Wednesday, 24 June 2015

OVER THE HILL: A PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY

OVER THE HILL by Roberto Foddai

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

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

Since then, over 350 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


Thursday, 18 June 2015

MILO AND ME by Viveca Koh

MILO AND ME by Viveca Koh

As is often the case with some photographers, I am afraid I cannot recall exactly how I came across Viveca's work but come across it I did and I was very impressed so I sent a message to her in August 2014 and about 9 months later Viveca was going through unread messages and came across mine. She explained in her response that, unfortunately, her DSLR had been stolen but she had been experimenting with iPhoneography and she suggested that I come up to her in South London and that we meet for lunch and she would snap away. Now, with someone else, this may not have sounded too thrilling but this was the person responsible for some wonderful images displayed on her website which showed her to be an exciting and imaginative photographic artist and so I was very keen to proceed on this basis.



I caught the train to East Croydon but forgot to bring with me not only my directions but also Viveca's mobile number but I just about remembered where she said she would be parked. As it was, she called me once I stepped on to the ancient streets of Croydon and, when I told where I was, she confirmed that I was walking in her direction. I had no idea what she looked like but I recognised her car from the scraps of information she had given me and that lay scattered about in my brain. As I approached her rather snazzy and sporty motor, she got out and hugged me hello. She looked very pretty in a long flowing summer dress. It was a beautiful June day and the portents were good. We started chatting immediately and she told me that she had decided to photograph me at her home against a plain wall and that she would stop to buy some sandwiches for lunch. I love the sound of those two words; Sandwiches and Lunch. They remind me of the time when I read The Famous Five books written by Enid Blyton. I didn't say this to Viveca at the time because the thought didn't occur to me then although, funnily enough, she offered me some Ginger Beer when we arrived at her place. Hurrah!

We proceeded to scoff our sandwiches and quaff our pop (please forgive the excess of Blytonese) and it was absolutely topping (sorry) and we began a longish discussion about my diagnosis, my project and Siamese cats, the latter subject prompted by the presence of Viveca's gorgeous little Chocolate-point cat, Milo. He was a bit shy at first but then started showing off and generally making loud yowling noises as he misbehaved in the garden room which was normally out-of-bounds. We swapped cat stories and I told Viveca of our love affair with Siamese cats which began with Indiana and carried on with Ernest, Theo and Henry.



Then we got down to business. Viveca explained that she had subscribed to an App on her iPhone called Hipstamatic which basically gave her various different lenses to produce different effects with the camera on her phone. But, even more interesting was a feature which picked a lens at random out of the many on her phone whenever it was shaken. She said that she wanted to use that feature and for me to adopt a different pose or expression every time she shook the phone. This reminded me of the scene in "Hard Day's Night" where George Harrison is being photographed by a press photographer during an informal junket where journalists and other guests were invited to interview and take pictures of the Fab Four. Viveca wanted to produce a square collage of these random portraits and we eventually agreed on 49 and so, each time she rattled her iPhone, I adopted a different expression. Of course, Milo joined in and this was my favourite of all of them.


It was all over pretty quickly but, as you know, these shoots are not all about photography - they are about communication, friendship and discovery. We talked about our respective families, the books on her shelves, her interest in the History of The First World War, Saving Private Ryan (not a great film, apart from the thrilling sequence when the troops disembark on the Normandy beaches), Lee Miller, my films and respectively Viveca's friendship and my shoot with Louise Haywood-Schiefer the latter which had taken place only a few weeks before in the same neighbourhood.

I had arrived in Croydon at 12 noon and it was almost 4pm and yet the photographs had only taken about fifteen minutes. Viveca showed me the shots on her laptop and I purred with appreciation and so did Milo as I tickled him behind his ears. Time to go and Viveca drove me back to East Croydon and we hugged goodbye. It had been a grand day. The sun was shining as I walked towards the station and picked up an Evening Standard. The train arrived within a few minutes and I turned to the Crossword over which I dribbled biro ink as I nodded off and dreamed of smugglers' caves, egg and cress sandwiches wrapped in waxy Wonderloaf paper, bells on handlebars and Victoria Sponge Cake until the train gently came to a halt in Brighton. My shoot with Viveca is another lovely memory now to go with all the others; Viveca herself is another person who, as I sat at my desk in my office some 9 years ago, I could never have imagined meeting and this photograph and the collage are reminders of a beautiful day in Gipsy Hill.   

