Wednesday, 25 July 2012

NOTHING MATTERS EVERYTHING MATTERS by Shawn Sobers

Still from the film "NOTHING MATTERS EVERYTHING MATTERS" by Shawn Sobers

There is nothing that can quite compare to dancing naked on the beach at five o'clock in the morning to Roy Orbison singing "In Dreams". That was what I ended up doing as a result of the request by Shawn Sobers to film me as part of my project.

In 2011, I came across a photography blog administered by Dr Shawn Sobers, Senior Lecturer of Photography & Media at the Faculty of Creative Arts, Humanities and Education at the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol. However, at that time, I didn't know Shawn was the administrator of the blog. I had read a post by one of his students, Chloe Lee, whose father had Parkinson's Disease and replied by way of a comment and he answered on her behalf. Then, one day in the following summer, I was wandering through the Free Range exhibitions of various college students' final degree projects at the Truman Brewery Buildings in Brick Lane, East London and, after 'sending half crazed shadows, giants dancing up the brick wall of Mr Truman's beer factory waving bottles ten feet all', I happened to walk into the section where the photography students from UWE were showing and Shawn, recognising me, approached me and introduced himself and we had a chat in the course of which he explained that he had started his own project which involved filming people dancing and asked if I might be interested and I said that I would. 

A few weeks afterwards, we corresponded by email and agreed that we could shoot four songs, two naked and two clothed, one song of each section being dance music and the other slow/thoughtful music. I was to choose the songs - this was almost like Desert Island Discs! Well, I had to choose "Dreamer" by Supertramp as one of the dance songs, the other being "By the Way" by The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. As for the slow ones, I chose "One Day, I'll Fly Away" by Randy Crawford and "In Dreams".  Shawn came to stay with us and the first morning, we went very early down to the nudist beach in Brighton and I had a most wonderful time dancing to this beautifully emotive music. 

After a while, Shawn sent me the film - it is good. It says so much about how I felt then. Free and happy whilst I was still keeping my illness under control. Shawn very cleverly edited the film in such a way to show this feeling. it might seem easy just to point a camera at someone dancing and to catch what the guy is al about but it was the manner in which Shawn communicated his ideas to me and then brought the film together that really enabled him to represent how I was then. 

The film has received a very good response by those who have seen it. Since then Shawn, whom I should say at this point is a lovely, lovely man, has kept in touch and last year I went to Bristol and spoke to his students whose work I then saw later in the summer at their degree show on the South bank and indeed some of them have agreed since to photograph me. I know they will make a superb job of it because Shawn, as well as being lovely, is clever and a communicator and their work shows his influence whilst, at the same time, he gives them the freedom  to express themselves.

As for the title of the film, Shawn took this from a story I told him about which was mentioned by Olivia Laing in her superb book, "To the River" which is basically a beautifully written documentary about the River Ouse which features Virginia Woolf who drowned in the river. She recounts in the book how Virginia's husband, Leonard, had a motto, "Nothing Matters" and when I read that, I thought, 'yeah, I'll sign up to that' but, after she drowned, Leonard altered the motto to "Nothing matters, Everything matters" which I thought was also right for me as well. 

I danced to the music on the beach that morning as if nothing mattered but it does all matter, so much, doesn't it? Or does it? 

No.....

....and Yes.


FILM: http://vimeo.com/82142061.[Password: nothingeverything]

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

SPLASH by Kristina Sälgvik

SPLASH by Kristina Sälgvik
I came across Kristina's wonderful photography on Flickr. The most recent photographs were some months old but they had a stillness and a directness which immediately engaged with me and I thought (and this now seems to be the test) ''I want to be in a photograph taken by this photographer''. And so it came to pass. I left a message on her Flickr page, she answered very much in the positive, we met for a coffee in The Mad Hatter cafe in Brighton and chatted about the shoot and I think it was then that we decided it would be in the sea as the sun went down. She is a very warm and friendly person with a lovely smile.

I met Kristina and her charming friend Simon whom had come along to assist her. It was a Sunday evening and the beach was still quite crowded but we got started pretty quickly. I love the sea and so it was great fun standing there waiting for the waves to crash around me as Kristina snapped away on her Hasselblad. We all got pretty wet but it was worth it. We then started to dry off and change but were somewhat hampered by this little Jack Russell dog which took a liking to Simon's shoes and dived in and scampered away with one triumphantly pursued by Simon wearing only a towel. It was all very funny and all was well in the end as the shoe was retrieved.

I received the photograph from Kristina some weeks later and I absolutely love it. Again, although there is movement in the picture through the sea crashing against me, I love the directness of the, slightly startled, look in my face. And the softness of the evening sunlight down the side of my body is beautiful. Kristina agreed saying that she liked the contrast of the flat still sea behind me and the crashing wave.

