|I USED TO BE A SOLICITOR by Jay Brooks|
It seems so long ago now. My day began at about 6.30am and, after running through my morning routine of reading a chapter of my book followed by my stretching exercises and a shower, I would arrive at my office in Grayshott at about 8am and often stay until 8pm. It was a general village practice and we offered services such as Domestic and Commercial Conveyancing, Wills, Probate but no litigation. I was not a confrontational lawyer; indeed, as my late principal, Mr Underhill, used to say to me during my articles of clerkship at Raper & Co in Chichester, clients wanted matters to be resolved and not fought over for the sake of it although he could certainly fight another solicitor if he needed to. Academically, I was not suited to Law but I had a strong sense of duty which meant that, once I had set out on the road to becoming a solicitor, it was never likely that I would give up a legal career unless, of course, something forced me to such as an incurable neurological condition...........
So, how did I find myself standing in a studio in Haggerston wearing a gorilla suit? Well, it all started on 22nd September 2011 when I saw Jay's photograph of the actress, Hayley Atwell, at the National Portrait Gallery. I looked at his website and immediately was struck by the dynamism, humour and crispness of the images. In response to my usual opening email, Jay said that he had heard of my project and a month later, we met for a coffee in London. Jay is an attractive guy and has a lively and witty disposition and so I left the cafe with the feeling that the shoot would be fun. What neither of us realised was that it would be another four years or so before the shoot was to take place. Nevertheless, four months later, Jay wrote with his Gorilla idea. He wanted to create something cinematic, surreal and darkly humorous and to shoot this outside in woodland. We kept in touch on and off over the next few years until suddenly we both had space in our diaries and it all came together but in a studio setting rather than on location.
And it was a jolly affair. Jay's enthusiasm was infectious and the longer the shoot went on, the more excited he became. His assistant, Rob Parfitt, worked hard to help set the shots up and kept us sustained with sandwiches and drink. Finally, after about 3 or 4 hours, Jay called a halt and I was able to slide out of my suit. With a smile and a hug, I took my leave of them both with a real feeling that Jay had been as committed to this shoot as he would to any of his more important commercial shoots but that was no surprise. Jay clearly loves having a camera in his hand and using it creatively and imaginatively and treats all his commissions in exactly the same way. Afterwards, he wrote thanking me for being such a sport and going with his rather quirky ideas and said that it was really fun to work on something totally free and with only ourselves to satisfy which is a rarity for him these days.
Another gap of a few months whilst Jay struggled with a busy schedule. I announced that the project was about to end and Jay wrote a few days later saying "And so, like an out of shape marathon runner, I duck under the rope at the finish! haha". And I am so glad that this lovely man was able to be part of it all and look at the photographs which he produced. Dynamic, humorous and crisp. How could I have expected anything else? He had taken some straight portraits but it was the gorilla suit which he loved best as they had a slightly dark sense of fun which he tries to find in a lot of his work. He thought that they were the truest to the original plan to create something a bit surreal with a slightly unhooked narrative. And he added "I could pontificate forever on the skin we are in, the personas we develop and the search for truth but at the end of the day...everyone loves a gorilla suit!"
Jay is a master of his craft - is craft the right word? I'm not sure because there is so much more to his work which says so much about him. He is funny, serious, kind, knowledgable, creative, sensitive and hardworking. All these attributes make him a great photographic artist. But there is something else....what is it? Ah, yes.......Panache!
I used to be a solicitor.