Friday, 12 June 2015

FITZROVIA CHAPEL by Claude Savona

FITZROVIA CHAPEL by Claude Savona

One evening in 1962, when I was 11 years old, a stray dog walked into our front garden of our house in Finchley. My mother was on her way back from work as a hairdresser in Fetter Lane and, as usual, my eldest sister Janet was looking after the rest of us i.e. my twin, Sally, and my younger sister, Corinne. Anthony was away at boarding school. We were very excited about this dog. It may be because our own pet dog, Dinah, had died not long before. When my mother returned, Janet was telling her all about it in the hall as we listened over the bannister and my mother told Janet to go upstairs and get us into bed. We all charged back to our bedrooms but, as I dashed across the landing, I tripped on the threadbare carpet and fell smack against the side of my door. Janet came up to me. My nose was bleeding heavily - Janet said it seemed to be broken. My mother called a taxi and I was taken to the local A & E and they confirmed it was broken. Shortly after, I was taken to Middlesex Hospital and a surgeon said he thought it was ''worth a tweak'' by which he meant resetting it - normally they waited until a boy stopped growing at 18 before resetting it. When I was admitted for the operation, I was introduced to the Matron who happened to be a cousin of my mother's, Priscilla Cooper. Whilst I was there, on Sunday I attended Holy Communion in the hospital chapel. This chapel. Years before, my father had been treated in the hospital for his lung cancer but no avail. He died in 1953 when I was two years old. Then, years later, in 1996, my sister Janet received some disastrous laser treatment for her breast cancer, again to no avail. I remember walking past the chapel and recalling my visit there some 34 years previously. 

The old Middlesex Hospital

So, why am I telling you all this? Well, Claude's idea initially was to photograph me in a hospital and he suggested The National Hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery at Queens Square in London where I had my Deep Brain Stimulation operation but I didn't feel right about that somehow no matter how much I had enjoyed my stay there. We then discussed a museum as a possible location perhaps with a medical connection but that came to nothing. Finally, I suggested a church on the basis that Jesus was a saviour and DBS had saved me and also we could keep the medical connection if we were able to shoot in a hospital chapel. Then I had a brainwave - there was a chapel in Middlesex Hospital with which I had so many connections and so I googled Middlesex Hospital but found it had closed in December 2005 (a month after my diagnosis)  and had subsequently been demolished.........apart from the Chapel! I then discovered the Chapel had been restored and was to be taken over by the Fitzrovia Trust and that the Chairman of the Trustees was a guy called Edward Turner whose email address and telephone number were on the Trust's website. This sort of personal contact information is not always made public and it indicated that Edward was an approachable person. How right I was. He answered my email immediately and then passed me on to Craig Peniston who worked for the company which had developed the site and he said they would very happy for Claude and I to work in the Chapel. 

An early service

Within a couple of days, we were there. It was weird walking down Mortimer Street and for the hospital not to be there. I met Claude in the reception of the new office building which had replaced it and then we both met Craig, a tall friendly man who took us round the corner to this utterly beautiful building. Everything in it had been meticulously restored - the stunning marble walls and alter,  the mosaic floor and the amazing ceiling covered in gold. I felt so privileged to be there. Claude photographed me on his film camera and, over a period of almost three hours, we tried various shots and angles. Afterwards, we had lunch and enthused over what we had achieved. Claude sent me some rough contact sheets and the photographs were universally excellent but gradually I realised that the more relaxed poses and close-ups, however good they were (and they were very good), were not right for the project. It had to be a shot which reflected the magnificence of the Chapel and its significance in my life and so this was the one. My pose is relaxed, not too formal but respectful. The Chapel looks incredible. I could not have planned the shot better and we were both very pleased with this. 

The Hospital site after demolition with the Chapel remaining

Some times I am approached by photographers rather than the other way round and so it was with Claude who was recommended to me by Christina Theissen, another great photographer who had assisted Jillian Edelstein on the "Brook Shoot" and who had photographed me herself (we have not yet decided on which image of hers will be represented in the project).  He was born in Malta which coincidentally is where my DBS surgeon came from. We met in a Shoreditch cafe and I found him to be an interesting companion. He is quite reserved but quite quickly sheds his diffidence and opens up, his conversation becoming more animated as he begins to express himself. I like him a lot. During the shoot, he worked carefully and methodically  and welcomed any suggestions by me very readily and selflessly. And he produced a superb image as you can see. 

