Monday, 4 August 2014

Over the Hill at Create

BEAUTIFUL DECAY by Danielle Tunstall

This is an advance notice that 56 still photographs and 7 films from my project will be exhibited as part of the Brighton Photo Fringe at Create Gallery New England House, New England Street, Brighton from 4th to 17th October next. The exhibition will feature the work of mainly Brighton based photographers although there will be a few exceptions including the stunning image shown above by Danielle Tunstall; she lives in Leamington Spa which, as we all know, is just round the corner from Brighton. Oh, alright it's not but, for God's sake, rules are there to be broken.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

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 290 different photographers have photographed 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


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

CADBURY'S DAIRY MILK by Robert Ludlow

CADBURY'S DAIRY MILK by Robert Ludlow
18th May 2014 – my birthday and I wake up feeling not very good because not only am I going into The National Hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery in London today for my Deep Brain Stimulation surgery but also, over the last ten days, I have had to reduce my dosage of one of my drugs to nil in order to make it less likely that I feel psychotic once I have been ‘’turned on”. I struggle downstairs and open my presents and cards. Everyone has been so kind but none more so than Jane whose birthday it was the day before. She has been amazing in the face of what has been an incredibly worrying time for her. I mean she went through it all before when I was first diagnosed, then she had to go through it again when, suddenly, I became Superman after going on the drugs. But this was different – it was a bloody brain operation.

My twin sister, Sally, came over having recently lost her husband and so she wasn’t feeling great either but I’m afraid that, by the time her two lovely children arrived, I had had it and just wanted to get going to the hospital which had telephoned quite early on to confirm that they had a bed and expected me late afternoon. We drove up and got there about six pm but I was so bad that Jane had to help swing my legs around so that I could stand up out of the car. She asked this big guy called Abraham if he could help. His wife worked at the hospital and he went in search of a wheel chair, found it, plonked me in it and then pushed me in; one of many acts of kindness shown to me over the next two weeks. I have to say, however, that apart from all this spazziness, I was in quite good spirits.

Jane took me up to Lady Anne ward guided by a nursing assistant called Jeff whom was going there himself as it happened. I never saw Jeff again during my stay there but I won’t forget him. I had already decided to give myself up to the nursing staff and just allow myself to be looked after. I was put in a side room off the ward and assumed that I would not be there all the time during my stay but in fact I was. Lucky Tim they call me.

Jane was brilliant because she said to me that evening,  “Why are you doing this?” and I was able to justify my decision to her and myself. It wasn’t difficult. I said that I was doing it because, in six month’s time, I did not want to be six month’s worse than I was now. For example, I went to lunch with Jane and her sister and her friend Jo, the day before. I was fine on the way there but I stayed too long and I could hardly walk out of the restaurant at the end, let alone walk home. My main problem is “freezing” where my brain would go to the door but my feet would stay where there were as if they had forgotten how to move. Sometimes, it took me about 45 minutes (or more) to get undressed for bed. I couldn’t turn over in bed – I couldn’t sleep if I started shaking as my head hit the pillow – my whole body but especially my neck would go into spasm. If anyone knocked the door I would struggle towards it, yelling, ”I’m coming, I’m coming” only for the person to walk off before I got there. I’m not looking for sympathy by the way; I am just explaining why the decision to go ahead with DBS was a……no brainer.

That night, I slept on my back but half way through the night, I tried to get up but couldn’t. Eventually, I rang the bell and a nurse called Joanna came in and helped move my legs and my arms so that I could struggle to the loo. She was so kind and gentle. It meant everything.

Oh, angel of the night,
I did not want you
But you answered my call
In the darkest of dark blue.

Joanna;
You told me your name.
You moved my legs, you moved my arms
I did not call you again.

The morning sun throws shadows
Outside on the cool brick walls;
The sounds of the city awakening
Mingle with the footsteps in the halls.

No birdsong here today
Only the incessant bleeps
Perhaps I shall just lie back
And drift into a sleep

Oh, angel of the night
Pray for me in my bower;
Cometh the man into your embrace;
Cometh the hour.

It was also the first time I met Chris, the Aussie night nurse, who, over the next few days, I got to know and like a lot. We talked a bit about cricket and I mentioned that I was a member of the MCC and suggested that he might want to come to Lord’s one day as my guest. Initially, he seemed unenthusiastic but I think this was because he had been caught out before by a patient who had done him a favour and somehow that had created a difficult situation for him. During the next day, I saw Dr Hyam, Mr Zrinzo’s registrar and Joseph, the Parkinson’s nurse and the anaesthetist whose name I regret that I have forgotten. Hyam asked me to sign the consent form for the operation which referred to the various risks including “risk to life” – gulp. I told the anaesthetist about my photographic project and asked if there was anyone who could take my photograph with the cage on my head through which they would guide the electrodes. She was brilliant because, in the end, she arranged for the hospital photographic department to send someone down to do it properly. That someone happened to be Robert Ludlow who, in 2012, won the prestigious Wellcome Images Award for his photograph of the human brain during a surgical procedure for epilepsy. He is my 300th photographer. 

My brother, Anthony (officially, the kindest man on the planet) came to see me later but I was very shaky indeed and pushed my self too far by showing him two of my films. I was grateful that he had come but he knew I was tired and left and I was relieved when he did because I was basically exhausted not by him but by me and my condition.

Then  - 20th May 2014 – D Day or rather DBS Day. During the early morning, I listened to my iPod shuffle and almost every song reminded me of someone or something and made me quite emotional. Then Jane arrived quite early and it was so lovely to see her. I said that perhaps we should agree that I would say something to her after the operation so that she knew that my brain was all right and, after toying with several ideas including lines from plays I had done, Jane suggested “Cadbury’s Dairy Milk” and we agreed on that.


