Wednesday, 28 October 2015

WHEN SHADOWS FALL by Jennifer Lo

WHEN SHADOWS FALL by Jennifer Lo


I came across Jennifer's work in August 2015 and I was immediately struck by its painterly quality; everything seemed to be brushed by light and shadow very gently and silently. In particular, I loved her photographs of empty places not only buildings but also rooms, fields and beds - and I thought her series "Where the light ends" was exceptional. After a short period of correspondence, we talked on the telephone and arranged a shoot on 28th October 2015. She came to my house in Brighton and we got on extremely well. We chatted first and had a cup of tea and then I showed her round the house so that she could choose where she wanted to shoot me. This was taken in my study and it takes me back to when I was undergoing my articles of clerkship at the solicitors, Raper & Co, in Chichester. I had in fact been offered articles by another firm but they reneged on the offer and I was put in touch with Rapers by Cathy Underhill with whom I had worked briefly at the Festival Theatre and whose father, Rodney Underhill, was the senior partner of the firm. He had a magnificent partner's desk in his room but in the winter he would change positions and sit on the opposite side of the desk to avoid the lowering sun getting in his eyes. I haven't got the same amount of space as he had so I have to make do with a blind.


I cannot remember how many rolls of film Jennifer took that day - it may have only been one - but we had a lovely afternoon and, of course, I subjected her to some of my films which she seemed to enjoy - did you enjoy them Jennifer? Yes, I think she did.


Jennifer arranged for the photographs to be developed and I loved them all when I received them. This was my favourite because she has captured me in a very spontaneous way; I am very relaxed and it is almost as if Jennifer was not there. But she was there because, otherwise, how could I have such unique and beautiful photographs? Jennifer is a supreme artist. She is unassuming and demure but there is a strong character underneath and that combination of gentility and strength will ensure that she will continue to be a very successful photographer. 

Friday, 16 October 2015

ALMOST BLUE by Michela Curti

ALMOST BLUE by Michela Curti
I have walked down this road so many times on my way to a swim. I play music as I go. I undress and then plonk into the cool water and I push out towards the rising sun and after a few strokes I turn and float on my back and it feels glorious. This day though, I am meeting Michela to whom I wrote in July after seeing her work on her website via a Twitter suggestion. What was it that inspired me so much about her work? I think it was that I understood it. I am a bear of little brain but, in this case, I felt almost that I could have taken these photographs myself. They would not have been so good of course but I felt I understood the mind behind them.

And there she is. Standing at the rail of the bandstand looking out, utterly bewitched by what she sees. I hope that she will not turn round before I reach her - she doesn't and I come up behind her and introduce myself with the words "Guess who?" She turns to say hello. She is wearing glasses and immediately, I want her to take them off so that I can see her eyes. I don't know whether we kiss or shake hands but we settle into easy conversation. I take her down on to the beach and we sit for a while and she takes this photograph. It says everything about that day and yet we met only ten minutes before. It shows that, from the very first moment we met, we knew each other. We then move round to the apron at the front of the small brick pier and this is where I take this photograph of her. 

She takes more photographs during the afternoon and they are full of discovery and empathy but these two are all you need to comprehend the friendship that we were both given this day. We then go to The Mock Turtle Tea Rooms because I want her to sample the Welsh Rarebit. It is our waitress' first day and she doesn't know what Welsh Rarebit is but I point it out on the menu. Michela says that she likes it. I hope she does. We wander back to my house and on the way, we talk about everything - our families, her boyfriend Matteo, her work, my project, the sea. She struggles with her English and apologises for it but I know what she is saying. At home, I show her some of my films and the book I devised about my mother's theatrical photographs. I ask her to choose a record from the stack of 45s on the shelf in our sitting room. It is "I Go to Sleep" by The Pretenders. The words don't fit but the lazy warmth of Chrissie Hynde's voice does. The evening beckons and it is time for her to go. She lingers by the door and then we hug, as she said, like old friends. I tell Jane about my day with Michela and she smiles. In the meantime, Michela goes down to the shore and sits and thinks. 

We meet one more time - the next morning, briefly, before she travels up to London with her young cousins. I arrive on the front and text her "I am here". She replies immediately "Me too" and I see her walking quickly along the path towards me. She does not have much time. We hug. She gives me a present she had forgotten to bring yesterday. I touch her cheek gently with the back of my hand and she turns to go. I turn to go and I reach the pavement just in time. I watch her walk away and for a short while after she disappears, I carry on looking at the empty space she occupied a few seconds before and then slowly I lift my eyes to the sea beyond. 

