Sunday, 30 March 2014

FIVE STUDIES OF TIM by Martin Seeds

FIVE STUDIES OF TIM by Martin Seeds
Martin was introduced to me by fellow Irish Photographer, Joan Alexander. I needed to find a place where a photographer from Portugal, Andre Valera, and his partner could stay whilst he was over in the UK photographing me. Martin very kindly agreed to put them up and after I met him and found him to be a most enjoyable companion, and looked at his work, I very much wanted to work with him.

After a while, Martin told me he had been thinking about the shoot and he'd like to make an iPhone portrait of me that I could then transfer on to darkroom paper by contact printing. He had done this before but for my shoot he wanted to add a few more steps to the process.  Once he had a darkroom contact print, he intended to scan it and have it transferred to film which he would then hand print as a black and white enlargement. He sent me a few images he had made with this process asking me to note also that these were candid shots and he was deliberating on such an approach with me. He went on to warn me that the results were unpredictable; however, he liked the contingency that the process brings and he saw a connection with that tension between the possibility and the uncertainty of everything in life.

I shall leave Martin to explain what he did in his own words. “The pieces are produced by making a physical relationship between contemporary technology and traditional photographic print making.  An image taken on a mobile phone is “mined” as you would any other store of information. The phone's pinch and double tap gestures allowed me to search deep into the image and grab screen shots of interest. The phone screen, a light source, is placed face down on to traditional light sensitive darkroom paper leaving an image; a process harking back to photography’s early experiments.”

Martin's original intention was to scan the darkroom contact photographs and make very large prints. However, limitations of process and technology took him down other routes to this final, wonderful result. I think the images are extraordinary, certainly unlike anything I have had done before. I am really touched that Martin has taken the time and care not only to produce these but to have them framed ready for the exhibition in October where they will be on display at Create Gallery as part of the Brighton Photo Fringe. 

Friday, 28 March 2014

THIS IS THIS by Paul Wenham-Clarke

THIS IS THIS by Paul Wenham-Clarke

It was late January 2014 and I was wandering around the Taylor Wessing Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. I try to go every year and, when I do, I usually whisk through the whole lot first and then I go round again and spend a lot more time on each photograph. Well, this time, that process went flying out of the window when I stopped mid-whisk to look at Paul Wenham-Clarke's extraordinary photograph of Cindy and Shirley holding Baby Terry on his christening day. The label said that it was part of a series called "The Urban Gypsies" and that series is certainly remarkable but his image that day stood out on its own. Often when I see photographs like this, I feel I can almost sense the thought going through the artist's mind as he takes the picture and it was so in this case. As soon as I saw it, I knew that I wanted to be in a photograph taken by Paul.

I wrote to him a few days' later and asked him if he might be interested in photographing me. He did say yes but he wanted time to think about it first. Well, he thought about it and we made a date for him to come down to Brighton with his equipment with a view to possibly doing a shoot or, at the very least, a few test shots. At the time, I was being filmed by Roy Petersen for a documentary about my project and so I asked Paul if he minded Roy being there at the shoot. Paul was cool with this and so on 28th March 2014, he came with all his equipment which include both film and digital cameras. His intention was to capture the images on film and I am pretty certain this is one taken on film.

Although Roy is terribly discreet, I hope that the intimacy that I enjoy so much with a photographer was not affected too much that day but Paul was very gracious and worked through it with me to produce this exceptional photograph. Paul commented subsequently that this image shows my vulnerability. Although Paul suggested this particular pose, it was influenced by his understanding of how my Parkinson's was beginning to affect me and so I do feel that it is very authentic and sums up how I was feeling at that time - particularly with only 6 weeks to go until my Deep Brain Stimulation surgery. Apart from this, it is a beautifully composed image with depth and richness of colour and tone and in the way one is drawn into my condition with my head being in sharp focus. Paul's photographs are very clear and impressive and this one is no exception.

That day, we also did some nude shots one of which is shown below. We both liked this image too but Paul left it to me to choose which one would represent him in my project and I made my choice and I am extremely happy with it. Paul is a very thoughtful and clever photographer and a true artist.




Saturday, 22 March 2014

SPOTLIGHT by Jo Renshaw

SPOTLIGHT by Jo Renshaw

When I was younger, so much younger than today and I was still living at home, my mother owned two volumes of Spotlight, the actors' and entertainers' directory, dated 1959 and 1960 respectively and they contained people like Bruce Forsyth, Dickie Henderson and David NIxon. When Jo sent me a selection of the photographs from our shoot, this one stood out for me and reminded me of the photographs in Spotlight - hence the title I have given to the image.