I was given a gown to put on and some paper pants and DVT socks and so I was all ready to go by the time Jane returned from her trip downstairs for a coffee. Hugo, the porter came down for me and took me to the MRI scanning room where the operating theatre was. I was placed on the bed and the anaesthetist asked me my name “Timothy Andrews” and my date of birth “18th May 1951” and then said “You have consented to have Stage one of a sub thalamic Deep Brian Stimulation” and I said “What?!?” as if I didn’t know. Well it made me laugh. At that point Jane left me and, what seemed like five minutes later, I woke up in the Recovery Room absolutely full of myself cracking what I thought were the funniest jokes and generally getting on everyone’s nerves I’m sure.  Jane who had been having kittens upstairs had come down and met two nurses in the lift who had been assisting at the operation and when she asked how it had gone, she could tell from their smiles it was ok  They couldn’t let her into the recovery room however because there was another guy in there who hadn’t yet woken up. I think Joseph, the Parkinson’s Nurse, was there and said that he was going up to tell Jane that I was ok and I asked him to tell her that I had said “Cadbury’s Dairy Milk”. He called Jane on her phone and when she asked how I was, he mentioned Cadbury’s and so Jane knew for sure that I had come through it with brain (and me) intact.

I met Robert when I returned to Queen Square to have the stitches removed from my chest where they had inserted the Patient Programmer and I received the photographs from him a few days later. I have to say that, although they were taken before the actual surgery began, they make for very uncomfortable viewing but actually this was the one which impressed me most. It is so peaceful and is wonderfully composed. It says so much to me about the love and care that all the people in that hospital bestow on their patients. I shall never forget them all or my time there. They are a credit to themselves, their respective professions and the NHS. 

So, thank you Robert, Abraham, Jeff, Jack, Hugo, Paolo, Ludvic Zrinzo, Jon Hyam, Sammy Jo, Hazel, Moses, Ibrahim, Ade, Joanna, Julia, Joseph, Consuelo, Maris, Tim the King, Annette, Chris, Erla, Jean, Dafina, Timothy, Clare, Sheryl, Varndir, Akaysha, Catherine, Vaughan, Nyasha, Juliana, Alberto, Debbie, Sabirah, Cherito, Amy, Alice, Tola, Elvira, Purita, Michael, Hajni and Alfredo who nursed me, fed me, cleaned my room, took my pulse and blood pressure and temperature, made my bed, (in Robert's case) took my photograph and generally and genuinely cared for me and any others whose names I may have forgotten but whose love and mercy I have not.

But and it is a big BUT, I reserve the greatest praise for Jane whose love and devotion meant so much to me. People have said some very kind things about me but I could not have dealt with it in the way I did without that love and devotion. Lucky Tim - it doesn't even come close.


Saturday, 17 May 2014

299!

299!!

Yep, I have been photographed by 299 photographers since May 2007 and it has been a wonderfully dizzy ride of emotion, love, companionship, creativity and artist excellence.

Thank you to all 299 of you for all that you have contributed by way of your time, patience, indulgence and talent.

Please see latest slideshow - https://vimeo.com/95586370 

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

AMONG GIANTS by André Varela

AMONG GIANTS by Andre Varela

I have just watched on You Tube a lecture by John Cleese about Creativity. I always find it difficult to precis something I have just read or seen but I'll have a bash. One of the things Cleese said is that Creativity is not a talent but is very much related to an ability to behave like a child and to play. One either has a 'closed' mind at any given moment or time or an 'open' mind. When your mind is open you are able to be creative. Well, one day, my open mind looked at Flickr and saw Andre's work and it thought "Yeah, I could really work with this guy". Andre's open mind responded and he replied to my message on Flickr saying that he lived in Portugal and that he would like to come over to England with his partner, Catarina, as his assistant, and take my photograph. And so it was that eventually three open minds met at Gatwick Airport and they did not close until Andre and Catarina returned home three days later.

Andre is one of the most receptive, enthusiastic and open people I have ever met. In addition he is handsome, personable and kind. He is also a very, very good photographer. Yes, I know that I say that a lot and what do I know? I'm not a photographer and I have no idea how cameras work but I do have an opinion as every one does and in my humble opinion, he has a huge talent. Initially, he wanted me to find some locations in forests or on beaches. However, on the day of the shoot, I decided first to take them up to The Devil's Dyke and he was absolutely captivated by its beauty and magic as well as the amazing views. And it was there that this shot was taken. Afterwards, we tried more shots up there and then went to the beach and did some more. Then we returned to my house and did some more. We could have carried on through the night. 

UNFORGIVEN by Andre Varela

In between all this, gradually, I got to know him and Catarina. They were originally going to stay with us but that wasn't possible  because we had a full house so Joan Alexander, another wonderful photographer and human being, said that her friend, Martin Seeds, another wonderful photographer and human being (is there no end to this?) had a spare room and would be able to accommodate them. So, it was because of Andre and Catarina, that I met Martin - I might have met him anyway but later rather than sooner. I went round to his place to chat about it and to collect a key to give to Andre and Catarina and spent a good hour or so enjoying his very entertaining and erudite company. More on this in a future blog post - back to Andre and Catarina. 

I collected them at Gatwick and I knew everything was going to work out well because my drive up the the motorway went well and the drive back went even better. I hadn't driven on a motorway for quite a while. On the way back to Brighton, we chatted in the car and, by the time we arrived, not only were we firm friends but they had already fallen in love with England (it was their first visit) and Brighton in particular. I took them to Martin's place and they all got on like a house on fire and later Jane and I had supper with them in the Lion & Lobster and it was talk, talk talk all evening. They were falling in love with Brighton and I was falling in love with them. I couldn't see them the next day; their original plan was to go to London for the day but they ditched that and spent the day in Brighton which they thoroughly enjoyed.


