Friday, 29 March 2013

THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY - Number One

I have been photographed by some photographers and have enjoyed their company and the shoot immensely and they seemed also to have done so but, for one reason or another, I have never received a photograph from them. In most cases, I am sure that this is because they are busy earning a living and they simply haven't the time to complete the editing, retouching, scanning or whatever needs to be done. This is quite understandable and acceptable. Furthermore, I have been very fortunate in that, in just about every case, I have not paid for the photograph (and neither have I been paid for my modelling) and so if it is your profession, I fully appreciate that you have to ensure that you give priority to paid work. This is in no way a moan about anyone who had not sent me the photograph - quite the opposite in fact. As I say, I have really enjoyed working with them in every case. However, I thought I would tell the stories of the shoots anyway.

The first guy who photographed me but who has never sent any photographs was a man called Matthew whom I contacted through Gumtree in April 2008. He replied saying that he was impressed with my idea of a photographic diary of a PD sufferer and that he would love to be involved in generating some of the photographs. He suggested that he come over to Milford from his home in Brighton, where he worked as a teacher. He came over and spent quite some time photographing me with two cameras, one of which was an old favourite 35 mm camera which I think had been owned by his mother or grandmother. In fact, he left it behind and I called him on his mobile and, luckily he hadn't driven very far so he came back to fetch it. One month passed without any photographs so I wrote but received no reply. I wrote twice again and then called him and he said that he had put a CD in the post but would do so again. I sent him my address by email but heard nothing and eventually my last email was returned to me in December 2008 as it could not be delivered. All I have is a photograph of Matthew which is shown below. A very nice guy but quite why he never sent anything, I shall never know.

Matthew in our garden at Ravenswood


Monday, 25 March 2013

BEAUTIFUL MIND by Jocelyn Allen

BEAUTIFUL MIND by Jocelyn Allen

I met Jocelyn at the press launch in London for the Guernsey Photography Festival in 2011 but I had already written to her asking if she would like to photograph me. Anyway, I think we must have discussed my project when we met as she confirmed afterwards by email that she would be happy to take part. There was quite a long delay due to the house move initially and then due to this and that but eventually, she had to come to Brighton for a talk at MiniClick and took the opportunity to come by the house and take some photographs. I am concerned that the house isn't photographed to death but the great thing about this photograph (a minor great thing amongst many major great things) is that you cannot tell where it was taken.

What are the other great things about the photograph? Well, where do I start?  Look at it  - it such a clear, simple image. How many photographs of a man have you seen with his eyes closed? Hundreds? Thousands? Probably. But how many photographs of a man with his eyes closed of this calibre have you seen? Not hundreds and not thousands but very, very few. I love the way I am stretching the skin of my eyelids back to clear my face even more to lay it open to the viewer as if I am wiping away all unnecessary thoughts, all superfluity, leaving just a clear simple image of beauty. And my hands are not only pulling aside my skin they are pressing into my brain trying to keep my mind in place, in check, for as long they can.

It is an image of such beauty, such simplicity and such power that it could only have been taken by a photographer of such insight, such intelligence and such sensitivity as Jocelyn Allen.





Wednesday, 20 March 2013

"TIM" by Peter Dazeley

TIM by Peter Dazeley
Once upon a time, there was a man with Parkinson's Disease, who found himself involved in a photographic project which all started by chance. He used to be a lawyer but was forced to retire in 2006 because of his illness. He had plenty to do because he loved watching cricket and going to the cinema and he also set about writing a memoir about his time as a solicitor. Then, one day, he saw an advertisement in "Time Out" the late, lamented listings magazine. It was from a photographer who wanted to publish a book of "real" nudes as opposed to professional models. Our hero thought "Why not? I'm not a solicitor any more with a reputation to consider" and so, he went along to be photographed by a great professional photographer called Graeme Montgomery. The rest is history.

