|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 400 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.
Sunday, 19 June 2016
Saturday, 18 June 2016
Every amount, no matter how small will help Sol - I realise that times are hard financially for everyone and that there are many deserving causes which require funds but if you can see your way to making a donation, this could lead to Sol getting her life back.
Please see - https://www.gofundme.com/savesolarixx - and make your donation there.
Thank you reading this far!
|Me and Sol|
Thursday, 16 June 2016
Sunday, 12 June 2016
|BLUE by Liz Atkin|
I had the great pleasure of taking part in this day of heart-rending stories of survival, reflection, healing, resolution, exploration, joy, discovery and loss. I am a bear of little brain and not at all qualified to discuss and analyse what I saw and heard and so I shall leave it for others to do so in a far more erudite way than I can manage here but I would like to try my best to describe what I experienced.
For me, it was a day of emotion. It began with Tulsi Vagjiani telling us of the day she lost her family in a plane crash which left her with horrific burns. She was bullied as a consequence of the state of her scarred skin and I thought of what must have gone through the minds of those bullies to make them do such a thing. I suffered very minor bullying at my Secondary school which then prompted the bullying (in a small way) of my youngest sister. I have no recollection of me bullying her - none at all. It is as if it was carried out by someone completely separate of me.
The photographer, Emma Barnard, was then joined by Consultant Stephanie Strachan and medical student, Katharine Stambollouian and they talked of their collaboration on a visual arts-based project designed to promote empathy in medical students to better prepare them for dealing with patients in their future career. It was fascinating hearing how they had dealt with the introduction of art into medical education and the challenges faced by both them and the healthcare professionals in the process. What moved me particularly was how supportive they were of each other - it was a truly collaborative project.
Then we had Antonia Attwood (who had recently filmed me as part of my project) and Monica Suswin talking about their respective experiences of dealing with severe depression. Monica had written extensively about it and read out some beautiful prose and poetry which she had written. Antonia showed the astonishing films she had made about her mother's debilitating condition and explained so movingly that, as a consequence of making these films with her mother, she had come to know her mother so much better than she would otherwise have done. You do not wish such suffering to befall anyone but, if it brings such positive results, then in a weird way, you are thankful. It brought to mind my relationship with my late sister, Janet, who suffered terribly from breast cancer but, as a consequence, I saw far more of her in the two years before her death and I experienced depths of emotion that I have never felt before or since.
Anyone reading this might begin to feel glad to have missed out an all these tales of depression and misery but hearing of these people coping with and, in some cases, leaving behind such dark days was incredibly inspiring and uplifting.
Daniel Regan was on his own as sadly, Alice Evans (another of my photographers) was not able to attend. As ever, Daniel was very engaging as he talked of the misdiagnosis of his own chronic mental illness and subsequent recovery by reference to some excellent photographs including many self portraits. Daniel photographed me earlier this year and is a lovely, gentle soul with a sparky wit.
After lunch it was my turn but the artist, Lucy Lyons, an extremely accomplished and relaxed speaker, spoke first about Drawing. Sound simple doesn't it but some of her work was incredibly detailed and I loved the way she talked of her examination of the human body. She draws beautifully and even her handwriting looks like a work of art. She sketched and wrote about everyone who spoke on the day. As for me, I shall leave it for others to judge my performance. All I shall say is that I was incredibly nervous and that brought out all my current symptoms i.e. the rolling gait, the slurred speech and the temporary memory lapses (Yes, Tim, those creepy crawly insects you find in restaurants are called C-O-C-K-R-O-A-C-H-E-S). I also overran but, having asked the gorgeous Julia Horbaschk (who very kindly drove me over there) to tell me when I had been speaking for 16 minutes, I somehow missed seeing her finger pointing (three times) at her watch. However, I got some laughs and the slideshow of all the images at the end worked well but I'm not sure that I shall be giving any talks or speeches about Over the Hill or over anything else in the foreseeable future.
David Gilbert, a very nice guy with an open, loving demeanour and face to match then read out some of his poems which were full of perceptive wit and pathos.