I said goodbye on the evening of the shoot and left them to find somewhere to eat. I gave each of them a hug and they responded with their Portuguese version and I felt sad that they were leaving. However, the following morning, I got up really early to see if I could catch them before they left and amazingly, they had got lost on the way from Martin's place to the railway station and, when I saw them floundering about in the road, I shouted out and they gratefully clambered into my car and I drove them to catch their train. I stood and watched as they walked up the platform and got into the carriage. They were gone. I sighed and turned away. I had a spring in my step as I did so and, as I skipped back to the car, I felt incredibly fortunate to be the person I am, doing the things that I do and meeting the people I meet.


I received the photographs very shortly afterwards. I'm sure that any decent photographer could take something similar but these were very special for two reasons. First, they were magnificent in their breadth and vision and secondly, they captured all the emotion that the three of us were feeling as we worked together. I was very moved by them because of this. I liked them all but this was the obvious choice to represent Andre in my project. Whenever I look at it, all I can think of is a beautiful couple, Andre and Catarina, at home in Portugal perhaps thinking of the time they came to England to see me and maybe, just maybe, we smile at the same time with the same amount of love in our hearts.  

Andre and me



Saturday, 3 May 2014

VAULT OF METAMORPHOSIS

CHILDHOOD LOST III by Justyna Neryng

Four years ago, I travelled down from my then home in Surrey to work with a photographer whom I had not met previously but whose work had completely captivated me from the first time I saw it on Flickr. Her name was Justyna Neryng. She had a few ideas for the shoot some of which involved me wearing an old vest and rubbing dirt over my face and shoulders. I washed this off and smarmed back my hair in the process and left it like that for the next shot; this time she wanted me to cry but when I explained that I had never been able to cry to order, she said not to worry as she had some glycerene. However, as she began to set the shot up, I began to feel a tear coming to my eye. I wasn't feeling emotional nor was I trying think sad thoughts - it was just coming. Justyna quickly finished her preparations and, just as the tear rolled down my cheek, 'click' went the shutter and we got the shot. It was a piece of magic.

And if you want to experience something similarly magical, I would urge you to make your way to Powis Street Studio to see Justyna's latest work alongside that of photographers, Tobias Slater-Hunt and Chris Bulezuik, costumier Chrissie Nicholson-Wild, stylist Zoe Della Rocca and film maker Zoe Van Spyk. These wonderful artists have combined to produce what they describe as ''a dynamic visual exploration of the complex transformation of the body. 

Tobias Slater-Jones (who recently became the 294th photographer to shoot me as part of my own project) displays his amazing nude studies from the ''Closer to God'' series whilst Chris Bulezuik's series of portraits called "Mother" include some simply gorgeous representations of womanhood. 

CLOSER TO GOD XXV1 by Tobias Slater-Hunt
And, as for Justyna, well the ''Childhood Lost'' collection is a stunning example of the wizardry which she produces in her studio with her talented and delightful daughter, Nell, who acts as her model. However, it is ''Ghost Dance IV'' that blows me away. The wonderful light and tone and the trailing hair which runs from one figure to the other. It is so beautiful, it makes me want to cry, with real emotion this time. 

The exhibition is open every weekend during Brighton Fringe Festival until 1st June next. Get down there as soon as you can. It is a very special experience. 

VAULT OF METAMORPHOSIS is at The Basement, Powis Street Studio, 4 Powis Street, Brighton BN1 3HJ.

WEBSITES: JustynaNeryng - http://justynaneryng.co.uk/
                      Tobias Slater-Hunt - www.tobiasslaterhunt.co.uk
                      Chris Bulezuik - http://www.chrisbulezuik.co.uk/

Thursday, 1 May 2014

THE NIGHT HAS COME by Jo Thorne

THE NIGHT HAS COME  by Jo Thorne
When this photograph was taken, I was really bad Parkinson's-wise. It was less than three weeks before my Deep Brain Stimulation surgery and I had just begun to reduce some of my medication in readiness for the operation. BUT - there is no way you can tell from looking at this picture. 

I came across the delightful Jo through Twitter - I think Twitter suggested her as a contact on the basis that she was similar to other contacts i.e. a photographer. So clever. Anyway, I wrote to her in March 2013 and she replied saying that she had heard of me already through Luca Sage and that she felt very flattered and slightly overawed at being involved in such an amazing body of work. It is an amazing body of work but Jo was a worthy participant in my view because I really admired her work and I told her so. What with one thing and another, we didn't meet for ages but eventually, she came round to my place and we had a good chat about her ideas and almost inevitably, I subjected her to a showing of my silly films. Even then, it took a few more months before we had our first shoot, in the woods, although the coloured powder which she had brought with her did not really feature. However, we also planned a studio shoot and this is where this image came from. Jo had an idea to photograph me on a chair with flowers strewn around but, as I say, I was not feeling very good that day and therefore not totally relaxed although I found Jo extremely easy to work with. There were a few shots left on the film and we decided to put me on the floor and immediately I felt better. Often, at home, when I felt bad, I would struggle to the floor and just stretch out and allow my illness and my tremors etc to sink into the floor. As a consequence of relaxing more, I had more energy to put into the pose itself. 

I LOVE this picture. It is so romantic. I look normal whereas I certainly did not feel normal. I really feel that of all the pictures I have had taken this is the one of which I am most proud because we got there even though there was so much working against us. Jo is a perfectionist and I know that she had her doubts about the results of this shoot but, as far as I am concerned, it works splendidly.

I am not going to put up any other images from the shoots because I don't need to - this says it all. It says I met Jo, she met me, we connected, we communicated, we tried our best and then, with the help of a little bit of magic, we got this. I don't really believe in God any more although I was brought up to but I do feel that there is a special magical entity somewhere in the ether, in the sky, in our brains, in our spirit which we can draw upon like water from a well and it brings succour in our hour of need and makes things feel better when, but for a few notches the other way on the dial, they could feel worse.

