Thursday, 30 April 2015

SLIPPING IN THE UNKNOWN by Kathy Foote

SLIPPING IN THE UNKNOWN by Kathy Foote

I walked into the reception area of Bristol South Swimming Pool and Kathy jumped up and said "Hi Tim!" - we had never met before but it was such a warm, friendly greeting that really set the mood for the rest of the morning. Kathy originally wrote to me in May 2014 asking if she could photograph me as part of the project but it could not have been a worse time to write to me as I was just about to undergo my Deep Brain Stimulation surgery and I was not at all good. It is unusual for me to receive such a request as it is normally the other way round - I contact the photographer. Anyway, unfortunately for Kathy, although I replied to her initial email, my correspondence with her got forgotten by me in the aftermath of the operation - but not by Kathy. She sent me a private message on Twitter some months later to which I eventually responded (forgetting that we had already been in contact) and we were back on track again. Her first idea was an underwater shoot and that is why I found myself in Bristol South Swimming Pool on 30th April 2015.

Kathy introduced me to the manager of the pool, Max Wilshaw, a very nice guy who was also very enthusiastic about the project and helping both Kathy and I to set up the shoot. By then the pool had been cleared for us and, apart from one of the lifeguards, it was completely empty. Kathy closed all the curtains in the cubicles which surrounded the pool as I got into my brand new scarlet trunks. I couldn't wait to get into the water. I am not a great swimmer but I do love swimming and having the pool all to myself was glorious. Kathy got changed into her swimsuit and first of all took some overhead shots from the balcony but then joined me in the water. She had borrowed a tiny underwater camera from Shawn Sobers, who had filmed me in 2012 and who is her former tutor at UWE Bristol. She had already sent me some test shots and so I had some idea of what to expect. Fortunately, it was quite sunny outside and so every so often the sun shone through the windows of the building and lit up patches of water and my body under it. We tried various moves eg me curled up under the surface of the water and then treading water to produce a rush of bubbles although I don't think that I was so good at the latter but I was pleased at the amount of time I could hold my breath underwater.


We had talked beforehand about also shooting me in the nude and Kathy asked me to remove my trunks fairly early on and I think she felt this was much more successful because the light on my body looked beautiful whereas I think the bright red of the trunks (snazzy as they were) was a distraction. I love swimming with nothing on - it feels so natural to me and I loved every minute of this shoot because I had the whole pool to myself and Kathy was very clear with her direction and also very encouraging with her comments. I suppose we had been in there for about an hour when Kathy called a halt and said that she was very happy with what she had got. Often, when the photographer brings a shoot to an end, I feel frustrated but my fingers were just beginning to get a little chilly and mottled so I didn't mind.


We got dressed, said goodbye to Max and went for a drink at the local cafe and a very nice chat about this and that. Kathy is a very easy person to talk to and I was very interested in her this and she appeared to be equally interested in my that and vice versa. It was then time to say goodbye and we hugged in the street before she went her way and I went mine to catch the bus back to the centre of Bristol.

Kathy and me

It had been a lovely couple of days in Bristol. I travelled up there the day before the shoot and stayed the night with my very good friend, John. We went to university together and have remained the best of friends ever since. He is very kind and very witty and I love spending time with him. Also, before meeting John, I nipped over to the BBC to have a quick chat with Lucy whom I had met in Brighton when she was making a film about her grandfather who has Parkinson's although I felt my age when the receptionist in the lobby of the BBC said to Lucy ''Is this your Dad?". After the shoot, I had an extremely enjoyable lunch with Lin, another very good friend from University so all in all, an excellent trip.

But then, guess what happened? I received four photographs from Kathy and they were amazing. They were assured and professional but they were also inspiring and beautiful. The one at the top which I chose for the project is marvellous. It speaks of isolation but at the same time of collaboration and of pain but also of pleasure and fortitude. I wasn't expecting that. I felt confident, having seen Kathy's test shots, that they would work artistically but I wasn't prepared for how much they would move me. This main image bursts with life and vigour emphasised by the beautiful light on my body which is seemingly trapped in what looks like an alien world. Kathy has produced a picture that bears comparison with many of the shots in this project taken by more well known photographers. It is simply wonderful. 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

EVAN HAS A SISTER

There is no photograph to accompany this post but it has everything to do with my photographic project. In the the eight years I have been photographed I have met many wonderful people, hugely talented artists each one, but what I have loved most are the friendships I have forged with people that, in the normal course of events, I would never have met.

