|OVER THE HILL by Roberto Foddai|
‘Alright boys, this is it, over the hill’ is the intro of the song “Bring on Lucie” by John Lennon and, although the phrase ‘over the hill’ has somewhat negative connotations, it is announced on the record in a very positive way by Lennon who goes on to sing ‘Do it, do it, do it, do it now!’ and so, for me, the title of this exhibition is optimistic despite the double meaning.
In May 2007, I answered an advertisement in Time Out from Graeme Montgomery, whom I know now to be an extremely talented professional photographer. He was compiling a book of nudes and wanted to photograph the first 100 people to answer the advert so I thought ‘why not?’ and went along and found that I was number one! Strangely enough, two other photographers advertised in the following two issues of Time Out, this time for people to pose for portraits, and they both photographed me subsequently. That was that for a while until, in February 2008, I answered an advert in our local newspaper from a student, Daisy Lang, who wanted to photograph people with illnesses for her final year’s project. Subsequently, I discovered that there were many photographers advertising on the Internet for models for particular projects. I wrote an email to the first photographer explaining that I was 57 and had Parkinson’s Disease and that ‘I wanted to continue on my path of being photographed by different people during the course of my illness’. Suddenly, as I wrote those words, I realised that I had my own project.
Since then, over 300 different photographers have photographed and filmed me and it has been incredibly interesting and exciting as I have seen the project develop day by day. I have met many wonderful, skilful people many of whom, normally, I would never have met let alone spent several hours with them.
It has been a fascinating journey. I have always loved photography but never had the patience or skill to practice it successfully. However, being a model has enabled me to collaborate with brilliant practitioners of the art and to be part of the artistic photographic process.
I decided on "Over the Hill" as the title of the project in January 2009 but I had not discussed this with anyone until I met Roberto Foddai a few weeks later to talk about his ideas for our shoot. He produced two pieces of headgear he wanted me to wear and said that one of them had some wording on it which he felt was somewhat ironic. He turned it over and on the front were the words – ‘Over the Hill’.
This project is dedicated to my wife the artist, Jane Andrews, who has taught me about integrity, truth and wisdom through acts, words and deeds all of which are encompassed in her truly wonderful paintings which can be found on www.janeandrews.co.uk
Free the people, now.
Do it, do it, do it, do it now.
Saturday, 4 April 2015
Sunday, 29 March 2015
|PERFECTION by Marta Kochanek|
Marta has now sent me the remaining images from our shoot in March including this beautiful photograph. This says everything about her skill and and love of her art and of people and our professional relationship. She is fearless and committed and she makes me feel so in tune with her during a shoot that I relax totally and I know for certain that she will produce perfection - not in every shot but each shot is taking her closer to the perfect image and this is it.
I would travel any where and at any time to be photographed by Marta. I shall never forget seeing her lovely smiling face as she opened the door of her studio and let me in - I had not seen her for about 4 years but her eyes and her smile were infused with enthusiasm and excitement. And look at this photograph. The light is gorgeous and my skin looks beautiful. My thoughts seem to be looking beyond the room but in reality they are there intermingling with Marta's vision which is being fully realised in this one shot.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Marta Kochanek, one of the great photographers.
I wake at about 5.30am and take my medication, "my little beauties" as I used to call them, I go downstairs to watch the highlights of the England football game which was played last night but which I missed, willingly sacrificing the pleasure of watching Harry Kane, "one of our own", making his debut in order to take Jane out to dinner and have a serious talk. Of course, our 'Arry scores. I creep back upstairs to wash and the bedroom door is open. Jane wants to be sure that I say goodbye before I leave to catch the train to Birmingham. I wash, I shave, I clean my teeth, I dress and I smell the soft familiar mugginess of sleep on Jane as she stretches up that elegant neck of hers into a soft farewell kiss. There is wisp of warmth in the air as I step outside and run to catch the Number 6 bus to the station where I collect my tickets to Birmingham New Street.
Why Birmingham? Because over the past few weeks I have nagged away at Marta to photograph me again. She photographed me in 2011 and we had such fun that day with flour and water and complete and utter abandon. Yet, no matter how delirious the shoot is with Marta, she is always running to a well thought out plan; a plan that still allows some improvisation, some high jinks and laughter.
The rest of my journey is unremarkable except that I read that the Agnes Varda is coming to the Brighton Festival and I try in vain to book some tickets over the telephone.
As I emerge from the packed New Street station in Birmingham I feel Marta pulling me to her like a magnet. I am a little lost and so I ask a flower seller to direct me to Snow Hill where I am to catch the Metro to the Jewellery Quarter. A man handing out MacDonalds vouchers near a surprisingly small cathedral redirects me (in return for a voucher) and, for a return trip to the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham, I pay the princely sum of £2. It feels like a special gift to me to charge that small amount to travel where I want to go. I arrive and share the lift with a fellow passenger, an old woman, whom I ask to direct me to Vyse Street - it is the road abutting the station exit. I find the address within moments and Marta comes tumbling down the stairs to hug me. She shows me into her studio and immediately it feels right. She introduces me to Barbara, another Polish photographer, who shares her studio and I accept her offer of a cup of tea. As I settle down on the bright green setee, the tea arrives in the most exquisite cup and saucer with jug and sugar bowl to match. Marta explains that these were a gift from her grandmother and immediately I want to be transported to Poland to meet her and the rest of Marta's family. Marta is ready to go but she has allocated time to catch up on the last four years. She talks about the development of her work and finding the studio with the magnolia paint on the ceiling and I talk about the the progress of the project. Marta asks after Jane.