Well, another great photograph to add to my project and it really stands out. When I created a slideshow of all the photos recently and they flashed by every 5 seconds or so, this one really held my attention because Kristina held my look and combined it beautifully with the smack of the water against me. Great stuff!

WEBSITE: http://www.kristinasalgvik.com/

Monday, 23 July 2012

NOTHING IS EVER FROZEN IN TIME by James Stroud

video

I met James at the Getty Gallery in London on 24th November 2011 when I was asked by Clare Park to come along to the ''Hidden Gems'' charity event there. ''Hidden Gems'' comprised the work of 25 top photographers who were each asked to take a photograph in the same location i.e. the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. I was introduced to quite a few photographers there including the lovely James who announced that his wife had just given birth to a little boy and he showed pictures proudly on his mobile 'phone. The interesting fact here is that  his wife's father has Parkinson's disease too. I explained to him what my project was all about and he seemed very keen to work with me and so I wrote to him the following day and he confirmed what he had had said the the night before, that he would be very happy to photograph me at his studio in Camden.

However, as with all good and successful photographers, I had to wait for the opportunity which came on a lovely sunny day in July 2012. Once we had arranged the date, James wrote "I thought I'd shoot a bit of film with you if that's ok?" an understatement if ever there was one. I duly turned up at his studio which was in a converted church and was beautifully kitted out. He introduced me to his assistant for the day and to Max Sobol who was going to assist as well as interview me.

James and Me


It was a fascinating shoot and I loved every minute of it. James explained that he wanted to make up a collage of images on the screen and over dub some of the things I said in my interview. At one point, he asked me what music I wanted to hear and I asked for Madness and chose the Liberty of Norton Folgate. In the process of making certain expressions for the camera requested by James, I improvised a bit and, at one point, I mimed to the words of the song which James asked me to repeat. We also talked about his father-in-law and I offered to write to him suggesting a possible chat or meeting because apparently, he was having a hard time of it. I did write but I have not received any reply which is not particularly surprising because I know, from personal experience, that you don't really want to become part of the Parkinson's World especially in the early days of the diagnosis.

A few months later, James asked me to meet him and Max in an office in Hatton Garden so that we could re-record my narration because the sound quality of the original was poor. I saw the film for the first time and I was very impressed and quite moved - not only by the content but by the amount of effort and care which had gone into the making of the film. The redubbing was difficult in that I had to make it sound spontaneous but I think we just about got there.


Eventually, I received the final version in February 2013 and I was so pleased. I sent it to a number of people and they were completely knocked out by it. It also given its first public showing on Valentine's Day when I gave a talk at Photo-Forum in Euston. Again, it was rapturously received. I  sent it to Parkinson's UK and they were blown away by it and asked if they could use it in the Parkinson's Awareness Week. But none of this surprised me. James and Max have produced a stunning piece of work which I thoroughly enjoyed making - they are wonderfully talented and such nice people and it was a real honour for me to work with them.

By the way, you may find that the version of the film on Vimeo is better quality.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

THE ONE by Giulia Zucchetti

THE ONE by Giulia Zucchetti

On 14th June 2012, something rather special happened. I was walking around the University of Westminster Photography Degree Show at the Truman Brewery Building in Brick Lane and I turned a corner and there before me was the display of work by one of the students called Giulia Zucchetti. It literally took my breath away. Not only was it one of the best collections of work by a final year student that I had ever seen but some of the images were as good as I had seen anywhere. There was quite a crowd around the photographs and Giulia was in great demand but I managed a very quick word and said how impressed I was. Therefore, can you imagine how pleased I was that she answered my email and agreed to photograph me? I shall tell how pleased I was -  I was VERY pleased! 

We met a week later in Liverpool Street and chatted about the shoot and she showed me some of her work and I showed her a lot of the photographs from my project on her laptop and we talked so much that the time flew by. We were together just  over an hour but it was long enough for me to understand why the exhibition of her work at the Degree Show was so good -  it was because not only is she is very talented but also she is a hard working and totally committed photographic artist.

We set a date for the shoot in July and, in the meantime, Giulia wrote suggesting a new idea. She had thought about what she termed "the wonderful inner journey" I had started once I had left my former job. I had taken off my clothes and shaken away the dust to start a new life. Therefore, she said that she would love to present this metaphorical passage of my life by photographing me naked and immersed in colourful (pink maybe?) smoke as a visual symbol of my spiritual rebirth. I thought it was a great idea.