We then witnessed an extremely interesting conversation on Skype between Graham Shaw, the organiser of Critical Voices, and Margaret Hannah, a Consultant in Public Health Medicine and currently Deputy Director of Public Health in NHS Fife. Unfortunately, at this point my early rise at 5am caught up with me but I heard enough to know that the citizens of Fife are mighty lucky to have such a personable and intelligent Deputy Director of their Public Health System.
Finally, we had Heart to Heart Theatre Group showing a piece written and directed by Mel and Joe Ball respectively and very well acted by Peter Dewhurst which posed the question who, why and what we are. The day was then rounded off by poems read by David Gilbert and Graham Shaw followed by a quick beer in the Old Opera House (now Wetherspoons) and then home.
It was a day I was dreading because I felt so ill-prepared but I found that my own poor showing was more than compensated not only by the incredible photographs in my project but also by the wonderful words spoken and images shown by the other participants and inspired by the darkness and the light of their diverse experiences. Also, I met Celine Marchbank again and Bronwen Hyde for the first time having corresponded with her by email over a period of time. All lovely, intelligent, talented people but, above all, I would like to mention Graham Shaw - a man with a big heart and kind eyes, a warm handshake and a soft comforting voice. David Gilbert led the fully deserved applause for him at the end and Graham acknowledged it with humility and grace. So, thank you all who contributed to a great day at the Trinity Theatre in Tunbridge Wells.
Saturday, 4 June 2016
|SWEET DREAMS by Vanja Karas|
It was in October 2014, five months after my DBS surgery, that I went on the London Independent Photography website and I came across the stunning work of Vanja Karas and what I saw there enticed me onto Vanja's own website. Just reading her CV will stun you - there really isn't much that she hasn't done already. She is a true artist always looking, examining, emoting and drinking in new experiences, thoughts and ideas. She began her creative career in theatre directing and from there moved on to work in a range of other visual arts media including film, video, multimedia, graphic design, print, textile design, site specific installations and conceptual art. All I wanted her to do was photograph me for God's sake!
And photograph me she did bringing all her creative instincts into play and producing an incredible set of images. We met some time after my initial contact, in the beautiful domed cafe at the V & A in London. She was very enthusiastic and we talked of the possibility of me being photographed in the cafe and in other buildings in London but then we lost touch until she discovered that my project was coming to a close and she contacted me again. Fortunately, we managed to fit a shoot in at my home. Vanja came down on the train in the late afternoon as she wanted the low light. I showed her around and she chose a few places as locations. It was a beautifully strange shoot in that we seemed to move from room to room as if we were floating on a raft on a stream of feelings and thoughts which ran slowly and silently through the house. As the day wore on, the light changed and I felt increasingly sleepy - not tired but that wonderful repose when you are with someone with whom you are completely comfortable and you just.........drop into slumber. I closed my eyes and then came to briefly as I heard the click of Vanja's camera as the lens brushed over my nakedness. I apologised for nodding off and I remember Vanja saying softly that it didn't matter and, again, I fell into a swoon of sleep only to be lifted out by another click.
This continued as we moved into another room. Vanja asked me to lie on the bed and close my eyes and I heard the sound of the crunching of the sheets as she rearranged them around me. Then silence. I could hear my breathing and the coarse screams of the seagulls which quietened as, yet again, I trembled on the edge of a doze only to be brought back again by a click or a rustle of sheet against my skin.
And then it was over. Vanja packed up all her equipment and said a quick hello/goodbye to Jane who by then had returned from a day's work in her studio. I took Vanja back to Brighton Station and we hugged like two old friends and I drove back home and thought to myself how wonderful this project has been. People like Vanja drift into my life and we spend a quite intense few hours with each other as they search for a particular shot. I am completely in their hands but each of us has complete trust in the other as we give ourselves over to the shoot, come what may. Needless to say, I adore these photographs. They are rich with colour and light and shadow. They say so much. They speak of dreams and fantasy and heavenly music. When Vanja realised that there was not much time to fit in shoot with me she wrote saying "It would be so great if we could squeeze something before you wrap up the project even if it is something very spontaneous. We could meet for a coffee and I can just take some snaps". Some snaps?!?
Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you
But in your dreams whatever they be
Dream a little dream of me
|UP CLOSE by Ryoko Uyama|
This photograph was taken on 4th June 2016 but this was not the first time I had worked with Ryoko. She assisted Pal Hansen on his shoot with me on 27th January 2011 which was also the day on which Pal and I were filmed for the feature on "The Culture Show" for BBC TV. Ryoko and I were recently re-introduced to each other by Gemma Day who photographed me in 2015. Louise Haywood-Schiefer, who also photographed me in 2015 and who used to assist both Pal and Gemma (but not necessarily at the same time) introduced Ryoko to Gemma and then Gemma re-introduced Ryoko to me. Geddit?? Ryoko must either have been very shy and reserved that day in 2011 or I must have been too tied up with all the shooting because I don't remember her being quite the bundle of energy that I met at Brighton Pier five years later.
left to right: Ryoko, Pal, three BBC crew members and me in 2011.
We met at 9am and it was as if we had been friends for life. We got on very well straightaway and set for the nudist beach as she wanted to photograph me unclothed. It was all very quick and first of all, she asked me to walk up and down as her intention was to do a composite of images of me walking past the camera. She also photographed me in the sea and then finally there was this close up. It is a beautiful shot. Everything appears to be perfectly normal but then when I examined it closely, I saw the faint lumps on top of my skull where the electrodes were inserted, the slightly greater droop of my left eyelid, the two small parallel creases on the left side of my chin, the drop of my right shoulder (or is it the tension in my left which makes it higher than the right?) and the line of the cable running down the left side of my neck towards the battery pack of my Multi Program(me) Neuro Stimulator in my left breast which is just out of view. All as a consequence of Parkinson's Disease. But a quick look just reveals a head shot of a 65 year old man.
It may not have been Ryoko's intention to show all these elements but what she has done is taken such an incredible forensic study of my face that these indications are there for all to see if they look closely enough and yet the tone and focusing do not immediately suggest such detail. There must be more technical terms to describe what I am trying to say and so forgive me for not knowing them.
What else? It is a serious picture and yet I am smiling. My expression says a lot about my feelings that morning. I am enjoying what I am doing and the company I am keeping. I am relaxed in that company and yet my eyes are searching for Ryoko's reassurance that I am doing what she wants me to do in front of the camera. This photograph says a great deal about the skill of a professional photographer who knows what she wants and how to catch it. It is simply superb.
Spot the Giant
29th May 2016
Gemma kindly introduced me to you, my name is Ryoko and indeed I have met you when I have assisted Pal Hansen at your shoot.
I remember you mentioned that you were looking for a photographer at the shoot then
but I didn’t want to offend Pal saying “ME!”
Looking forward to hearing from you.
All the best
Friday, 3 June 2016
|IN THE ARCHIVE by Antony Penrose|
"Who would you still like to be photographed by?""Living or dead?"
"Well, many years ago and we're talking 1980s or even 1970s here, I saw a photograph of hers in a Sunday Newspaper supplement called "The Picnic" and it fascinated me."
"What was it that you liked particularly?"
" Well, first of all it was a great photograph. The composition was perfect and each of the five people in the picture were doing something slightly different. Also, I was intrigued by the hedonistic lifestyle of the picnickers. It was a way of being that I hankered after but I was too uptight to dare put my toe in that water. It was that picture that first got me interested in photography."
"So, Lee Miller it is but she died some time ago so, who else?"
"Well, the next best person"
"Her son, Antony Penrose"
Soon after I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, I was on the computer at home and thought that I could search for Lee Miller. Up until that time, I hadn't really used the computer much and although we had one at work, I had only used it for work-related matters. So, I typed in "Lee Miller" and was directed to her archive website. There, all laid out, especially for me, were all her wonderful photographs and loads of information about her but what really caught my eye was the fact that one could visit Farley Farm, her home in East Sussex. Within minutes, I had booked two tickets and Jane and I travelled down to the village of Muddles Green a few months later and it was there that we first met Lee's son, Antony Penrose. We got there early and so first had a drink in the pub, "The Six Bells" which features in a few of her photographs. We then carried on a few yards up the road and parked near the house. We congregated with the other visitors in the hall with the beautiful flagstone floor and I began to get a sense of the history of the place. Antony introduced himself and his daughter, Ami and also his former Nanny, Patsy, and we were taken for a tour around the house which was riveting and then, at the end, we had a cup of tea and a chat with Antony. I came away from there even more in love with Lee and her work than ever before and also with the realisation that Antony was as much a fan as I was.