The Chapel on stilts

Who would have thought that the 11 year old boy kneeling in the pew in the Chapel in 1962 nursing a recently tweaked broken nose, would return 53 years later and be photographed there, in the one part of the old Middlesex Hospital that miraculously still exists? And all because of an old stray dog. 

WEBSITE: http://claudesavona.com

Thursday, 4 June 2015

DISTANT by Nigel Maudsley

DISTANT  by Nigel Maudsley
I met Nigel on 19th August 2014 in a pub on the London Road in Brighton at a meeting convened by Brighton Photo Fringe (BPF), the name of which pub I cannot remember. But I do remember how Nigel struck me that day - he is a very sensitive man, quiet and still but with something burning deep inside him. As I was to discover on this shoot, that something was a passionate desire to express himself artistically. During that meeting in the pub, we talked about what we were both doing for the BPF and afterwards, I looked up his work on his website and it was wonderful and so I wrote to him asking if he would like to be a part of my project. After emails to and fro, we met again in Hove in November but sadly, in the intervening period, Nigel's father had died and he had become involved in dealing with his mother's need for more care. Nevertheless, he had very kindly continued to give some thought to photographing me and eventually, we were able to arrange a definite date of 4th June. The weather was perfect, warm and humid, and the sky almost completely clear. The basic idea was to photograph me as the sun was going down.


I collected Nigel from his house in Kemptown and we drove to the Marina and then had fairly long walk to the cockleshell beach where Nigel wanted to take several photographs of me both clothed and naked. There weren't that many people about and those who were there were some distance away. It wasn't easy to negotiate the slippery rocks which trailed into the sea and I thought how impossible a shoot like this would have been if I had not had my Deep Brain Stimulation surgery last year. We spent more time here than we had anticipated but that was because it was all going so well. But the greatest pleasure was getting to know Nigel better. We talked a lot about Family and Life and Death and Nigel's move to Brighton which had proved to be so successful and fulfilling. 


Then we moved on and drove back into Brighton to the Nudist Beach. Unfortunately , we had missed the sunset but I think we both knew that we had got some very good shots already. By the time I dropped Nigel off at his house into the welcoming paws of his dog, we were both pretty tired. But Nigel was too excited to see what he had got and started work on the photographs straightaway and I received an initial set of images the next day. They were fabulous. I had a bit of weird Maths teacher at my primary school called Mr Haddon in the early sixties. He was a Baptist preacher in his spare time and he used to talk about the word fabulous and work himself into a real evangelistic frenzy as he gave a sermon to this class of innocent 12 year old boys about how bad the word was because it meant "out of this world" and he wrapped his Yorkshire tongue around "world" as his eyes almost popped out of his head. Sorry, back to Nigel's pictures -  well, they were fabulous. This one in particular caught my eye. It felt very poignant given our talks about my illness and Nigel's deep, deep love for his father and mother. When I talked to him about how I cried on the day my mother died, he was one of the few people to understand the guttural, wrenching cry that came from deep inside me as if her presence in me was being dragged out and thrown into the air.

It is Nigel's love of life and his deep sensitivity which invest his photographs with so much emotion. But apart from this, look at the colours and contrasts which give the picture a richness which also tells of the treasure one can find in this life - all we have to do is open our eyes and see.

Our eyes help us to see, know and understand the world around us. They give us insights to the changes as we travel through our lives..... When my father died, the grief overwhelmed me. Visits to my family home, following the loss of my father, saw its reconfiguration for a new journey. I found myself in flux, a man in a child's dimensions......... Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), postcolonial theorist stated: ‘individuals without an anchor, without horizon, are colourless, stateless, rootless’.
- Nigel Maudsley January 11, 2015

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

STRANGE BREW by Mia Rose

STRANGE BREW by Mia Rose
Mia favourited a tweet relating to me on Twitter. I looked up her work. I was impressed. I asked her to photograph me. She said yes. She did photograph me. The End. Well, of course, there was much more to it than that. Her work is exceptional. I particularly liked the "Arbor" project, beautifully lit black and white images of trees showing the squirming, writhing trunks spewing up into the air like misshapen gargoyles. I thought how good it would be to be in a photograph like that and I imagined myself naked and wrapped around the trunk imitating the weirdness of its growth. I suggested that to Mia but she did not seem too keen on the idea when we actually got to the location but that maybe because it was a public place and she also felt very strongly that, by then, she had got the image she wanted. I was very happy to accept her judgement in that respect because she has a great eye and a fertile imagination and she recognises a good photograph when she takes it. It was a collaboration after all and, besides, I have been wrong about these things before.