After the shoot, I got dressed, walked unsteadily across the road and stood waiting for the bus trying to look and feel normal. I plugged my earphones into my ears and pressed play on my ipod shuffle. I got my bus pass ready and hailed the bus and sat down in a disabled seat and, as I looked out of the window, John Lennon began to sing "Stand By Me"in the way only he can...

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only night I see
No, I won't be afraid
Oh, I won't be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me






Wednesday, 30 April 2014

RED BLACK AND BLUE by Alun Callender

RED BLACK AND BLUE by Alun Callender

My long term memory is still very good but my short term memory not so good. I do not know whether this is because of my age (62) or my Parkinson's or what but the point of saying this is to explain why I cannot remember whether I met Alun inside Mini Click or outside. I suppose it doesn't really matter in the great scheme of things but it is something that concerns me from time to time - that is when I remember it is a concern. Either way, I did meet him and we chatted briefly about my project in which he seemed quite interested. However, it took a while to set up a shoot with him but, in the meantime, I looked up Alun's site and I discovered that he was an excellent photographer.

Eventually, we arranged a date for our shoot  and, by coincidence, he chose the old Fruit and Veg market in Circus Street Brighton as the location only a few days after I had been there with Jim Stephenson. However, his backdrop was red whereas Jim's was white and he asked me to wear a dark jacket which would contrast with the red of the backdrop. He wanted me to appear as a sort of a ringmaster and so I brought with my Grandfather's silk top hat which has featured in a number of shoots and films over the years.

On the day of the shoot, I met Alun and his assistant, Charlotte Harber, at the market where they had already set up the set. Unfortunately, I was a bit shaky (as I was with Jim - that's Fruit and Veg for you!) and so I felt that the flow wasn't really there but Alun was very kind and it turned out to be a very jolly undertaking and it was interesting to talk to them both. Charlotte mentioned that she was a graduate of UWE in Bristol and I told her that her former tutor, Shawn Sobers, had filmed me in Brighton and had subsequently invited me to speak to the photography students there. We talked briefly about trying a nude shot but Alun was so pleased with what he had got from the clothed shots that we decided not to bother. We then went to The Lion & Lobster pub around the corner from our house and had a scrumptious lunch and a beer. I simply cannot go into a pub and not order a pint of beer. It has to be a pint too - half pints are not the same, even if one doubles up. Shortly afterwards, I received three images all of which I loved but this one stood out for me. Everything is right - the backdrop, my pose, the articles in the background and the colour. I was very, very pleased and so was Alun.


Isn't life wonderful? If I hadn't got Parkinson's, I would never have answered the advert in Time Out in 2007 and the project would never have started and so I wouldn't have moved to Brighton and gone to a Mini Click evening and bumped into Alun who would never have photographed me BUT I did get Parkinson's and consequently do all those things and that's why life is wonderful and strange and exciting and fun. 

Friday, 25 April 2014

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW by Laura Stevens

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW by Laura Stevens
All you need to know is that this is an almost perfect photograph. I love the tone and the light and the colour and... well, everything about it. The fact that I am surrounded by the things in that room which are so familiar to me and which, in the main, Jane has brought into our home. I also love the shape of my rib cage, the strong tufts of my pubic hair, the sallow light on my body and the abandon of my pose.

I first heard of Laura in 2012 when I discovered that she had photographed the poet Clare Best with whom I am now involved in a separate project. Clare decided to have preventative bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction because of the strong likelihood that she would have breast cancer at some stage and she arranged with Laura to photograph her both before and after the surgery. I was interested in the way that Laura was affected by this experience and so I looked at her work on her website and as I did so, I felt this zing of excitement at the possibility that she might wish to photograph me in the same intimate way she appeared to approach all her subjects. Another zing arrived when she said yes, she would like to photograph me. Sh asked what, having seen her work, I wanted to get from working with her. I explained that I had seen how she had climbed into her subjects' lives and achieved a real intimate connection and the more I worked with photographers the deeper and further I wanted to go and, having seen her work, I felt I might achieve this with her.

At first, we talked about meeting in Paris, where she lives, as I was planning a trip there before my Parkinson's suddenly took a nosedive, but she really did want to photograph me at home surrounded by my own possessions and she made the trip over to Brighton with loads of equipment to do so. I had never met her before but we sat and chatted with Jane for a while and it was very pleasant and we both found her easy to get on with. She really liked our sitting room and that was what she plumped for as the location for the photograph.


We talked briefly about me being clothed to begin with but soon ditched that idea thankfully as although her photographs would have been great either way, naked was obviously the right way to go. We chatted a lot during the shoot about this and that and it was a very relaxed session. Laura directed me as to how she wanted me to pose and I added a few little bits I think. I received the images a few days later and I adored them. They were as good as I could ever have hoped when I first saw her work. I urge you to look at her website for more of the same. Laura is a lovely open person who is extremely adept at what she does because she has insight and a real desire to examine the lives and the feelings of her subjects. I feel very proud indeed to say that I have been photographed by her.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

AN EMPTY HOUSE by Maeve Berry

AN EMPTY HOUSE by Maeve Berry

When Maeve first said that she would like to photograph me on stage, I imagined the shot quite differently to the way it turned out. I immediately thought of the Theatre Royal in Brighton where my daughter, Florence, had already performed in "Dandy Dick" and my nephew, Joshua, had produced "A Perfect Murder". I thought of the beautifully rich red velvet curtain and me in front, dressed in my white tuxedo, in the spotlight. However, when we first went to the theatre for our first shoot, I was surprised to see the curtain pulled back and the stage completely empty and open. This potentially gave a much greater depth to the images by way of both distance and meaning. The first shoot ended up being a trial run in that, by the end of the time allotted to us, we had a much better idea of what we were going for. The two shots that worked were the one with me dressed and sitting in a chair looking out to the audience and the one of me naked dragging a ball and chain represented by a balloon and a feather boa respectively. 