I returned to Farley Farm for another tour with my darling niece, Olivia, and then, a few years later, Jane and I attended a talk given by Antony at Charterhouse School. We were invited to the dinner afterwards and Jane sat next to Antony and they chatted about her work. We then swapped places and I told him about "Over the Hill" and also took his photograph as part of another project where I was photographing someone different every day for a year. We kept in touch and he began to take a close interest in Jane's work and in 2011, asked us if we might be interested in holding a joint exhibition at Farley Farm Gallery...............I was so excited. The exhibition took place in the summer of 2013 and it was such a lovely experience for both of us. Since then we have remained in contact and, when I was asked recently which photographer would I still like to be photographed by, I thought about my answer and realised that, if I was going to finish the project, I had to ensure that Antony was going to be one of the photographers.
He readily accepted the invitation and so on 3rd June 2016, almost exactly three years after exhibiting there, I drove along the familiar roads to Farley Farm and parked under the trees outside the house. As I walked up to the front door I felt the hairs on my body tingle both with anticipation and the strange fearful rush of a confusion of emotions that hit you when you re-enter a world of magic and love. Tony came down to the hallway and greeted me warmly. We chatted briefly and then he led me to the building which housed the archive. His idea was to photograph me looking through a drawer of negatives. A drawer of negatives of photographs taken by Lee Miller. A drawer of negatives of photographs taken by Lee Miller at Farley Farm where she lived and where she died. Gulp. It was cold as we entered the store, the temperature kept at a certain level to preserve the photographs and Tony pulled open a drawer full of envelopes marked with the details of their contents. I remarked on the neat labels and Tony explained that it was the handwriting of his first wife, Suzanna. It was a poignant moment because, before Suzanna died of cancer not long after the death of Lee Miller, she had discovered the store of thousands of negatives in the attic and then with Tony began to create the archive. If that wasn't enough, Tony pointed out a box on the shelf behind me containing some Nazi artefacts purloined by his mother when she accompanied the American troops into Germany at the end of the War; on top of the box was a Rolleiflex camera.
After taking a number of shots in the archive, we returned to the house and sat and chatted in the kitchen over a cup of coffee and I then bade Antony goodbye and walked to my car, each step made meaningful because this was ground walked on by Lee Miller. Yes, yes, I know this sounds like heroine worship but I can't help it. Her work means so much to me and to have become acquainted with her son, walked around her home, sat in her kitchen, exhibited in her gallery is the nearest I have come to knowing her and understanding a little of what made her tick. Nevertheless, I like Tony for himself, very much indeed. He is a very easy going companion and his voice has a lovely drawl which immediately relaxes whoever he is speaking to either one to one or when giving a talk about his parents and their art. He doesn't intellectualise his discussions of their work but rather expresses his emotional response to it which is very attractive and pleasing. It was typical of his good nature that he accepted so enthusiastically my invitation to become part of "Over the Hill" and I am very, very proud to have a photograph taken by Antony Penrose, Photographer, Artist, Curator, Archivist, Writer, Playwright and Speaker.
Thursday, 2 June 2016
|WHO ARE YOU? by Denise Myers|
Yes, who the bloody hell do you think you are? Waltzing about the UK (or should it be K?) being photographed by all and sundry? Then blathering on about it on your blog, Over the Hill this and Over the Hill that and it all started by accident - so bloody what if it did? Who cares? Hang on, let's listen for the answer.....
So what have you got to say for yourself?? Eh? Come on, Mr Blogitall, answer that!
