|TIM ANDREWS: AFTER BOTTICELLI by Alicia Bruce|
Alicia must be one of the nicest people I have met. She is very genuine and open and with an exciting and infectious enthusiasm for all things photographic. I first came across her beautiful work through Twitter in December 2012 - I think I must have followed someone and Mr Twitter then kindly suggested l might also be interested in Alicia and, when l saw her work, l was and wrote and told her so. She replied with the aforesaid enthusiasm saying that she would be delighted to be part of this remarkable project. It would not be the last time she would use that adjective in relation to me and my project but l am not so remarkable although l would accept that the project is - it is full of remarkable work by remarkable people. I am an ordinary guy who got an illness that affects many ordinary people and I have dealt with it as best I can, sometimes well and sometimes not so well. The drugs boosted my creativity but at the same time produced rather worrying side effects. Rough and smooth.
Anyway, back to the remarkable Alicia. She explained right at the start that her work was a collaborative process with those she photographed and was often based on artworks from public collections. She said she would ask me to be involved in the planning process as much as possible and that we could choose a painting which draws parallels with me and aspects of my personality and use this as a starting point fro my portrait. She said that she would be happy to shortlist with me but equally happy for me to make suggestions. So you can see that she is a person who knows what she wants and makes that quite clear.
Simon, Sylwia, Me, Alicia & Laurence
There was then a thwarted attempt in 2013 to travel to Edinburgh to meet Alicia as well as some old photographic friends but the thwart was my Parkinson's which had got steadily worse and so I decided very reluctantly not to go. I felt so sorry but Alicia and the others were very understanding and the trip was put on hold until December 2014 when I found myself with a beating heart outside Lovecrumbs cafe. I pushed the door open and was met with a table of smiling faces belonging to Sylwia Kowalczyk, Simon Crofts, Laurence Winram and Alicia. Sylwia very kindly bought me a hot chocolate and they all seemed as pleased to see me as l was to see them.
In the cafe, Alicia and I chatted a bit more about the shoot and agreed to proceed with her idea of Botticelli's Venus. It was lovely to meet her and in the company of the others with whom I enjoyed such a beautiful friendship and, when we all left the cafe, I gave each of them a big hug and Alicia walked back with me to the centre of the city and she pointed out various landmarks and took a few pictures. This is what I love about this project - spending my time having these experiences and meeting people in this way. The next day I had a very enjoyable shoot with Lucy Kendra (see future blogpost) and I had hoped to see Lucy Telford and Brogan Ramm the day after but the weather was too bad to make the journey and Alicia texted and suggested that I went to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and also Stills Photographic Gallery. I am so glad that I did both. At the Portrait Gallery I saw some wonderful paintings by Allan Ramsay and bought some great Christmas presents in the shop. At Stills I saw the amazing photographs by Chloe Dewe Matthews in her "Shot at Dawn" exhibition.
Finally, on the morning of 12th December 2014, I arrived at the studio a few miles down the road from my hotel and met Alicia again and her assistant for the day, Craig Yule. They had already set everything up and really we had the picture we wanted in the bag pretty quickly. We looked at a few in the back of the camera and, although my eyesight is not brilliant, I could see that the colours were stunning. We tried a few more with me altering my pose slightly - Alicia had pinned up a copy of the painting to help with that - and that was it! Alicia produced a Christmas hat and we mucked about with that doing a few silly shots and then I said goodbye. As I left, I plugged in my earphones and the beautiful sound of Brian Wilson's voice washed into my head like a silver sea.
Who took that look away
I remember how you used to say
You'd never change
But that's not true
Oh, Caroline you
Break my heart,
I want to go and cry
It's so sad to watch a sweet thing die
Oh Caroline why
Alicia asked me to comment on the collaborative process and it was the case that we discussed various options beforehand and we enjoyed the to and fro but how much influence I had on the final outcome I don't know; I think that is for Alicia to say. All I can say is that I think the portrait is superb. I love the contrast of the blue and my pink skin. It is not an exact copy of the painting- I am looking straight at the camera with a slightly fearful, apologetic gaze, I am a man and there is no shell - but it was never intended to be a copy and because of that, Alicia has in fact very cleverly created something unique albeit influenced by an original work. Furthermore, she wanted my portrait to be a subversive homage to the original work. It is no wonder that she is held in such high regard in photographic circles.
Me and Alicia in conference by Craig Yule
So there we are. I have been photographed by Alicia Bruce, a great photographer and a very nice woman. How many people can say that? Probably quite a few and they almost certainly feel as proud as I do.