervous energy which she appeared to feed off and which is an essential element of her working methods. One other element is that she only works in 35mm.
I haven't had any photographs like this taken before but that was what I wanted but it was very interesting having a different brush applied. And, when I received the photographs from her, they surprised me. I had forgotten what I had been seeking when I first saw her work on Flickr. I looked through them all and there I was - hairy, overweight, awkward being examined by this camera held by this young photographer who isn't prepared to compromise and whose only aim is to tell it like it is. And this is how it was on 11th February 2015. I was intrigued, fascinated, impressed, flattered and very proud indeed that a photographer such as Auriane should be prepared to take time out to come all the way to Brighton to photograph the likes of me. 


We had another cup of tea and then I subjected her to some of my films and then she left, as quietly as she had arrived, with no fuss but leaving behind a memory of a very pleasant few hours spent with a lovely person who looks at life and the people in it, drops them into a paper bag and pushes how own breath in and then bangs her hands together and the contents explode and spurt and then she stands over the fall out and records it.  



WE ARE SOME WILD CHILDREN: http://www.wearesomewildchildren.co.uk/

Saturday, 31 January 2015

LOOK AWAY by Sheryl Tait

LOOK AWAY by Sheryl Tait

January is possibly the bleakest month of the year but not when you are being photographed by a photographer as inventive as the lovely Sheryl Tait which is what happened to me on 31st January 2015. I cannot remember how I came across Sheryl's work but when I saw it, I was struck by how different each of her photographs were. It seemed to me that Sheryl did not have a 'style' but that her photographs were fed by her natural interest in her subjects and her desire to tell their story; each photograph is as unique as the subject.

I used to do some acting and indeed an actor is what I always wanted to be and some people have suggested that I might want to to go back to that now I am retired but the reason I don't want to is that I know that my illness will get in the the way of me performing well. Before my surgery, it would have been mainly my tremor and since my surgery, it would be a mixture of things. But if I was not able to give as good a performance as I would have done if I was not ill, then I just don't want to do it - I don't want people to say that I have performed well considering that I have Parkinson's Disease. I want it to be good anyway. And this is why I want to go further in my shoots physically and emotionally - this is why I am prepared to stand naked on a beach in January. I want to make up for the fact that I have Parkinson's. Mind you, it helps if two people like Sheryl and Jordi are around as they are such considerate people. They made me feel safe and cared for.


We had talked briefly before about what we were going to do on the beach but the tempting of seagulls with chips idea was ditched which was a relief! We had to hire a taxi to ferry us to the beach as Jane had used the car to go to the studio. It was a bit windy and quite cold and, although there was a small family group with a couple of dogs on the beach, they departed at the right moment to enable the shots with the red scarf to proceed. Eventually, we finished and I have to say that, although I was feeling some physical discomfort, once we got started, I did feel that I could have gone on for a little while longer. We called the taxi company who were extremely unhelpful about a pick up but eventually, it was sorted and we were on the way back home. This is where the the third set of shots were taken followed by a Tim Andrews filmfest which Sheryl and Jordi endured with good grace. 



A short while later, I received three stunning images each one very different to the others as you can see. Sheryl did not try to influence my decision and I went for the shot from the last session because there I am. Me. Unadorned. Connecting with the photographer and through her, the viewer. In many ways, it is as naked and theatrical as the others but with this added engagement. It is beautiful. 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

INTIMACY by Magda Rakita

INTIMACY by Magda Rakita
I watched "House of Cards" last night. The performances by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright were so moving. There is so much about the people they play which is bad and cruel, calculating and ambitious - but in this episode, they showed such a deep love for each other. It was inspirational acting and I wished for one short whisper of a moment that I could do it again because, when you have the opportunity of acting in that way, you become that person and live that life and breathe that breath and think those thoughts and it is wonderful. On the one hand, you are just pretending to be another person but, on the other hand, you are that person. He leaves a present on her pillow and she goes into his bedroom where he is sleeping on his side. She slides into bed and puts her arm around him and he wakes and clutches her hand. It is not a sexual moment as such but it says so much about them and their closeness. Their intimacy.

I met Magda at Photo Forum whenI gave a talk there a couple of years ago and then we met at a cafe in Mornington Crescent and talked through some ideas and ended up with this plan to photograph me inside an old window frame possibly on the beach. But we could never find the right sort of frame. Nevertheless, we kept in touch and then recently, Magda said that she had started this project about intimacy in older age and asked if she could come over and photograph me and also interview me about my thoughts on Intimacy. 

Whilst she was here, this is some of what I said to her :-

My intimacy with Jane is totally different from any other type of relationship.  The intimacy that I have with Jane.. is based on years of love and understanding. And arguments, and touch and looks... if you want to have really satisfying relationship... then it's got to be based on an understanding and an acceptance of who you both are.  And that's what’s important. 