Who am I? I am Tim Andrews and I don't see why I have to answer but I will. I am expressing myself in the only way I know how. I am laying myself open to ridicule and censure particularly when I remove my clothes but you ask 'Who cares?'. I do. I have spent a long time being the person other people want me to be and I was happy doing that and, indeed, I still am happy doing that. But when I step in front of the camera, I am completely myself and I feel extraordinarily lucky to have been able to do that - that is what I care about.
So. What is the answer? The answer to the question - who are you? I am all the people who one sees photographed in this project. I am not acting. I am each of those people. But what if the question is asked of the photographer? I suggested this title to Denise and this was her response.....
"Go for it... It's sort of apt as part of the shoot was getting to know each other a bit better. As someone who came to you saying, 'But I haven't done any portraiture for a long time' the 'Who are you?' about myself seems about right. Teacher masquerading as photographer? Conceptual landscape photographer winging it as a portrait photographer?...........You have shown so many different aspects of yourself throughout the 'Over the Hill' project... Which aspects are real, which are constructed or improvised as a result of the situation with the photographer and the location? Who are you? Who do you want to be at this moment?.............The title is playful in itself. Go for it."
I was introduced to Denise's work through Twitter although she had previously submitted a selfie as part of the Selfie for Stu get well soon thingy for Stuart Pilkington. I wrote to her in November 2015 asking her to photograph me and, she responded immediately saying that she would even though she had not done any portraiture for some time. However, as she was working as a full-time teacher, it would have to wait until the Easter holidays. Suddenly, Easter had come and gone and I had made the decision to bring my project to an end so we both scrabbled around looking for dates and eventually decided to do a shoot in Finchley where I was born but then the final shoot was delayed so we thought again because the Finchley shoot was going to be squeezed in after another. We decided to do ourselves a favour and meet at Polesden Lacey in Surrey. She had wanted us to shoot in a place which had connections - we used to take the children to Polesden Lacey a lot when they were little (they are big now) and so it was perfect and did not entail either of us having to slog up to town.
Well, we had a lovely fun time on the day as these photographs show. It was a bit chilly and we had a hot drink to start off with. Then we wandered round and mucked about and talked and then mucked about a little more. We finished off with another hot drink and a quick visit to our respective lavatories and that was it. It was a special day with Denise because there was no pressure to achieve a particular shot. The images came from our connection with each other, naturally and easily, and as for the photographs, well, they worked really well.
The reason I chose the one I did was because it is dynamic, it questions and there is an element of play acting which I have always done and it is laced with fun. There are not many people whom one could meet for the first time and have such an enjoyable time and Denise is one of them and here are the photographs to prove it. But when she took her photographs, Denise was being serious and that is why her work is seriously good and that is why I contacted her in the first place.
Who are you?
Wednesday, 1 June 2016
|CONTEMPLATION by Michéla Griffith|
In April 2016, somehow I came across the work of Michéla Griffith - I think it was through Twitter - it is absolutely beautiful but almost exclusively landscapes but I looked at these and I thought of the other great landscape photographers who had photographed me such as Al Brydon, Rob Hudson, Steve Segasby and Joe Wright and how well their photographs had worked out and so I thought that it was worth pursuing. In the message which I left on her website I did say that I appreciated that her work dealt mainly with landscapes but that it could be interesting to explore the techniques which she used and apply them to portraiture. She responded very quickly and said that she felt surprised, flattered and slightly intimidated. She added that she was thorough by nature and naturally cautious and therefore she would like to think the idea through before deciding but she went on to say that she was intrigued although she had no idea what, where and how and was there really anything that hadn't been done? She said that her themes were things easily overlooked, water and light, subject movement in nature and her own movement (or that of others) "through the landscape.....". That was exactly what I was looking for and that is exactly what I got.