The team at the the Theatre were very accommodating and supportive and were more than happy to allow us to return for a second shoot on 21st July 2014. This time, we knew exactly what we wanted and started with the feather boa and balloon. Maeve had found a purple boa and this colour looked tremendous under the lights. The idea was a playful take on the burden of my disease. Then, halfway through the shoot when the house lights came on, we saw how beautiful the auditorium looked from the stage, a view the audience never sees. We both loved the silhouette of me in the spotlight on the stage and wondered what it might look like from behind with the gorgeously fiery red and gold of the lights on the balconies as the back drop. What I couldn't see but Maeve could was the tinge of gold light on my head and arms and the weird distortion of the shape of my body in the shadow. 

And it is so personal to me. I always wanted to be an actor - l do not regard my photographs as a performance because, even with the more theatrical poses, they are all the real me; I am not playing a part. I don't act on the stage any more and I don't think I could but of course I make my films. That sounds sad but it isn't. I had my day in the sun and enjoyed it hugely. I played some wonderful characters not least those in my two one-man plays - Harry in "Harry's Christmas" by Steven Berkoff and the boy in "These Childish Things" by Raymond Cousse. 


So this image means a great deal to me even though I was sorely tempted to go for one of the Boa and Balloon shot all of which would have had no contest in any other circumstances. It was important to me that Maeve agreed with my choice which she did although I reckon she would have chosen the Boa and Balloon if it was solely down to her. 

And what of the darling Maeve? A lovely warm and jolly person. A photographer with a clever, artistic and unusual eye. And a friend for life. Sod the bloody photographs - this is why the project has given me so much pleasure; I have met so many beautiful people like Maeve who, incidentally, was introduced to me by another special person, Joanna Burejza. (Sigh) oh yes, life is good. Very good indeed. 





Thursday, 17 April 2014

TOBIAS SLATER-HUNT Part One


Tobias Slater-Hunt is a superb photographer who lives in Brighton and was introduced to me by the lovely Justyna Neryng, another brilliant photographic artist. I have been trying to cut down my photographic assignments to concentrate on getting things ready for the PhotoFringe exhibition in Brighton in October but the one person I was desperate to work with was Toby. I first met Justyna when she shot me in June 2010 and it was soon after that shoot that she explained that Toby was very interested in photographing me. I looked at his website and found that he was a very innovative and exciting photographer and so the prospect intrigued me.

Shortly afterwards, we moved to Brighton and gradually got to know Toby and Justyna socially and indeed I was photographed a second time by Justyna and on this occasion, Toby was assisting her and I was very impressed at how he allowed her to run the shoot and was very sensitive when he was asked his opinion but more importantly when he was not but though to make a comment any way. In the meantime, one of his own portraits had found itself in the final shortlist of 60 for the Taylor Wessing Portrait prize in 2011 and very well deserved it was too. I was also up in Edinburgh when no other than the great Laurence Winram, completely out of the blue, expressed his admiration for Toby's work.


It still took another three years before I was actually in front of Toby's camera at a lovely studio just up the road from us and the image above came out of that shoot and what an image it is; it exudes such power and such grace. 
Image from Toby's Closer to God series
It is his attention to detail that I admire so much and his patience. That said, he had the time to discuss what he was looking for and he was strong in his direction of me in our shoot. However, following my Deep Brain Stimulation surgery, I now fell into his Metamorphosis project dealing with people whose physicality has been changed by surgery, be it medical or cosmetic, and so Toby kindly asked me to return to his home studio for another session which I did only a few days ago. Again his meticulousness came to the fore as he used up two rolls of film in his quest for the right image.

I am waiting to receive some pictures from this second shoot but wanted to put Toby on my map so far as my Blog is concerned and here he is. 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

A BIG DEAL by Grant McLean

A BIG DEAL by Grant McLean

Who is Grant McLean you may ask? He is not a professional photographer but, in my opinion, he is a very good photographer and that is all that matters. But who is he really? Well, look at the photograph  above and look into my eyes. They are looking at him through the lens. They are saying "You are my friend... you are my brother...You make me happy... you make me laugh....I am interested in what you have to say....you are my dear sister's husband.....and...I love you". There are not many people you can say all those things to. He has been a special person in my life and in the lives of my sister and and her two children. He has photographed them too as you will have guessed. My first realisation of his talent as a photographer occurred when he sent us a photograph of our son Tom taken when he was a baby (Tom not Grant) and which is printed below (although the scan is poor as our scanner is playing up). It is a stunning photograph because it captured the essence of Tom - his seriousness, his wisdom, his worry about his life and the world as a whole. He saw it and caught it. That is what he has done with me - he has connected with my feelings for him and opened them up for all to see. 


I first met Grant (or at least this was my first memory of meeting him) at a pub in Kingston where we were living at the time. I thin it must have been shortly before his wedding to my twin sister, Sally. He wasn't quite ready for English beer but he survived. He eventually met the rest of our family and won them over with his quiet charm, his droll sense of humour and fun and his interest in them and what they did. He is quite shy I think and needs to feel confident before speaking (this is beginning to sound like a school report) but when he does, his soft Canadian drawl puts one at ease immediately and you find yourself enjoying a sweet moment of conversation. He is a very English Canadian - in other  words, he is a fan of both countries. He is clever and he is artistic but doesn't flaunt either virtue. He is a man of deep sincerity and humility but it is always ready to be punctured by a silly sense of fun. 

So, even if he had never held a camera before, I might have been tempted to ask him to be part of my project. As it is, I knew of what he was capable and he proved it. 

And one more thing, on the day he photographed me, his camera was playing up. There were two false starts and then it worked and he took this picture but the camera never worked after that. He had one shot and he got it in one. It was a big deal for him and a big deal for me.

So feast your eyes on portrait by a very good friend, a loyal loving husband, a caring father and an excellent photographer - John Grant McLean. Now you know who he is.