But we both want to get started. Marta has asked me to bring a coat and a hat and I assumed incorrectly that some of the shots would be clothed. However, she asks me to undress and, as four years ago, I do not put on my clothes until the last shot is taken. Every shot is pre-planned and logged in Marta's head and she introduces each pose with a glint of delight in her eyes. She loves what she does. She talks intermittently of directing clients who come to her studio and I realise that the student I met before has become the teacher. Marta Kochanek was always going to succeed. I make the odd small suggestion after she shows me how she wants me to sit, to stand, to lean, to lie, to look whilst she and Barbara move props and platforms, a curtain and the setee around the room.
Marta and me by Barbara Gibson
There is nothing negative about Marta - everything is possible. We have a cup of coffee, again served in her grandmother;s cup and I make a joke about stealing them before I go. It is time to go and I hug Marta once again, even harder than before. I need to take some of her positive energy away with me. I hug my new friend, Barbara, too and wish her well with her English which she is slowly but surely finding the confidence to speak. As I leave, Marta asks me to give her love to Jane whom she has never met although I know they would like each other. I arrive home and text to tell her that I have reached Brighton safely as she insisted I did. Before I turn off the computer, there is a rush of tweets with two photographs of the day and then, in the morning an email with her thanks and, as she promised, a photograph of the cup and saucer. The wind rushes and whistles against the window as I write this. Marta is waking and maybe has already got up to look at the photographs from the shoot that she has decided to edit. I feel a connection across the country from my brain to hers. I feel a deep friendship. A respect. Love and understanding.
Sunday, 15 March 2015
|BOX by Liz Orton|
I am giving a talk on my project, "Over the HIll" at 6.45pm on Tuesday 17th March 2015 at The City of London & Cripplegate Photographic Society a St Joseph's Church Hall Lamb's Passage London EC1Y 8EL.
I shall be showing about 30 photographs and 3 films during the first part of the evening and then there will be a Q&A session and discussion in the second part.
Non-members are welcome but there will be a small charge (No, I don't know how much but it will be small) on the door
Friday, 6 March 2015
|TRANQUILITY by Celine Marchbank|
I liked Celine's work a lot when I first looked at her website after coming across her name on Twitter but it was the way she talked about her late mother that affected me particularly. I wrote and told her so and explained that my late sister had died in the month of October, although many years before her mother who had also died in the month of October. Nothing especially significant in that except Celine loved her mother and I loved my sister, Janet, and when one knows that someone else has experienced the same loss, there is an immediate connection. I don't know. Somehow, it was important.
The shoot was arranged quite quickly and on 6th March 2015, Celine arrived on our doorstep. Her eyes said a lot about her sensitivity and calmness and it did not surprise me to hear that two of her photographer friends were Laura Hynd who had photographed me in 2011 and Briony Campbell who had photographed me in 2014 as both Laura and Briony are thoughtful and empathetic people. We chatted with Jane for a short while and then I showed her around the house and she plumped for our sitting room as a suitable location. I am in the process of making a special film for Easter one scene of which was going to involve a jigsaw - I say 'was' because I am not a jigsaw person and so, based on my progress so far, I think this jigsaw scene may have to wait until 2016. Anyway, Celine was happy to record me puzzling over it whilst I chatted about various things - family, possessions, previous shoots.
It was a very laidback and quiet shoot and we both knew when it had come to the end. Normally, I can be quite frustrated that I have to stop but this time it didn't seem to matter so much. The morning just rolled out like a rug and when the last bit flopped down with the last click of Celine's camera, we stood back and thought "Yeah, that will do". Celine indulged me by watching some of my films afterwards and then she left as quietly and unobtrusively as she had arrived.
A couple of weeks passed. I received a set of five photographs all the same, all different, all beautiful. I could have chosen any one of them and it would have been the perfect choice. I wrote to say that I was very pleased and very proud of Celine, her work and the image that I had chosen. She replied approving my choice and she ended her message by saying that she hoped our paths cross again at some point. They might do. They might not. But what a nice thing to hope for.
Thursday, 5 March 2015
|ROGER A. DESTROYER by Stewart Weir|
Many years ago, Jane and I were having dinner with two of our greatest friends, whose names will not be divulged in order to protect the innocent. Anyway, these two friends, Helen and Nick, produced a book of weird real names one of which was "Roger A. Destroyer". So he is out there somewhere. Following this discovery, I began to write to to Helen and Nick as Roger who gradually evolved into this ex-Army colonial guy with a bad-tempered, suspicious wife. Then I discovered You Tube and Roger became an overnight sensation over night, racking up as many as 45 views per film. Viral was not the word - in fact more of a small sniffle than a virus. Nevertheless, Roger carried on undaunted and soon he became the regular host of the Christmas and Easter specials produced by Ravenswood Films and, in so doing, cornered the ex-Army colonial market in seasonal film specials. In fact, I don't know why I am bothering to write all this as he is now so well known.