238 photogrpahers later, Tim (for that was his name) found himself in Peter Dazeley's studio in Parsons Green, West London. He had come across Peter's work on the Spider Awards site and he loved the gloriously and imaginatively lit nudes that Peter had displayed on the site. He looked up Peter's website and found all manner of riches there and so, licking his lips, he sent Peter an email; the same email he had been sending over the last six years to each of the photographers in his project. It was the second day of February 2013, (Ricky Commissar's birthday - more of that later). A few days later, Peter's agent, the lovely Sarah Ryder Richardson, replied saying that Peter was away on location and asking Tim for a bit more information so that she could discuss my proposal with him on his return. Tim sent the lovely Sarah all kinds of information about the project and, sure enough, a few days later, she responded saying that "Dazeley" (for that was his professional name) would be very pleased to photograph me.

Subsequently, Tim and Dazeley agreed a time to meet for the shoot and Dazeley wrote to him saying "I'd like to collaborate with you. I love starting with a clean piece of paper and the sitter contributing. So I think you should come along with a small selection of clothes you feel comfortable  in, lets see what we can produce together...."

And so it was that on 20th March 2013, Tim walked into one of the happiest studios he had ever visited and he was met with a very warm handshake from a well dressed man with a kind, wise face - Peter Dazeley. He was introduced to Sarah, who was indeed lovely, and his two assistants one of whom was called Florian and the other whose name esacapes me for the moment. Tim immediately felt at home and was offered refreshment whilst they finished setting everything up. Peter was clearly in full command and, as one would guess from the amazing images on his website, he knew exactly what he wanted but, as with all great artists, he had this wonderfully spontaneous instinct for the unusual, the exciting, the unique take on a shot. Frist of all, he asked Tim to pose in his tweed coat and then he asked Tim to take off all his clothes and wrapped some grey cloth around his head and body. The images were relayed onto Peter's computer and he invited Tim to look at these pictures and to comment. It was a marvellously relaxed shoot even though Tim realised from what he saw on the computer and the manner in which Peter went about his work, that he was in the presence of a Master of Photography.

Towards the end of the shoot, Peter's very young son arrived. He was delightful and Tim was very moved by how Peter related to this boy - full of love and care. Tim thought of his love for his own son and felt the breathless heaviness of memory wash through his chest like a lion's roar. A small sting of water seeped out  of the corner of Tim's eye as he thought how lucky he was to meet people like this. This was what made his project such a beautiful thing; working with people and sharing a small part of their lives.

Tim was asked to stay for lunch in the studio; a simple meal of cold meats, humous, cheese, bread and salad. After the meal, Tim showed his new friends some films he had made and uploaded onto YouTube. Then it was time to go. Peter walked Tim to the door and gave him a book of his photographs which he had signed. Another warm handshake and the nicest of smiles and Tim walked out into a the spring sunshine of West London thinking "Am I living in fairy tale? Is this really happening to me?" And do you know what, dear readers, it wasn't a fairy tale. It was really happening to him and yet, they all lived happily ever after.

Postscript One: A few days later, Tim received the pictures from Peter which he loved and chose the one above but he could have chosen any of them for they were all so beautiful. Tim leaned back in his chair looking at the pictures on the computer screen and slowly his face creased into the largest smile you could ever wish to see.


Postscript Two: Ricky Commissar was a boy Tim went to school with when he lived in Finchley, North London. He left the school at age of eleven but ten years later met Ricky again. Ricky's family were from Russia originally and his house in Hendon was called "Cremlyn".

WEBSITES: www.peterdazeley.com 
                      www.dazeleyfineart.com
TWITTER:  

Monday, 18 March 2013

THE MAGNIFICENT TWO by James MacDonald

THE MAGNIFICENT TWO by James MacDonald

Sometimes, you meet a guy with boundless enthusiasm who says he's a photographer and he'd like to photograph you and you think "Yeah, you can photograph me" even though you have never seen any of his work and you tell the guy this and he is even more enthusiastic than when he asked you in the first place. James MacDonald on the other hand, is a miserable sod and is the last person you would want to spend any time with let alone allow him to take a photograph. Just kidding everyone, James was that guy! 