It is almost blue.

WEBSITE: http://www.michelacurti.it/

Thursday, 15 October 2015

STAY.....! by Lucy Ridges

STAY....! by Lucy Ridges

It is a wet, grey day.....the sun suddenly appears from behind a cloud. You are in the supermarket and you move left to avoid another trolley....the person pushing the other trolley moves right and you both laugh. A letter arrives in the post....it is a personal letter addressed on the envelope by hand. It is spring.......you notice for the first time that the buds are beginning to open on the trees. 

You know how you feel when beautiful things like that happen? Well, that it what is like working with Lucy Ridges. Everything is suffused with warmth, smiles and beauty. She doesn't waste a moment but you feel that, if you interrupt her movement or train of thought, it won't matter because she will just use the time she has lost on another day or catch up after you have gone. And when you go, all you want is to stay. And look at these lovely photographs - they are almost as delightful as she is. Full of wit, clarity, charm and love. 

And she writes and sings wonderful songs too. Songs about all the things I have written about. I cannot say that she sings like an angel because I have never heard an angel sing but if angels have got any sense they should sing like her. 

This was my second shoot with Lucy. It could have been my first because it was like everything was happening for the first time - all fresh and full of life, intensity and wonder. It could have been the hundredth because everything was so familiar, easy, relaxing and connected. How can that be? I don't know and I don't care. "Let's never stop" she wrote. Look! There is the sun. Listen! I heard someone laugh. I read a letter. I saw the beginning of Spring. No, we will never stop. These days will last forever.  







WEBSITE: http://lucyridges.com/





Tuesday, 13 October 2015

STEPHEN SEGASBY - Part One


A simple plan. To breathe life into the past. To stand where others have stood but without their fear and without their pain.

I had noticed that on Twitter, Steve was a good friend of Al Brydon and eventually I got round to looking up his website on which I left a message asking if he would be interested in photographing me. I beat him to it - he was about to write to me suggesting the same thing. After several emails back and forth, we set up a date for the shoot. He explained that he had a grain of an idea. "I am particularly interested in time and age within the landscape, with a subdivision into how man has changed the landscape and yet the landscape will endure far longer than any man. We are a frail species and yet we can cause immense change, not always for the good. Part of my project centres around quarrying, mainly in the slate quarries of the Lake district, created as the Industrial Revolution kicked in and most of the working class population migrated to cities and urbanisation - a massive social shift that saw poor living standards etc and which took a century to address."

We arranged that I would travel to Penrith where he would collect me. I had been photographed by Al Brydon a short time before and he told me that he would be joining us. At Penrith, it was Al I saw first and he greeted me warmly as the good friend he has become and then he led me past the cars parked outside the station to Steve, tall and built like the number eight he once was. But, and this is a big but, the grip of his handshake betrayed immediately the tenderness within, the vulnerability and the enthusiasm. Steve is passionate about his photography and his printing. He takes pride in what he does whether at his daily work or out in the landscape he loves. He wants more. I want more. Many of us want more but each of us deals with the denial of it in different ways. Steve is on a journey but has not yet reached his destination and it is my good fortune that we have met at the crossroads and he has placed me in front of his lens and recorded the event. 

That evening and the following two evenings I ate too much, I drank too much and certainly I talked too much but l enjoyed all three...... "I wish I was smarter" - as l write this, those words written by David Bowie pound around my head to an accompaniment of drums and strings furiously playing out their pulsating rhythms and luscious melodies. Ooh - ooh - ooh -aah.

Al being there was a bonus. He came along for the ride and he observed and contributed; his presence was a gift because, as always, he brought his unique humour, sincerity and insight with him. It was a good mix.