Seriously, I am very fond of Roger because he is a thoroughly likeable person. So when Stewart suggested that he photograph Roger, I was elated. So, where did Stewart come from? Well, unusually, I was approached by him rather than the other way round. First of all, in July 2014, he wrote to a photographer who had already photographed me and his message was forwarded on to me. But that was a slightly strange time for me because I had only come out of hospital about six weeks before and I was feeling a bit odd and lacking in confidence and so Stewart became lost in a morass of unanswered correspondence. But Stewart did not give up: he wrote to Jane asking her to ask me to contact him and contact him I did and we set up a meeting in cafe where we talked about the project and his enthusiasm for it. He is such a nice bloke and so I knew that we would have a good shoot. I cannot remember how Roger Destroyer became the focus of our collaboration but, in the weeks that followed, we exchanged emails about a possible location for Roger to be photographed but this never really came to anything and eventually, we ended up agreeing that Roger should be captured in his own habitat - my house.
On the day of the shoot, Stewart arrived, raring to go. I showed him around the house and he went for the basement first because of the lovely gentle light down there. He wanted to experiment and we talked about various poses, both topless and clothed and ended up with me naked and screaming silently, raging against my illness and we checked the images in the back of the camera and they really worked well.
But Roger was waiting in the wings and we went into the sitting room for those and I have to say that these worked superbly. Stewart really understood Roger and my fondness for him and I think he has captured the essence of the man wonderfully well in this shot. And, by then, we were both more relaxed having got some good shots already under our belts. Stewart sent me a selection very soon after the shoot - in fact I think it was the next day - he doesn't let the grass grow under his feet - and they were good, very good but there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that Roger was going to be Stewart's contribution to my project. I am always impressed by how good photographers capture the inner truth of the person whose portrait they are taking and this is no exception. Yes, I am not really Roger but he is real to me and Stewart recognised this and has produced this wonderful image. I am so proud of this.
Stewart Weir : www.instagram.com/stewartweir
Wednesday, 4 March 2015
|A PINT OF BEER by Kathy Archbold|
If I go into a pub for a drink, I have to order a pint of beer. Not a half pint, not a glass of wine or a soft drink but a PINT of BEER. There are some great London pubs and this was a nice one on Vauxhall Bridge Road in Victoria but I regret that I cannot recall its name. If I do remember or if I come across the pub again, I shall amend this post.
I saw Kathy's work on Flickr in 2011 and I wrote to her and she agreed to photograph me but, at the time, we were right in the middle of moving to Brighton and so the email correspondence got buried under all the stuff that surrounds a move. But I saw some of her work again in early 2014 and I was reminded of her talent. She has an eye for people and places, a more colourful and optimistic celebration of today's Britain than that displayed by more celebrated photographers (I can think of one in particular) but maybe that has something to do with her own tendency to look for what is good and bright and hopeful in our world rather than for what is coarse, depressing and dull. Both attitudes are valid but I know which one I prefer. Kathy and I met outside WH Smiths on Victoria Station and went round the corner for a coffee where we chatted and got to know each other. She told me about her celebrity cat who paid for his keep with his pictures on Getty Images. She told me about how she got into photography in the first place and her subsequent career which took her to New York for a while. Now and again, she raised one of her cameras (she had both a film camera and a digital version) and clicked. She asked me to stand by a glass partition. I didn't really feel I was posing which was fortunate because often I am uncomfortable when I am photographed in public.
We then left the station concours and wandered down towards the river and stopped at various places on the way where Kathy took photographs of me in front of buildings which she would have photographed anyway, if I had not been there. By now, it was getting a bit chilly and so we ducked into the nearest pub after a couple more shots and thereby abandoned our trip to the Thames. We both had a drink and this is where this shot was taken. What do I like about this shot? Well, I have my pint of beer. I am smiling. I like the red leather of the armchair next to me contrasting with the blues and the browns. My left hand is hovering at the edge of the table, ready to pick up the glass. I like the light coming in through the window but most of all I like the photograph because it reminds me of Kathy who was a real pleasure to meet and spend time with. She illuminates ordinary things and makes the world a better place in the process. No one else other than Kathy could have taken this picture because no one else apart from Kathy would have elicited such an expression on my face.
She sent me about five shots afterwards - she wasn't entirely sure about the shot in front of the glass partition on the station because of her doubts as to the layering and maybe because of this uncertainty on her part, I didn't choose it but looking at it again, it is an excellent shot. Kathy was particularly taken by the woman in the red coat behind me who, due to the layering, appears twice.
Well, there we are - Kathy Archbold. Good isn't she?
KATHY'S WORK: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kathyprints/
Friday, 20 February 2015
I was born in 1951, only 6 years after the end of the Second World War, and I remember a number of shopping trips and other visits to central London with my mother from my home in Finchley when, from the top of the bus, I would see bombed out buildings awaiting demolition. Therefore, I found it really interesting to hear from Thom Atkinson who came to photograph me in 2009. He has told me about a self-publishing project he and his sister, Beth, have been working on. There are some pictures and information here at their imprint website - www.hwaetbooks.com
The project they are publishing is entitled Missing Buildings and, in a nutshell, it is about the physical and mythological legacy of the London Blitz.