I was at the Private View of Chris Floyd's 140 Characters at Create in Brighton and this guy......hang on, I've done that bit. Anyway, that was the first time I met James and his happy, bright face and I had no hesitation in saying that we could work together because I just knew it would be good and it was. 


We scheduled the shoot quite quickly in a house in Brighton owned by a friend of his. James had previously taken some photographs of International Rugby players and they had evolved into these gladiatorial poses which he wanted me to try out. It was great to see James again because he is always so UP and that infused me witha confidence to pose with a certain strength. I loved it. I felt good. It felt good and then when I got the photographs, they looked very good. This was my favourite and James liked it a lot too. So here we are - a great shot by a really nice guy. The sort of guy you want to bump into in a bar and have a drink with - no pressure - just a relaxing drink and a chat. It doesn't sound much and, in some ways, it isn't but it is in fact one of the great pleasures in life. And that sums up James - a great pleasure to work with and chat to. What more could you want? 

And don't you just love the way the light hits my hand as it hangs over the cane in the second shot? Mmm.



Friday, 15 March 2013

ALL OR NOTHING by Luca Sage

ALL OR NOTHING by Luca Sage

"I've got an idea for shooting you which I'm going to look into. Lets have another cup of tea soon" wrote Luca to me on 8th February 2013. In fact, we met for the actual shoot next and it was an unusual session because it really had the relaxed air of a sort of introductory experimental shoot as a precursor to the proper serious one. And yet, this was the result. How on earth can anyone take such a beautiful photograph? It has depth, seriousness, stillness and a smudge. 

It is like one of those days when it is raining and I have got up to London too early and so I nip into Waterstone's in Piccadilly and trudge up to the Photography section and find a book of photographs by someone I don't know. I sit down and slowly turn each page and then, suddenly, I turn over page 51 and there, on page 52, is the most magnificent black and white portrait of a man or woman bare chested looking out at you with a look of dark solemnity which tells me almost all I need to know about the person. The image fills the page and blots out all other thoughts drifting through my brain. I don't want to see more pictures of the same person but I want to see more pictures taken by the same person. I tuck my finger into page 52 and carry on. The photograph has invested the others in the book with a richness that I did not notice before but, as good as the other shots are, they don't seem to touch me in the same way. I flick back to page 52 and look again in wonder. The person has not left me. He or she is still there, thinking the same thoughts which travel across time and space and slip into my consciousness. I want to buy the book but I can't afford it. I want to tear the picture out but I would be denying someone else the pleasure of seeing it, perhaps like me for the first time.

I look again. I want to talk to the guy at the desk about it. To the woman who is sitting opposite me. The bare chest is like a cloak of skin and down. It is not a bare body; it is the essence of me. I become the person in the photograph. I am looking at myself as I was in another life. I replace the book on the shelf and look over to the woman who was sitting opposite. She has closed her book and is texting someone. The guy on the desk is serving a customer with a Beano Book. Life goes on. I have my meeting, I go home and I tell Jane about my day but I have a feeling that I need to tell her something important and then I remember that photograph. I find it online. It seems smaller. In the wrong place. A copy of the original. I show Jane and she agrees that it is a great image. I come away and chat with her. We have a drink. We eat our supper. Eventually, I return to the computer and there it is staring at me. It is simply beautiful.

THAT is what this photograph by Luca is like.

There was a photographer called August Sander who took similar photographs and whose photograph "Young Farmers" had the same effect on me. His work will never be forgotten. One day, people will say the same thing about Luca Sage. 

And do you know what? 
What? 
Oh, nothing.

WEBSITE: www.lucasage.com

Thursday, 7 March 2013

THE CENTRE OF FOCUS by Rob Hudson

THE CENTRE OF FOCUS by Rob Hudson

We parked the car just off the road and Rob changed his shoes, picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder. We turned towards the woods and climbed over the style and made our way up the hill. The ground had dried out and, as our feet fell upon it, there was that lovely soft crunching sound that spoke of the richness of the earth below mixed with dead leaves and twigs all feeding the roots of the trees and the plants surrounding them. We followed and then traversed a dry stream dappled with the grey of the slate washed clean by the winter rain and all the while nattered between breaths as we drew in the fresh morning air and then let it drift out on our intermittent friendly chatter. I looked up at the canopy of the twisted branches seemingly knitted together by some unknown hand or maybe there were boughs invisible to the eye around which the branches had wrapped themselves as they were forced to turn this way and that to produce a crochet of wood, succulent and alive, for our special delight. These misshapen limbs were dabbed with a vibrant green moss which heralded a calamity of colour that will surely follow as finally, happily Spring arrives and when the green woods laugh with the voice of joy. 

