|LIMPID FLIGHT by Elaine Perks|
This image was inspired by the work of Lee Miller. I am not saying that Elaine set out consciously to produce a photograph in Lee Miller's style but both of us are huge fans of her work and it was Miller's photograph of "The Picnic" which first got me interested in Photography. So, first of all, I was sitting in front of Elaine's camera because of Lee Miller and I guess that Elaine's love of her work must have shaped and influenced her own style.
This is a beautiful photograph. The mist on the window glass fades into the blurred outlines of the window frame and from there, moves over the soft folds of the curtain. In contrast, I am crisp and clear and, although I am still, you can feel my thoughts moving to the window and beyond.
I met Elaine through Tess Hurrell who photographed me in 2011 and 2015. The second shoot took place in Tess's studio in Brighton which she shares with Elaine and that day Elaine was there and we were introduced. I looked up her work afterwards and I was highly impressed; it was so varied and rich. The portraits were clear and pure and the projects displayed an enthusiasm and love of her chosen profession. I wonder now, looking back, whether I sensed the influence of Lee Miller. For example, look at Elaine's photograph below and then compare it to Miller's "Portrait of Space".
So, I had to write to her didn't I? She responded enthusiastically and, after a short period of correspondence, she arrived on our doorstep on 26th January 2016 and, provided my arithmetic is correct, she was the 380th person to photograph me. We both chatted to Jane over a cup of tea and then we got down to the shoot and she chose some unusual places in the house for the photographs - often with Jane's paintings in them. Inevitably, we looked at some of my films in my study and that was when she noticed the Lee Miller books and told me of her interest in her work. I told her of the exhibition at Farley Farm and showed her the film I had made.
It was a great shoot. One more in a very long list. Elaine is an excellent photographer. She placed me in position but gave me room and the time to just be, to settle into my thoughts and then "Click", she caught the moment perfectly. I have never studied Photography but I guess that is completely intuitive and comes from a deep understanding of what makes us tick. Elaine felt to me like an old friend by the time she left and, as I closed the front door, I sighed and thought "this is what I have loved about this project".
Tuesday, 26 January 2016
Friday, 22 January 2016
"Give me a hug"
And I did.
"You're my friend now" he added.
And so we are.
Daniel smiled and got off the bus without looking back. I watched him merge into the crowd of pedestrians walking on the pavement, every so often his red coat marking him out. He crossed the road (ensuring that the walk sign was green) and stopped at a cash machine as the bus circled the roundabout and Daniel disappeared over my right shoulder. And that was it - the end of my day with Daniel. A lovely day.
I was kind of glad that it was wet that day as it meant that we stayed inside to "experiment" as Daniel put it. I like studio shoots because of the intimacy, the freedom. He was planning to shoot me in a wood and, in fact, knowing Daniel as I do now, I think it would have had the same intimacy because his eyes demand it as they look into yours. He is so fascinated by faces that he is unafraid of connection. He relishes it and I love it.
We met at Highgate Station. He said he would be wearing red - his favourite colour. He had come to see me in Brighton a few months before to talk about he shoot but I couldn't quite remember what he looked like but I recalled that he was young and good looking. So when a youthful, handsome guy, dressed in red with yellow boots skipped down the stairs into the ticket hall, I knew it was him.
We took the 134 bus to his flat and, as we alighted (is there a word for "alighted" in any other language?), I didn't take any notice of the other buildings in the vicinity as we crossed the road. The purpose built block housing his flat and several others had been built in the fifties I would think and was typical of that part of London where I had lived for the first thirteen years of my life. Parts were modernised but the front doors to the flats were original, topped with small framed windows above which the numbers were mostly made of chrome. The interior of the flat had a nice feel to it; it was light, clean and tidy. The floors were light polished wood adding the lightness. We had a coffee and Daniel showed me his "faces" on his computer - again the desk was clean and tidy and ordered - unlike mine as I write this, dusty, cluttered and with the keyboard overdue for a good scrub. I had seen the faces a few times before but, in his presence, they took on a gravitas, a poignancy that was special. He moved from one face to another slowly and deliberately and I began to get a sense of how Daniel's character dictates how he approaches each of his subjects - with care and an almost forensic examination, tinged with love. A deep love of his art.