It is an amazing book full of wonderful, haunting pictures of these buildings. I found myself looking at the weird outlines of the missing buildings against the ones which had survived and wondering who had been living there, were they killed, what pictures had been fixed to the exposed interior of the party wall? There is so much to see and ponder on even though it is just an empty space. And now, 70 years after the end of the War, there is still a presence there.
You can pre-order one of a limited edition of 100 copies of the book individually numbered and signed by Thom and Beth Atkinson which will include a numbered and signed 10x8 print of your choice and your name will be printed in both the Limited and the forthcoming Trade Edition. To pre-order your copy, you should contact Hwaet Books direct.
Saturday, 14 February 2015
|FAITH by Alison Bettles|
At four o'clock in the afternoon on 12th November 2014, I walked into The Basket Makers pub in Brighton and bought a pint of beer and sat down at a table near the wall. The pub was dark and comfortable, the barmaid's welcome had been pleasant and well meaning and there was a lazy hum of conversation in the air. I took off my coat and took a sip from my glass. The door opened and Alison stepped into the bar and looked over to me and smiled. It was a confident smile of recognition, of delight, of expectation. I knew from that moment that our collaboration would work well. We talked for a long time and, during the conversation, she said that she would like to use Lucien Freud's paintings as a reference for the shoot. I was beginning to be seduced, not by Alison but by her ideas. I wrote a rambling email to her the next day with vague ideas about brush strokes on the body but, as we had discussed at our meeting, these were really just notes and thoughts which would never be likely to end up in the final images but might influence how the shoot would progress. She replied with some examples of early Victorian nude photography and gradually we were creeping towards the unravelling of the feeling of total abandon which I was able to express at the shoot.
We agreed to meet at the gallery where the shoot was to take place and she showed me this enormous space and described how she intended to set up the shot in the middle maybe with a sheet for me to sit and lie on. It was now coming together in our minds and the anticipation was growing. The shoot itself took place on St. Valentine's Day 2015. That morning, I had shown Jane, Tom and Florence the Valentine's Day film I had made and I felt very much connected and in love with them all and so, it was with a song in my heart that I set off for the shoot.
Alison welcomed me with a quiet warmth that spoke of a recognition of a short-lived but trusting friendship. We had a cup of tea and I was introduced to a few of her colleagues as they left to go home and then we made our way into our temporary studio. Everything was ready - Alison had created a bed covered by a crumpled sheet and had had the forethought to place a soft mattress underneath. She showed me some of Freud's paintings and then we got started. After about half an hour, I took a break and we looked at the photographs she had already taken but I knew that we had not yet achieved what we were looking for - or rather, that of which I was capable. I owed her more than this. I returned to the sheets with renewed intent and I went for it. I opened myself up and almost forgot that Alison was there but she was there clicking away as I twisted myself into shapes and spams of emotion and passion, all the while aware of Freud's own intensity and lush strokes of the pink and brown of flesh and skin.
Alison's recent work had been still life pictures of piles of books and jugs and glasses - domestic, normal household objects which spoke of the people who used them, rubbed their hands on them and picked them up and put them down. I had thought that photographing me was a departure but it was more an extension, a viewing of the body as yet another object which can inhabit a home space like any other. A rude, ruddy shape of bone and muscle.
This photograph was taken in this second session and speaks of the communion of artist and subject, each with total faith in the other's ability to capture the beautiful baseness of humanity and hold it aloft and let it crumble and fall where it will, to be sucked into the earth, to feed and nourish, to regrow, to live and die. I love this photograph.
Saturday, 31 January 2015
|LOOK AWAY by Sheryl Tait|
January is possibly the bleakest month of the year but not when you are being photographed by a photographer as inventive as the lovely Sheryl Tait which is what happened to me on 31st January 2015. I cannot remember how I came across Sheryl's work but when I saw it, I was struck by how different each of her photographs were. It seemed to me that Sheryl did not have a 'style' but that her photographs were fed by her natural interest in her subjects and her desire to tell their story; each photograph is as unique as the subject.
I used to do some acting and indeed an actor is what I always wanted to be and some people have suggested that I might want to to go back to that now I am retired but the reason I don't want to is that I know that my illness will get in the the way of me performing well. Before my surgery, it would have been mainly my tremor and since my surgery, it would be a mixture of things. But if I was not able to give as good a performance as I would have done if I was not ill, then I just don't want to do it - I don't want people to say that I have performed well considering that I have Parkinson's Disease. I want it to be good anyway. And this is why I want to go further in my shoots physically and emotionally - this is why I am prepared to stand naked on a beach in January. I want to make up for the fact that I have Parkinson's. Mind you, it helps if two people like Sheryl and Jordi are around as they are such considerate people. They made me feel safe and cared for.
We had talked briefly before about what we were going to do on the beach but the tempting of seagulls with chips idea was ditched which was a relief! We had to hire a taxi to ferry us to the beach as Jane had used the car to go to the studio. It was a bit windy and quite cold and, although there was a small family group with a couple of dogs on the beach, they departed at the right moment to enable the shots with the red scarf to proceed. Eventually, we finished and I have to say that, although I was feeling some physical discomfort, once we got started, I did feel that I could have gone on for a little while longer. We called the taxi company who were extremely unhelpful about a pick up but eventually, it was sorted and we were on the way back home. This is where the the third set of shots were taken followed by a Tim Andrews filmfest which Sheryl and Jordi endured with good grace.