We arrived at our destination - a small clearing - and Rob put down his rucksack and proceeded to light a cigarette as his brain began to tick and I stood and watched as the all the constituents of the photographs yet to be created began to collect in an orderly manner in the thoughts that had begun to take form the moment he had read my first message to him some days before. He directed where I should stand and whether or not I should move and then we decamped and he circled me as I lifted up my arms at his behest, luxuriating in the physicality of movement in nature. Who would have thought when I sat at my desk some eight years before, that in a few years' time, I would be spending my days with people like Rob in places like this? 

After about an hour, I suppose, we retraced our steps to the dry stream, the style and then the car and moved on to the verdant sand dunes overlooked by the satanic silhouettes of Port Talbot fortunately sufficiently far away not to dampen the ardour of the master photographer and his willing model. Only this day, I did not feel like a model - I felt as one with the woodland and soft creamy landscape of the dunes covered by the dry dead of grass rolled out like carpets that children have played on and laid on while listening to stories of old. The tune of "The Fool on the Hill" was playing over and over in my head as we searched for and found a suitable mound where I twirled round and round and round as Rob kindly filmed me for later. 

Another hour passed before Rob returned me to Llandaff Station and we said goodbye. Only a day earlier, I had met him for the first time at the bottom of the stairs in my hotel in Cardiff. A tall handsome man slightly shy of me until we relaxed into a genial discussion of his ideas for the shoot the following day over a cup of coffee. His easy manner and casual dry humour foretold of the perfect pleasure of his company on the shoot itself.

Reconciliation by Rob Hudson

And the photographs? What of they? Well, see for yourselves. "The Centre of Focus" represents all that is good about this project and about Rob Hudson. Total concentration and passion merged with my willingness to embrace all things that pass. A fractured tree inhabited by a fractured Tim both feeding on a wealth of goodness in this world of ours. Ours? Yes, we all belong. We all come from seed. We are all born and we all die and in between, we all LIVE!!

''...and all this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered."

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

FUNNY PECULIAR by Helene Roberts and Tiff Oben

FUNNY PECULIAR by Helene Roberts and Tiff Oben

On 15th August 2009, I appeared on the Fourth Plinth as one of 2,400 people chosen by ballot as part of Anthony Gormley's "One and Other" concept. I think that many of the 'plinthers' felt a strong affinity with each other - I did certainly - and watched and supported others who appeared on the plinth. One of my fellow plinthers was Tiff Oben whom I discovered was a photographer. I told her about my project and she agreed to photograph me which she did in Cardiff in 2009. At the same time, I met her friend and colleague, Kim Fielding, but was not able meet her longtime collaborator, Helene Roberts, as she was away at the time. However, I envisaged returning to Cardiff one day so that we could both work together with Helene. And this happened on 6th March 2013.

The first shoot with Tiff had taken place in a mock seedy Victorian Hotel and this time we intended to continue on that theme using another installation built by Tiff and Helene. However, for some reason that I have forgotten, that was not possible and so we decided to use my real hotel room which had a certain seediness about it. I brought some props and that is how I ended up sitting on a bed wearing a clown's mask and false moustache and ready to go! Helene shot on a fish eye lens and we took shots in the bedroom and the bathroom, some clothed and some nude.


The results were extremely interesting with the fish eye emphasising the voyeuristic tone and the props, the clown mask, the false moustache and the black gloves adding to overall creepy feel to the whole thing. This is my favourite shot from that shoot. I like particularly the contrast of my serious facial expression with the daft silhouette of my wig on the wall behind me.  One watches and wonders.