I was very touched that Mia had taken time out of her preparations for her degree show to photograph me. She and her lovely friend, Ellie Rose, lugged huge bags of lights and other photographic equipment through the woods until we found several small wigwam type shelters which Mia thought would be perfect for the shot. I sat inside the one we chose and at first looked at the camera but Mia asked me to look away this is the image I have chosen. My eyes are engaged elsewhere and my arms pulled back as if I am a prisoner in a strange world. It has an air of mystery that is accentuated by my pose. I could see that Mia was pleased with it. But she indulged me and we looked for some different locations. We found a bench and a larger shelter and tried those too and then I also took off my T-shirt and leaned against a trunk but Mia had her shot in the bag and so we agreed that it was a wrap. We went back to Ellie Rose's soopa doopa little car and drove back (very carefully, as the car was a recent birthday present from her parents) to UWE where we had a sandwich and chatted about their future, amongst other things. One thing I have found with this project is that, often when I have worked with very young photographers, there is no obvious generation gap because any awkwardness in that respect is nullified by the fact that we have the photography to deal with. I'm not so sure this was the case with Mia at first but, by the time I left, I did feel that any nervousness on my part (and I do get nervous even after 348 photographers) and hers had dissipated and that we were getting on well. 


Mia and Ellie Rose had things to do and so I suggested they drop me back to the station as I didn't want them to feel they had to entertain me when they had far more important things to get done. So, they took me back to Temple Meads and we said our goodbyes. I had missed Shawn Sobers at UWE as he was at home marking some papers but I called him from the station and said hello. It had been a good day. A very good day. 

Very shortly afterwards, I received the photographs from Mia and this one was clearly the one to choose for my project for all the reasons mentioned above and I wrote to Mia to tell her so. She is an excellent photographer and clearly ambitious and hard working all of which attributes, together with her engaging personality, will stand her in good stead now that she has graduated and sets out on what I am sure will be a very successful and fulfilling career. 

Monday, 1 June 2015

ALL GUNS BLAZING by Jennifer Balcombe

ALL GUNS BLAZING by Jennifer Balcombe


"You don't make a photograph just with a camera. 
You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, 
the books you have read, the music you have heard, 
the people you have loved."
- Ansel Adams
Once upon a time there was a beautiful little girl who we shall call Jennifer who grew into a beautiful young woman and fell in love with photography. When I say she was beautiful, I don't just mean lovely to look at but she had beauty in her heart. One day, her photography came to the notice of a man who, some years before, had decided that he wanted to be photographed by lots of different photographers. He started in the olden days, on the 7th day of May 2007 when he was only 56 years old and Jennifer was (and I am guessing here) about 18 years old maybe just starting to think about a career in photography. Well, what with one thing and another (and sometimes twice on Tuesday), the man happened to be writing a tweet on Twitter one day in the merry month of May 2015 and he came across a name of a photographer which the nice people who worked for Twitter thought he might be interested in because they knew he wanted to be photographed. 


Now it happened that the man whose name was oh, I don't know, Tim, was very interested in the work shown on the website of this photographer. The first portrait he saw was of a girl smoking a Camel cigarette. The face of the girl glowed in the soft light and the blue of the cigarette packet contrasted with the smooth colour of her skin and she was looking at the camera as if she really connected with the photographer. He decided then and there that he wanted to be photographed by this person. So he started to write an email "Hi Jennifer...." Yes, for it was the Jennifer of whom I have already spoken. She replied to the email the very next day and she said she was honoured to be asked by Tim to photograph him but Tim wrote back saying that the honour and privilege was all his which it was because as Tim had discovered she was a jewel in the world of photography because her photographs are like beautifully cut diamonds which glitter as they catch the light. For Tim, clicking on to her website that day was like he had found a secret chest full of treasure which he just wanted to dive into and swim around in like on a sunny day, he would have swirled around in the sea and seen the sun twinkle through the water as he laughed with joy. 