We talked easily and without breaks unless he was shooting. Then it was silent, broken only by "....Chin up...bit more....down....that shoulder was tense before, can you do that again?.....close your eyes....open....straight at the lens....now down....up....up....now move your head to your left...." He had made notes beforehand and, every so often bent down to check he had completed each of his allotted tasks. For some reason, I felt that we didn't do everything on the list. Then, after about two hours, he said "That's it". But it wasn't it. As he cleared away the lights and other equipment, he noticed as he went into the bedroom that the sun had come out making a reflection on the wall. "Tim! Come into the bedroom and sit against the wall" There were more directions "....look up at the window....no here ( he held up his hand)....down....up....eyes closed...." Until he announced that really was it. But it still wasn't it.
I thanked him. It had been special. And curiously emotional although neither of us had openly emoted.
I put on my coat whilst he went to the bathroom. I told him that there was no need for him to come back to Highgate on the bus with me but he responded saying that he would come with me part of the way as he had to go to Muswell Hill. I said that that was where my Grandfather's church was. Whilst he had a pee, I was somehow drawn to the view out of the kitchen window over the main road which we had crossed a few hours before. There was a church. It was my Grandfather's church. St Peter Le Poer. My heart missed a beat. Daniel came out of the bathroom. I said "That's it. That is my Grandfather's church!". Daniel was up for having a look and, as we approached the red brick building, we saw an "open" sign outside the front door - the front door outside of which, in 2001, I had hugged my siblings as we all burst into uncontrollable tears as our mother's coffin was carried out and placed in the hearse. Daniel and I walked into the church and I looked at it for the first time in 15 years but with new eyes. The figure of the Virgin Mary wearing her blue shawl looked beautiful. It was so familiar, as if it 'belonged' to me. Daniel suggested that I wander and he took photographs as I did. I examined the pulpit and thought of my grandfather standing there. I pointed out his name "GERALD PERCY COOPER BA " on the list of incumbents painted in gold on the board by the door. Daniel asked me to stand in the aisle with the stained glass window behind. The same aisle along which we followed the pall bearers at the end of the funeral as John McCormack sang "I'll walk beside you". In her directions for the funeral, she had asked for this song to be played adding "and I will, so watch out, all of you". When I read that out to my gorgeous brother over the phone after we had discovered the piece of paper on the afternoon of the morning she died, there was silence at the other end. Why do these things mean so much? I told Daniel the story of the three old ladies who introduced themselves to me before the funeral explaining that they had been in the choir the day that my mother married my father in 1944 when the marriage was officiated by her father. I pointed out the depictions of the Stations of the Cross which lined the side walls of the church. I said that I wasn't sure I believed any more but I did find these things very romantic and he understood.
We left and that really was it. We caught the 134 and at Muswell Hill, we each hugged our new friend goodbye. I caught the train home to Brighton and, when Jane came in from the studio, I told her the story of my day as I used to tell my mother when I came home from school........
Tuesday, 19 January 2016
|A TOE IN THE WATER by Julia Fullerton-Batten|
19th January 2016. I am on the train to London. I am on my way to a shoot for which I have waited a long time. A shoot with Julia Fullerton-Batten. We have emailed each other over a period of almost eight years, we have met in a cafe in Chiswick where we clicked immediately. She has made some interesting suggestions but, finally, when it comes down to it, she has really only got.....me. But she understands me and that is why she made the suggestions in the first place. Now, she has a set all ready for another shoot with a corporate client but which she feels will tell something about my story. She has warned me that I shall have to walk in freezing cold water with nothing on. She is very concerned for me but I have reassured her that it will be fine even though I have only recently recovered from my first bout of Cellulitis. I hate getting old, physically old that is. My doctor said recently that it is better than the alternative. I suppose that she meant death. Maybe.
