Wednesday, 25 May 2016

LOOK THROUGH ANY WINDOW by Graham Nash

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. 


GRAHAM NASH - Photographer

GRAHAM NASH with Shayne Fontayne
Last night, at The Union Chapel Islington, I witnessed one of the best concerts I have ever seen. It was performed by Graham Nash accompanied only (only!) by Shayne Fontayne on lead guitar and vocals. It was truly wonderful from the very first song, "Bus Stop" right through to the end when he finished off with "Our House" and "Teach your Children" and finally "Just a Song before I Go". We all rushed off into the night humming not only our favourites but also the beautiful tracks from his new album, "This Path Tonight".


But he is not only (only!) a musician but a great artist and his photographs are filled with the same wit, romance, despondency and hope as drive his songwriting. And I am off to Guildford today armed with a letter which I shall deliver to his dressing room and hope that he might, just might, read it and that he might, just might, photograph me. I don't want to be a pain and so I would rather he didn't if he felt that I was but......wish me luck.

The Letter


Dear Graham,                                                                             25th May  2016

I am outside.

I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2005 and so you could say I have been an outsider for 11 years.  But that would not be correct.

In 2007, I answered an advert in Time Out from Graeme Montgomery a photographer looking for people to photograph for a book of ‘real’ nudes as opposed to professional models. I thought “Why not?”  I had retired from my job as a lawyer and so I no longer had a reputation to consider.

Well, to cut a very long story short, eventually I started approaching photographers explaining that I wanted to continue on the path of being photographed by different people during the course of my illness. 

Since 2007, I have been photographed by 405 photographers, some amateur, some student but mostly professional including Rankin, Mike McCartney, Grayson Perry, Jillian Edelstein, Steve Bloom and Jill Furmanovsky and it has been wonderful. I have raised funds for the charity, Parkinson’s UK and awareness of the disease by holding 9 exhibitions and appearing on The Culture Show on BBC TV and being featured in many Newspapers and photographic journals.

I have loved your music since the days of the Hollies, through the times with CSN & Y and then last night when I watched your superlative performance at the Union Chapel. I also think you are a wonderful photographic artist. I live in Brighton and I have travelled here today to ask you a question.

Will you please photograph me?

I am outside.


Tim Andrews

07980987396

Monday, 23 May 2016

OVER THE HILL: A PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY

OVER THE HILL by Roberto Foddai

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

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

Since then, over 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.

Tim Andrews


Monday, 25 April 2016

BEAUTIFUL DREAMER by Alice Evans

BEAUTIFUL DREAMER by Alice Evans

I closed my eyes. "You look beautiful" said Alice. I thanked her and thought what a lovely thing for someone to say. The camera clicked twice and then silence. That was it, the end of the shoot. I opened my eyes and we both smiled. Alice said that these were her first nude photographs. I felt proud. I felt happy. I wondered what 'beautiful' meant. When I received the photograph, I knew. The body is a beautiful thing, whatever shape, colour, condition or size. As I lay on that bed, in the basement below those windows, I did not think that. Nor did I think that I was beautiful when Alice said that I was. I just thought it was a very nice thing for her to say. But then, Alice is a very nice person. Gentle, quietly keen, interested and interesting.

When she arrived at the door with her philosopher friend, Paul, I was meeting her for the first time. Alice had been invited to partake in Critical Voices 2016 and so I looked at her work online and thought, mm, yes, I think so. I wrote and told her I thought so in the words of my standard email, the contents of which have hardly changed since I sent the first in 2008. She responded positively and, eventually, we agreed a date for the shoot in Brighton. When I looked at her website, I was taken particularly by the photographs in her "Dark" series. In many of these, there were no people but they had been there and I do find it very interesting when I see work like this which asks questions. Who was there? What were they doing and why? The photographer takes you only so far and then trusts you to make up your own mind. To create your own story.

So, with "Dark" in mind, Alice looked around the house for suitable places to photograph me but, as is often the case, the photographer is guided away from the original idea and it ends up differently; it ends up looking like this. Of course, there is no whitewater rapid in our basement (unless we have a damp problem far worse than we thought), it is in Coed y Brenin in North Wales but I do love the sound of water. I love its energy. And I have been placed above it, stretched out on a patchwork quilt of trees and rock listening to the water rushing by below me. Or maybe I am oblivious to it.

What I do know is that Alice has created a beautiful image using elements, fragments of light and energy and wrapped it all up into an image shaped like a beating heart. Is it not beautiful? Or am I dreaming?  

Friday, 22 April 2016

LINDA LIEBERMAN - an appreciation.

THE REALISATION by Linda Lieberman 2011


Linda Lieberman is a great photographer and a great artist. She takes beautiful photographs and she makes beautiful sculptures. And that is not all - they examine serious issues and make compelling statements about this world we inhabit and how we mistreat it. And I haven't finished - she is one of the nicest people I have ever met.

I came across her incredible work in 2010 and I wrote to her asking her if she would be willing to photograph me. She replied saying how busy she was but asking to see a photograph of me.....a little glint of light appeared, a little gap which I squeezed through by sending her a really good photograph. She acknowledged receipt of the photograph which she liked (YES!) and said that she would be in touch in the following month. I left it exactly a month and wrote again but this time she explained that she was very involved with a "very time consuming" sculpture project and would be "for some time to come" and therefore would have to put a "possible" session with me on hold. Possible - that word. I grabbed hold of it and hung on and replied saying (again) how much I admired her work. Then in the following January 2011, she wrote to me asking if I would be willing to be shot in March in a loincloth in London holding some fish. Immediately, I telephoned the Vatican and asked "Il Papa e cattolico?" and a very nice man said "Si!" I replied to Linda saying "Si!" or rather "Yes!" and this time I finished my email "Love Tim x" Linda responded and, for the first time, instead of ending with "regards, Linda Lieberman" it was "Best always, Linda". Result!

But then I almost scuppered the whole thing. I stopped the project.