Jennifer asked Tim if he wanted to meet first for a chat or to go straight to the shoot "all guns blazing". Tim rather liked the sound of guns blazing and so it was that, on the first day of June 2015, Tim found himself in a street in Hampstead outside the door of the building where Jennifer lived. He pressed the bell and the door buzzed and opened like a magic door. He walked in and he heard Jennifer calling out to him in excitement from the stairs. They said hello and Jennifer showed him  into a room where a small set had been prepared with a simple black back drop. They talked as if they had known each other before which they sort of had in that Tim was born and had lived in North London until he was 13 and Jennifer was like the girls he had known at school and so there was an immediate empathy. Guns blazed and Jennifer took her photographs. Then another piece of magic happened. Jennifer had borrowed a film camera from a friend, Elena, so that, in addition to the digital photographs, she could also photograph Tim on film like in the olden days but older olden days that those which I mentioned before. However, the camera jammed and so Jennifer had to call Elena and ask her to come over to help unjam the camera. As they had to wait for Elena, they were able to spend more time together and catch up on the last 25 years during which they had lived their lives but had not known each other. 

Jennifer also had another film camera and again magic was in the air; instead of immediately looking into the back of the camera after each shot as she had done with her digital camera, this time each time after clicking the shutter she looked at Tim and when she did, she smiled and when she smiled, Tim smiled. And when Tim left, some time later and he had hugged Jennifer goodbye, he smiled again and he hop-skippity jumped down the street like a person does when he feels really happy. But the magic had not ended because the very next day some photographs arrived on Tim's computer and there he was in these beautiful pictures taken by the girl with beauty in her heart called Jennifer. 


And do you know? This sounds like a fairy story doesn't it? Well, it's not - there really is a man called Tim who was photographed in this way by a woman called Jennifer and there are wonderful photographs to prove it. Look, can you see them sparkle like jewels? Are they not beautiful?

WEBSITE: http://www.jenniferbalcombe.com

Saturday, 30 May 2015

THE BEE - Olivia Poppy Coles Part One

The room was hot from the sun which had begun to break through the scudding grey clouds which had followed me into London. Poppy asked if I was warm enough as she abandoned her camera briefly to lean over the setee to open the door leading out into the garden where the pale and the dark of the stripes on the lawn glistened as the rain from the recent shower drained through the rich green of the grass into the earth below. I welcomed the puff of cool air from the open door; not so the honey bee which flew into the room, confused by the sudden change of atmosphere. Poppy did not hesitate; she picked up a glass and some paper and stepped onto a chair but the bee escaped this first rescue attempt, buzzing, not with menace but with exasperation and fear. Again, Poppy did not pause and, as I watched her, it was as if everything went into slow motion and I felt that familiar tinge of envy as her young limbs climbed onto the furniture, sure of their balance, confident of their strength as she caught the bee in the glass and then set it free outside. Having Parkinson's Disease makes me appreciate my body and its abilities so much more but at the same time the combination of ageing and illness makes me aware of my mortality and I grieve but, 

but, 

life carries on

...and on. 

The bee could have only been there for a few seconds, the time it takes for a tear to build in the eye and roll down a cheek. A thought brushed through my mind - how proud her mother and father would be to see their daughter save that little frightened creature and how proud I am of my own children when they show their compassion by such a simple, selfless act. Meeting vibrant young people like Poppy informs me. It confirms that the present and the future is in good hands.


Life carries on
In the people I meet
In everyone that's out on the street
In all the dogs and cats
In the flies and rats
In the rot and the rust
In the ashes and the dust
Life carries on and on and on and on
Life carries on and on and on

                    - Peter Gabriel


WEBSITE: http://www.oliviapoppycoles.com/

Friday, 29 May 2015

TEN INTO SIXTY - Tina Rowe Part One

The photograph I wanted to take
Yes, this was the photograph I wanted to take when I saw all the polaroids laid out on Tina's worktop after the she had finished the shoot but I forgot and so I am very pleased that Tina thought along the same lines and did so. When I had my exhibition in Brighton as part of the Photo Fringe in October 2014, a guy who came to the exhibition left a copy of the Photomonth brochure with me and, in fact, put a cross next to his name but I have lost the magazine now and so I don't his name which is a shame because he seemed like a nice person and I am particularly grateful that he introduced me to Tina's work which is exceptional. There was a link to Tina's work and, when I saw it, I was hooked.

I sent her a message asking if she would photograph me and she replied agreeing to this but asked what parts of he work appealed to me because she had not really done much portraiture. What she didn't know was that it wasn't purely portraiture I was after. I wanted to be in a photograph taken by her. I liked the way her mind worked. In particular, I liked her series "My Mother's House" as I very much identified with this having made a documentary about my own mother's house a few years ago.