POSTSCRIPT Grant died today 8th April 2014 whilst my sister held his hand

Sunday, 30 March 2014

FIVE STUDIES OF TIM by Martin Seeds

FIVE STUDIES OF TIM by Martin Seeds
Martin was introduced to me by fellow Irish Photographer, Joan Alexander. I needed to find a place where a photographer from Portugal, Andre Valera, and his partner could stay whilst he was over in the UK photographing me. Martin very kindly agreed to put them up and after I met him and found him to be a most enjoyable companion, and looked at his work, I very much wanted to work with him.

After a while, Martin told me he had been thinking about the shoot and he'd like to make an iPhone portrait of me that I could then transfer on to darkroom paper by contact printing. He had done this before but for my shoot he wanted to add a few more steps to the process.  Once he had a darkroom contact print, he intended to scan it and have it transferred to film which he would then hand print as a black and white enlargement. He sent me a few images he had made with this process asking me to note also that these were candid shots and he was deliberating on such an approach with me. He went on to warn me that the results were unpredictable; however, he liked the contingency that the process brings and he saw a connection with that tension between the possibility and the uncertainty of everything in life.

I shall leave Martin to explain what he did in his own words. “The pieces are produced by making a physical relationship between contemporary technology and traditional photographic print making.  An image taken on a mobile phone is “mined” as you would any other store of information. The phone's pinch and double tap gestures allowed me to search deep into the image and grab screen shots of interest. The phone screen, a light source, is placed face down on to traditional light sensitive darkroom paper leaving an image; a process harking back to photography’s early experiments.”

Martin's original intention was to scan the darkroom contact photographs and make very large prints. However, limitations of process and technology took him down other routes to this final, wonderful result. I think the images are extraordinary, certainly unlike anything I have had done before. I am really touched that Martin has taken the time and care not only to produce these but to have them framed ready for the exhibition in October where they will be on display at Create Gallery as part of the Brighton Photo Fringe. 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

SPOTLIGHT by Jo Renshaw

SPOTLIGHT by Jo Renshaw

When I was younger, so much younger than today and I was still living at home, my mother owned two volumes of Spotlight, the actors' and entertainers' directory, dated 1959 and 1960 respectively and they contained people like Bruce Forsyth, Dickie Henderson and David NIxon. When Jo sent me a selection of the photographs from our shoot, this one stood out for me and reminded me of the photographs in Spotlight - hence the title I have given to the image.

I found one day in January 2014 that Jo had started following me on Twitter and I looked up her work and found it fascinating especially her research and documentation of her family which struck a chord with me because I had recently made a documentary about my family home in West Wittering in Sussex. However, in addition to this sort of film, I have also been making short silly films and putting them on Vimeo and You Tube over the last 5 or 6 years and it was the person behind those films that Jo wanted to capture in her photographs of me.

She arrived at my house in Brighton with all her lights and backdrop, the whole works in fact and set it all up in the sitting room. She had a very clear idea of the type of shot she wanted and this picture really does succeed in that and every other respect. It is crisp and clear, it has the feel of an actor's head shot and really does capture my personality. As I have said many times before, I do not feel that I am acting in front of the camera on these shoots. Every photograph shows one aspect of the real me - I am not putting on a show. That said, I always wanted to be an actor and used to bore everyone who cared to listen about this dream of mine. It began when my headmaster's wife, who advised on careers at school, asked me what I wanted to do as a career. I had been reading a crime novel at the the time and said that I would like to be a barrister but she shook her head and said that was no good. I asked her why and she said that all barristers were actors and she had seen no evidence that I could act. Now, although I had never done much acting apart from the odd little show at Primary School, I knew that I could act. She said I had to prove it to her so I enlisted for three school plays and proved it to her and then became a lawyer! Nevertheless, I did eventually do some acting including two one-man plays and I even got an agent but I had to decide between a regular income as a lawyer and the unpredictable job as an actor and I had to choose the former. Now, I am doing some acting of sorts in my little films


I really like this photograph for the reasons set out above but also because my expression says "So? I wanted to be an actor but I never really got there but hey, so what? I have had a great life and I have no regrets whatsoever". This is what Jo very cleverly found and brought out in the image. It is not always an easy thing to do but with her skill and determination as well as a huge dollop  of talent, she did it and did it brilliantly. 


STRANGE FISH by Valentina Lari

STRANGE FISH by Valentina Lari

I came across Valentina's work through my contact with Greta Wallner a young student whose work I had seen at her degree show at Free Range. Greta and Valentina were exhibiting together and I was notified of the show and saw other people listed including Valentina and so I looked up her website and thought her work was wonderfully atmospheric and beautiful. On the home page there are the words "with love.." and that really sums up Valentina's approach to her art. Everything is done with love and, in the process, she sees the beauty in the human body.

Well, we took a long time arranging the shoot and then it was a long time before I chose a photograph. This was one of the least strange images but I did not in any way shy away from the others but rather zoned in on this one because of the stillness and the directness of my stare as I present the three fishes to the viewer. It is the challenge that this photograph evokes which is similar to the way I have challenged my audience with my new life where I am so much more open and free with my thoughts, my body and what I say. I know that it will seem strange to some people who knew me before my illness and in that respect it will be a challenge for them too. I am the same person but I am just expressing myself in a different way.


Anyway, back to the shoot. Valentina was originally going to bring an Octopus and then it was a squid but eventually, we ended up with with three mackerel! The idea was to produce a still life which would include me. The fish were very bloody and dripped all over the place. I have modelled with fish before and I find that we do get on quite well together. These three were great Beatles' fans and so we had a lot to talk about. We swapped lists of our favourite records. They liked "There's a Plaice" and of course "Octopus's Garden" and "We can work it, Trout". I'll stop now because this is beginning to sound like a poor version of "I'm sorry I haven't a clue". No, seriously, we tried various poses and it all got very sticky and smelly and I had a good wash afterwards.