The shoot took place in a studio in Harringay on 22nd July 2012, a lovely day because the sun was shining and the shoot was marvellous fun. Giulia was assisted by a fellow Italian, a very nice guy called Mattia, and we started off with me being clothed and then topless and then naked for the remainder of the shoot. Giulia had brought quite a few different coloured powders with her and initially Mattia threw the powder over me and we used a fan to whip up a cloud of coloured dust and eventually, as far as I can recall, me and the floor were covered by a dark pinky brown mass of powder as the colours mixed together. Not exactly what was envisaged but it worked because look at this final image which out of a number of excellent pictures, Giulia nominated as ''THE ONE'' - hence the title. As the shoot came to an end, Giulia moved closer and closer and clicked away as I improvised and adopted one different pose after another until the final triumphant click of the shutter and we each looked the other in the eye and laughed. A coming together of two people from different countries, different ages and walks of life but with one aim - to produce a great photograph. Bingo!

When Giulia sent me THE ONE, she signed off her email with ''Love and sunshine''. That is what she is like - sunshine. I am glad to have met and worked with her at the start of what I am certain will be a glittering career.



Thursday, 19 July 2012

MASK by Alex Boyd

MASK by Alex Boyd

I was recommended to this wizard of photography by Julian Holtom and I am so very glad to have made contact because this collaboration must have been one of the most interesting of them all. I wrote to Alex in November 2011 and he replied saying that Parkinson's Disease was an issue close to his heart and that he would be honoured to photograph me. It amazes me when someone of the calibre of Alex should feel honoured to photograph me because he is an incredible man with a huge talent and all I do is sit in front of the camera. Needless to say, therefore, that the honour was all mine. He explained that he would photograph me using the wet plate collodion method like the Victorians used to do. Julian had told me about this and I had looked up some previous work of Alex's on line so I was thrilled to be told that I was to be photographed in this way. 

Eventually, in July 2012, I travelled up to Edinburgh for a series of shoots and, on my way back down south, I stopped off at Lockerbie station to be collected by the curly-haired Alex looking very cool in a black shirt and waistcoat and some snazzy checked and slightly torn trousers. Immediately, he struck me as an extremely amiable fellow with a lovely fresh smile which exuded all the intense enthusiasm he had for his art. He took me back to his house where he introduced me to his absolutely gorgeous wife, Louise, who not only had the most stunning hair but was also a lovely person to meet. They are such a beautiful couple to be with and it is not often that one can say that so soon after meeting them for the first time but you know what I mean don't you? They had a way about them which was all their own and it was a pleasure to latch on to.

Me and Alex

Another nice thing (among the many nice things that day) was that Julian and Sol arrived and it was so good to see them again. I had not seen Sol since we met for our shoot in the previous November although we had been in correspondence since then. And Julian's friendly mug had been present at my exhibition in Southport as recently as May. After some delicious sandwiches, we all trooped over to Alex's garage and he set about explaining how the wet plate collodion method worked. First of all, we did a basic test shot which I thought was marvellous and it was fascinating to see the image eventually appear.  We then tried some different poses, including this one, and even tried a nude shot. The whole procedure was so interesting and Alex explained everything as he did it whilst Sol clicked away with her camera and Julian kindly filmed the whole thing. The time whizzed by and eventually it was time for me to leave and catch my train. Alex took me to the bus stop and I caught the bus to Lockerbie and, as I sat back in my seat on the train, I sighed. It was not the sigh of despair which I used to breathe when I was working as a lawyer and I was battling with an illness I didn't know I had; it was the sigh of complete and utter contentment. I had had such a great time that day with some people all of whom had become very special to me. I am a lucky, lucky bastard. Even more so when I walked in to our house in Brighton and sat down to tell Jane about my day with the great Alex Boyd.

Julian Sol and Alex

Of course, I had seen the images when they had been created on the day but my heart gave a little jump when Alex sent them through a few months later. I showed them to Jane and she loved them. I sat and looked at them on the computer screen and my mind drifted back to the day of the shoot and I could hear Alex's voice and see his smile and hear the voices and see the smiles of Louise and Julian and Sol and my eyes closed in on the memory and wrapped it up in a lustrous blanket of golden silk and stored it away in my vault of precious treasures and, every so often, I open the door and brush away the silk and I smile too.



''There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain.

All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends
I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all''



WHAT IS LIFE...BUT BEAUTY? by Robert Ormerod

WHAT IS LIFE...BUT BEAUTY? by Robert Ormerod
When I went up to Edinburgh in July 2012, I asked the photographers whom I was going to see if they knew of anyone else who might wish to photograph me. Gavin Evans replied telling me about Robert's work which at that time was on display at Gavin's gallery at the Institute. I looked up his work on the Web and liked it immensely and so I wrote my usual email to him. He replied saying that he thought he had heard of my project already and would be pleased to work with me.