Walking with ducks
She never mentioned again any doubts about actually taking the photographs and she sent through snippets of ideas all of which sounded fine. The thing is that, however intimidated she felt, I knew that, having seen evidence of her photographic skill online, she was going to produce some great images. So I looked forward to a day in Buxton starting off with lunch in a little French bistro quite close to the station recommended by Michéla. She met me off the train and we walked to the bistro I said that I had driven through Buxton some years ago and I tried to remember the name of the village where Jane's father and his brother had been evacuated during World War Two and which Jane and I had visited at the time. We chatted some more over a very pleasant lunch during which she told me how her work had progressed from being quite tight to the gloriously loose images which had first attracted me to her work. (What was the name of that village?) The ice was duly broken - in fact, Michéla is such a personable woman that the ice breaking was pretty much completed by the time we had reached the bistro - and she said that her idea was to walk around the Pavilion Garden. So off we went. (I still couldn't remember the name of that blooming village). We started off inside in the covered winter garden and Michéla asked me to walk to her and she took photographs of me on the move. But although it wasn't the best weather, it was perfect outside and so we began to wander around by the pond using the water as a back drop as well as the dark leaves on the trees. Hartington! That was the name of the village. We carried on and tried some arm waving (skip, skip, stride, together) and all the time, Michéla showed me the results in the back of the camera. My eyesight is not very good but the splodges of blurred colour looked wonderful.
A Young Man Inside
We continued round the pond for awhile and then she placed me against a white wall and asked me to move my head around in different directions. Michéla pointed out various buildings in our vicinity including the Opera House the decor of the lobby area of which was extraordinarily ornate but unfortunately there was a performance in the auditorium which apparently is even more magnificent. We had a cup of tea and chatted some more - Michéla really is a very interesting person to talk to - before we walked up to the Devonshire Dome which is part of the University of Derby and Buxton College and which was built in 1779. It is an amazing building but what really intrigued me was that if you stand in the middle of the huge area covered by the glass roof your conversation echoes around the whole building even if you speak in a whisper.Escaping Myself
I said to Michéla that she shouldn't hang around just to entertain me and that I had something to read whilst I waited for my train so we hugged and parted and I went and sat in the station and reflected on what I felt was a very successful day. The journey home was a long one but I felt it had been worth it. I felt it even more when I received the photographs from Michéla. They were exceptional; wonderfully free and painterly with incredible colour and movement and light. I wanted to like best one with flying ducks in it but in the end, there was no choice. I had to choose the one which Michéla had entitled "Contemplation".
It is a very simple shot - me against a sea of green - but that is too simple a description. Michéla has caught brilliantly the depth of the water and its movement and the different lights and shadows which play on its surface and also my movement into the scene. How can a moving picture be so still? How can a still picture move so much? And how lucky was I to have found Michéla?
Monday, 30 May 2016
|INSOMNIAC IN SILK by Richard Nicholson|
What or who caused me to meet Richard? Was it Jane who had seen the advertisement for the sale of the contents of a house in Fournier Street and arranged for us to go to the sale that day thus prompting me to jump ship (or rather the Tube) at Temple on the return journey in order to look round the Photo London exhibition at Somerset House? Or was it her sister who was going to go with Jane but didn't so I did? Or was it Imogen Freeland who mentioned that she was going to Photo London which, until then, I didn't know was on? Or was I always going to meet him? Whatever - meet him I did as I rushed round Photo London looking at as much as I could in the hour I had set aside for this (never again - the rushing, not Photo London). Richard was at the end of one of the "wings"of the exhibition area sitting next to five wonderful prints of his, three of old cinema projection rooms and two of old darkrooms, all of which are now barely used. He introduced himself and told me something of his project. He knew about mine but I told him of my children's and my love of the cinema and of the story of the Odeon 1 sign which l had picked up following the demolition of the old Guildford Odeon in 1997.
I liked talking to him and, when I got home, I looked up more of his work on his website and wrote suggesting that l could try to squeeze him in before the last shoot, particularly if he was willing to come down to Brighton which it turned out he was. He wrote saying that he would bring a camera, tripod and some battery-powered lights with the intention of working with the same aesthetic he was developing in his 'projection' pictures. This would involve pushing me far back in the frame, allowing the space, and the object it contains, to take over. He said that Michael Fried discusses this in the context of Jeff Walls' work in his book "Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before". This also meant that he was interested in having his subject absorbed in something (rather than looking into the camera) and, when he came down, the cricket was on TV and he said how much he had liked Ben Roberts photograph of me listening to the cricket on the radio. This all sounded good to me ("You just keep doing the thinking, Butch - that's what you're good at").