It was a difficult time. We were selling our beloved Ravenswood to get rid of our huge mortgage. Jane and I felt so low. I wrote telling the photographers who had said yes including Linda who replied with the kindest words. In fact, loads of people did and I realised what the project had given me and that I should not have been so hasty. Gradually, I began to pick up the pieces and glue them together and my correspondence with Linda resumed. We actually set up a shoot date but then my daughter was stuck by Pneumonia and I had to cancel only the day before. My daughter recovered and, in July 2011, almost exactly a year after I first wrote to her, I was photographed by the great Linda Lieberman. How cool is that?

But, wait for it. She photographed me two days ago for the second time. We had remained in touch during the intervening period - she came to my exhibition in Southport on her way down from Scotland and she came to the exhibition at Farley Farm. She has become a very good friend. She is a beautiful person inside and out, she cares, she has oodles of talent and she makes a very good pasta salad. 

A further blogpost will follow when the photographs are published but I had to write something in the meantime.

WEBSITE: http://www.lindalieberman.com/


Thursday, 21 April 2016

LIGHT AND DARK by Cathy Pyle

LIGHT AND DARK by Cathy Pyle

This was a good day.

I had seen Cathy's photograph of her daughter in the Portrait Salon exhibition in November 2015. It was ablaze with natural light which rested gently on her young face and on blond curls but you cannot have light without darkness and the shadows on her skin and in her hair made the image rich and full. It shone out from its place on the wall amongst all the other incredible images on display. I noted down Cathy's name with a view to contacting her which I did a few days later. She responded confirming her interest but pointing out that, due to her childcare commitments, the shoot would have to be near her home in Guildford. We arranged to meet first and I went to Guildford by train. It was strange going back there five years after our move away from the area but Cathy met me at the station and once we had said hello and I had got into her car and started chatting, any sad feelings melted away. We went to her house and chatted about my project and her work, our respective families and love of home and family. She provided lunch and then, as her children's school day was getting near its end, she drove me back to the station. This meeting certainly helped to strengthen our relationship in that, when she arrived at my own door for our shoot on 21st April 2016, she wasn't a stranger and we just took up where we had left off. I showed her around the house and she settled on one or two locations and we chatted as we worked and we worked as we chatted and it was all very easy and smooth. We walked down to the sea - the sun was shining and although there was quite a breeze, it wasn't too cold and we sat near the edge of the beach eating a plate of chips each. Then it was time for Cathy to go and we said goodbye. I don't recall asking why she had decided to travel all the way over to me but I think she recognised that it was essential for her to photograph me 'at home'.

I received a set of photographs from the shoot which Cathy has since published on her website under the heading of "Hiraeth" which is a Welsh word for which there is no direct translation in English but which Cathy describes as basically a homesickness for a home to which one cannot return, a nostalgia, yearning or grief for the lost places of one's past. We had spoken a lot about my previous homes, both my childhood home in West Wittering in Sussex and our family home "Ravenswood" which we had to sell in 2010. Indeed, she suggested that we might conduct the shoot in the latter but I explained that I had vowed never to return there - it would be too painful.

So, what of the photographs? It seems odd to talk about them after dipping into the sadness surrounding the memory of Ravenswood but they made me happy, very happy indeed. I love all of them because I remember how I felt as Cathy took each one. I felt that here was a person who understood. I chose this one because of the light and because of the dark which combine to create a picture not unlike the one of Cathy's daughter. The light pours in through the window and even the black T shirt is highlighted with flecks of grey. The rise and fall of the terrain of my face and arms is created by skin, flesh, muscle, vein but becomes all the more interesting when tinged by the light from the window. It is a photograph by Cathy Pyle, a warm and beautiful person who paints even the dark side with a light touch. She understands her subject, that is clear but what is also clear is that this compassion is allied to a deep knowledge of how to use a camera to tell a story.

This photograph tells of a good day. A day of Light and Dark.



Monday, 18 April 2016

SOMEWHERE, BEYOND THE SEA by Antonia Attwood

Still from the video "Somewhere, Beyond the Sea" by Antonia Attwood
I have been asked to speak at Critical Voices 2016 at Tunbridge Wells on 11th June and when the organiser, Graham Shaw, sent me the details they included the names of my co-speakers and there, nestling amongst the names on the list was that of Antonia Attwood. I looked at her website where it stated that her work aimed to illustrate and visually interpret how mental illness 'feels' using "metaphorical symbols which create an attempt to raise awareness and understanding of the mood affectations and the phenomenology of mental illness". It goes on to say that her work explored "how it feels to be vulnerable and overwhelmed by the world living with a medical condition".


This was enough to convince me to contact Antonia but then I looked at her films "Gestures of Resilience" and "Mother Tongue" both of which I found extremely moving. However, it is interesting that, sometimes, I do not really think of myself as being someone who has a condition or an illness - maybe I do all I do to block that out. Who knows? Anyway, back to Antonia. The films were excellent so I wrote to her asking if we could collaborate. She replied quite quickly saying that she would love to create a moving style portrait with me and suggested that perhaps we could look at a gesture that made me feel empowered and cut it with a metaphorical image that explored how I 'felt' living with an illness similar to the way she dealt with this in "Mother Tongue". Yes, yes, yes! She then wrote asking me to think of metaphorical words that described my experience with Parkinson's and this bear of little brain had to look up the definition of a metaphor and respond accordingly. What I came up with were the constant incidences of little battles which I have had with the condition during the day, especially before my Deep Brain Stimulation surgery; it is almost as if PD is a sparring partner and that I bob and weave and jab away to stop it having too much of a constrictive effect.


We arranged to meet in her studio which is in a small gated complex in South London. I called her on the 'phone as I arrived outside and she she came out to let me in. I love that moment just before I meet a photographer whom I have not met previously. I have studied his or her work beforehand and I am excited by the prospect of working together and then suddenly, there they are standing right in front of me - it is one of the many pleasures of this project. James Stewart, the great film actor, said once that films are made up of moments like this and I feel that real life is the same. It is about anticipation, the unknown.