A short while later, I received three stunning images each one very different to the others as you can see. Sheryl did not try to influence my decision and I went for the shot from the last session because there I am. Me. Unadorned. Connecting with the photographer and through her, the viewer. In many ways, it is as naked and theatrical as the others but with this added engagement. It is beautiful.
Wednesday, 14 January 2015
|INTIMACY by Magda Rakita|
I watched "House of Cards" last night. The performances by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright were so moving. There is so much about the people they play which is bad and cruel, calculating and ambitious - but in this episode, they showed such a deep love for each other. It was inspirational acting and I wished for one short whisper of a moment that I could do it again because, when you have the opportunity of acting in that way, you become that person and live that life and breathe that breath and think those thoughts and it is wonderful. On the one hand, you are just pretending to be another person but, on the other hand, you are that person. He leaves a present on her pillow and she goes into his bedroom where he is sleeping on his side. She slides into bed and puts her arm around him and he wakes and clutches her hand. It is not a sexual moment as such but it says so much about them and their closeness. Their intimacy.
I met Magda at Photo Forum whenI gave a talk there a couple of years ago and then we met at a cafe in Mornington Crescent and talked through some ideas and ended up with this plan to photograph me inside an old window frame possibly on the beach. But we could never find the right sort of frame. Nevertheless, we kept in touch and then recently, Magda said that she had started this project about intimacy in older age and asked if she could come over and photograph me and also interview me about my thoughts on Intimacy.
Whilst she was here, this is some of what I said to her :-
My intimacy with Jane is totally different from any other type of relationship. The intimacy that I have with Jane.. is based on years of love and understanding. And arguments, and touch and looks... if you want to have really satisfying relationship... then it's got to be based on an understanding and an acceptance of who you both are. And that's what’s important.
In this photograph, I can see what I am thinking. It is a mixture of seriousness and hope. An acceptance of how things are and how they are going to be allied to an optimism that knows no bounds. The image is crisp, full of light and texture. It is full of what I love so much about this project, this life, Jane and photography. It is full of hope.
And Magda captured all that in one click of her finger.
Wednesday, 24 December 2014
I have written about my son, Tom, in this blog but not about my daughter, Florence, because she has not taken a photograph of me as part of the project. However, she is first cover for the main female lead in "Once the Musical" at the Phoenix Theatre, London and that is sufficient reason to talk about her because she has been as great an influence on my life as anyone. It is not often that one talks of one's child having that effect but, in her case, it is most definitely true.
Florence has the most delightful character. She is kind, concerned and very funny. If you have seen my Christmas Film, you will have seen my portrayal of Pat from East Enders which was inspired by Florence's own impersonation which is much funnier. Florence is also an incredibly talented actress and singer. I have two favourite stories about this. The first one involves "West Side Story" in which she played Maria in a school production when she was about 16 or 17. She had a very bad sore throat some weeks before the opening night and had been advised not to sing at all and so, during rehearsals, she had to almost whisper the words of the script and the songs. She recovered a few days before her first performance and, although we had tickets for the third night, I just had to go to see her first night. She came onto the stage and sang the opening words of "Tonight" and as the words "Only you, you're the only thing I'll see forever" the tears flowed down my cheeks - it was so wonderful. Beautifully sung and acted.
The second story involves her performance as understudy in "Little Night Music" where one night she played the part of Charlotte. There was a scene in the play where she and her husband gatecrash a house party and her husband explains that they were going to stay in a nearby hotel but, as he says, the hotel was in quarantine for.....and trying to think of what it was in quarantine for, he clicks his fingers at Florence for the answer and she cuts in with the word "Plague". Florence judged the moment, the audience, the rhythm of the speech, in fact everything beautifully as she said the word and it brought the house down.
So, I give you Florence, my ever beautiful daughter, loving mother of our gorgeous granddaughter, Mabel, superb actress, singer and musician. She is never quite sure when she will be appearing in "Once" but you can see her perform in this song on You Tube with Ronan Keating and other members of the cast. She is the singer on the far right with the curly hair
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
|ONE OF THOSE DAYS by Sophie Harris-Taylor|
I stepped off the bus, crossed the road but went too far and so, realising my mistake, I walked back and found Sophie's house. It was Victorian with a solid front door. I remember it as being pale green but perhaps not. Sophie came to the door and welcomed me with a smile. So many smiles.
We had discussed the shoot previously by email - Sophie said she wanted the photographs to be raw. She took me into her sitting room at the front of the house which overlooked the road and set up a black backdrop. Black as night but nowhere to hide. We talked and I removed my clothes and stretched and curled first on the black and later against the white wall. Sophie paused to show me some of the images in the back of the camera. My eyesight is so bad that all I could see was the light. It was beautiful. "I love skin" she said. Skin.
We moved into her kitchen where the light was different. I bent my head. I placed my hand on the work top playing music in my head which washed through to my fingers resting on imaginary keys. I gazed out to the small courtyard on the other side of which Sophie planned to create a studio. It was cold but I offered to go outside so that she could photograph me there. In the event, it was Sophie who stepped out and she shot me through the window. She returned to the kitchen and pushed kitchen clutter to one side as I stared at the lens - click - and then looked away - click.