We arranged to meet in Edinburgh on 18th July which must have been the wettest day of the year or any year come to that. Luckily, I had a small easily collapsible umbrella to keep dry as the rain teemed down as I waited for Robert to pick me up in his motor car. At last, he arrived and we introduced ourselves and went off in search of a suitable location. He had something in mind already but it was in the open and so went in search of another building which he had passed. We found it and went to ask the people in the shop below if we could use their first floor for taking photographs but they checked with their landlord and the and the answer was no - fortunately. Fortunately because we drove on and screeched to a halt outside an old building which some builders were working on. Robert nipped out of the car and into the building and made some enquiries and came back to say the builders were cool with us taking some pictures. It was a magnificent Victorian building which was to be totally refurbished and used as a school. We found a great staircase with a beautiful light coming through the glass roof and we settled in that area for about an hour and a bit. Then we moved to another area which was much darker but very atmospheric.

What struck me about Robert is that he was totally focused on what he was doing and was very considered and careful to set the shot up exactly as he wanted it. And just look at the result. The light, the tone, the colour, my pose -  all were carefully thought through before the defining moment when he clicked the shutter. This is such a gentle, beautiful photograph which echoes those taken by Emma Tunbridge but this was a different time and place and a different mind at work.

Every time I look at this image, I just feel as if my eyes are plunging into something ethereal and pure and are invigorated and calmed at the same time. It is a gorgeous image. I was so pleased when  I saw it for the first time and said so to Robert. The Beauty of which I speak in the title is not mine necessarily but Robert's -  he has found beauty in the scrubby walls of a derelict building, in the face and hands of an ordinary guy and in the thoughts of that person. Life is beautiful if you open your mind to see. It is everywhere. It is in you and it is in me. Isn't that so wonderful?

WEBSITE: http://www.robertormerod.co.uk/


Wednesday, 18 July 2012

NAKED TOUCH by Gavin Evans

NAKED TOUCH by Gavin Evans

Well, this was a challenge!

I was recommended to Gavin by Laurence Winram, one of the original triumvirate of Edinburgh-based photographers who photographed me on my first trip to the City in November 2011. In fact, it was at Gavin's gallery, The Institute, that they all met and talked about my impending arrival. Anyway, back to Gavin Evans. I wrote to him by email telling him of Laurence's recommendation, my project and my admiration of his wonderful photography and he said yes! Yes is such a great word. 

Eventually, after a false start, I arranged a second visit to Edinburgh in July 2011 and set up a date with Gavin. He said that he wanted me to pose naked for his ''Touch'' project. This project, about personal space, had been going on for about five years but he had changed it for the new exhibition by introducing the requirement that the subject be naked. He said ''you must place my hand in the frame. You can do ANYTHING (his capitals) with my hand - it must be in the picture''. He thought we would come up with something very revealing.......and he was right. So, I thought about what I should do and initially given the challenging nature of the photograph, I thought it must involve my willy but then I thought that was too obvious. I then decided upon him punching me but discovered that it had been done before so finally I settled on me kissing his hand. Also, I thought that I could write something on my chest and he could hold a paintbrush so that it would look like he had painted the words.

I arrived at The Institute at the appointed time and this imposing guy with deep blue eyes (did he have deep blue eyes or was I imagining it?) walked up to me and said "You must be Tim" and he flashed a dashing smile as the eyes bored into me and he seemed immediately to know what I was thinking in the deepest, darkest depths of my addled brain. He offered me a coffee and, by this time, I had calmed down and relaxed into a comfortable conversation with him. I told him of the shoot earlier that day with Robert Ormerod, whom he had recommended to me and talked briefly of my project and also explained that a journalist would be meeting me to conduct an interview which he was quite cool with. I told him what I had decided to do with his hand and he seemed to like the idea of the kiss but said that I couldn't use a paintbrush as one of the rules was that there were to be no props. However, maybe he could just pretend that his finger had written the words. He said that, once the gallery had been cleared, he would set up an impromptu studio at the end by the bar where he would take the photograph. He told me of some others he had done recently and said that he had extended the project to include today - he was expecting some other people to volunteer later in the evening.

In the meantime, Nick Drainey, the journalist and a really nice guy, turned up and squeezed the interview in before the shoot and then hung around to watch the shoot itself. I got undressed in the newly set up studio area at the back of the gallery and Gavin lifted his camera up with his right hand and gently thrust his left hand into the shot. I took it and kissed it. We looked at the shot and Gavin said he was going to do it again - he wanted more from me. Whether he actually said it or merely suggested it with those eyes of his, I cannot now recall but I knew what was expected of me. I took his hand and this time kissed it more passionately. We looked at the image again together and again he asked for more so I put more expression into it. It was tough but fun. He then asked if there was anything else I wanted to try so we did one when I placed his hand on my breast and looked startled and then one where I held his hand lovingly to my cheek and then one where he pointed to my brain whilst I went cross-eyed. Finally, we tried the finger painting but it was not obvious that the finger had painted the words and so it seemed  that it was merely pointing at them. We agreed to delete those that hadn't worked and whittled the final choice down to about four and I left Gavin to make the final choice for our respective projects. He chose the last one because, as I said at the time, it illustrated my disease. It is also a great photograph and good fun.