I found one day in January 2014 that Jo had started following me on Twitter and I looked up her work and found it fascinating especially her research and documentation of her family which struck a chord with me because I had recently made a documentary about my family home in West Wittering in Sussex. However, in addition to this sort of film, I have also been making short silly films and putting them on Vimeo and You Tube over the last 5 or 6 years and it was the person behind those films that Jo wanted to capture in her photographs of me.

She arrived at my house in Brighton with all her lights and backdrop, the whole works in fact and set it all up in the sitting room. She had a very clear idea of the type of shot she wanted and this picture really does succeed in that and every other respect. It is crisp and clear, it has the feel of an actor's head shot and really does capture my personality. As I have said many times before, I do not feel that I am acting in front of the camera on these shoots. Every photograph shows one aspect of the real me - I am not putting on a show. That said, I always wanted to be an actor and used to bore everyone who cared to listen about this dream of mine. It began when my headmaster's wife, who advised on careers at school, asked me what I wanted to do as a career. I had been reading a crime novel at the the time and said that I would like to be a barrister but she shook her head and said that was no good. I asked her why and she said that all barristers were actors and she had seen no evidence that I could act. Now, although I had never done much acting apart from the odd little show at Primary School, I knew that I could act. She said I had to prove it to her so I enlisted for three school plays and proved it to her and then became a lawyer! Nevertheless, I did eventually do some acting including two one-man plays and I even got an agent but I had to decide between a regular income as a lawyer and the unpredictable job as an actor and I had to choose the former. Now, I am doing some acting of sorts in my little films


I really like this photograph for the reasons set out above but also because my expression says "So? I wanted to be an actor but I never really got there but hey, so what? I have had a great life and I have no regrets whatsoever". This is what Jo very cleverly found and brought out in the image. It is not always an easy thing to do but with her skill and determination as well as a huge dollop  of talent, she did it and did it brilliantly. 


STRANGE FISH by Valentina Lari

STRANGE FISH by Valentina Lari

I came across Valentina's work through my contact with Greta Wallner a young student whose work I had seen at her degree show at Free Range. Greta and Valentina were exhibiting together and I was notified of the show and saw other people listed including Valentina and so I looked up her website and thought her work was wonderfully atmospheric and beautiful. On the home page there are the words "with love.." and that really sums up Valentina's approach to her art. Everything is done with love and, in the process, she sees the beauty in the human body.

Well, we took a long time arranging the shoot and then it was a long time before I chose a photograph. This was one of the least strange images but I did not in any way shy away from the others but rather zoned in on this one because of the stillness and the directness of my stare as I present the three fishes to the viewer. It is the challenge that this photograph evokes which is similar to the way I have challenged my audience with my new life where I am so much more open and free with my thoughts, my body and what I say. I know that it will seem strange to some people who knew me before my illness and in that respect it will be a challenge for them too. I am the same person but I am just expressing myself in a different way.


Anyway, back to the shoot. Valentina was originally going to bring an Octopus and then it was a squid but eventually, we ended up with with three mackerel! The idea was to produce a still life which would include me. The fish were very bloody and dripped all over the place. I have modelled with fish before and I find that we do get on quite well together. These three were great Beatles' fans and so we had a lot to talk about. We swapped lists of our favourite records. They liked "There's a Plaice" and of course "Octopus's Garden" and "We can work it, Trout". I'll stop now because this is beginning to sound like a poor version of "I'm sorry I haven't a clue". No, seriously, we tried various poses and it all got very sticky and smelly and I had a good wash afterwards.

Then Valentina sent me her photographs and they were all so vivid and strong and their texture was so rich due I am sure not only to Valentina's skill but also the fact that they were shot on film. I know nothing about cameras but I guess that someone really skillful could get close to producing this on a digital camera but not close enough. They have a richness and a beauty much more of which you can find on Valentina's website which I urge you to visit now.

Anyway, I must stop now - I've got a date.... with a skate.