Tina is going to work on these images and I shall report on the the final picture in due course.

I love polaroids - they are like magic.

WEBSITE: http://tinarowe.co.uk/

Thursday, 28 May 2015

A LITTLE BOY by Agnes Yu Hsin Su

THE LITTLE BOY by Agnes Yu Hsin Su

My mother was called Agnes - Geraldine Agnes Andrews. It is an old-fashioned name. When I met Agnes Yu Hsin Su, she did not appear to be part of the present. She was of a different time. A different place. In fact, I wonder if all that took place on that day did happen or did I fall asleep in the long grass and dream it? I met her for the first time on the concours at Brighton Railway Station. She was looking around, like me, awkwardly. We both raised a hand in acknowledgement and we came together and, as we greeted each other with a formal handshake, we were at one.


We drove to the Seven Sisters Country Park on the other side of Seaford. Oh, what memories. I had been to Seaford many times before - for the Hoffman Process and before that, to visit my younger sister at her new home which she shared with her new husband, a man with a mission which, unfortunately, did not include my sister. We left the car under some trees and crossed the busy road into the park. The sea and the cliffs were some way off but Agnes began to look for some long grass. We had been talking to each other since Brighton; two people who had not met before and who were unlikely to meet again locked in a conversational embrace which now and again included the serene silence of friendship. 



We stopped alongside a large open area next to the path and she asked me to lie on my back at first and then on my side and then to close my eyes and allow myself to drift away in thought and deed. She went up on to the hill above me and the sound of her feet brushing the grass faded as she moved further away or was I falling asleep? I heard the other visitors strolling by, their chat and laughter muted as if they were in another room. Then, click, beside me. Agnes had come back or maybe she had never gone away. I opened an eye and through the fresh green stalks of meadow grass, I saw her kneeling very close, looking at me intently. It was one of the few times that I would have liked to photograph my photographer. I closed my eye and I felt her circle my body. 

Click. 

Click. 

I was drifting into slumber when she asked me to stand up. 


The wind was brisk and Agnes was fascinated by the sea foam which was blowing on to the bank of the inlet which snaked into the park - it looked like a special effect in an old and not very good British film with a small snow budget. I feared Agnes was going to ask me to lie in it but she merely asked me to stand near it for the final shots. She was satisfied with what she had got and, although she had also intended to photograph me inside a favourite cafe, we both knew that we had some good photographs and, anyway, it was getting close to the time by which she had to return to London. We bought some ice creams and ate them before crossing the road to the car. We arrived in Brighton and we hugged goodbye like brothers, brothers in arms, and then she turned to walk into the station and I turned towards my car. 

Had it happened? It must have done because who could have taken these beautiful pictures? 

No-one but Agnes. 





Saturday, 16 May 2015

LEE MILLER

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

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


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

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

Friday, 15 May 2015

BACK TO FRONT by Mila Nesterova

BACK TO FRONT by Mila Nesterova
Mila was born in Moscow. She travelled arounf the world from an early age performing with a troupe of young dancers in productions by her mother who was a ballet choreographer. However, lucky for me that she left Moscow for Paris at the age of 19 to pursue a passion for Photography. She now lives and works in London where she has exhibited her work as well as in Paris, Moscow St Petersburg and Kiev. I came across her work on the Saatchi site and had no hesitation in contacting her with my request that she photograph me. She said yes straightaway.


We were going to meet first and then arrange a shoot on another day but that never happened and we ended up arranging to go straight for the shoot. Interestingly, her studio in Hackney Wick was where the artist Melanie Blackwell lived and worked when she painted my portrait. I realised this when I turned up there on 15th May 2015 and I was greeted by the lovely Mila. You can see by her bearing that she was a dancer. Her studio, which she shares, is also very neat and she goes about her work with a certain poise and with firm direction. I relaxed immediately but I am sure that all her models do that because she clearly knows exactly what she is doing. She had two basic ideas and those were that, first, she would be painting me with light and secondly with glitter. But around these, I found that she was very interested in experimentation and improvisation. I felt that I could really suggest anything and she would try it. 

She was very inclusive and often showed me how the images looked as we spent quite a few hours trying different poses and exposures. I loved it. 