Then it was over. I felt that familiar tinge of disappointment mixed with a grudging acceptance that comes at the end of every shoot. I dressed. I showed Sophie some of my films on her computer. Then I took my leave and caught the bus. I thought of the shoot as the bus lurched towards Clapham. Sophie, it was all so easy. You were easy. I was easy.
She does not prettify bodies, she illuminates them and in the light, she scratches over the skin like sand paper on wood revealing the grain. The human spirit is there, the pulse beneath the skin, the breath welling up from lungs pushed out past nostril or lip. She stands back and observes, slightly detached, from a doorway, through a window, across a room. I catch her eye. I know what she is doing and she knows that I know and I know it too. The light is all. As Sophie said afterwards, in terms of overtone, this image has a more documentary, honest and voyeuristic feel and the strong light feels quite cinematic which is something she is always striving for in her work. It all works so wonderfully well.
One of these days,
When we are both at our ease
When you've got time to please yourself,
See what's right and see what's there
and breathe fresh air, ever after.
- Paul McCartney
Thursday, 11 December 2014
|TIM ANDREWS: AFTER BOTTICELLI by Alicia Bruce|
Alicia must be one of the nicest people I have met. She is very genuine and open and with an exciting and infectious enthusiasm for all things photographic. I first came across her beautiful work through Twitter in December 2012 - I think I must have followed someone and Mr Twitter then kindly suggested l might also be interested in Alicia and, when l saw her work, l was and wrote and told her so. She replied with the aforesaid enthusiasm saying that she would be delighted to be part of this remarkable project. It would not be the last time she would use that adjective in relation to me and my project but l am not so remarkable although l would accept that the project is - it is full of remarkable work by remarkable people. I am an ordinary guy who got an illness that affects many ordinary people and I have dealt with it as best I can, sometimes well and sometimes not so well. The drugs boosted my creativity but at the same time produced rather worrying side effects. Rough and smooth.
Anyway, back to the remarkable Alicia. She explained right at the start that her work was a collaborative process with those she photographed and was often based on artworks from public collections. She said she would ask me to be involved in the planning process as much as possible and that we could choose a painting which draws parallels with me and aspects of my personality and use this as a starting point fro my portrait. She said that she would be happy to shortlist with me but equally happy for me to make suggestions. So you can see that she is a person who knows what she wants and makes that quite clear.
Simon, Sylwia, Me, Alicia & Laurence
There was then a thwarted attempt in 2013 to travel to Edinburgh to meet Alicia as well as some old photographic friends but the thwart was my Parkinson's which had got steadily worse and so I decided very reluctantly not to go. I felt so sorry but Alicia and the others were very understanding and the trip was put on hold until December 2014 when I found myself with a beating heart outside Lovecrumbs cafe. I pushed the door open and was met with a table of smiling faces belonging to Sylwia Kowalczyk, Simon Crofts, Laurence Winram and Alicia. Sylwia very kindly bought me a hot chocolate and they all seemed as pleased to see me as l was to see them.
In the cafe, Alicia and I chatted a bit more about the shoot and agreed to proceed with her idea of Botticelli's Venus. It was lovely to meet her and in the company of the others with whom I enjoyed such a beautiful friendship and, when we all left the cafe, I gave each of them a big hug and Alicia walked back with me to the centre of the city and she pointed out various landmarks and took a few pictures. This is what I love about this project - spending my time having these experiences and meeting people in this way. The next day I had a very enjoyable shoot with Lucy Kendra (see future blogpost) and I had hoped to see Lucy Telford and Brogan Ramm the day after but the weather was too bad to make the journey and Alicia texted and suggested that I went to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and also Stills Photographic Gallery. I am so glad that I did both. At the Portrait Gallery I saw some wonderful paintings by Allan Ramsay and bought some great Christmas presents in the shop. At Stills I saw the amazing photographs by Chloe Dewe Matthews in her "Shot at Dawn" exhibition.
Finally, on the morning of 12th December 2014, I arrived at the studio a few miles down the road from my hotel and met Alicia again and her assistant for the day, Craig Yule. They had already set everything up and really we had the picture we wanted in the bag pretty quickly. We looked at a few in the back of the camera and, although my eyesight is not brilliant, I could see that the colours were stunning. We tried a few more with me altering my pose slightly - Alicia had pinned up a copy of the painting to help with that - and that was it! Alicia produced a Christmas hat and we mucked about with that doing a few silly shots and then I said goodbye. As I left, I plugged in my earphones and the beautiful sound of Brian Wilson's voice washed into my head like a silver sea.
Who took that look away
I remember how you used to say
You'd never change
But that's not true
Oh, Caroline you
Break my heart,
I want to go and cry
It's so sad to watch a sweet thing die
Oh Caroline why
Alicia asked me to comment on the collaborative process and it was the case that we discussed various options beforehand and we enjoyed the to and fro but how much influence I had on the final outcome I don't know; I think that is for Alicia to say. All I can say is that I think the portrait is superb. I love the contrast of the blue and my pink skin. It is not an exact copy of the painting- I am looking straight at the camera with a slightly fearful, apologetic gaze, I am a man and there is no shell - but it was never intended to be a copy and because of that, Alicia has in fact very cleverly created something unique albeit influenced by an original work. Furthermore, she wanted my portrait to be a subversive homage to the original work. It is no wonder that she is held in such high regard in photographic circles.