Steve drove us patiently in his big white fuck off Audi all the way to Hodge Close in the Tibberthwaite Valley and we parked between a pair of white vans and a school mini-bus and, as I alighted, it felt good to stretch my legs and breathe in the fresh Lakeland air. We climbed through a fence next to which stood a notice saying "Do not climb through fence" and Steve and Al walked down and looked over the edge of a quarry which they said looked amazing. I took their word for it and hung back using said notice to break the vertiginous pull towards the bottom of the quarry and certain death. Al and Steve then set off to have a closer look while I sat in safety and pondered my lot. My project had taken me to so many different locations - one week Exeter, the next week Sheffield, then Nottingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Norwich and now Cumbria. Different people, same country, parts of which would be unrecognisable to the quarrymen who had carved their place in the history of the hills which were spread out before me under the warm October sun. A group of schoolchildren returned to the mini bus and then took up occupancy of the huge slate boulders which bounded the parking area and ate their sandwiches and quaffed their pop. Although they were only a few yards away, their chatter was muffled and indistinct in the empty air. After about half an hour, Al and Steve returned. Al was so overcome by what he had seen that he found it difficult to find the words to describe his feelings. It augured well for the shoot. Steve lead us to another quarry along a path through orderly piles of rubble and red rusting metal and past a boulder on which were painted the words "Danger Keep Out". 

We looked around the quarry and finally, Steve chose the place for the first shot. He set up his large format camera, checked the as light reading, the focus, my position and then disappeared under the cover and checked the composition. Then he checked it all again. He withdrew from the cover, asked if l was ready and then clicked the shutter. He smiled, I smiled and Al smiled. We had begun.




A SIMPLE PLAN by Stephen Segasby - Part Two

A SIMPLE PLAN by Stephen Segasby
12th October 2015 - I was drifting in and out of sleep, looking at my watch and willing the time to pass. I had woken early to drive over to Chichester on my annual pilgrimage in memory of my darling sister, Janet, who had died on this day 19 years ago. As usual, it had been an emotional trip but, as I have said many times before, the emotion I experienced at the time of her death was so deep that it was beautiful. I think part of the reason for my annual visit to the places we used to walk together is to open up and lick the wounds that were inflicted at that time as well as to be with her again. Anyway, enough of all that - if you would like to know more then watch "Sister".  The point of mentioning this is to explain that I was sleeping off one experience to ready myself for another -  that is, my shoot with Steve Segasby. Finally, the train pulled into Preston where I had to change and the ornate wrought-iron bannisters on the stairs leading to the exits reminded me of the visits to Preston previously, first to to meet the lovely Pat Moss for our shoot and then to see the framer who made the frames for the Southport Exhibition; the framer who, when he was asked to make 55 frames, thought it was for just another show but quickly realised that it was something completely different when these amazing prints began to arrive at his door.


I caught the train to Penrith and, within an hour, I found myself chatting to Steve and Al Brydon in the car on the way to Steve's sister's house in Keswick where we would all be staying. It was early evening by the time we arrived in Keswick and, after dumping my stuff off in the bedroom I would be sharing with Al, we walked round to one of the local pubs and I had what the 64 year old version of myself would call a skinfull or maybe half a skinfull i.e. three pints and then returned to the house for some delicious bottled beer provided by Al. The next morning we were all up pretty early and Steve provided a wonderful cooked breakfast before we set off to the Tibberthwaite Valley. All this time, Steve and I were slowly getting to know each other as we swapped stories of our respective families, relationships and photographic projects and Steve listened patiently while Al and I purred over the three shoots on which we had both collaborated. I came to the conclusion quite quickly that Steve is a good man searching for peace in his busy life to enable him to get the time to concentrate on what he really loves - his photography and printing. He loves other things too - his daughters especially, the Lake District, History, bacon sandwiches and 'The Misfits', the little coterie of photographer friends of which he is a member - but Photography is his passion. I decided against going down into the main quarry at Hodge Close but we found another nearby with beautifully chiseled walls of different shapes, hues and colours as well as a little shallow pond which I ended up stepping into naked for one of the first shots.

I love watching a large format camera being set up and loaded and all the little knobs being twiddled. I have no idea what it all means but what I do know is that, when it ends with a click of the shutter, I feel a part of history; the history of Photography, the history of that particular camera and, in this case, a part of Steve's story.

We spent quite a time in this quarry but none of us were too fussed about this. All we had in mind for the rest of the day was to get some shots in the Cathedral Cave. Cathedral Cave - sounds wonderful doesn't it? And, do you know what? It was fucking amazing. After we parked in Little Langdale, we took a short walk along a track and then up a steep slope to a hole in the hill leading to a short tunnel which then opened up into this glorious hall of slate the roof of which was seemingly supported by a rude rod of slate stretching from the floor to ceiling and bathed in the light from a huge hole at the top out of the edges of which sprouted leaves of the brightest luminous green; the same green with which special lakeland painters must venture out at night and decorate the landscape in this extraordinary part of England. My England. For all its problems politically and socially, I feel blessed to have been born in this country and to live here as I feel blessed to have met Steve and Al and Rob Hudson and Alex Bamford and others who have taken me to places I have never seen before and enabled me to breathe in the pure air and to touch trees and rocks and sand and put my hands, feet and body into streams and walk barefooted on grass and sometimes without clothes in these magical places. And here I shall end because although we did more that day (e.g. met Alastair Cook, photographed a telephone box, had more beer, talked a lot more and then the next day, Steve and I said goodbye to Al and spent a glorious day doing more at Hope Close and ate Cow Pie in the evening in front of a fire in the pub), I want to end on magic.