We had a break for lunch and then got the glitter on and did some close ups to begin with but again adopting the painting with light idea and then we went on to try images where clearly there were two separate Tims in the same photograph relating to each other in different ways. By then we were running well into the afternoon and Mila admitted that she was very tired. But we had had a great time playing with light and movement and composition.


Then, a few weeks later, I received these amazing images. They were all so good that I found it impossible to choose one favourite so I asked Mila and this was the one she chose. I find it very moving that she should have poured all her experience and talent into making these work so well. Why did she do that? Why do all my photographers give up their time so willingly? But not just that, they employ all their expertise and love of their art in producing such great pictures. It is because, like Mila, they are true artists who cannot just turn off what is in their blood. Their desire to express themselves artistically is burned deep into their soul and, as they are such nice, genuine, generous people, they are willing to share this with me. And I appreciate every moment I spend with them as I appreciated every moment I spent with Mila -  a great artist and a beautiful person inside and out. 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

SAME DIFFERENCE by Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Number One


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

Number Two

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

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

Perhaps we could set up the camera in a fixed spot with fixed focus, then I would leave the room and you could have as much time as you need to take 5 images of yourself, of how you see yourself I suppose. You could be clothed on one or all, nude, wearing different guises, standing or sitting, crying, laughing, whatever you wanted. Then you would return to exactly the clothes you were wearing when I left and I would then proceed to take my five frames without looking at what you had already taken, again I might change your outfit midway through if it was relevant. The images would be used in sequence either side by side or double exposed over the top of what you had already taken.

It's kind of an experiment really, to see if my fleeting understanding of you after meeting just once, is similar to how you see yourself. We could impose a time limit of  up to an hour, for me to complete my five frames, which would allow us time to have a chat in the interim.
I would want it to be collaborative though.......

Number Three

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

Number Four

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

Number Five

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

Number Six

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

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

Number Eight

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

Number Nine

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

Me and Louise

Friday, 8 May 2015

HELPLESS by Jacqui Booth and Al Brydon

HELPLESS by Jacqui Booth and Al Brydon
There is a cave in Birchover......which forms part of the Rowtor Rocks site which Jacqui, Al and I drove to after visiting the quarry (see previous post ). We parked in the road alongside a neat grass verge onto which some modern houses fronted - at least, my memory says they were of recent construction certainly in contrast to the Rowtor Rocks which were fashioned over three centuries ago. We walked past the aptly named Druid Inn and up along the path which encircled the pub until we reached the ledge outside the cave, the walls of which had been chiselled and sculpted like rocky feathers. Jacqui had brought a light with her and the photograph on the right above was taken by Al although they both clicked away in there before I put my clothes back on just before a jolly old couple (old? Well, they must have been at least 64....) turned up for a look at the cave. We clambered over some more of the rocks and tried different shots including one which foretold my death - yep, it will come to even me. 


At one point in the day, we ate our sandwiches bought from M & S, the standard of which (according to Jacqui) were not quite equal to the quality of those available at the Spar shop which Al usually patronises. Our next point of call was Doll Tor south of Stanton. This was in a beautiful clearing  which we reached by walking a few hundred yards from the main road, pausing only for Al to climb a very large rock - see below. 

Again, when we were shooting, I felt totally relaxed and in touch with the earth as I lay on part of what was an ancient burial ground. I did not feel at all that this was disrespectful to the dead or anyone else  - indeed, it felt quite the opposite. The photograph of me on the left above was taken by Jacqui. By this time, early evening, we were all famished and had a superb supper in a pub (it might even have been the Druid Inn) where we enjoyed a very easy conversation with each other whilst eating the delicious food. Then the moment we had all been waiting for - the BIG CAVE - we set off again in Al's car and drove through Hartington on the way which is where Jane's father was evacuated during the Second World War and where his ancestors (named Lomas) lived. We stopped in Church Street outside the Old School House which was owned by Jane's Great Great Great Grandmother. Since Jane and I had visited the town some 14 years ago, the house had been refurbished. I knocked on the door but there was no reply. 


