Friday, 20 November 2015

PORTRAIT SALON 2015

(c) Lenka Rayn H.


I sleep on trains now, proper sleep not littles napettes here and there but this time, I wanted particularly to build up some energy for my final assault on London this week. I had been up twice already for a shoot with the charming Jay Brooks in Haggerston on Monday and also to see my lovely niece, Naomi, play Elgar's Cello Concerto brilliantly and passionately in St. Stephen's church in Gloucester Road on Tuesday, all the time travelling around looking over my shoulder for terrorists. My train arrived at Victoria on time and within about 15 minutes, I alighted at Southwark Tube Station. "I alighted at Southwark" - isn't that a phrase one would only hear an English person say? "Je descendis a Southwark", "Me apee a Southwark" "我下了车,在南华"- just doesn't sound the same does it?

                                                                                      (c) Neil Spence

Anyway, I made my way along Union Street and I saw the Embassy Tea Rooms before they saw me and I entered the world of Portrait Salon Exhibition 2015 created by James O Jenkins and Carole Evans, and quite frankly, it blew me away. There was some gorgeous work on display, not least the beautiful portrait of Ami by Lenka Rayn H. The peace and quiet of her contemplative pose allied to the wash of green grey that Lenka has achieved is simply stunning. Before I began to have a good look around, I bought the sticker catalogue and said hello to the smiling Jim Stephenson of Miniclick who was chatting to Alma Haser and Jocelyn Allen and I picked up a beer and started to wander and almost immediately bumped into Louise Haywood-Schiefer and her friend, Gemma Day, who is going to photograph me on Monday. Magda Rakita cut in which enabled Louise and Gemma to escape my boring story of hiring display boards at Goldsmith's College.  


Then I turned back to the photography and found myself staring at General Sir Michael Jackson by Justin Sutcliffe. This is some portrait, beautifully lit and composed with the subject giving the minimum time ( I learned later that it was 7 minutes 30 seconds) for the photographer to capture what he was all about but throwing him a look that said it all. "Excuse me, but are you that model?" asked the slim, cheeky, pretty Clare Park accompanied by her loyal and equally good looking chum Genevieve Stevenson. I had noticed Genevieve's picture of her son a few minutes earlier. It is small and perfect. I didn't know it was her handsome son but I did see a clear connection with the photographer and the clever positioning behind him of the fairground trailer, the bright red of which contrasted beautifully with the unruly dark brown quiff of his hair. 

                                                                              (c) Genevieve Stevenson
Then they all came in a rush, Wendy Lee-Warne, who is also going to photograph me next week, Anastasia Trahanas whose photograph of me as a Dirty Old Man burns into the brains of everyone who stops to look with its mixture of vulnerability and fearsome challenge, Sarah Lee who introduces me to Justin Sutcliffe and Amit Lennon, my friend Sheryl Tait and her partner Jordi who reminds me that the last time we met was on the beach on a bitterly cold day in January when he was assisting Sheryl as she photographed me wearing nothing but a long red piece of cloth, the witty, tall and delectable Kristina Salgvik, Clare's husband Toby Sedgwick recounting jolly stories of his day with Jim Broadbent in rehearsal for "A Christmas  Carol", Travis Hodges and his friend from Metro Imaging (mentioned in glowing terms by many that evening) whose name I regret I have forgotten but who engaged me in interesting conversation and Astrid Schulz with her typically zany idea for a second shoot. As I whizzed around the intoxicating riches on display, I noticed the names of many people who have photographed me and, each time, a little potted film of memory of my shoot with them flashed into my brain. This was a great evening with far too many wonderful works on display to mention specifically. Gosh, I've just remembered the amazing print of Julia Fullerton-Batten's contribution (one day, Julia, one day...) and Laura Pannack's superb shot. 

But, but.......amongst all this bonhomie, the rise and fall of the hum and clatter of conversation, the squeezing past shoulders to get a better look at all the incredible work on display, a golden light burned in the corner from a picture of such excellence and grace that it made my heart miss a beat - there it goes again as I think of it - it is the photograph of me by Jennifer Balcombe. I looked at it in wonder and then turned away and dropped into Jennifer's eyes as she smiled and said hello and then gave me the warmest hug and introduced me to her boyfriend Charlie. And there I shall end this piece but not before showing you Jennifer's picture. Is it not beautiful?

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