Me and Alicia in conference by Craig Yule
So there we are. I have been photographed by Alicia Bruce, a great photographer and a very nice woman. How many people can say that? Probably quite a few and they almost certainly feel as proud as I do.
Friday, 5 December 2014
Home. I am fortunate enough to have a home to come back to, where I can relax and be me. Often, when I have been out for the day, I come home after dark and I look through the window to see if Jane is there and, if she is, I feel a warm glow of love, affection and companionship. This may all sound a bit sugary and soppy but it is true. There really is no other way of putting it. Home is where your family is and where you are surrounded by your things such as your books and pictures and photographs. Everything is familiar; everything holds a memory.
Tereza's family home is in Slovakia. She talked to me about her home and her family and, in particular, her brother, with whom she has a very close relationship. So, it is not surprising that she took this picture. When I first saw it, I felt quite emotional because I recognised myself immediately. What Tereza had done was capture me where I am the most like the real me - at home- and she did that because she loves her family and they love her and because we had met previously and talked a lot about each other and, on the day of the shoot, we just continued that conversation. But not many people could translate all that into the feeling expressed in this shot. Tereza is an extremely talented photographer.
I had seen her work in 2013 in the Taylor Wessing exhibition for which she was shortlisted whilst still a student at Middlesex University. Her photograph, "Sisters" is reproduced below.
I loved the light and the trust shown by the three girls; it is a beautiful picture. So, I had absolutely no hesitation in writing to her asking if she would be part of my project. Eventually, we met in the Barbican Centre - her idea was to photograph me there which surprised me as I thought we were just going to meet for a chat. It is interesting waiting for someone you have never met before - as each person comes in, you think "That could be her.." but when Tereza came in, I knew it was her straightaway. Maybe because she came up to me and said she was Tereza and I must be Tim. Seriously, she is quite tall and slender and she was wearing a long black coat. She looked like the person who took her photographs. Well, we talked for well over an hour and agreed that she would come down to Brighton for the shoot. We arranged a day in December 2014 but then at the last minute, she had second thoughts because it was just before Christmas and there were other small problems but I managed to persuade her to come as planned and we were both so pleased that I did because we had a lovely day talking about various things and, at the end, as a special treat, I showed her some of my silly films. Lucky girl!
The photographs were taken on a film camera and so it took a while for Tereza to get them scanned but it was well worth the wait. I really loved the light and the connection which was borne of her sensitive personality. The pictures were all very gentle. Like Tereza. She is gentle but she is also someone who is determined to develop her skills. I know that she will continue to grow to be a supreme artist and it is nice to think that perhaps, one day when she is sitting with her grandchildren looking through her old photographs, they will ask "Who is that man sitting looking out of the window, smiling? What is he smiling about?" and she will answer "Oh, what was his name? Oh yes, Tim" and she will smile too. "Why is he smiling? Well, he's smiling because he is thinking about his home and all the things and people in his home which make him happy".
Monday, 1 December 2014
|MY TIME HAS COME by Jacqui Booth|
............and I said to Jacqui as we made our way back to her house,
" I have always wanted to be photographed on a railway track...".
She looked at me and smiled.
"There is one on the way home"
I smiled back.
"Let's go and have a look" she said.
And we did.
As it was a Monday, the line was closed and so there was no danger of being run over by an old steam train. Nor was the Fat Controller on duty. We reached the railway and passed through the gate leading to the pedestrian access over the line. A couple of schoolchildren and a man with a dog walked over the track to the gate on the far side throwing cursory glances at a photographer and her model further up the track, the former with a camera and the latter first crouching and then lying on the sleepers. I thought about lying with my head on the track and even of undressing but my nerve failed me and anyway, I thought being clothed would be a better shot. And it was. The hand says it all. It rests gently on the cold metal as I stare blankly up to the grey December sky. The last dregs of the fading light catching my skin and highlighting the different blues of my clothing that contrast so beautifully with the stones pressed down between the concrete sleepers. Luck has been defined as when preparation meets opportunity and what a stroke of luck this was. We were both ready and took our chance.
I had come across Jacqui through Twitter. She had a quirky way about her that was very appealing. I saw that she was a photographer and asked to see her work and she referred me to her photostream on Flickr. The pictures there spoke to me of a love of life and an interest in things whether they were stones balancing on others or insects - they seemed to remind her of important thoughts and feelings and events in her life. Each one had a resonance. Eventually, we arranged a shoot on 1st December 2014. Jacqui met me at the railway station. She looked slightly awkward and shy but that wore off pretty quickly as we walked to the building where the shoot was to take place. We talked some more and then got started. The first shots involved some wool which was twisted around me in a full body version of 'cat's cradle'. Then we went into the garden without the wool for a few headshots and afterwards, we went round the corner to a huge deserted church next to two beautiful town houses and wandered into the churchyard where I quickly undressed and posed against the beautifully old stone and flint walls.