We talked for quite a while before Antonia got ready for the filming. I don't know how we got round to Bobby Darin singing "Beyond the Sea" but we did. It is a classic crooner/jazz song and, about three quarters of the way through, there is a wonderful drum riff and so, while I was being filmed, dancing to the song, I did some shadow boxing in time (or roughly in time) to the drum solos as Antonia film me. A few weeks later, I received the film and it is excellent. She has used the live version of the song which, even slowing it down, adds dynamism to the portrait but, at the same time, it creates this feeling of slowness and stiffness by the drawling soundtrack. The dance is interrupted by an image of brain shaking vigorously, each wobble like a poke in the ribs to remind us that, whatever methods are used to keep the illness at bay, the brain is still vulnerable. Brilliant.


Antonia manages yet again to make a simple statement whilst examining and representing a complex, irrepressible disease. She has a rare talent and I am very honoured indeed to have worked with her. When she sent me the film, she also sent these words which describe her take on our collaboration:-


"Tim describes his relationship to his Parkinson’s as an ongoing fight with his brain. Determined not to let it win, and ultimately succeeding at this. He came into the studio his energy and positivity simply inspiring. He started dancing to ‘Somewhere Beyond the Sea’ and instantly I knew he wasn’t a victim of a neurological disease, he was simply someone who loved life. 
Using the footage of him dancing, reminded me of a fight, just like the one he described previously. The fact he could get up and dance proved he was winning this one. Cutting this with images of a brain reminds us that the fight is always on going. I have no doubt that with Tim’s positivity, drive and determination this will be a battle till the end, to enjoy every single day."

The film is below.

WEBSITE : http://www.antoniaattwood.com/
VIDEO : https://vimeo.com/167294214



Thursday, 14 April 2016

THE END IS NIGH


I have had the feeling for sometime now that "Over the Hill" has had its day and so I have now decided to bring it to an end. I have one or two shoots arranged for April and May and then that will be it. There are quite a few photographers who kindly have said that they would like to photograph me but, for one reason or another, we have stopped corresponding either due to my failure to grab the chance when it was offered or because the photographer has been busy with paid work. I apologise to any of you out there if I was at fault - my only excuse is that it is sometimes difficult to keep tabs on everyone plus the fact that I haven't been too well in recent months. However, if there is anyone who I have approached and requested they take part and who would still like to add their name to the 387 who have already photographed me, then please, please do email me and we can try to set something up before the end of May which is the cut off date. Also, I am hoping that some of you may want to photograph me again or need a model for a shoot and may think to ask me.

I cannot tell you what a thrill it has been to be involved in this project. I was so pleased when I retired as a solicitor because I was working under a lot of stress partly due to the job itself but also because I had been suffering from Parkinson's Disease but did not know it. I had so many things I wanted to do - watch cricket, read, write, go to the cinema and I did all those things but they were lonely pastimes. Over the Hill has enabled me to meet and work with 387 beautiful people and I can safely say that I have not had a bad shoot. And it was the shoots I loved most of all. 

It hasn't all been plain sailing. First, of all, Jane did not quite know what to make of it all having got over the shock of the initial diagnosis. Some people have questioned why I want to be photographed and also why all the nudity even though I have removed my clothes in less than a quarter of them. I hope that I haven't upset anyone too much by my shocking behaviour! There have been a few regrets - my failure to persuade Nadav Kander to photograph me being one. I have also been asked if I have a favourite image but I can honestly say that I do not. Each one has been an important part of the journey.

I would like to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart, who has been involved in this project either in photographing me or assisting on the shoots. You "have made my life enchanting" and have helped me through a time when I could have succumbed to my illness but in fact it has been a time when I have been wonderfully happy. Each time I look at a photograph from the project, I remember the shoot and what fun we had. I shall never forget you - any of you.
ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE by Tim Andrews

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

BODY by Paloma Tendero

BODY by Paloma Tendero

14th January 2015 - The market in Brixton is a mass of colour and shape - shiny bulbous avocado pears waiting for your teeth to sink into its ripe flesh, thick orange rods of carrot, melons like rugby balls that, no matter how hard you try, will drip their sweet sticky juice over your chin as you try to suck and bite and swallow all at the same time, rows of fresh silver-green trout which even the fish monger has to pick up one at a time because of its protective cover of slime, crusty loaves of bread longing for a knob of butter to sink into the hot pillow of dough inside and, tucked away in between these delicacies, just to calm you down is a shop full of religious artefacts such as creamy birth candles, statues of the Virgin Mary, multicoloured rosary beads and bejewelled crucifixes. I find that I cannot rush through this throbbing palette of sensuality without wanting to buy something, anything, to take home and cut or peel, lick or swallow, hold or stroke. Somehow, I avoid sating this desire but it helps that I am late for a shoot at PhotoFusion and that I have forgotten to bring directions with me. I try to remember the last time I was here when I gave a talk on my project and the lovely Peter Dazeley, Jillian Edelstein, Emma Critchley, Laura Pannack, Jocelyn Allen and Clare Hewitt also spoke. Eventually, I find the building and the right door to the studio after asking the receptionist in the gallery for directions. I notice, out of the corner of my eye, that there is an exhibition which looks interesting. The shoot is with Amit Lennon which will be the subject of another post once I receive his photographs but Amit recommends that I take time to look at the photographs on show in the gallery and I do and there, amongst some excellent work, is a wonderful self portrait by Paloma Tendero. I am drawn to it immediately. It reminds me of my own self portraiture which it is not anywhere near as good as this but it is the shape of Paloma's body which is so arresting. It is not a picture of sexuality but of architectural form and, the more I look, the less of a body it becomes. It is a landscape of curves and shadows formed by flesh and bone and muscle, painted with natural light. I note down Paloma's name, thank the receptionist a second time and hurry back to the Tube station via the market which somehow doesn't feel so alluring.