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

Friday, 21 March 2014

SOME ENCHANTED EVENING



SOME ENCHANTED EVENING by Jean-Luc Brouard (Make-up: Elloise Willett)

My return to Grouselands (sigh). This was the house we stayed in between selling our beloved Ravenswood and buying our present house in Brighton. We were there from December 2010 to May 2011 and I loved every minute of it. It was a large house in beautiful grounds, surrounded by acres of fields and just about every morning, I would go out into the garden very early in the morning and just play. I took some self portraits but mostly, I made stop motion films. The early spring was wonderful and the dawn chorus was deafening especially when the cows and sheep joined in.  In complete contrast, Jane hated it. She found that she couldn't work there, the nearest town was the somewhat uninspiring Horsham about 3 miles away and she wanted to be in our own house again. Of course, I had some great shoots there including Chris Floyd, Frank Herholdt and Alma Haser and also the feature on The Culture Show was filmed and recorded there. So, a happy productive place with great memories.

I found out about Jean-Luc Brouard through Twitter I think; one of us started following the other but, either way, I found his website and the astounding images of trees and I thought that I'd love to be in a similar image relating in some way to a tree. Jean-Luc responded very positively to my approach and suggested we meet for a coffee and that he bring along a make-up artist, Elloise Willett, with a view to discussing her painting my body to tie in with the shoot. Well, we did meet and I do feel that we all got on rather well and, during the discussion, I said that I would ascertain if Grouselands was free because I thought that in my current more spazzy state, having the tree near to a house and, more specifically, near to a bathroom would be a Good Idea. 

Jean-Luc and I had an initial scouting trip and he found the tree that would work and a few weeks later, we returned there with Elloise on a very cold evening in March. Elloise painted me all over (apart from my not so private parts which I did under her direction) and Tree Man was driven down to the field where, fortunately, the tree was still growing and where Jean-Luc had set up the shots. By this time ie March, my illness was getting appreciably worse and I found it more difficult to move about but I think the challenge of this particular shoot inspired me and I managed to make my way over the field to the tree and basically we did two poses - one with me up against the tree trunk and the other with me standing some way in front of the tree. All the while, Jean-Luc buzzed backwards and forwards chatting to himself and to us - a sort of running commentary. I'm not quite sure how he achieves these shots but he used large lights which lit up the whole of the tree and he carried them from one side to another whilst he took the pictures on a slow shutter speed to swallow up the light. At one point, as I first stood there naked in the freezing cold, I thought I would love to be back home in the warm but then I crossed a line and suddenly I wanted to be there all night and do more and more pictures. After the first shot, Elloise came over and wrapped a blanket around me and it was such a sweet, inclusive gesture and I really felt part of our little team battling against the cold to get the best shot. 

And then it was over.

I was taken back to the house and had a shower and then we went home to bed. I snuggled up in the warm and, as my head sunk into the pillow, I closed my eyes and began to dream that I was naked in an enchanted field and holding onto a tree which was lit up with a silver light. It wasn't a dream of course - it really did happen. It was some enchanted evening.


Jean-Luc couldn't help himself and the next day, I received two rough versions of the pictures he took and they were beautiful as all his work is but this time, I was in the photograph and I thought, wow! I'm in one of Jean-Luc's photographs. A dream come true. 

WEBSITE: http://www.jeanlucbrouard.com/

WEBSITE: http://eiwmakeup.com/

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

UNFORGIVEN by Stephanie Brooks

UNFORGIVEN by Stephanie Brooks
Sometimes, I have a shoot where I have no idea at all how the final images turn out; all I see is the camera and I know that it is pointing at me but I have no conception of what the image will look like when it is developed. This is what happened on this shoot. And it was no fault of Stephanie that I didn't know. Indeed, I told her after I first saw her work on the University of Brighton website that I loved her 'blurred' portraits and then we met to discuss what she was going to do so I had no excuse apart from.......Parkinson's Disease. It wasn't that my illness affected my memory - well, not directly anyhow. It was that it had got so much worse towards the end of 2013 in that I was experiencing longer ''off'' periods i.e. periods when the drugs didn't work. As a consequence, my usable time was getting shorter - my twelve hour day was being reduced to four hours and yet I was still trying desperately to fit in the same activities I had been enjoying so much since I got the bloody illness. Something had to give and, in this case, it was remembering information such as that which Stephanie and I had agreed to do on the shoot. All that was in my mind on the day of shoot was that, when I had met Stephanie before the shoot, we connected, and that I would not have contacted her if I hadn't thought she was an excellent photographer. What more did I need?