In this photograph, I can see what I am thinking. It is a mixture of seriousness and hope. An acceptance of how things are and how they are going to be allied to an optimism that knows no bounds. The image is crisp, full of light and texture. It is full of what I love so much about this project, this life, Jane and photography. It is full of hope. 

And Magda captured all that in one click of her finger.

WEBSITE: http://www.magdarakita.com/

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

FLORENCE

FLORENCE

I have written about my son, Tom, in this blog but not about my daughter, Florence, because she has not taken a photograph of me as part of the project. However, she is first cover for the main female lead in "Once the Musical" at the Phoenix Theatre, London and that is sufficient reason to talk about her because she has been as great an influence on my life as anyone. It is not often that one talks of one's child having that effect but, in her case, it is most definitely true. 

Florence has the most delightful character. She is kind, concerned and very funny. If you have seen my Christmas Film, you will have seen my portrayal of Pat from East Enders which was inspired by Florence's own impersonation which is much funnier. Florence is also an incredibly talented actress and singer. I have two favourite stories about this. The first one involves "West Side Story" in which she played Maria in a school production when she was about 16 or 17. She had a very bad sore throat some weeks before the opening night and had been advised not to sing at all and so, during rehearsals, she had to almost whisper the words of the script and the songs. She recovered a few days before her first performance and, although we had tickets for the third night, I just had to go to see her first night. She came onto the stage and sang the opening words of "Tonight" and as the words "Only you, you're the only thing I'll see forever" the tears flowed down my cheeks - it was so wonderful. Beautifully sung and acted.

The second story involves her performance as understudy in "Little Night Music" where one night she played the part of Charlotte. There was a scene in the play where she and her husband gatecrash a house party and her husband explains that they were going to stay in a nearby hotel but, as he says, the hotel was in quarantine for.....and trying to think of what it was in quarantine for, he clicks his fingers at Florence for the answer and she cuts in with the word "Plague". Florence judged the moment, the audience, the rhythm of the speech, in fact everything beautifully as she said the word and it brought the house down. 


So, I give you Florence, my ever beautiful daughter, loving mother of our gorgeous  granddaughter, Mabel, superb actress, singer and musician. She is never quite sure when she will be appearing in "Once" but you can see her perform in this song on You Tube with Ronan Keating and other members of the cast. She is the singer on the far right with the curly hair 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

ONE OF THOSE DAYS by Sophie Harris-Taylor

ONE OF THOSE DAYS by Sophie Harris-Taylor
I stepped off the bus, crossed the road but went too far and so, realising my mistake, I walked back and found Sophie's house. It was Victorian with a solid front door. I remember it as being pale green but perhaps not. Sophie came to the door and welcomed me with a smile. So many smiles.

We had discussed the shoot previously by email - Sophie said she wanted the photographs to be raw. She took me into her sitting room at the front of the house which overlooked the road and set up a black backdrop. Black as night but nowhere to hide. We talked and I removed my clothes and stretched and curled first on the black and later against the white wall. Sophie paused to show me some of the images in the back of the camera. My eyesight is so bad that all I could see was the light. It was beautiful. "I love skin" she said. Skin.


We moved into her kitchen where the light was different. I bent my head. I placed my hand on the work top playing music in my head which washed through to my fingers resting on imaginary keys. I gazed out to the small courtyard on the other side of which Sophie planned to create a studio. It was cold but I offered to go outside so that she could photograph me there. In the event, it was Sophie who stepped out and she shot me through the window. She returned to the kitchen and pushed kitchen clutter to one side as I stared at the lens - click - and then looked away - click.


Then it was over. I felt that familiar tinge of disappointment mixed with a grudging acceptance that comes at the end of every shoot. I dressed. I showed Sophie some of my films on her computer. Then I took my leave and caught the bus. I thought of the shoot as the bus lurched towards Clapham. Sophie, it was all so easy. You were easy. I was easy. 

She does not prettify bodies, she illuminates them and in the light, she scratches over the skin like sand paper on wood revealing the grain.  The human spirit is there, the pulse beneath the skin, the breath welling up from lungs pushed out past nostril or lip. She stands back and observes, slightly detached, from a doorway, through a window, across a room. I catch her eye. I know what she is doing and she knows that I know and I know it too. The light is all. As Sophie said afterwards, in terms of overtone, this image has a more documentary, honest and voyeuristic feel and the strong light feels quite cinematic which is something she is always striving for in her work. It all works so wonderfully well.