Anyway, let's not get maudlin. I reach Victoria and travel by tube to Kennington where I had been only recently for a shoot with Kasia Wozniak. Although Julia's shoot will be in a different studio, I walk up the same street from the station and I find the place and walk inside. The place is packed. There must be at least thirty people there either on computers or adjusting lights or parts of the set which is enormous. As I walk into the room, it slowly comes into view. It is a room in a house, a sitting room with a hole in the ceiling and water about a foot deep on the floor. Clearly a pipe has burst or some other similar catastrophe and there are two actors or models pretending to be the couple returning to their lovely house. There are two guys wearing waterproof clothes wading into the water and moving furniture and other props around and pouring more water through the hole and, in the middle of all this clamour and activity, standing behind her camera like a modern day Queen Boadicea, barking orders with her long golden hair flowing, is Julia. She looks magnificent. She receives me with a hug, the warmth of which recalls our meeting in Chiswick. She explains that they still have a bit to do and suggests that I sit at the side and watch them finish the shoot while I drink the tea that her very friendly assistant has made for me. It is fascinating seeing how it all works on such a scale.
After a while, they begin to set up some final shots and Julia comes over to talk about what she has in mind. She is worried that I might be too cold but the studio itself is very warm. We discuss her ideas and then she returns to her chariot and finishes it all off. I am then introduced to the make-up artist and her assistant who put a bit of make-up on my face. I take off my clothes and put on a robe and wander out on to the set. There I remove my robe and step tentatively into the water which is not as cold as I had anticipated but Julia is still very concerned and asks one of her team to help me over the edge of the set and into the water. We try various shots including one of me pretending to pee into the water. I ask her if she would like me to stand on the table. Yes she would and slowly, I climb onto a chair and then onto the table and kind of wished I hadn't as I feel a bit unsure but, at the same time, I kind of love it because it proves I am not a complete spaz. Then Julia calls me down and I climb out of the water and we look at some shots on the computer screen. They look interesting but, without glasses, I cannot really tell what they are like but I know from Julia's work that it will look tremendous. She asks me if I mind returning to the set and, after a quick muse about Catholicism and the Pope, I do a parkinsonian version of a leap back into the water and we try some more poses. Then Julia calls time and I am moved as everyone applauds.
I feel great. I have been photographed by Julia Fullerton-Batten, photographer par excellence. I have been photographed by Julia Fullerton-Batten, a lovely warm and kind woman. It is the latest of a long line of wonderful shoots and experiences. It is one more step on an incredible journey that I could never, ever, have anticipated on which I would travel. On this day, eight years ago, I was seeing clients and trying not to shake behind my desk. I was battling with the worsening symptoms of this condition and it was about this time in 2006 that I wrote to my senior partner finally acknowledging that my legal career was over. I put the letter in the post and then telephoned him at home and burst into tears as I told him that I had to go. It was so difficult to give up, to give in but little did I know what it would lead to. Me, naked on a set surrounded by water and people assisting one of the greatest photographers of our generation, Julia Fullerton-Batten. My friend, Julia.
As for the photograph, well, need I comment? It is wonderful, of course. I am sitting there with one foot trailing in the water thinking "...what the fuck..." When I had my Deep Brain Stimulation surgery, I felt that beforehand, I had a large lake to play in which I was invited to play but that, bit by bit, the area I was allowed to play was getting smaller and smaller, eventually leaving me with a small area fenced off. Then, when I left hospital, I was told that the fence had been removed and that I could play wherever I liked. Whooaa! This photograph shows that that was not as easy as it seemed. My illness has taken me to places in my mind that I have never been to before. Not all good but not all bad. But on 19th January 2016, I went to London and was photographed like this. How cool is that?
A long, long time ago, 27th September 2008 to be exact, I had been trawling the internet in my search for more photographers to contribute to my project which I had not even then given its name, "Over the Hill". In fact, I had on that day set up the 20th photographer. It was Julia Fullerton-Batten's work that I came across that day in 2008 and what captivated me was the storytelling behind the photographs. For example, why is that woman there? What has happened to cause her so much anguish and why does her expression so subtly tell you all that it does?