Helene was a delight to work with and it was lovely to be involved with Tiff again. They were up for trying anything and invested each shot with their own quirky sense of fun but at the same time, they treated the whole shoot very seriously and clearly enjoy working together. I have to say that I love working with people (like Tiff and Helene) with whom I feel I can express myself freely both in the poses and in contributing ideas as the shoot progresses.

Great fun.

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


Tuesday, 5 March 2013

UNTITLED by Lucy Ridges

UNTITLED by Lucy Ridges

Lucy was recommended to me by Jonathan Stead and I looked up her work on her website and couldn't get my email off quickly enough. Her portfolio is excellent. Three days later, I received her reply and it was an enthusiastic yes and she asked if it might be possible to come up to her studio in Manchester. Her initial idea was to project an image of an ocean onto my body using an overhead projector but she said that this was just the first idea and no doubt it would change completely over the next few weeks. It did change but not completely. 

We arranged a date for the shoot a few weeks later and she wrote again with more definite ideas. She planned to work with double exposures. She had taken a black and white film out to the mountains in Switzerland the previous weekend and had shot the entire film out there. She intended now to reshoot this film with me in the studio, taking photographs largely of my eyes and face. The loose idea around these images was to recognise the perceived weakness that comes with an illness, in contrast to the strength it takes for a person to live with it. Also, she wanted to photograph me nude sitting on a stool with my legs crossed and to play around with the shadow and with silhouettes and again with double exposures. She wanted to focus on the simplicity of the body for these shots. She also wanted to have a hand coloured image of me. The original image would be nude sitting on a stool and she would print this and hand colour it herself maybe with the colours slightly incorrect to give it a fairly surreal effect. Finally, she wanted to play  around with some circular mirrors which she would pin to the wall and have me looking directly at them so that the eventual photograph would show my face made up of many circles.
And do you know what? That is exactly what she did! Apart from the hand coloured images that is.

I caught the train to Manchester and, as agreed, I waited for her at the station and after a few minutes, this pair of beautiful blue eyes locked onto mine as Lucy walked round the corner and introduced herself. The eyes belonged to Lucy by the way. The reason I mention her eyes particularly is that they said so much about her. Calm, intelligent, fun and assured. And that was how the shoot went. She had a lovely studio cluttered with all sorts of interesting things - a pair of ballet shoes, the model of a boat, a black and white photograph of a nude woman, a shawl. First of all we had a cup of tea. Then we started on the mirror shots and then the nudes and then back to being dressed. In between, we ate our packed lunches (I love the phrase ''packed lunches'' - it reminds me of special outings at school) and then the sad moment that I always dread when she said that she had finished. She walked me back to the station and we said farewell. It was a lovely day working with someone so committed and interested. 




Shortly afterwards, I received an incredible set of pictures all of which I loved. She told me which were her favourites and which one her boyfriend really liked but this was the one I kept coming back to. It is so wistful and sad - like Brian Wilson's beautiful song "Wonderful". Sad is not a bad thing - it speaks of emotion and that tingly feeling I get when watching an Eric Rohmer film when I allow myself to float on a cushion of lazy ecstasy as the story unfolds before me out of my control - bit like my life now. 


It is all in the eyes.


...all fall down and lost in the mystery......