The next day, I look at Paloma's work on the internet and it is all self portraiture. I question whether she will be interested after all but I write to her in hope and she replies a few days later, speaking enthusiastically about my project and, although she mentions that she does not normally work with other people, she suggests that we meet to discuss a possible collaboration. By this time, I am not well and this and other things get in the way of arranging a meeting. By this time, I am seriously thinking of bringing the project to an end and, finally, something tips it over the edge and I tell Paloma that we shall have to do it soon. Very kindly, she brings her suggested dates forward and she comes all the way down to Brighton to say hello and talk about her work. A week later, she meets me off the train at West Norwood and we go to her flat which she is sharing with a lovely man, Eduardo, who hugs me hello and goodbye after chatting briefly about acting and performing. As Paloma makes a coffee, she tells me that she has made a spanish omelette for our lunch and I tell her that I LOVE spanish omelettes. She then shows me the installation she has created in the sitting room made of wool and thread based on the image of brain cells she had found and, as she talks, she finishes off knitting a shawl of different shades of green. I take off my clothes and this is the tricky bit. I am not Paloma. Normally, she would nip into the installation, take the photograph with a remote control and nip back to the camera and move things about, change her shape, alter the settings but she now has another person to consider. Me.  



I begin to feel a tension as we both struggle with our new roles but, in a way, this adds to the excitement. I sit on the stool and bury my head on my chest and put my hands on the wall with fingers outstretched. Paloma asks me to clench my fists and Paloma murmurs her approval. I suggest that I step into the criss cross of threads and adopt different poses but it doesn't seem to work. Paloma is used to herself making little comments but not a second person. It must be like her working away on her own and someone suddenly striding into her studio and saying "Oh, why don't you do this?" just as a train of thought is beginning to form in her head. I don't know whether I consciously decide to stop suggesting but slowly we both relax and it is then that she asks me to return to the stool and my pose with head buried and fists clenched. This was the pose and we stuck to that as she re-arranges the crocheted scarf over my back and tucks it under my bottom. Suddenly, my body isn't my body - it is just a body being manoeuvred to produce the required shape. I'm not asked to think, I am asked to lift my arm, bend my back or hold some thread and it begins to work as an extended self portrait. 

Paloma sent me two images. They both worked but I asked her to choose the one for the project and she did. She said afterwards that she enjoyed the challenge and that it was interesting to experience this with another person. I really like the image. It is a nude of shape. My arms could be deformed legs. I could be balancing on my neck. The more you look the more strange it becomes. And yet, this image contains an emotion and a spirit that is completely absent in the portrayals of nudity in fashion, advertisements and the glamour industries. Our body-house, as Paloma has described it, is all we have, with its faults and blemishes and diseases and we have to do the best we can with it as indeed Paloma did with mine to produce a great photograph of beauty and light, colour and shape, passion and strength.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

TENDERNESS by Peter Zelewski

TENDERNESS by Peter Zelewski
On 12th November 2015, I went to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Taylor Wessing Exhibition. Normally, I have a quick swish round and then I start again and I take my time to look at each of the pictures and let them sink in. This time, however, I screeched to a halt, mid-swish, when I saw a beautiful photograph "Nyaueth" by a guy called Peter Zelewski. It was almost the perfect portrait; the face of the subject at first appeared blank and devoid of emotion but, I wondered, if that was the case, why was I drawn to it? I realised that there was a huge emotive force behind her eyes which the photographer had somehow brought out by blotting out the background apart from its colours and vague shapes, in order to concentrate on her eyes, her mouth, her skin, her hair. Everything about her breathed out from the photograph. I was seriously impressed. I noticed that it had been awarded Third Prize in the competition but for me, this, this was the winner.

So, what to do? I hummed and hesitated and wondered whether I should contact Peter............no I didn't - I wrote to him straightaway telling him he should have won and, of course, asking him if he might be willing to photograph me. He responded positively and enthusiastically. His first thought when he received my email was to shoot me in the same way as he had shot other people for his "Beautiful Strangers" collection. It was my admiration for these pictures which prompted me to write to him in the first place so this was fine by me. Then in the middle of emailing back and forth, we met at the opening of the Portrait Salon exhibition but as with all those occasions, it was short and sweet.

Finally, on Sunday 20th March 2016, we had our shoot. I travelled up to London from Brighton and, because of weekend improvement works, partly by bus and train which I found quite relaxing i.e. I fell asleep on the bus and the train. We met near Goodge Street station where, several decades ago, when I was seven years old, I was brought by my sister, Janet, to have physiotherapy on my right hand after I had contracted Polio which fortunately only affected the muscle in my right thumb. For those who have always wondered (no-one, I guess), that is why I bat right handed and bowl and throw left handed. In all three cases, not very well. Peter approached me in the cafe where I had been waiting with a lovely smile. He is a very winning person. He exudes goodwill and positive vibes. He dresses well too, wearing a neat close fitting jacket, neat trousers and very attractive brown shoes (sneakers?). He was very attentive about my ability to walk to the location but genuinely so but I told him I was fine and talked about the shoot I had had nearby with Claude Savona in Fitzrovia Chapel. The location was perfect - a small cul-de-sac of mews house. We spent about 15 minutes there and then moved on to a small narrow passageway for about another 15 minutes. Finally, we ended up here wherever here is because, by then, I had lost my sense of direction but it was somewhere near Tottenham Court Road. We were interrupted by a man who described himself as a celebrity chef who also wanted to be photographed but Peter suggested, very kindly and gently, that the guy moved along and waited round the corner until we had finished but we never saw him again. Then, a pretty girl walked past who Peter recognised as someone he had photographed a couple of years before. She was pleasantly surprised but Peter's love of his work is such that he would remember. He again focused his attention on me and his murmurs of approval about these shots were appreciably higher than in the previous two locations and he showed me the pictures on the camera screen. They looked wonderful. He had intended to move on to a final location but, as he told me with a very satisfied smile, he had already got what he wanted so there was no need - it was in the bag. 

The photograph he sent me was the last one he took - the one which was exactly what he was aiming for. As he said, I chose this one because it is simple, direct, impactful and very honest. When I first received an email from you months ago, and checked out some of your previous images, this shot represents exactly how I knew envisioned photographing you. I’m thrilled that yesterday that became a reality. Funnily enough, it is the last shot from yesterdays shoot which doesn’t surprise me because I knew when I saw this one in my viewfinder there was no point in taking any further images."