I asked Gavin if I could photograph him but immediately he said no but then said that I could photograph his hands so here they are.

Gavin Evans' Right Hand

Gavin Evans' Left Hand


I got dressed and said goodbye to Gavin and received a lovely warm hug on the way out from Michaela who was working with him in the gallery and Nick gave me a lift back to Laurence Winram's house where I was staying. Laurence and his family had been away until that evening and so it was lovely to see his smiling face as I walked to the front door. He introduced me to his beautiful wife, Krista, and his two charming children. I told him all about the shoots which had taken place and in particular the shoot that evening with Gavin but we were both quite tired - he after a long car journey back home that day and me after a day in which I had been photographed by the mercurial Gavin Evans, a wonderful photographer and a very charismatic man. So we said goodnight and I stretched out on my bed with a big smile on my face and drifted off to sleep.

WEBSITE: www.gavinevans.com



NEVER LET ME GO by Tanya Simpson

NEVER LET ME GO by Tanya Simpson


"Who is this 'Rockstar Vanity' chick on Flickr?'' I thought. No I didn't because it was on Deviant Art that I first came across Tanya's exciting images. I sent her my usual email and instantly I received a very brief reply saying something like ''Call me when you're next in Edinburgh" - well, at least it was a Yes. But then she wrote again saying that my email had come at a very opportune time because she had just embarked on a new personal project photographing men which was something she loved to do but didn't tend to do very often in the course of work. She was aiming for very honest portraits, reflecting the subject's personality and emotions rather than those of the photographer. This was in January 2012 and by June, I was beginning to make plans for my second photographic trip to Edinburgh by which time Tanya had come up with an idea for the shoot.

''I've had an idea but it's probably a bit weird and if you're not up for it, I totally understand. How do you feel about being in the sea (the shallow bit at the edge!) in your clothes? I've always found the sea to be a great source of comfort and frequently have dreams about being able to breathe underwater, being totally free in the ocean where it feels huge but safe and beautiful. In these dreams, the sea is usually an escape from something painful, difficult or frightening.

I've been listening a lot to Never Let Me Go by Florence and the Machine  which makes me cry just about every time I hear it. A friend pointed out recently that it's most likely about suicide, but it's never taken my thoughts in that direction. I guess my mind isn't as dark a place as people tend to assume :-) It's always made me think of retribution and ultimate freedom through surrender and release, facing the unknown with strength and a sense of enlightenment.

There's a beach about 10 minutes drive from where I live and we could park right next to it. I was thinking clothed (possibly a suit, or smart trousers and a dress shirt) because it's visually striking and unexpected. A naked person in the sea isn't that unusual but someone walking into the sea fully clothed is about so much more than going for a swim. There's a sense of a baptism about it too, which I like. I'm not Christian but I always like that imagery of letting go and being set free by water. It'll not be massively cold in July either, which is good :-)

What do you reckon?''

Is the Pope catholic??! Of course, I was up for it!
On the day in question (18th July 2012), I met Claudine Quinn and Lucy Kendra for a cup of tea and a meringue the size of a football in a cafe near what is known as the Pubic Triangle and Tanya duly arrived at the appointed time to collect me in her motor car. I have to say that, from the moment I got into the passenger seat and never having met her before, I got on with her swimmingly. She is a charming woman whom has had to put up with a load of shit due to her M.E. but she has a lovely attitude to life in general and to her life in particular and, not only that, she's a bloody good photographer. 


We drove to Portobello Beach and the tide was almost in which was perfect. It was a clear day with a bit of cloud and so I duly walked into the sea with my suit on and walked out again. Tanya said that she had got some great shots. Mr Wise Guy then suggested that he swim in the water with his suit on and he duly removed all his remaining belongings from the top pockets of the jacket and strode in again and flopped about like an olympic swimmer or as close as he could make it. All was well until I reached the shore and felt a desperate buzzing from the breast pocket of my shirt - I had forgotten my mobile phone! It died on that beach but amazingly, the Sim card survived. We tried some more shots without the shirt and jacket on but stopped short of nudity because there was a bit of an audience after all of the above.