Then Valentina sent me her photographs and they were all so vivid and strong and their texture was so rich due I am sure not only to Valentina's skill but also the fact that they were shot on film. I know nothing about cameras but I guess that someone really skillful could get close to producing this on a digital camera but not close enough. They have a richness and a beauty much more of which you can find on Valentina's website which I urge you to visit now.

Anyway, I must stop now - I've got a date.... with a skate.

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

Friday, 21 March 2014

SOME ENCHANTED EVENING



SOME ENCHANTED EVENING by Jean-Luc Brouard (Make-up: Elloise Willett)

My return to Grouselands (sigh). This was the house we stayed in between selling our beloved Ravenswood and buying our present house in Brighton. We were there from December 2010 to May 2011 and I loved every minute of it. It was a large house in beautiful grounds, surrounded by acres of fields and just about every morning, I would go out into the garden very early in the morning and just play. I took some self portraits but mostly, I made stop motion films. The early spring was wonderful and the dawn chorus was deafening especially when the cows and sheep joined in.  In complete contrast, Jane hated it. She found that she couldn't work there, the nearest town was the somewhat uninspiring Horsham about 3 miles away and she wanted to be in our own house again. Of course, I had some great shoots there including Chris Floyd, Frank Herholdt and Alma Haser and also the feature on The Culture Show was filmed and recorded there. So, a happy productive place with great memories.

I found out about Jean-Luc Brouard through Twitter I think; one of us started following the other but, either way, I found his website and the astounding images of trees and I thought that I'd love to be in a similar image relating in some way to a tree. Jean-Luc responded very positively to my approach and suggested we meet for a coffee and that he bring along a make-up artist, Elloise Willett, with a view to discussing her painting my body to tie in with the shoot. Well, we did meet and I do feel that we all got on rather well and, during the discussion, I said that I would ascertain if Grouselands was free because I thought that in my current more spazzy state, having the tree near to a house and, more specifically, near to a bathroom would be a Good Idea. 

Jean-Luc and I had an initial scouting trip and he found the tree that would work and a few weeks later, we returned there with Elloise on a very cold evening in March. Elloise painted me all over (apart from my not so private parts which I did under her direction) and Tree Man was driven down to the field where, fortunately, the tree was still growing and where Jean-Luc had set up the shots. By this time ie March, my illness was getting appreciably worse and I found it more difficult to move about but I think the challenge of this particular shoot inspired me and I managed to make my way over the field to the tree and basically we did two poses - one with me up against the tree trunk and the other with me standing some way in front of the tree. All the while, Jean-Luc buzzed backwards and forwards chatting to himself and to us - a sort of running commentary. I'm not quite sure how he achieves these shots but he used large lights which lit up the whole of the tree and he carried them from one side to another whilst he took the pictures on a slow shutter speed to swallow up the light. At one point, as I first stood there naked in the freezing cold, I thought I would love to be back home in the warm but then I crossed a line and suddenly I wanted to be there all night and do more and more pictures. After the first shot, Elloise came over and wrapped a blanket around me and it was such a sweet, inclusive gesture and I really felt part of our little team battling against the cold to get the best shot. 

And then it was over.

I was taken back to the house and had a shower and then we went home to bed. I snuggled up in the warm and, as my head sunk into the pillow, I closed my eyes and began to dream that I was naked in an enchanted field and holding onto a tree which was lit up with a silver light. It wasn't a dream of course - it really did happen. It was some enchanted evening.


Jean-Luc couldn't help himself and the next day, I received two rough versions of the pictures he took and they were beautiful as all his work is but this time, I was in the photograph and I thought, wow! I'm in one of Jean-Luc's photographs. A dream come true. 

WEBSITE: http://www.jeanlucbrouard.com/

WEBSITE: http://eiwmakeup.com/

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

UNFORGIVEN by Stephanie Brooks

UNFORGIVEN by Stephanie Brooks
Sometimes, I have a shoot where I have no idea at all how the final images turn out; all I see is the camera and I know that it is pointing at me but I have no conception of what the image will look like when it is developed. This is what happened on this shoot. And it was no fault of Stephanie that I didn't know. Indeed, I told her after I first saw her work on the University of Brighton website that I loved her 'blurred' portraits and then we met to discuss what she was going to do so I had no excuse apart from.......Parkinson's Disease. It wasn't that my illness affected my memory - well, not directly anyhow. It was that it had got so much worse towards the end of 2013 in that I was experiencing longer ''off'' periods i.e. periods when the drugs didn't work. As a consequence, my usable time was getting shorter - my twelve hour day was being reduced to four hours and yet I was still trying desperately to fit in the same activities I had been enjoying so much since I got the bloody illness. Something had to give and, in this case, it was remembering information such as that which Stephanie and I had agreed to do on the shoot. All that was in my mind on the day of shoot was that, when I had met Stephanie before the shoot, we connected, and that I would not have contacted her if I hadn't thought she was an excellent photographer. What more did I need?