I collected him from the station and we had a cup of tea and initially watched a slideshow of all the images I had so far received. We talked a lot whilst he fiddled with his lighting and I told him that I had never, at any time, tired of watching the photographers fiddle, either with lights or objects in the shot or the dials on the camera. It was all part of the enjoyment of the shoot - apart from anything else, it showed their commitment to the shoot. His aim was to show me concentrating on the cricket in the middle of the night and, although this shot is a fiction, in that it was the afternoon, it is an honest representation of so many things. I used to be much more nocturnal before my DBS surgery and the silk dressing gown was a present from my brother when I was in hospital for the DBS. When I used to wake up during the night, if I didn't write poetry, I would certainly have watched the cricket on TV if England were playing in Australia.
Richard sent this the next day - it was the most natural pose he said. He also added that photographing me was a great way to spend a bank holiday and I certainly felt the same way about being photographed by him. I love this photograph - the light, the position of the door, the cushion on the right in the foreground, my father's Neville Cardus book on the table and my left hand on my thigh, half in shadow. What a stroke of luck going to Photo London that day.
Thursday, 26 May 2016
|LOVE IS REAL by Matthew Finn|
It was a day of sunshine, of good vibes, a day of love. I hesitated over that word "love" - I wondered if it was going too far but I have learned that there are varying degrees of love and that everyone has an infinite capacity for love. So, yes, love did have a place in that day of sunshine in May. I drove up to London to collect two things Jane and I had bought in a contents sale in a house in Fournier Street. If you have never been to Fournier Street, I urge you to go and witness a place from another world, another time. The guy who was selling these things was the executor of the owner of the house who himself was described as an aesthete. When I entered the building, I wanted to buy everything in it but what I really wanted to buy was the life the man had lived there amongst the books on theatre, the pretty cups and plates and cheese dishes, rugs and chairs. I wanted to buy a piece of time in the hope that, by doing so, I would stop time. But time never stops and by going there and taking a chair and a small cupboard away, I was ensuring that was the case.
Before I went to collect these things from Fournier Street, I had an appointment with Georgina Howard who was shooting me for a set of photographs which will form part of Over the Hill. We had a good meeting (more of which will be revealed in a later blogpost) and then after Fournier Street, I called Matthew Finn who had said that he would be in the area and ready to meet and photograph me. We met in a Trumans pub in Whitechapel just opposite Spitalfields Market. The double doors to the pub were wide open to the warm spring air and light bounced off the rough lacquered table tops and bar inside. It was one of those days when one felt good to be alive and in London. Matthew introduced himself and his companion, James Meek, who was assisting him and explained that he had done something to his back which was clearly causing him some discomfort. We didn't have a drink at first because the woman who ran the pub and who I learned later had been there for thirty odd years had gone out for ten minutes and asked Matthew and James to keep any eye on the pub until she got back. We did a few shots in the pub anyway and, whilst we did so, something rather strange occurred - at one point, Matthew asked me to face a large mirror on the wall and either he asked me to look at myself in the mirror or I did so while waiting for Matthew to tell me which way to look. But when I did so, it felt like the first time ever that I had looked directly at my face during a photographic shoot. And it felt weird. Why? I don't know why but it did. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was seeing myself for the first time as others had seen me. When I received some photographs a couple of months later, they gave off a feeling of melancholy and possibly this had something to do with looking at myself and/or a feeling of finality about the project but, either way, Matthew captured this forlorn sense of loss which perhaps began in Fournier Street.
We then walked (in Matthew's case, hobbled) over to Spitalfields and did some shots there with Matthew asking some stallholders if they minded me being photographed in front of their wares. He took this shot outside the market and it is this one which I have chosen because it is unlike any shot I have done before. That is not the only reason - I love the composition, the feeling of despondency, the words on the wall from which I have taken the title. It may not say "LOVE IS REAL" - it could be "Love is Kev" for example but it is good not to know.