He is right. He seems to find the essence of the person he is photographing and without any frills or props or poses, he draws that out and presents the almost perfect portrait. I pondered on using the word "almost" but I guess that Peter, like all truly great artists, is continually searching for the perfect image and that, if he ever found it, he would have to give up because he had achieved perfection. I don't want him to stop and he clearly doesn't want to stop so "almost" it is but it is mighty close.

We had a coffee in a nearby cafe which he very kindly paid for and we talked about his work and my project and twenty minutes whizzed by. And then we went our separate ways and I gave him a hug which I hoped said "Thank you, that was a great shoot and you are a lovely person and I think your work is supreme" but, if I failed to indicate that, then all I can say is Thank you, Peter, that was a great shoot and you are a lovely person and I think you work is supreme.

WEBSITE: http://peterzelewskiphotography.com/



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Monday, 14 March 2016

HERE TODAY by Strat Mastoris

HERE TODAY by Strat Mastoris

18th February 2016 - the evening on which Clare Best and I presented "TAKE ME WITH YOU: the Museum of Friendship, Remembrance and Loss" at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS). The event went really well, hampered slightly by the fact that the computer crashed which meant that we could not show the films or photographs or play the music which we had prepared to illustrate the project. Nevertheless, it all went incredibly well because it suddenly became more intimate and, due to the goodwill of the members of the audience, they seemed to identify that much more closely with the issues discussed and explored in the project.

Strat knows Clare and had accepted her invitation to attend and, when I clapped eyes on him, I thought immediately "I know you". He thought the same and we tried to work out where we had met before and finally established that it was probably at the First Night of a play at The Emporium in Brighton where Strat was overseeing the lighting. he had also seen the "Over the Hill" exhibition at Create in the Brighton Photo Fringe in 2014 so he knew about my project already and said that he would love the opportunity to photograph me. Now, normally, I like to look at a photographer's portfolio before I approach him or her but, now and again, I meet someone whose enthusiasm makes the decision for me and so it was in Strat's case although, after agreeing to be photographed by him, I did look at his work and liked what I saw. 

He wrote in some detail with his ideas for the shoot. Basically, they were derived from "Over the Hill" and my collaboration with Clare Best in that what I was trying to achieve in both was to leave some trace of my existence which would survive my own personal mortality. He felt that many people had this need (which he sometimes calls "Pyramid Building") including himself and that was one of the reasons he has a website and a photo archive and why he archives the theatre reviews and other writing he does. So, Strat's idea was to photograph me on the shore with the cliffs as the background which would represent the immensity of geological time and place our short mortal lives into some kind of perspective. 


So, here we are, Strat's take on my mortality. Having recently succumbed to a second bout of Cellulitis plus the fact that it was freezing bloody cold in the north easterly wind, I  really felt in touch with my mortality, especially when we tried the nude shot.  The first pictures were shot on the beach at Peacehaven and then we moved on to Rottingdean for a few more followed by a welcome pint of Harvey's in front of a open fire where we looked back on what we had done that morning and how much we both enjoyed it and we chatted about Strat's father, his Greek heritage, his interest in the Theatre and the written word. It really lifted my spirits after a rotten few days.


Then the photographs arrived - dropped through my door on a memory stick - and my spirits were hoisted up again. I am not entirely sure that I chose the one which Strat liked best but this one just pipped the others post-wise. I felt that a close up was better but I am still dwarfed by the cliffs the luminous white of which contrasts so wonderfully with the deep blue of the sky and the age and structure of the cliffs are also at odds with the man-made concrete steps behind me, placed there for health and safety reasons below a cliff similar to those further to the East where, without any thought of health and safety, some people have decided to end their lives when they wanted to without waiting for the day of a more natural death. My expression has a spontaneity and a directness that challenges the viewer and says "Yes? So, it's a Guardian, so what?" but it also achieves what Strat wanted  - placing me in that spot at that particular moment - my whole body says "Here. Today." and yet I am framed by a different order of time. Wonderful. 

And if I say I really knew you well,
What would your answer be?
If you were here today
                           - Paul McCartney

                      https://seeingstages.com/current-projects-3/
                      https://stratmastoris.wordpress.com

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

CONTROL by Anja Barte Telin & Moa Thörneby



Sundays.

Incense, singing 'Kyrie Eleison', delivering newspapers, selling ice cream on the beach in the summer, collecting driftwood for the fire on the beach in winter, rushing to get to the pub before 'Time' is called at 2pm, Roast lamb, potatoes and gravy, running to the church with my daughter to shake hands and say "God be with you". Shops closed. No cricket, no football. 

Sundays from my past.

Sunday 6th March 2016. Jane drops me off outside Number 20, Wellington Road, Portslade Harbour at 1pm. I press the buzzer and announce myself, a voice answers but is drowned out by the noise of the traffic. I assume it says that someone will open the door and I wait. After about 40 seconds, the door opens and there are Anja and Moa; strangely, I feel that I know them already. They offer kindly to take my bag but I refuse politely and I follow them down several flights of stairs to their studio. It is compact and ready for our shoot. Their faces betray a curiosity about me and also enthusiasm and excitement. They offer me some tea or coffee and we sit in the communal area normally used by the other artists who occupy the building. Today, it is empty. It is Sunday. The cleaners arrive but we speak above the noise of washing up, sweeping and dusting. We talk for quite some time and their mood is infectious. They are so young. 

Eventually, we move back to the studio and they explain briefly their idea to me. There will be two photographs combined to form one image. For the first image, I am asked to undress to my underpants and they tie strands of wool to my wrists and forearms. Moa takes this picture but Anja is right behind her, her chin sometimes resting on Moa's shoulder. It is clear that work closely together. and they look at each shot together. I am wearing my grandfather's silk top hat. It doesn't fit but it doesn't matter. I hold up each hand as they direct. After about 20 minutes, I dress for the second image. This time, Anja takes over the photographing duties. They tie longer strands of wool to my fingers; they need to be taut and so I suggest that I hold the end of each strand between my knees and it seems to work. I tell them stories of other shoots. We discuss the subject of nudity about which there is a much more relaxed attitude in Sweden, where they come from. 