So, there you are. On 19th March 2014, when she came to the house, we had a great shoot but I had no inkling of how the pictures would turn out. It took a few months for Stephanie to produce the results. On 4th July, I received them from Stephanie by email and I almost melted on the spot. I loved them. They spoke to me so eloquently, so deeply. They were a record of that day in March certainly but they were so much more. This shot particularly represents the affect the disease has on me as it is the fact that my brain no longer produces enough Dopamine which causes the symptoms. That said, I have always maintained that I am not documenting my illness as such but rather I am documenting myself at a time when I happen to be ill. Of course, the two are intertwined and, as I say, the illness had been been causing me more problems recently. So, the fact is that the photographs, particularly this one, were very relevant. But apart from that aspect, look at this photograph. It is so beautiful. I love the starkness of the image as a a whole but then within it are the curiously gentle folds and shadows on my white shirt. The face is almost blank but not quite - the movement of the head as the shot was taken has left two lines spurting from my left eye, like tears. Obviously, Stephanie did not necessarily set out to create those two lines but they were created as so often these happy accidents are by her applying that innate skill and confidence of the artist which enables a beautiful image to be created and to encompass this serendipity, like Francis Bacon painting figures and a line of paint being swept accidentally across the canvas and thereby adding to the image rather than ruining it. It is rather appropriate that I cite Bacon in this connection as, to my mind,  the figure in the photograph is distinctly 'Baconesque'.
And, of course, I am now feeling much better after my recent surgery so this picture, although very much an accurate representation of me at that time, is now very much of the past, albeit the recent past. It reminds me of a book that my mother gave me when I was twelve years old. It was "The Pictorial History of the Wild West". She knew that I loved Westerns and I was fascinated by the real stories and the photographs of the real cowboys. But some of the photographs were taken on cameras which could not cope with any movement by the subject and so some of the pictures in the book were distorted in the same way as this. I was very healthy when I was given the book but that healthiness has now gone so Stephanie's photograph has an even greater meaning as a consequence.

Joe Clements, Outlaw: From N.H.Rose Collection
of Frontier Photographs
I am so pleased with this, so honoured to have been photographed by Stephanie and so happy to be alive.


Friday, 14 March 2014

SNAP CRACKLE AND POP by Jayne Taylor

SNAP CRACKLE AND POP by Jayne Taylor

I was introduced to Jayne by Joanna Burejza at Gallery 40 in Brighton in October 2012 when I went along to the private view of a group exhibition there which included Joanna's photograph of me. Jayne had pulled the group together for a previous show but hadn't included herself in this show because she was too tied up with working for her MA - so, after being introduced, I must have looked up her work on her website because I commented on her wonderful work on it when I wrote to her a few days later. She replied saying that she was flattered to be asked to photograph me - that never fails to surprise me because I am really flattered that people of Jayne's expertise agree to to my request. Anyway, she also said that she was in the middle of her MA and suggested that we make contact again in six months' time. Now usually such a suggestion results in me forgetting about it all together but, four months later, I wrote to her again saying that six months had almost passed and asking how she was placed. We did arrange a meeting but she had to cancel that because of the death of her Grandmother. There was then quite a long gap which was broken by Jayne this time but it was not until November 2013 that we arranged to meet at The Hayward Gallery to look round the exhibition of photographs by Ana Mendieta and meet we did - at last! And what a great time we had. Not only did we get on like, well like a house burning really fast and bright, but we were also stunned by the other exhibition of work by Dayanita Singh. Her work was beautifully presented and incredibly atmospheric but what made the time so enjoyable was chatting to Jayne about the two exhibitions as we walked around. Normally, I go to these shows on my own and it was such fun to have Jayne there to discuss what we saw. She also told me that she had very recently met someone, fallen head over heels in love with him and got married. 

It was still another five months before we met for the shoot this time down in Brighton. Jane wanted to create the modern equivalent of a Vermeer painting and to capture the stillness of his painting of The Milkmaid and she achieved this very cleverly by using this part of our kitchen as a sort of "set" for the image. I am seen re-enacting an everyday scene of pouring milk onto cereal in a moment of contemporary domestic absorption. (I ate the cereal by the way - yum, yum). Towards the end of the day, Jane came home and said that the mist was outside was magical and she suggested we went down to the beach to see for ourselves. We did but Jayne did not being her camera. However, she took some photographs with her iPhone and they were so good that I almost chose one of those instead but in the end this was the one I liked the most.



I love this project so much because, when I choose a photographer, I never know what he or she is going to be like and yet I always seem to have an enjoyable time with them whatever photograph is produced. Maybe I recognise something in their work which I relate to and so it is very likely that we shall get on. Jayne is a great companion to have at any time and especially when she is taking such wonderful photographs as this. She is intelligent, amusing and thoughtful and she is a romantic and she is now my friend. How good is that? 