I asked Tanya if I could take a photograph of her and she said NO!! in no uncertain terms. So, readers, I'm afraid that I cannot show you what she looked like but I can tell you. She looks like an angel with piercings all round her lovely open face. She is the prettiest person and that is accentuated by the huge amount of beauty within. She is the nicest of people and very gentle and warm and has a sense of humour to match. And she loves photography. I would love to work with her again and who knows......? Until then, enjoy these superb photographs and, if you want to see more of them and about my July trip to Edinburgh, there is a film on You Tube.




Thank you, Tanya x.

WEBSITE: http://www.rockstarvanity.com/

Sunday, 15 July 2012

"Hackney - A Tale of Two Cities" by Zed Nelson

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times".


So begins Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities". He was writing about London and Paris at the time of the French Revolution whereas Zed Nelson's exhibition is about the London Borough of Hackney in 2012 and yet the contrasts shown in the exhibition are almost as extreme as those documented in Dickens' novel. When I spoke to Zed at the Preview of the show, he felt that perhaps he was cheating a bit by studying his own locality. However, the fact is that he lives in an area with a dangerous mix of new found prosperity and lingering depravation; an area ravaged by revolution only a year ago in the form of the London Riots of 2011.

So, what of the photographs in the exhibition? Well, they are beautiful as I had expected from the man who took my photograph entitled "Paradise". As with me, his subjects have been seduced by Zed's warm humanity - you can see it in their eyes. You can see it in his eyes.

The photograph of the white Grandmother and her black Granddaughter (I assume that they are related) is an example of this. They have been stopped in the street by a complete stranger with a camera and yet they have yielded very easily to his request for a photograph. I love their identical hairstyles and the identical happiness in their faces and yet the Grandmother has perhaps seen things during her life that she hopes that her innocent charge will never see but they smile for the camera and for a moment, all that is forgotten. Until they come across the tree ripped off its trunk and left there as a warning like a head on a pike or the car photographed from inside the windscreen in which we see a blackened hole which looks as if a rocket has been fired through it. The contrasts continue; two elderly women chatting over a cup of tea, an attractive blonde strolling past an upmarket cafe, three hoodies posing slightly menacingly on a recreation ground. All life is here. Two lovers kiss on a small rowing boat surrounded by bright green algae lying on the still water. An old man - disorderly or disabled either by drink or disease - holding himself up or bending down in a balletic pose to touch his shadow. It is easy to find any number of contrasting subjects to photograph in a place such as Hackney but not so easy to tell the stories behind each image with the skill and lucidity displayed by Zed in this superb collection.

I go back and start again and the best picture is definitely the first. There are red berries scattered over the pavement and the road. Those in the gutter are mostly squashed flat - only a few survive. The majority of those on the higher ground of the footpath are intact. There is a very thin line between them. It wouldn't take much to kick the rest of the berries into the road and then see how long they would last. My mind drifts back to 1973 when I was a student living in Clapton. One night, my flatmates and I were staggering up the High Street singing the Banana Boat Song and got stopped by the police and given a warning about our behaviour - probably yards from the places set on fire during the riots last year as the police stood by and did nothing.

The worst of times but the best of Zed Nelson.

http://www.zednelson.com/

Saturday, 14 July 2012

EDINBURGH!

I am returning to Edinburgh for shoots with Tanya Simpson, Gavin Evans, Robert Ormerod and Alex Boyd and I am very excited about them all. I am hoping also to catch up with Claudine Quinn and possibly Sylvia Kowalczyk and Lucy Kendra and, as I shall definitely see Laurence Winram as he has kindly allowed me to stay at his house.

It is now eight months since my last trip which was one of the loveliest times of my life and I have had many lovely times. Below is the story of that trip and the people I met on the way.



A SCOTTISH TALE

Picture if you will a man of mature years, no longer young and yet no longer old, well let’s be honest, he is sixty years of age but he feels much younger. But look that’s enough about his age because we have to get on with this wee tale otherwise we’ll be here all bloody day. He is sitting by his fire in the drawing room of his comfortable house by the sea on the south coast of England. He is wearing a pair of dark trousers, a white shirt and sober tie, a pair of serviceable brown leather shoes and a brown jacket made of the finest Harris tweed. His left hand is resting on the arm of the chair but somehow it is not at repose and he is holding a pipe in his right hand which is suspended in mid air. The pipe is merely for dramatic effect for he is a non-smoker.  Both hands are trembling but this not because of any inner turmoil for he is perfectly content in his thoughts which are travelling far, far away from this present scene.  You may wonder, therefore, why his hands are not still. The reason for this is that he has a degenerative neurological condition called Parkinson’s Disease. In other words, he is what some people call a Spaz. Sitting at his feet is a woman young enough to be his daughter. She is twenty seven years, nine months and 2 days old exactly. Indeed it is his daughter. She looks up at the man and sees from the misty eyed expression on his face that he hasn’t been listening to a bloody word she has been saying for the last twenty minutes so she tries a different tack.