We returned to the pub for a quick beer and then I said goodbye to them both and drove home to the person I love the most - the artist, the mother of my children, Photographer number 125 - Jane. On the way, I thought of Matthew and his kind face and the warmth of his interest in my project. I first heard of him when he won the Jerwood/ Photoworks Award after which I wrote to him in early 2015 asking him to photograph me. I was fascinated by his own beautiful project involving his mother who he had been photographing in her home for over 28 years. I was struck immediately by his compassion as well as by the artistic acuity which were evident in the pictures. I guessed that he would bring both these elements to any photograph of me and you know what? I guessed right but I had not bargained for the importance of love, both his and mine, which would influence how the photographs turned out
- John Lennon
Wednesday, 25 May 2016
|LOOK THROUGH ANY WINDOW by Graham Nash|
So, this guy, a Scottish soldier called Robert the Bruce, took shelter in a cave and pondered how on earth he was going to defeat the English and, as he sat there, he saw a spider trying to make a web. Time and time again, the spider would try to attach a web to the wall of the cave but it kept falling until, eventually, it succeeded. Robert was so inspired by the tenacity and patience shown by this spider that he went into his next battle with the English at a place called Bannockburn with fresh hope and won the day. "If at first you don't succeed, try, and try and try again". I have sent tweets to Graham Nash, I have tried to contact his agents but no luck. Last night, after the concert had ended at the Union Chapel, I approached a man who appeared to be his head roadie and tried falteringly to explain about "Over the Hill" but he said Graham was busy entertaining his guests but suggested that I come to Guildford the next day and try again. I did. Guildford turned out to be my Bannockburn but without the carnage.
Just as Graham got off his tour bus with his lovely girlfriend on his arm, I went up to him and asked if I could have a few minutes of his time. He looked a bit mystified but I managed to make some sense as I told him about "Over the Hill". He said "That is a great project!" I asked him if he would photograph me but he didn't quite understand my request "So, you want me to photograph you??" he said. "Yes!" I replied. He looked almost relieved. "Of course I will!" he responded. I gave him my camera and he suggested I stand in front of his tour bus. I did and he clicked five times. Then I asked if I could have a picture of us both together. He agreed readily and his girlfriend, who said she was a photographer also, took the camera whilst I put my arm around my new mate - Graham Nash, Photographer, Artist, Musician, Composer, all time nice guy.
I got home just now and downloaded the pictures on to my computer and it was then I saw Graham's reflection in the window of the bus. It was as if he was he was looking through the window at me. And do you know what you see when you look through any window? Smiling faces all around. Well, in this case, my smiling face. I shook his hand and congratulated him on his performance last night. He said that he was going to do a couple of different songs tonight and he looked at me out of the corner of his eye and said " 'Cos I've written a lot of good songs, you know" I know you have Graham and you have taken a lot of good photographs. He asked me which was my favourite song of his. "Our House " I said straightaway and, as I said it, I recalled how beautiful it sounded when the audience joined in and sang it with him last night. I said goodbye and, as I sat in my car to call Jane to tell her, I wept. Why? Oh I don't know - because life can be so bloody wonderful sometimes. Ask the spider.
POSTSCRIPT - Jane's brother-in-law called, slightly pissed, late on the night of Graham Nash's concert in Guildford to say that he had had just spoken to his brother who had been at the concert and who said that Graham Nash had told the audience at the end that he had met a guy called Tim Andrews that afternoon who had Parkinson's Disease and who had asked him to take his photograph and that he had asked him which of his songs was his favourite and had received the answer "Our House". "This one's for you, Tim" he said.
I'll light the fire
You put the flowers in the vase that you bought today
Staring at the fire for hours and hours while I listen to you
Play your love songs all night long for me, only for me
Come to me now and rest your head for just five minutes, everything is good
Such a cozy room, the windows are illuminated by the
Sunshine through them, fiery gems for you, only for you
Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy 'cause of you
And our la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy 'cause of you
And our I'll light the fire
You put the flowers in the vase that you bought today