WEBSITE: www.lucyridges.com


Monday, 4 March 2013

TCHAIKOVSKY'S FOURTH by Ann Christiansen

TCHAIKOVSKY'S FOURTH by Ann Christiansen

When I was younger, so much younger than today and living in our family home at West Wittering in Sussex, I used to muck about a lot. What does "mucking about" entail? Well, anything from making silly birthday cards for people using cartoon characters from Mad Magazine to recreating great Tottenham Hotspur moments in the back garden to asking friends questions and recording the answers on a tape recorder but then overlaying different questions so the person admitted sleeping with two thousand buffalo a night to making jokes to make my family laugh. This mucking about also included pretending to conduct Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, especially the end when the music goes bonkers - usually, I had an audience and it was often my darling twin sister, Sally who was subjected to this outrageous performance. The record was an old 78 out of a box set of my father's. He was a multi talented musician who played professionally for the BBC Dance Orchestra, Jack Payne, Jack Hylton and Jack Jackson. He could play any instrument and also created the arrangements for many orchestras and he had perfect pitch. He died of lung cancer when I was two years old and when the singer, Lisbeth Webb, called to see him in hospital, she was wearing earrings with little bells attached and, as she leaned over to kiss him, one of the bells tinkled and he said "E sharp!" None of his children really inherited his musical prowess although my youngest sister, Corinne, has a beautiful voice and Sally plays the Accordion and my brother also has a great voice and tinkles on the piano a bit. But I have no musical talent at all even though I love music of just about every kind. So, I guess that conducting Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony is the nearest I will ever come to being a musician. I should add that a number of my father's grandchildren have inherited a great deal of musical talent.

I met Ann at PhotoForum in February 2013 when I gave a talk about my project. She is a little bundle of excitement and smiles. I wrote to her afterwards on Twitter and we agreed to meet and discuss ideas. The idea that we plumped for was me conducting an orchestra both clothed and naked. We met at a studio in Manor House and found the Fourth Symphony on Spotify and just went for it. It was such fun -  we just, well, mucked about. And this is the wonderful result. I really love the eye staring up into the sky searching for those times gone by when my father conducted properly and when I conducted for Sally to make her laugh. Great times in a happy childhood. Great times in a happy adulthood. Just mucking about.


And, as for Ann, what a completely lovely, smiley person she is - full of energy and good thoughts and with an ability to capture an idea and wrap it up in a beautiful image such as this. At the end of the shoot, she gave me a big hug full of thanks and friendship and believe me, when you have received a hug from Ann, you know you've been hugged - Danish style.

EMAIL: christiansenann@hotmail.com

Sunday, 3 March 2013

CONFRONT AND SURVIVE by Brian David Stevens

CONFRONT AND SURVIVE by Brian David Stevens
Well, here you are - my choice from some beautiful photographs taken by Brian. I had thought that the obvious choice would be "Over the Hill" which is printed below. It might be easy to assume that this was a posed expression but if you read my earlier post, you would know that when Brian gave me the piece of paper with "Over the Hill" on it, and asked me to think what it meant to me, I just broke down which was a real surprise. But it was the sudden emotion of the moment which, looking back, was when I realised that this was the one phrase that day that connected me to Brian and both of us to the project. However, I feel that, in some ways, it is not for me to put this particular picture into the project as it is almost too personal although it is simply a most wonderful photograph. Brian has created the moment and captured it perfectly but it is the composition and the tone and the collaboration that come to the fore and prove themselves. But those words apply equally to all the others and certainly to "Confront and Survive''. 

The title comes from an incredible documentary called ''Five Broken Cameras'' which is the story of a Palestinian who films his village's ongoing battles with the Israelis concerning a number of issues. At one point, his wife berates him as he is about to be arrested once again and she yells at him demanding to know why he keeps doing it. He replies ''It helps me confront life and survive''. And this what my project, my films and my writing do. They help me to confront the life I have been given and to survive.
It has been an absolute privilege and an honour to be photographed by all these people and to get to know them and I cannot speak too highly of Brian in this context. A hugely talented photographer, a gifted and sensitive artist and a thoughtful and warm hearted person to boot. 

So the traveller closed his eyes and he listened and he heard
Only the river murmuring and the beating of his heart.
Then he heard the river laughing, and he heard the river crying
And in it was the beauty and the sadness of the world
And he heard the sounds of dying but he heard the sounds of birth
And slowly his ears heard all the songs of earth
And the sounds blended together till they became a whole
The rhythm was his heartbeat to the music in his soul.
- The Ferryman (Ralph McTell) 




-

Saturday, 2 March 2013

BRIAN DAVID STEVENS Part One


I am writing this on the train on my way back from the shoot with Brian and I am going to post it out of order - in that I have always posted in chronological order. Also, I am posting it without having yet received the final photographs. Another unusual aspect is that Brian contacted me first having obtained my email address from Alex Boyd. However, when I looked at the work on his site, I knew that he was the man for me! The portrait of Billy Childish alone was sufficient justification for including him in my project.