Then, suddenly, it is over. I have told them already about my films and we watch my stop-motion film, "Good Morning", followed by episodes 7 and 8 of my series, "Morse". The last episode makes them emotional. Of course, I could sit there all day and show them one film after another but I don't. They walk me to the door, again having offered to carry my bag. We kiss goodbye and I catch the bus home. I feel uplifted by the whole experience and I still have this lingering feeling that I knew them before. Maybe we have passed in the street, sat near each other on the beach or stood together at the bar of a pub. Who knows.

Just over 24 hours later, the photograph arrives. I adore it. It is serious, it has humour, it works. I am so impressed. It is a great image, worthy to stand alongside other great photographs in my project. It harks back to the photograph by Natalie Dybisz but this time examines another aspect of my relationship with the child within me. Control. How tenuous is that hold over that part of my nature? Playful, headstrong and immature but, at the same time, fun, free and innocent. Also, my lack of control due to my condition is hinted at. Maybe more than a hint. Maybe not. But, when it comes down to it, it is just a bloody good photograph taken by two talented artists whose youth and enthusiasm for their profession will ensure that they will continue to achieve great success together.

Sunday 6th March 2016. Now past but not forgotten.

WEBSITE: http://7two9.com/

Saturday, 5 March 2016

SHADES OF GREY by Martin Usborne



SHADES OF GREY by Martin Usborne

It is Jane's birthday and she has been given a book by her lovely sister, Lisa. They are very alike in some ways, Jane and Lisa - both beautiful, both devoted to their children and both married to really nice guys! There are differences too but they get on very well. Well, this book was about Joseph Markovitch. I can't tell you the title because I cannot type ½. Yes I can because I copied and pasted it. The book was called "I have lived in East London for 86½ years" and was produced by Martin Usborne. I looked at Martin's work that day and it was beautiful. Full of light, full of love, full of interest in his subject. And, yes, you've guessed it, I wrote to him telling him that Jane had been given the book by her sister and that their family on their father's side hailed from Shoreditch and Hoxton and on their mother's side from Stoke Newington. I also bunged in a mention of Muir Vidler because I thought there was a chance that he might know Muir who is based in Hoxton and who, incidentally is a very nice person. 

Well, Martin responded with yes but not yet. I followed this up some months later and he wrote apologising for his rubbishness and saying that he was crap except that he wasn't crap; he was hugely busy and yet still wanted to take time out to photograph me. We agreed to wait until February - as it happened, he kept me waiting until 5th March. The nerve! But, joking apart, it was worth the wait. Look at the photograph above and say that it wasn't. No, say it and mean it. You can't can you? No and that is because it is a wonderful, tender portrait and there is a lot of Martin himself in there. It is him who I am looking at, not the viewer or the camera but Martin. And he has asked me to look that way. 


Martin arrived at the house at 2pm on Saturday 5th March and we had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon together. He had written in advance of the shoot, saying that he kind of liked the idea of not doing anything particularly contrived nor of doing anything nude or overly dark. He was looking for something more gentle in approach. When he got here, he said (a number of times) that this was not his normal way of working where he might have some sort of plan thought out in advance. I think that, as the day moved on, he was discovering little things about me as we chatted (and vice versa) which tended to dictate how we was going to approach each shot. It felt liberating to me and I hope it gave him a similar feeling. He said that he wanted me naked emotionally and that stayed with me all through the shoot as I endeavoured to open myself up to him. It wasn't difficult to do precisely because Martin is an interesting conversationalist. He has an easy way about him, the way he speaks, the way he walks and takes photographs. We chatted and then I showed him around the house and he chose locations where he wanted to photograph me.


Then we went down to the sea and I showed him the little concrete pier that juts out into the water near the bandstand and where I swim in the warmer weather. It was a beautiful day and some young kids were sitting around a fire on the pier and watched as Martin shot me at the other end and we tried some blurred movement shots. As we finished and walked away, the kids asked what the shoot was about and Martin told them about my project and, as he did so, it seemed that he was rather proud of it and he should be. And so should all the photographers involved for producing such incredible work. 


He came back to the house and collected his gear. I know I must have shown him some of my films. Not many people come to see me and avoid that although, in Martin's case, I cannot quite remember whether I showed them to him before or after the shoot. I'm guessing it was after and that he hurried away thinking "No more, please!!". Well then he sent me about a dozen shots. He told me his favourites and the reasons for his choices and I chose another one but then, as I was writing this blogpost and recognised the significance of our chat with the teenagers on the pier, I realised that he was right and I was wrong and I chose the image at the top of this page. It is beautiful. It is like a delicate watercolour spread thinly over the sky with the most gentle brushstrokes. It is intense and calm, strong and gentle. It weaves its way into your consciousness without you knowing and then sits there waiting to surprise you as you look for it and find that it is somehow different to what you saw before. It is all I could have hoped for as I looked at a book called "I have lived in East London for 86½ years" and thought "Now what is all this about?" It is about connecting with people, opening up and not being afraid of who you are with all your strengths and weaknesses. It is as much about Martin Usborne as the subject. Just like this photograph.




Thursday, 11 February 2016

TRUTH by Tara Li-an Smith

TRUTH by Tara Li-an Smith
Tara was introduced to me by the charming Martina O'Shea and this could have been awkward in that I now only work with photographers whose work interests me and so, what if I didn't like her work?As it happened, there wasn't a problem because, when I looked up her website, I really liked what I saw - considered, clear and honest portraits.

So I wrote to her and she replied confirming that she would be interested in going ahead and, within a very short period of time, I was standing outside her studio/flat in Limehouse where she lives and works. As she warned me, there was no doorbell and so I called her mobile and within seconds, a pretty woman with a very friendly open face framed by dark black hair appeared at the door. We shook hands and I followed her up to this gorgeous flat full of all sorts of interesting artefacts and furniture including mannequins, typewriters, an old steel bath, a Roman helmet, boxes of vinyl LPs, a turntable and a cat. But, although the place was full up with 'stuff', it looked ordered and I guessed that, if Tara wanted a prop for a photograph, she wouldn't have to spend hours looking for it. 