One of these days, 
When we are both at our ease
When you've got time to please yourself, 
See what's right and see what's there
and breathe fresh air, ever after.
                                 - Paul McCartney


Thursday, 11 December 2014

TIM ANDREWS: AFTER BOTTICELLI by Alicia Bruce

TIM ANDREWS: AFTER BOTTICELLI by Alicia Bruce


Alicia must be one of the nicest people I have met. She is very genuine and open and with an exciting and infectious enthusiasm for all things photographic. I first came across her beautiful work through Twitter in December 2012 - I think I must have followed someone and Mr Twitter then kindly suggested l might also be interested in Alicia and, when l saw her work, l was and wrote and told her so. She replied with the aforesaid enthusiasm saying that she would be delighted to be part of this remarkable project. It would not be the last time she would use that adjective in relation to me and my project but l am not so remarkable although l would accept that the project is - it is full of remarkable work by remarkable people. I am an ordinary guy who got an illness that affects many ordinary people and I have dealt with it as best I can, sometimes well and sometimes not so well. The drugs boosted my creativity but at the same time produced rather worrying side effects. Rough and smooth.


Anyway, back to the remarkable Alicia. She explained right at the start that her work was a collaborative process with those she photographed and was often based on artworks from public collections. She said she would ask me to be involved in the planning process as much as possible and that we could choose a painting which draws parallels with me and aspects of my personality and use this as a starting point fro my portrait. She said that she would be happy to shortlist with me but equally happy for me to make suggestions. So you can see that she is a person who knows what she wants and makes that quite clear.


Simon, Sylwia, Me, Alicia & Laurence


There was then a thwarted attempt in 2013 to travel to Edinburgh to meet Alicia as well as some old photographic friends but the thwart was my Parkinson's which had got steadily worse and so I decided very reluctantly not to go. I felt so sorry but Alicia and the others were very understanding and the trip was put on hold until December 2014 when I found myself with a beating heart outside Lovecrumbs cafe. I pushed the door open and was met with a table of smiling faces belonging to Sylwia Kowalczyk, Simon Crofts, Laurence Winram and Alicia. Sylwia very kindly bought me a hot chocolate and they all seemed as pleased to see me as l was to see them. 

Me by Alicia Bruce


In the cafe, Alicia and I chatted a bit more about the shoot and agreed to proceed with her idea of Botticelli's Venus. It was lovely to meet her and in the company of the others with whom I enjoyed such a beautiful friendship and, when we all left the cafe, I gave each of them a big hug and Alicia walked back with me to the centre of the city and she pointed out various landmarks and took a few pictures. This is what I love about this project - spending my time having these experiences and meeting people in this way. The next day I had a very enjoyable shoot with Lucy Kendra (see future blogpost) and I had hoped to see Lucy Telford and Brogan Ramm the day after but the weather was too bad to make the journey and Alicia texted and suggested that I went to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and also Stills Photographic Gallery. I am so glad that I did both. At the Portrait Gallery I saw some wonderful paintings by Allan Ramsay and bought some great Christmas presents in the shop. At Stills I saw the amazing photographs by Chloe Dewe Matthews in her "Shot at Dawn" exhibition. 


Finally, on the morning of 12th December 2014, I arrived at the studio a few miles down the road from my hotel and met Alicia again and her assistant for the day, Craig Yule. They had already set everything up and really we had the picture we wanted in the bag pretty quickly. We looked at a few in the back of the camera and, although my eyesight is not brilliant, I could see that the colours were stunning. We tried a few more with me altering my pose slightly - Alicia had pinned up a copy of the painting to help with that - and that was it! Alicia produced a Christmas hat and we mucked about with that doing a few silly shots and then I said goodbye. As I left, I plugged in my earphones and the beautiful sound of Brian Wilson's voice washed into my head like a silver sea.

Who took that look away
I remember how you used to say
You'd never change 
But that's not true 
Oh, Caroline you

Break my heart,

I want to go and cry
It's so sad to watch a sweet thing die
Oh Caroline why


Alicia asked me to comment on the collaborative process and it was the case that we discussed various options beforehand and we enjoyed the to and fro but how much influence I had on the final outcome I don't know; I think that is for Alicia to say. All I can say is that I think the portrait is superb. I love the contrast of the blue and my pink skin. It is not an exact copy of the painting- I am looking straight at the camera with a slightly fearful, apologetic gaze, I am a man and there is no shell - but it was never intended to be a copy and because of that, Alicia has in fact very cleverly created something unique albeit influenced by an original work. Furthermore, she wanted my portrait to be a subversive homage to the original work. It is no wonder that she is held in such high regard in photographic circles.

Me and Alicia in conference by Craig Yule


So there we are. I have been photographed by Alicia Bruce, a great photographer and a very nice woman. How many people can say that? Probably quite a few and they almost certainly feel as proud as I do. 

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