Billy Childish by Brian David Stevens
We met, for the first time, a few weeks ago at the Courtauld Gallery which was Brian’s idea as he thinks it is one of the best galleries in London. And he is right. The works on display are incredible. One masterpiece after another. All those paintings which are so familiar – Degas, Seurat etc – they are all there. Amazing. And what surprised me even more was that I was so knocked out by them that I found myself discussing their various merits in quite a sensible and cogent manner.

Over a cup of coffee and a carrot cake, he explained the idea he had for our shoot together. He wanted me to think of some words or phrases that had some meaning in my life and then to write them down so that he could photograph them and then shoot me thinking of each one and what they meant to me. Also, he asked if l could write them with a stick rather than a pen. In the weeks that followed, I cut back the branches of a shrub in my garden and made some into pens. Then I went to WH Smith and bought a bottle of Parker Ink for the first time in years. There is something about a bottle of ink that is so evocative – the way it looks, the feel of the shape of the bottle and the smell of the ink itself.

As Brian requested, I wrote out the phrases at home but, at first, they looked too neat so Jane had the bright idea of holding the twigs further away from the ”nib” so that the writing wasn’t so controlled. It worked like a dream. I sent some through to Brian and he loved the simple ones. So, listening to the 1970’s Elton John album (where “Your Song” first appeared) I finished them off ready for the shoot.

The shoot was today – 2nd March 2013. I travelled to Highgate in North London where Brian met me off the tube. Brian is an interesting fellow. At first, he comes across a bit guarded but one senses pretty soon that he has a desire to be open and honest and that transcends everything else and one soon realises what a special person he is.

Once at his home, he produced some carrot cake and he remembered that I had decaf coffee. We chatted and then he asked to see the words and phrases which I had written out and he sifted through them putting them in the order in which he wanted to shoot them. We went out on to the balcony and he asked me to remove my shirt and T shirt and he put up a small velvet back drop and said that the material had been used for so many of his shoots and he smiled fondly at the memory of all those sittings. I held each phrase or word up separately and he photographed them so he knew which ones were which and then he asked me to react to the what I had written. I had thought about this beforehand but I had not realised how affected I would be doing it in practice. But the greatest surprise came when I held up the phrase “Over the Hill”. This of course is the title of my project – a phrase I had used so many times verbally and in writing over the past 5 years or so. Nevertheless, when Brian asked me to think what it mean to me, as he had done with the previous phrases, I choked and tears welled up in my eyes. Why? Well, I think it was because, of all the phrases I had chosen, it was the only one which connected me with Brian. I didn’t think that at the time but my heart must have understood immediately the difference between that phrase and the others. Isn’t that marvellous?

As I write this, the sun is streaming through the windows of the train as if to confirm my discovery. We finished the remaining phrases but none had the effect of “Over the Hill” and, as we finished, Brian leaned over and shook my hand and I could see how much it meant to him being involved in the shoot and the project. I was very touched. He remarked that for him it was quite a long shoot. I had been there almost two hours and yet he had predicted that it would be over in minutes. He is certainly a fast worker but, as I have discovered, these shoots do not just involve photography and that is what I love so much about them.

Afterwards, we talked about Photography, Artistic Criticism and the photographs in my project. Brian’s favourite is “Blue” by Vicky Slater. I recounted to him how that shoot had worked out and how wonderful all her photographs were.

Isn’t it strange when you meet someone who suddenly brings meaning into your life? One such person is Brian David Stevens - a man of strong opinions and clear ideas. He has a tidy home and he owns many books which are stacked neatly on the shelves and he works methodically but he is no automaton. He has a spirit and a love of humanity running through him.

"The river flowed within him
And with it he was one"

His photographs are invested with such power and strength.

Boy, I am a lucky guy. Now all I need is for Spurs to beat Arsenal tomorrow…..