She said that she had not looked at many photographs of me because she wanted to come to me without any preconceptions. However, she had obviously thought long and hard about our shoot and had made quite detailed notes and sketches in a little notebook in readiness. She had set aside an area for shooting and she rolled down a black backdrop and asked me to sit in a chair and gradually we both relaxed into the shoot as she gave me little instructions every so often as to where to look and, as we continued, we spoke about music and photographers and her young cat who darted about to keep us on our toes. She used two cameras, one connected up to the lights and the other not which produced much darker images.
Me and Tara's feline assistant
She asked me to remove my T shirt and then to use my hands to paw at my face and shoulders and we tried some double exposures with some movement. We then got onto the subject of Shibari, an ancient form of artistic Japanese bondage which I had never heard of, let alone practiced and she asked if I would like to try this. By that time, I was cool with whatever she had asked me to do and I thought "why not?'' She tied a short length of rope to my forearm using a series of identical knots and leaving two longer lengths dangling from my wrist and asked me to pull these hard to produce tension in the rope and the muscles of both arms. Tara explained that it wasn't working with my jeans on and so I took them off and squirmed and stretched on the floor as she clicked away. We then removed the rope and finished with a few more shots and that was it.



She then cooked a lovely bowl of stir fried rice and Martina joined us bringing biscuits which we ate with a cup of tea. It was lovely to see Martina again and catch up with her. It is meeting people that has been such fun in this project. The photographs are great, of course, and there is much to admire in them artistically, but it is the manner in which the photographers have each been able to say something about the relationship which developed between us during the shoot which I find fascinating. Tara had played music by Oscar Peterson and Nick Drake from her vinyl collection and, as we chomped on our biscuits, the Kinks blurted out "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!" which somehow seemed very appropriate. I hugged Martina goodbye and Tara showed me to the street where we hugged and talked about working some more together. I skipped off to Westferry DLR with a spring in my step and a song in my heart. I had had a great time with Tara.

As for the photographs, Tara sent me them quite quickly having chosen those which she preferred. There was so much variation but in the end I chose one which I felt was the most honest and truthful pose. The light is perfect, subdued and gentle. The Shibari shots were interesting and it is the light in the one shown above which dominates and highlights the almost balletic shape of my body; my face has a peaceful calmness about which contrasts with the tension in my arms and chest. Light, shapes, movement, emotion, connection and intimacy combine to produce a wonderful document of the meeting of two people of different generations and backgrounds brought together by a deep love of photography and a fascination with people.

WEBSITE: www.re-topia.co.uk

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

LIMPID FLIGHT by Elaine Perks

LIMPID FLIGHT by Elaine Perks

This image was inspired by the work of Lee Miller. I am not saying that Elaine set out consciously to produce a photograph in Lee Miller's style but both of us are huge fans of her work and it was Miller's photograph of "The Picnic" which first got me interested in Photography. So, first of all, I was sitting in front of Elaine's camera because of Lee Miller and I guess that Elaine's love of her work must have shaped and influenced her own style.

This is a beautiful photograph. The mist on the window glass fades into the blurred outlines of the window frame and from there, moves over the soft folds of the curtain. In contrast, I am crisp and clear and, although I am still, you can feel my thoughts moving to the window and beyond.

I met Elaine through Tess Hurrell who photographed me in 2011 and 2015. The second shoot took place in Tess's studio in Brighton which she shares with Elaine and that day Elaine was there and we were introduced. I looked up her work afterwards and I was highly impressed; it was so varied and rich. The portraits were clear and pure and the projects displayed an enthusiasm and love of her chosen profession. I wonder now, looking back, whether I sensed the influence of Lee Miller. For example, look at Elaine's photograph below and then compare it to Miller's "Portrait of Space".


So, I had to write to her didn't I? She responded enthusiastically and, after a short period of correspondence, she arrived on our doorstep on 26th January 2016 and, provided my arithmetic is correct, she was the 380th person to photograph me. We both chatted to Jane over a cup of tea and then we got down to the shoot and she chose some unusual places in the house for the photographs - often with Jane's paintings in them. Inevitably, we looked at some of my films in my study and that was when she noticed the Lee Miller books and told me of her interest in her work. I told her of the exhibition at Farley Farm and showed her the film I had made.



It was a great shoot. One more in a very long list. Elaine is an excellent photographer. She placed me in position but gave me room and the time to just be, to settle into my thoughts and then "Click", she caught the moment perfectly. I have never studied Photography but I guess that is completely intuitive and comes from a deep understanding of what makes us tick. Elaine felt to me like an old friend by the time she left and, as I closed the front door, I sighed and thought "this is what I have loved about this project". 
WEBSITE: http://www.elaineperks.com/

Friday, 22 January 2016

A BROKEN MAN TOO TOUGH TO CRY by Daniel Regan

A BROKEN MAN TOO TOUGH TO CRY by Daniel Regan

So there I am in Daniel's flat and he puts some music on. It is Max Richter's "The Blue Notebooks". He hands me his phone and shows me some of the most beautiful still lives I have ever seen. Most of them, if not all, are of dying flowers and they are all Black & White.  There is one particular shot, that of a closed rose on a long stalk. It is breathtaking in its simplicity and starkness. The head is strong and erect but it is dying. It is a beautiful image. 

Daniel sets up various lights  - he has either planned it all carefully or he knows exactly what is likely to work - bit of both I guess. He asks me to sit on a stool facing the window. He is clear in his direction and he considers his shots carefully. I like that. My head isn't straight and continues to fall away which it has done more since my operation but Daniel is patient and helps me but does not indulge me. I like that too. In the meantime, we talk about music not in a general sense but specifically Max Richter's "Sleep" which he says he puts on during the day and finds himself getting drowsy. It is a gentle backdrop to the sounds of our voices, the padding steps of his cat and the clicks of the shutter. 