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

DALSTON by Francesca Tosarelli

DALSTON by Francesca Tosarelli
I saw a stunning set of photographs in the Sunday Times magazine about female fighters in the Congo and I thought they were so good that I had no hesitation in writing to the photographer, Francesca Tosarelli, asking if she would photograph me although I thought it was unlikely if she was based abroad. As it was, although she was based in Bologna, she had decided to come to England in March 2014. We arranged to meet during this period. I was very excited as she was a documentary photographer and I was intrigued by how she would approach this task.  She wrote to me in advance of the day of the shoot saying that what she did was basically photojournalism, that she was not an artist, that she worked with daylight and that she was thinking of creating a very natural portrait possibly in black and white in the metropolitan Dalston environment. And that is basically what she did but there was one thing that was not correct - "I am not an artist" she had said. How can you produce a portrait like this and say that you are not an artist?

Anyway, we met at "to the jungle" cafe in Dalston. I had never been there before but it had a really nice atmosphere and the guy serving me was very nice and friendly. Small things like this help so much to set up my day and make my life the wonder it is. It is like licking an ice cream that one never gets sick of. Each lick takes me to different level of warm ecstasy and yet it is only an ice cream. We strolled around the market in Dalston and she clicked away and, unusually, I didn't feel as embarrassed as I normally do when I am being photographed in public I think because, being a photojournalist, she made me feel relaxed and cool as she took the pictures. We ended up in front of a shutter and Francesca liked my shadow on this and produced another great photograph but, in the end, I went for the 'reflective' one.


I cannot remember my first impression of Francesca but it doesn't matter because we had such a pleasant afternoon and we were good friends by the time the shoot was over. Francesca was keen to get a picture of both of us together and so she asked a passer by to take this one

Francesca and I

So, there we are - my afternoon with Francesca Tosarelli - a thoroughly nice woman, a great photographer, my new friend and.....an artist.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

I SEE NO SHOPS by Michael Whelan

I SEE NO SHOPS by Michael Whelan
I love London. I was born there in 1951 and, although the family moved down to the coast in 1964, I have returned many times over the years; I worked at Barker's in Kensington for a short while after leaving school and I stayed with my brother in a flat slap bang in the middle of Soho, I read Law at Queen Mary College in Mile End from 1971 to 1974 living in Leytonstone, Clapton and Ealing, I returned to study for my professional exams in Lancaster Gate and lived in Ealing at first and then on the King's Road and then, during our courtship and after Jane and I got married, I came up to London to meet when she worked in Knightsbridge and also for completions, the cinema, cricket at Lord's, Football at White Hart Lane and tennis at Wimbledon. So it was absolutely no hardship to accede to Michael Whelan's request that I meet him at Euston (near where I once worked as an usher at The Shaw Theatre). At first, he felt it was too sunny for the photographs he wanted to try and almost cancelled. But thankfully, once we got to the location he had decided upon, it clouded over every so often providing him with the perfect light.

He asked me to bring some binoculars with me and when we reached the location just outside the UCL Hospital, he asked me to adopt various poses including this one where I am training the glasses onto the hospital itself. Coincidentally, this is the hospital where I went to see the neurologist, Professor Leas, for a second opinion after my initial diagnosis of Parkinson's in 2005. Michael didn't know that until I told him on receipt of the photograph. in Michael's own words "the light is lovely in this shot... I'm loving the tonal consistency between your clothes and the street, think it works out really well..." Well, I think it works out wonderfully well. It is an ordinary pose in some ways and yet in the context of my project, it is extraordinary and unique. 

Whilst we were shooting, two girls came up to us to ask questions for a project they were undertaking about traditional British dishes. They were Polish students and when one of them asked if I had ever eaten welsh rarebit, I asked her to repeat the question because I loved the way she said welsh rarebit with a thick Polish accent. They took our picture too and said they would send it to us but they never did. Funnily enough, when they approached us, I felt slightly put out on Michael's behalf but he was so easy-going and accommodating with them, that I gave myself a slap on the wrist for being so churlish. Michael reminded me of my motto - ''Nothing matters. Everything matters''.

So, short but very sweet, this latest visit to London. I am so pleased that I contacted Michael because I love his photograph and I like him very much indeed. A good guy and a very good photographer. 

Michael