|JUST LIKE A BABY BOY by SophieEllen|
I found Sophie's work through Flickr and, in particular, liked her contemplative self-portraits. I am really drawn to self-portraiture at the moment because I find the whole question of why people photograph themselves fascinating. Why do they do it? Why do I do it? Is it a form of self love, self identification, a journey of self-discovery, a cleansing experience? I haven't got a bloody clue.
Anyway, I wrote to Sophie and I was so pleased that she replied in the positive and seemed genuinely excited by the prospect of working with me. Over the next few weeks, we spoke about ideas for the shoot and Sophie mentioned her liking of the work by Francesca Woodman and Paolo Roversi both of whom I admired greatly. She did too and said that she had been thinking about making it more personal to us both. She explained that she had not been well and had had to take some rest after finishing her course at University but that, since the start of 2012, she had been slowly getting back into it and had found that her passion for photography was stronger than ever. She took a complete twist and began doing self portraits; something she would never have contemplated doing before. The more she did, the more personal she wanted to make them. She had a lot on her mind about her own life that she would want to incorporate into her work that would make it personal to her and said that, perhaps, working along similar lines with me would make it personal to me as well, instead of me just being another model to shoot. This was music to my ears because, as I have said so much, it is the shoot that it really enjoy, the collaboration, the communication with the photographer, the sharing of ideas and the more personal, the better.
We carried on exchanging ideas for the shoot until the day I travelled up to to Suffolk on the train and Sophie met me at Brandon Station. I felt in tune with her immediately and we talked about so much eg families, our respective illnesses, photography etc. I really enjoyed the day; we started off with some photographs of just me both clothed and nude and then went on to include both of us in the shots all of which were clothed. Sophie showed me the shots through the back of her camera and they looked great but, she was slightly concerned that I wasn't actually saying anything which is a problem of mine. Sometimes, Jane shows me her latest painting and is very pissed off if either I say nothing or just "Yes, it's good". Quite understandably, she wants more as did Sophie. Well Sophie, here is the more. I really like the photographs and how they speak of our relationship and our struggles with illness and the love and care we had both been given and which we feel for others as a consequence. Working with you was a real coming together artistically, spiritually and physically.
After four hours of shooting, Sophie was very tired and I felt guilty afterwards for making her watch some of my silly films. She took me to the Station and, when she dropped me off, I felt strangely bereft. Quite a while later, I received the photographs and, as I said to Sophie at the time, I was almost speechless. She had, very quietly, taken photographs that seemed to have tapped into the essence of me and that may have had a lot to do with the discussions we had by email beforehand and the chat in her kitchen before we started shooting. They show an amazing insight and are a perfect lesson in how a proper portrait should be taken. She has portrayed me in my own image which is not easy to do but it is does highlight how adept she is in discovering what makes one tick.
There was once a group called The Beatles and Derek Taylor was their publicist. In his book, "As Time Goes By", he describes a journey the took to the north of England with Paul McCartney and some others from Apple Records. Before he left, Derek took some acid ("a dollop of the dreaded heaven-and-hell drug" as he called it) and on the way up, they stopped at a pub for a drink. He astonished himself by coping remarkably well up until the point where he asked the barman if he could buy a filthy table which stood in a corner covered in cigarette burns and the stains of long dead pints. The barman said, "What would you want with an old thing like that, better to get a new one". It hadn't been anything special even when it was new, he told them. "You may not believe this" Derek replied, "but it is the cigarette burns and the stains I am really buying. They are so incredibly far out"