At one point I enquire whether he might photograph me as he does his flowers or even with the flowers, He thinks about the first suggestion but immediately rejects the second. The music winds around all these thoughts and words as we talk about out our respective mothers, his partner Chris, my children, Jane, sadness, racism and homophobia but not necessarily in that order. We bounce easily from one subject to another with humour and seriousness. I begin to realise that this is one of the very good shoots. The lights are changed as is the backdrop, the lenses and my position. By now my shirt and T shirt have been discarded and this photograph is taken. What went through Daniels' mind as he composed this shot? When he saw the hollow in my neck below my right ear what did he feel? When the light glowed on my skin did he smile and think to himself, Tim is going to be knocked out by this? I remember turning to face the side. I remember closing my eyes and being asked to change the position of my left hand under my chin and in particular to close my little finger against the others. All I had to do was sit there and do what I was told but how many lessons, tutorials and seminars attended, how much sincere advice received, how much beauty seen, music heard, words read, people encountered, thoughts thought, kisses received, laughing and crying had been experienced by Daniel's mind and senses to enable him to take such a picture? I shall never know what went into the production of this image. All I know was how I felt when I saw it. Ecstatic. Sleepy. Pleasure. Contentment. Confused. 

The others I received, some of which I have shown below were also wonderful images of the highest class. No surprise there as I have now been photographed by a photographer of the highest class - Daniel Regan. 




WEBSITE: http://danielregan.com/

SURF'S UP - Daniel Regan Part One


"Give me a hug"
And I did.
"You're my friend now" he added.
And so we are.
Daniel smiled and got off the bus without looking back. I watched him merge into the crowd of pedestrians walking on the pavement, every so often his red coat marking him out. He crossed the road (ensuring that the walk sign was green) and stopped at a cash machine as the bus circled the roundabout and Daniel disappeared over my right shoulder. And that was it - the end of my day with Daniel. A lovely day.

I was kind of glad that it was wet that day as it meant that we stayed inside to "experiment" as Daniel put it. I like studio shoots because of the intimacy, the freedom. He was planning to shoot me in a wood and, in fact, knowing Daniel as I do now, I think it would have had the same intimacy  because his eyes demand it as they look into yours. He is so fascinated by faces that he is unafraid of connection. He relishes it and I love it.

We met at Highgate Station. He said he would be wearing red - his favourite colour. He had come to see me in Brighton a few months before to talk about he shoot but I couldn't quite remember what he looked like but I recalled that he was young and good looking. So when a youthful, handsome guy, dressed in red with yellow boots skipped down the stairs into the ticket hall, I knew it was him. 

We took the 134 bus to his flat and, as we alighted (is there a word for "alighted" in any other language?), I didn't take any notice of the other buildings in the vicinity as we crossed the road. The purpose built block housing his flat and several others had been built in the fifties I would think and was typical of that part of London where I had lived for the first thirteen years of my life. Parts were modernised but the front doors to the flats were original, topped with small framed windows above which the numbers were mostly made of chrome. The interior of the flat had a nice feel to it; it was light, clean and tidy. The floors were light polished wood adding the lightness. We had a coffee and Daniel showed me his "faces" on his computer - again the desk was clean and tidy and ordered - unlike mine as I write this, dusty, cluttered and with the keyboard overdue for a good scrub. I had seen the faces a few times before but, in his presence, they took on a gravitas, a poignancy that was special. He moved from one face to another slowly and deliberately and I began to get a sense of how Daniel's character dictates how he approaches each of his subjects - with care and an almost forensic examination, tinged with love. A deep love of his art. 

We talked easily and without breaks unless he was shooting. Then it was silent, broken only by "....Chin up...bit more....down....that shoulder was tense before, can you do that again?.....close your eyes....open....straight at the lens....now down....up....up....now move your head to your left...." He had made notes beforehand and, every so often bent down to check he had completed each of his allotted tasks. For some reason, I felt that we didn't do everything on the list. Then, after about two hours, he said "That's it". But it wasn't it. As he cleared away the lights and other equipment, he noticed as he went into the bedroom that the sun had come out making a reflection on the wall. "Tim! Come into the bedroom and sit against the wall" There were more directions "....look up at the window....no here ( he held up his hand)....down....up....eyes closed...." Until he announced that really was it. But it still wasn't it. 

I thanked him. It had been special. And curiously emotional although neither of us had openly emoted. 

I put on my coat whilst he went to the bathroom. I told him that there was no need for him to come back to Highgate on the bus with me but he responded saying that he would come with me part of the way as he had to go to Muswell Hill. I said that that was where my Grandfather's church was. Whilst he had a pee, I was somehow drawn to the view out of the kitchen window over the main road which we had crossed a few hours before. There was a church. It was my Grandfather's church. St Peter Le Poer. My heart missed a beat. Daniel came out of the bathroom. I said "That's it. That is my Grandfather's church!". Daniel was up for having a look and, as we approached the red brick building, we saw an "open" sign outside the front door - the front door outside of which, in 2001, I had hugged my siblings as we all burst into uncontrollable tears as our mother's coffin was carried out and placed in the hearse. Daniel and I walked into the church and I looked at it for the first time in 15 years but with new eyes. The figure of the Virgin Mary wearing her blue shawl looked beautiful. It was so familiar, as if it 'belonged' to me. Daniel suggested that I wander and he took photographs as I did. I examined the pulpit and thought of my grandfather standing there. I pointed out his name "GERALD PERCY COOPER BA " on the list of incumbents painted in gold on the board by the door. Daniel asked me to stand in the aisle with the stained glass window behind. The same aisle along which we followed the pall bearers at the end of the funeral as John McCormack sang "I'll walk beside you". In her directions for the funeral, she had asked for this song to be played adding "and I will, so watch out, all of you". When I read that out to my gorgeous brother over the phone after we had discovered the piece of paper on the afternoon of the morning she died, there was silence at the other end. Why do these things mean so much? I told Daniel the story of the three old ladies who introduced themselves to me before the funeral explaining that they had been in the choir the day that my mother married my father in 1944 when the marriage was officiated by her father. I pointed out the depictions of the Stations of the Cross which lined the side walls of the church. I said that I wasn't sure I believed any more but I did find these things very romantic and he understood. 

We left and that really was it. We caught the 134 and at Muswell Hill, we each hugged our new friend goodbye. I caught the train home to Brighton and, when Jane came in from the studio, I told her the story of my day as I used to tell my mother when I came home from school........

WEBSITE: http://danielregan.com/