By then, the light was going and it was at that point I mentioned the railway shot.
The shot above of my legs is beautiful and I love the light on my face in the close-up below but I had to choose the railway shot for my project didn't I?
Look again at the hand on the track. Wonderful. These were all part of one of the most inspiring set of photographs I have ever received. They all had something - something loving and earnest and real. You cannot just pretend to be like that, you have to feel it in your bones as Jacqui does.
We have talked of working together again. Yes please.
Saturday, 8 November 2014
The shoot took place on a Saturday in a small building which Nandita had a personal connection to when she was little and so that meant she was also in a place physically and emotionally that was full of happiness and good memories. We tried various paintings and went from me sitting naked on a stool to standing and then back to the stool again. We looked at some of the images whilst we worked and it was clear that the few figurative pictures used were not as effective as the landscapes and more abstract works. Although I had had some inkling of how the pictures would turn out, I was still very pleasantly surprised by how good they actually were especially this one. I really like my stare into the distance but whereas some stares into the middle distance look just like that - a look into the middle distance - somehow my look has much more meaning in that it appears to be directed at the viewer even though I am not looking straight at the camera. There is wistfulness to it but it is not in any way devoid of strength or challenge. It still engages and throws back a statement of intent and resolve. I shall survive and I shall live my life. I love the shadow behind me - almost as if the old me is there, not hiding but supporting the new version.
Nandita worked very methodically and inclusively in that, as we looked at the images, she was always concerned as what my thoughts were and willing to listen to suggestions. It was a simple idea of hers beautifully constructed and with such great empathy shown towards her subject even though we had known each other only for a relatively short time. It is a skill that makes the difference between a good photographer and a great one and Nandita is certainly the latter.
Thursday, 30 October 2014
|A BLOODY NOSE by Stuart Harper|
I met Stuart when he assisted Laura Pannack on my shoot with her in October 2011. It was a very jolly shoot and Stuart and I got on quite well and so I asked Laura if she could send me his contact details which she did and I wrote asking if he would photograph me and he replied very promptly saying yes. And what do you know? Three years later he did photograph me. In the meantime, we communicated on Twitter mainly about football ( he supports Arsenal and I support Tottenham Hotspur) and also, he started following my Parkinson's Blog, "TODAY, I CUT MY NOSE SHAVING", which was precipitated by me actually cutting my nose shaving - that's tremors for you! He liked the title of the blog as he felt moved by the fact that even something as simple as shaving could become dangerous for someone with Parkinson's.
Well, it took a while to arrange the shoot but, eventually, Stuart came down to Brighton with a polaroid camera and took a number of shots in different parts of the house but he left the bloody nose shot for the end. I think we both had some doubts as to whether the shot would work. I wondered whether it was still relevant any more as my tremor had almost completely disappeared since my surgery in May 2014. I'm not sure what misgivings Stuart had - maybe it was just that, with the passing of time, the idea had become slightly dated. He had brought some fake blood with him and dabbed it onto my nose and allowed it to drip onto my chest. We looked at the photograph together afterwards and then looked at each other and then back at the photograph again and then we both smiled. It really had worked. And then, when I received this later by email, I was so pleased. The colours are so rich; the blue/green of the background, the brown of my skin and to top the lot, the dark red of the fake blood all of which combine so well but what lifts it up onto another level is the pose which Stuart requested from me. It really fixes the viewer and yet it is not straight to the camera which in itself says so much. The gaze is directed beyond the viewer and says "So bloody what?".
It really is a superb photograph from every point of view and I commend Stuart for sticking to his original idea and then executing it so brilliantly. When he sent it to me, he said that he hadn't scanned the other photographs he had taken that day but he felt that this - the last shot he had taken on the day - was the strongest. A very nice guy and an exceptionally good photograph.
Friday, 24 October 2014
It was dark. She sat patiently waiting for the final glitches to be sorted out. She spoke quietly but that made me even more alert to the words with which she described the ideas that
she transposes so eloquently into her photographs and her films
All the while as she talked I thought of the exhibition
at Regency Town House that I missed
If you ever see an exhibition
by Emma Critchley
DO NOT MISS IT
her talk by showing
still photographs and films
I was utterly entranced by her work
The work that I thought I knew so well and
yet I realised that I knew nothing The film "Aria" was simply
one of the most beautiful pieces of moving images I have ever seen As the notes soared
into the darkness of the Fabrica building the body of the swimmer flipped and cut through the
water as if it were flying. It twisted and turned and I felt tears well up as I turned and and twisted with it.
The film "Heartbeat" featured a woman standing under water with the beat of her heart connected somehow to a strobe light. Emma explained that the longer you stay underwater the slower how heart beats. Wih every beat the light flashed up a silhouette of the model's body and as the film progressed the beat got slower and slower until you thought it was the end and then... another beat.........and another
This work is of the highest order. It all comes from Emma's deep love of water or her love of deep water and her incessantly inquiring mind always searching for new ways to express what lies in her heart
I am so privileged to have worked with her
I am so privileged to know her
She is a supreme
Saturday, 11 October 2014
|BEAUTIFUL DECAY by Danielle Tunstall|
Over the Hill comes to Brighton!!
56 still photographs and 8 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.
The exhibiting photographers are:-
And films produced by the following:-