One such person is Natalie Dybisz who some of you may be aware lost Evan, the son born to her and Matthew. Well, Evan now has a sister and she is Lilith and I am so happy for the family that has borne such sadness and such joy. They have learned things about our existence in this world that many people will never learn - it is all so magical. 

Natalie, Matthew, Evan and Lilith - I send my fondest love to you all and my grateful thanks for having been guided towards you by Natalie's wonderful, beautiful and magical artistry and love. 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

SAFETY WITHIN THE SHADOWS by Lucz Fowler

SAFETY WITHIN THE SHADOWS by Lucz Fowler
I came across Lucz Fowler's work on Flickr - I would find someone whose work I liked but if they lived abroad, I might then go through their favourites on Flickr in the hope of finding someone in the UK whose work would be similar. My guess is that is what happened here. When I found Lucz's work, I was attracted not only by her wonderfully dark and emotive images but also by her writing which told of her passion for photography and her use of the medium to express her deep feelings about life and love and nature. She wasn't afraid to dig deep even if it hurt. So, I wrote to her and in her initial reply, she expressed her interest in my project and in photographing me. She asked me a lot of questions and, after she had seen the pictures on my blog and realised that I had worked with people she really admired e.g. Natalie Dybisz (aka Miss Aniela) she became even more enthusiastic.

She began to formulate ideas in her mind and sent some preliminary thoughts to me and we talked about arranging the shoot in Brighton but, as my son was unwell and staying with us, I felt it would be better to travel to her home in Cardiff and, in any event, she was more familiar with the locations there. In advance, she asked me to buy a pair of women's nude coloured knickers. I went to Marks & Spencer and told an assistant in the Lingerie Department what I needed - she didn't turn a hair. She asked what size I was but I said that I had no idea and when she showed me two different sizes, I went for the larger version and quickly departed the store with this unusual addition to my wardrobe. I confirmed to Lucz that I had bought the pants and that they looked rather fetching - she replied saying that mine was the best email she had received all day.

So, a date was arranged and I travelled there by train and I stepped out of the station to meet her. Her welcome was warm but slightly guarded I felt either because we had only just met but also because she works primarily in self-portraiture and I think was wary about having another person involved in the shoot. However, any concerns in this respect quickly disappeared as we began to chat on our journey in her car back to her house. Lucz is not afraid to voice her opinions and these were quite forthright but she listens intently and so the conversation flowed easily between us. We arrived at her house, an attractive semi-detached property on a pleasant estate, and she invited me in to a comfortable and clean home. We had a cup of tea and discussed what we were going to do. The first shot would be outside in her back garden behind a sheet sprayed with water and with images relating to Parkinson's pinned to the fence. Then we would be going on to some woods for the main shot with some wonderful black wings she had made and which were spread out on the ground in her garden.

All the time, she chatted away and continued to surprise me with her openness and honesty. Lucz just does not hold back in expressing her views and, even now, whenever I receive emails, I hear that lovely Welsh lilt in the words she writes. We then drove up to the woods but the sun was shining brightly which no photographer likes. Nevertheless, we pressed on with the wings' shot although I expressed my concern over the possible breach of local bye-laws when she set fire to the wings. We tried some other shots including these two and then we returned to civilisation and collected her charming daughter, Tinisha, and Lucz very generously bought us lunch at a local cafe. We returned to her house where we dropped Tinisha off and I was introduced briefly to her partner, Conor, and then Lucy took me back to Cardiff Station and I caught the train back to Brighton and, on the way, I reflected on my day and how, in making contact with all these photographers, it has introduced me to people from different walks of life in the same way my legal work had done and I began to understand that it was this aspect of my job as a solicitor that I liked particularly. I was not the greatest academic lawyer by any means and the work was stressful but it was the contact with people above all that helped me cope. 


Lucz is extremely busy working for her degree and so it took a while for these images to appear and she explained that the one with the demonic wings did not work because the light was wrong as she had feared but I love these images. The manipulated picture showing my struggle up the slope using my positivism to beat my despair and help me carry on in the face of adversity is very interesting. but it is the more simple image of me in the shadows that for me sums up Lucz's approach to her work. Although many of her images are complex and full of incident and emotion and passion, it is often the central idea expressed in them that elevates her work to a level comparable with that of the artists she admires so much. We are talking of doing more together -  I can't wait.