‘’What did you do in the war, Daddy?’’ she enquires gently.
The man suddenly awakes from his reverie and looks down at her with incomprehension.
‘’I wasn’t in the war, stupid, I was born in 1951’’ he says ‘’but….’’
And his voice tails off as his eyes lift up to resume their gaze into what seems to be another world which lies beyond the four sturdy walls which enclose this cosy domestic scene.

‘’But, what, Daddy?’’ replies his daughter whom, despite being somewhat chastened by his calling into question her mental capabilities, continues speaking in a soothing caring voice.

‘’But……I was in Edinburgh from the 29th of November and the 1st day of December 2011’’  he continues, his voice now almost a whisper.
The girl moves as if to rise but she remains sitting, her eyes wide open and her breath short as, all of a sudden, she becomes captivated by the look of sheer wonder on her father’s face.
‘’And what happened there?’’ The words could hardly struggle through her lips so taken was she by the small but beatific smile that was beginning to play on the corners of his mouth.

He beamed as his eyes pulled away from the distance and he looked down upon her with all the love he had felt for her over the last 27 years, nine months and two days exactly.

‘’Well, l met an Irish woman, a Frenchman, a Polish woman, an Englishman, a Scotsman and a Scots woman’’ he replied happily.
‘’Is this one of your awful jokes?”
‘’No, no. This is a true story. The Irish woman was called Claudine Quinn. She was like your cousin Olivia and your brother Tom all rolled into one, a veritable whirlwind with a capital ‘’H’’.  A dynamic ball of fun and lively intelligence. A woman of many talents who could cook and sew and sing and dance and make historical and artistic references until the cows came home and usually all at the same time and fuelled by an indefatigable energy and in a raucous Irish brogue and at the speed of a really speedy cartoon creature bouncing from one place to another crazily and yet with the grace of a ballerina.’’
‘’And what about the others?”
‘’Well, Claudine lives with the Frenchman whose name is Julien or Jules for short. He is the most delicate of men. His body is slim and his face is open and honest  -  almost innocent - and he moves with a deftness as if his feet are hardly touching the ground.  His voice is light and melodic, utterly suited to singing tuneful songs accompanied by his guitar the strings of which he plucks with strength and assurance borne of a deep love and understanding of music.
Claudine  and Jules have a friend called Lucy Kendra whom I think is Scottish. She has a beautiful round face and dark eyes and a golden red head of hair. I am not very good at colours but the colour of her face, her eyes and her hair reflect the undoubted warmth of her character which rolls over you like a pleasant morning sun. She is talented too. She is a graphic artist  but she trained originally as a musician and she sings with a clear, silken voice. She is an observer but she can inhabit and fill the room with sweetness and delight.’’
‘And the Polish woman. What was she like?’’
‘’Her name is Sylwia Kowalczyk. She is of medium height but appears taller because she is quite commanding in that she appears to hold strong opinions and beliefs but she is a person who is both interested and interesting. She has the deepest of dark brown eyes, almost black, but they are alive with ideas and her love of Art and Life. She is married to Simon Croft who is a very gentle and handsome man. A former lawyer whom I think is English but who speaks Russian fluently. Obviously highly intelligent and yet he communicates with his fellow man with a deference and humility that is beguiling and attractive due in large part to his eyes which smile with both tenderness and wit.
‘’You mentioned a Scotsman – what about him?”
“Ah! The lovely Laurence Winram. A large strong man with almost too much enthusiasm and love of life to keep inside himself. When he works, he dashes from one spot to another using up so much energy that he is breathless at the end of each jump and skip. He is like a little boy in the playground never still searching for weird and wonderful ways in which to express himself.’’
‘’ So, how did you meet all these people and do they all know each other? What did you do with them that clearly was so wonderful over those three days in Edinburgh,?”
‘’I think I can say that I was called to them somehow in some strange way. You know this photography project with which I am involved?”
‘’Ye-es  I know the photography project with which you are involved – this isn’t an English exam for God’s sake. Speak normally. You mean the one where you are always stripping off and showing your willy to all and sundry?’’
‘’I don’t always strip off and I don’t do it all on a Sunday either – ‘’
His daughter yawned at the silly joke
‘’ – but, yes, that project’’ he continued ‘’Well, one day last summer I went to Brick Lane in London to se the degree shows of this year’s photographic graduates and I was looking at the show set up by the students of Farnham Art College and then happened upon a display by Claudine and almost before I saw her photographs, I was attracted by the ideas expressed in them. She was standing by her stand, as one does, jabbering away at a hundred words a minute to another visitor and realizing that I wasn’t going to be able to  stem the flow of words gushing from her mouth, I decided to make an entry in her comments book and I bent down and wrote ‘’Yes!’’ on the open page. ‘’
‘’You mean like John Lennon wrote when he saw Yoko Ono’s work for the first time?”
“In a way, except I am not one of the Beatles and I have no intention of having an affair with her or getting married and living in a bag and then thirteen years later getting shot by some weird crazy git on the steps of the Dakota building in New York ….’’
‘’Alright, no need to be sarcastic. Get on with it’’’
‘’Anyway, as far as I recall, Claudine stopped talking this other poor visitor to death when she what I had written and we chatted about her work and my project and agreed to contact each other. Subsequently, I contacted Sylwia having seen her work in a magazine and then Laurence, having seen his work in a book. It turned out that they were all based in Edinburgh and all knew each other. And what was so wonderful about those three days? It was magical. They made me feel so welcome. They exploded with joyous enthusiasm as they told me what they wanted to do when they photographed me and they took me to their hearts as if I was one of them, one of their family. I love them so much for that.’’
‘’What, as much as you love me and Mummy and Tom?”
“No, in a different way. Laurence wrote to me afterwards and said very kindly that I had a big heart. If that’s true then it is because all these beautiful people I meet squeeze into my heart and make it bigger so that then I have more room to accommodate the love I feel for them. A different love to the enormous unconditional love I feel for you and Tom and Mummy’’
His daughter stretched and yawned.
‘’Yeah, yeah, yeah’’ she said as she got up off the floor and pursed her lips in fake jocular disapproval of the whole thing and wandered out of the room leaving her father to his thoughts and memories of cheese scones, shaving cream, raspberries, clicking shutters, Rocky Raccoon, gift-wrapped chocolates, a red silk toga, a naked traveller, warm hugs and kisses of welcome and of farewell, Scottish taxis, platform 2 on Waverley station, paper plates, drumming on butter, Conemen, tightrope walking, adjusting lights, setting the focus, taking light readings and
crumpets for breakfast……….