We carried on and eventually I saw the gaping mouth of the cave from the road. It looked enormous. I felt excited at the prospect of being photographed there. By now, it was almost dusk and we started our tramp along the rutted track leading to the first style but, as I walked, I noticed that my gait was a bit more wobbly than it had been. We crossed another field and I began to feel increasingly uneasy. I said so and we halted at the next style and Al said the mouth of the cave was around the next bend of a narrow track which ran around the top of the steep hill (you get the picture don't you? Uneasy, wobbly, narrow, steep - not a good combination when one has Parrkinson's and suffers from vertigo anyway). We pushed on for another twenty yards or so but I gave up at that point. I felt very sorry for Al and Jacqui as this was the main reason for my visit - a night shoot in this amazing cathedral like cave. They were very nice about it and obviously, the success of our day up to that point provided some balm but the silence in the car journey back to Sheffield said it all - if only. But we'll always have Paris. 


Al dropped Jacqui off at her hotel and we went on to Al's house where we crept through the door as his partner Jen and their son Finn were both fast asleep upstairs. We chatted over a cuppa and then we retired too. I hoped to see Jen before she left to catch an early train to London the next day and, although I woke early, I drifted off almost immediately and she was gone by the time I surfaced. Al introduced me to his beautiful boy, Finn, before taking him to the nursery while I watched the Conservatives win the Election on TV. Al returned and we chatted some  more - he is the loveliest of men - before we went to collect Jacqui who had not slept so well but had grasped the opportunity to take some early morning photographs. We parked at the station and had a coffee together before hugs and goodbyes were enjoyed and said respectively and I skipped on to the train for London. 


Helpless? That sounds negative but it isn't. Without the medication and my DBS surgery last year, I would be pretty helpless. Without friends like Al and Jacqui, we would all feel a little helpless. Thank God for irony and thank God for Al Brydon and Jacqui Booth. Amen.


There is a town in north Ontario
With dream comfort, memory to spare
And in my mind, I still need a place to go
All my changes were there


Blue, blue windows behind the stars
Yellow moon on the rise
Big birds flying across the sky
Throwing shadows on our eyes

Leave us, helpless, helpless, helpless

Baby can you hear me now?
The chains are locked and tied across the door
Baby, sing with me somehow


Blue, blue windows behind the stars
Yellow moon on the rise
Big birds flying across the sky
Throwing shadows on our eyes


Leave us helpless, helpless, helpless
Helpless, helpless, helpless
Helpless, helpless, helpless
Helpless, helpless, helpless
Helpless, helpless, helpless
                                    - Neil Young


                              http://www.jacqui-booth.co.uk/

SPECIAL OFFERING by Al Brydon and Jacqui Booth

SPECIAL OFFERING by Al Brydon and Jacqui Booth
There was a marvellous film made in 1958 called "The Big Country". For me, it had everything - it was a western, it starred Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons and Charlton Heston, it had a stirring musical theme and it had a great story. What more could a seven year old boy want? Well, not Polio which is what I got that year but, I survived and it only affected the muscle in my right hand although I have always felt that my co-ordination on the right side of my body was affected too and that is why I never ever reached the level of playing football to which I aspired.

Anyway - back to The Big Country. The closing shoot-out of the film takes place in a canyon which looked very much like the quarry where these shots were taken but unlike the canyon in the film, this quarry had been formed by unknown human hands decades ago and I could sense the presence of these quarrymen in the air. The walls of this huge pit looked down on us with a benevolence that invited us to put the space to a different use.

And then something happened, a tiny thing which I have not discussed with Al or Jacqui and so I don't know whether they will agree but I felt they were both tentatively waiting for a signal from me before we could start. As we slithered down the side of the quarry on to the flat auditorium I saw the boulders as altars and I saw myself lying on top of them as a human fossil waiting to be sucked into their core. There was a silence between us even though we moved among the stones and wondered at their size and shape but there was palpable joint sigh of relief as I suggested I took off my clothes and lay on one of the rocks - we were off.

There was no more awkwardness that day as we all concentrated on what we had come there for. At one point, Al walked back up to the lip of the quarry and photographed me below while Jacqui shot me close up and the images shown above came from this. Sometimes, I imagine how a particular shot will turn out and a lot of the time I get it wrong but these two were very much how I envisaged they would be, my only surprise being how good they were. Why I should be surprised when they were taken by two such intuitive and talented artists I don't know - of course I do; people like Al and Jacqui are always striving for excellence and end up going beyond what they have achieved before. One identifies them with the level they have previously attained and then suddenly the bar is lifted even higher.

I adore these two pictures. They say everything about the moment, the day and my friendship with Al and Jacqui as well as the excellence of their photography.

Fat Boy Tim and slim Al

WEBSITES:  http://www.al-brydon.com/
                         http://www.jacqui-booth.co.uk/