So, there you are. On 19th March 2014, when she came to the house, we had a great shoot but I had no inkling of how the pictures would turn out. It took a few months for Stephanie to produce the results. On 4th July, I received them from Stephanie by email and I almost melted on the spot. I loved them. They spoke to me so eloquently, so deeply. They were a record of that day in March certainly but they were so much more. This shot particularly represents the affect the disease has on me as it is the fact that my brain no longer produces enough Dopamine which causes the symptoms. That said, I have always maintained that I am not documenting my illness as such but rather I am documenting myself at a time when I happen to be ill. Of course, the two are intertwined and, as I say, the illness had been been causing me more problems recently. So, the fact is that the photographs, particularly this one, were very relevant. But apart from that aspect, look at this photograph. It is so beautiful. I love the starkness of the image as a a whole but then within it are the curiously gentle folds and shadows on my white shirt. The face is almost blank but not quite - the movement of the head as the shot was taken has left two lines spurting from my left eye, like tears. Obviously, Stephanie did not necessarily set out to create those two lines but they were created as so often these happy accidents are by her applying that innate skill and confidence of the artist which enables a beautiful image to be created and to encompass this serendipity, like Francis Bacon painting figures and a line of paint being swept accidentally across the canvas and thereby adding to the image rather than ruining it. It is rather appropriate that I cite Bacon in this connection as, to my mind,  the figure in the photograph is distinctly 'Baconesque'.
And, of course, I am now feeling much better after my recent surgery so this picture, although very much an accurate representation of me at that time, is now very much of the past, albeit the recent past. It reminds me of a book that my mother gave me when I was twelve years old. It was "The Pictorial History of the Wild West". She knew that I loved Westerns and I was fascinated by the real stories and the photographs of the real cowboys. But some of the photographs were taken on cameras which could not cope with any movement by the subject and so some of the pictures in the book were distorted in the same way as this. I was very healthy when I was given the book but that healthiness has now gone so Stephanie's photograph has an even greater meaning as a consequence.

Joe Clements, Outlaw: From N.H.Rose Collection
of Frontier Photographs
I am so pleased with this, so honoured to have been photographed by Stephanie and so happy to be alive.


Friday, 14 March 2014

SNAP CRACKLE AND POP by Jayne Taylor

SNAP CRACKLE AND POP by Jayne Taylor

I was introduced to Jayne by Joanna Burejza at Gallery 40 in Brighton in October 2012 when I went along to the private view of a group exhibition there which included Joanna's photograph of me. Jayne had pulled the group together for a previous show but hadn't included herself in this show because she was too tied up with working for her MA - so, after being introduced, I must have looked up her work on her website because I commented on her wonderful work on it when I wrote to her a few days later. She replied saying that she was flattered to be asked to photograph me - that never fails to surprise me because I am really flattered that people of Jayne's expertise agree to to my request. Anyway, she also said that she was in the middle of her MA and suggested that we make contact again in six months' time. Now usually such a suggestion results in me forgetting about it all together but, four months later, I wrote to her again saying that six months had almost passed and asking how she was placed. We did arrange a meeting but she had to cancel that because of the death of her Grandmother. There was then quite a long gap which was broken by Jayne this time but it was not until November 2013 that we arranged to meet at The Hayward Gallery to look round the exhibition of photographs by Ana Mendieta and meet we did - at last! And what a great time we had. Not only did we get on like, well like a house burning really fast and bright, but we were also stunned by the other exhibition of work by Dayanita Singh. Her work was beautifully presented and incredibly atmospheric but what made the time so enjoyable was chatting to Jayne about the two exhibitions as we walked around. Normally, I go to these shows on my own and it was such fun to have Jayne there to discuss what we saw. She also told me that she had very recently met someone, fallen head over heels in love with him and got married. 

It was still another five months before we met for the shoot this time down in Brighton. Jane wanted to create the modern equivalent of a Vermeer painting and to capture the stillness of his painting of The Milkmaid and she achieved this very cleverly by using this part of our kitchen as a sort of "set" for the image. I am seen re-enacting an everyday scene of pouring milk onto cereal in a moment of contemporary domestic absorption. (I ate the cereal by the way - yum, yum). Towards the end of the day, Jane came home and said that the mist was outside was magical and she suggested we went down to the beach to see for ourselves. We did but Jayne did not being her camera. However, she took some photographs with her iPhone and they were so good that I almost chose one of those instead but in the end this was the one I liked the most.



I love this project so much because, when I choose a photographer, I never know what he or she is going to be like and yet I always seem to have an enjoyable time with them whatever photograph is produced. Maybe I recognise something in their work which I relate to and so it is very likely that we shall get on. Jayne is a great companion to have at any time and especially when she is taking such wonderful photographs as this. She is intelligent, amusing and thoughtful and she is a romantic and she is now my friend. How good is that? 

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

DALSTON by Francesca Tosarelli

DALSTON by Francesca Tosarelli
I saw a stunning set of photographs in the Sunday Times magazine about female fighters in the Congo and I thought they were so good that I had no hesitation in writing to the photographer, Francesca Tosarelli, asking if she would photograph me although I thought it was unlikely if she was based abroad. As it was, although she was based in Bologna, she had decided to come to England in March 2014. We arranged to meet during this period. I was very excited as she was a documentary photographer and I was intrigued by how she would approach this task.  She wrote to me in advance of the day of the shoot saying that what she did was basically photojournalism, that she was not an artist, that she worked with daylight and that she was thinking of creating a very natural portrait possibly in black and white in the metropolitan Dalston environment. And that is basically what she did but there was one thing that was not correct - "I am not an artist" she had said. How can you produce a portrait like this and say that you are not an artist?

Anyway, we met at "to the jungle" cafe in Dalston. I had never been there before but it had a really nice atmosphere and the guy serving me was very nice and friendly. Small things like this help so much to set up my day and make my life the wonder it is. It is like licking an ice cream that one never gets sick of. Each lick takes me to different level of warm ecstasy and yet it is only an ice cream. We strolled around the market in Dalston and she clicked away and, unusually, I didn't feel as embarrassed as I normally do when I am being photographed in public I think because, being a photojournalist, she made me feel relaxed and cool as she took the pictures. We ended up in front of a shutter and Francesca liked my shadow on this and produced another great photograph but, in the end, I went for the 'reflective' one.


I cannot remember my first impression of Francesca but it doesn't matter because we had such a pleasant afternoon and we were good friends by the time the shoot was over. Francesca was keen to get a picture of both of us together and so she asked a passer by to take this one

Francesca and I

So, there we are - my afternoon with Francesca Tosarelli - a thoroughly nice woman, a great photographer, my new friend and.....an artist.