Magic is defined as ''the power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.'' Is anything more mysterious than the meeting of two quite different minds moulded and influenced by different genes, surroundings, familial pressures, loves, desires and yet brought together by the magic of photography to create the photographs you see here? And yet these images are not supernatural or alien in any way. These places exist. Steve photographed me in them. But they look magical. They feel magical. He captured all this by a combination of his skill, his passion, his love, his need to communicate. How do I know this? I know because I was there.

Postscript - I have chosen the image at the top to represent Steve in my project. It is simple, direct, strong, silent and full of history. One day, it will be on the wall of a gallery in an exhibition of Over the Hill and I shall look up at it and feel very, very proud.



Thursday, 1 October 2015

DANGER MAN by Blake Lewis Publish

 
DANGER MAN by Blake Lewis

On 12th September 2015, I went to the Unitarian Church in Brighton to be photographed by Sean Hawkey and found myself caught up in MiniClick's 5th Birthday celebrations of which I had been notified but had forgotten about. I was sitting and listening to one of the photographers who had been invited to speak about their work when the lovely Melissa Campbell tapped me on the shoulder and said hello. I left the party early because I had to get home but, on my way out, I saw Melissa again and it was then that she introduced me to Blake Lewis, explaining that he was also a photographer. We all had a nice chat including a short discussion about Western Films - quite how we got on to that subject I don't know but it is one I love to talk to people about. I got back home and looked up Blake's work and, well, wow! I was immediately captivated by his Opaque Photography experiments which were full of verve, glorious shapes and colour. So, I lost no time in writing to him asking if he might be interested in photographing me even if I was just a splodge.

Well, here we are - me in a splodge and I love it. Blake and I agreed to meet at St Bartholomew's church off the London Road in Brighton but, as I arrived early and the church was open, I decided to spend a few minutes wandering around the building which I had never seen before. I was stunned - not only was it vast but it was beautiful and vast. The greyish brown brickwork stretching up to the rafters provided a wonderful backdrop to the statues and icons the beauty of which was enhanced by expertly placed lamps. However, just in front of the altar rail there was a glorious pool of soft ivory light the tone of which was completely different from the artificial lights. I walked down the centre aisle and stood in the pool, turned and looked up. Sunlight was pouring through a large circular stained glass window above the entrance door. A steward later told me that this window faced south and at noon on a clear day, the sun created this incredible glow. As I stood there, I felt a glow within me and infuse me with a determination to press on and continue to fill my days with experiences like this. I stood there for a few minutes looking up to the window in wonder and then I made my way out and, as I stepped into the daylight, Blake appeared before me grinning a grin.

We walked to the car park where he had decided to photograph me and we talked on the way about this and that and I found him to be a very convivial and interesting companion for the next half an hour or so. The shoot was over pretty quickly and I caught the bus back home thoroughly satisfied with my day's exploits. 


I received this shot and, as I say, I loved it. Blake has placed me in the midst of colour and light. I am an interloper, maybe an observer of what photography is capable of producing. In this sense, it is almost my most complete photograph - it combines two completely different fields of photographic art - the figurative portrait, the depiction of me and the more abstract forms of opaque photography which interest and inspire Blake so much. And yet, are they so different? Are we not made up of splodges and atoms and shapes and colours and liquids? I have never been a scientist and so I would not know but  I feel that is where I want to be heading in this project - towards the discovery of what we truly see when we look at ourselves and the world about us. There is a path linking the shapes of my body in the images by LIz Orton, the movement of my body in Karen Knorr's film captured in the still image she took to the colours and lines and structures of the trees in the photographs by Al Brydon and Rob Hudson and to this depiction of me in a mass of shapes and lines created by the collision of particles of light and energy. It will take a better interpreter of photographic art than me to explain this fully but this is my modest take on the whole thing.

WEBSITE: http://cargocollective.com/blakelewis/photograms/The-Opaque-Photograph