Thursday, 12 July 2012

MERVYN PEAKE AWARDS Part Two

It was strange to revisit the awards this year. Why? Well, first of all, I was without Jane who had wanted to come but wasn't able to because she had to be at home that day and secondly, this year I had entered the Awards myself with my self-portrait which was highly commended by the judges.

Fabian
The Peak Family have very generously set up these awards in the memory of the late Mervyn Peake who suffered from Parkinson's Disease and it is a marvellous way to help not only those who suffer from the condition but also to bring awareness of it to the notice of the general public. But more than that, it gives specifically to the sufferers an opportunity to express themselves artistically and to fight against the illness in that way.
Joanne
I arrived at the Merchant Taylor's Hall in the City at about 12.15pm and had just about enough time to see all the photographs and paintings and to read some of the poetry which had either won an award or had been highly commended. I met Paul Jackson-Clark of Parkinson's UK and Fabian Peake, the artist, and we chatted for a few minutes until we were called through to the dining hall which was very impressive and l made my way to my table. There I met Sylvia Hogg, who had won the Painting Award. She was a very jolly person and we both had a giggle when the waitress put milk in her apple juice -  no, I have no idea why she did it either. I was sitting next to Paul and chatted to him some more as well to Fabian who was sitting on the other side of Paul. Fabian told me that he had used photography quite a lot in his recent work which is being exhibited in Camden. He said that it was still possible to view the work as the exhibition had been extended by the gallery and so I said that I would try to get to see it.
Clare
I filmed the proceedings and also took still photographs of Fabian, Clare Chater (Head of Events at Parkinson's UK), Joanne Harris the writer (who is a great supporter of the awards and who presented the certificates) and many of the winners and other participants. I met Peter Jones who had beaten me to the Photography Award but I have to say that there was no argument. His photograph, "Summer Days", of a young boy on a beach with a passing dog was exceptionally good and well worthy of first prize. He was also a very nice chap and very Welsh as his name suggests. Amanda Crane won the poetry prize and her poem was read beautifully by Joanne Harris. 
Peter
Gradually the dining hall emptied and I took the opportunity of interviewing Sebastian Peake and Clare Chater for my film and then took my leave and caught the train back home to Brighton where I  immediately set about editing the film of the day. When I showed it to my daughter, I burst into tears. It was very moving seeing these people whom had worked so hard to produce their work and also to hear Joanne, Sebastian and Clare speak so positively about the awards. So, all in all a lovely, slightly strange day.

For some reason, I am having difficulty uploading the film into this post so I refer you to You Tube, the link to which is http://youtu.be/II1-wGIebnA.