So, I wrote to Julia asking her to photograph me and then set off for my shoot with Emma Tunbridge (Number 20). I returned to find her reply. She asked me to send her some of the photographs that had already been taken. She did not say yes to my request but she did not say no. "Will be in contact when I have more time, at the the end of the year", she said. That is not a no? Yes? In fact she never said no. So, I waited. And waited. And waited. Then, in 2012, I heard from a friend that she was casting for a group photograph of men and women of different shapes for a shot that would have the feel of an 18th Century painting about it. I wrote to her saying that, even if I was not wanted for that, would she consider photographing me and I mentioned that I had by then reached 195 photographers. She responded very positively and asked for more pictures from the project so, I got out my shovel and laid on her my full portfolio, my article in the Guardian, my appearance on the Culture Show and the film of my exhibition at the Guernsey Photography Festival. I knew how busy she was and it is to her credit that she never seemed to get fed up with me knocking on her door. She wrote back saying that she was still interested and that she had a shoot the following week but that she would be photographing very large people and, in desperation, I replied saying that I was larger than I was and added a few dots.....
In the meantime I was photographed by the great Jillian Edelstein (number 216) who recommended Julia to me. Then, in January 2013, I saw some wonderful photographs by her in the Professional Photographer magazine and wrote to her with my congratulations. By then, we had moved to Brighton and settled in to our new home after various disastrous experiences with builders, plumbers and electricians and the project was going full pelt and so Julia went to the back of my mind until at the end of 2013, I received an email from her out of the blue referring back to our initial correspondence in 2008 and saying that she was involved in a fine art project and that she may have a great part in it for me - was I interested? My reply contained nine words, five of which were "yes".
Unfortunately, the part consisted of my character sucking a woman's breast (in a non-sexual way) which I had to decline but said that I was willing to be involved in some way.
Julia responded saying that she quite understood that sucking someone's tits was a bit too much to ask and also saying there might be another part available but suggesting that we meet. There followed a flurry of emails back and forth during 2014 and she came to the conclusion that the photograph should say something about me and not me playing a part. "Just thinking....." Her words. Her dots.
Meanwhile, I had my Deep Brain Stimulation surgery but we continued writing to each other and, eventually, we met for lunch in Chiswick on 12th November 2014 and I saw what a lovely person she was - and still is! Lively, alert, intelligent, intuitive, earnest, sincere, warm, tactile. I came away thinking that it was now certain that we would work together one day.
And do you know what? We did! Yesterday, Julia Fullerton-Batten became photographer number 378 and, it was a gas!
Part Two to follow.
Thursday, 14 January 2016
|THREE COLOURS TIM by Amit Lennon|
It is seven o'clock on a Sunday morning as I write these words. I had already written a piece about my shoot with Amit but I wasn't sure about it so I asked Jane if she could look at it - she said very wisely that if I had misgivings, I should look at it again. I did and scrapped the lot. It just did not do justice to what is a great image.
Why do I like it so much? I think the key is the middle photograph which leads the image. It shows me strong, relaxed and forthright. The green and the blue show softer sides to my character but Amit was clever enough to put these together in this way to show how multi faceted we all are and using the washed out colours just wraps it all up into an excellent picture. I was very pleasantly surprised when I received this although I should not have been. Amit is a great photographer as one can see from the work on his website. It has style and verve and he cares about the people he photographs. This is exemplified by the photographs of people with Parkinson's Disease in the Corporate section of his website. They have a very positive feel about them even though some of the images show the physical difficulties which those people are experiencing. His respect for them and his compassion are clear.
People have commented recently that it must be interesting for me to compare the working methods employed by the photographers I work with but I find that I do not compare; I look at each shoot on its own. However, there is a common thread of humanity in that, in just about every case, even if I have never met the photographers before the shoot, they have taken time to think about me, what drives me, influences me and then, magically, this comes through in the eventual image. This is what happened with Amit. I guess that he took a lot of photographs that day but the three comprised in this single image show three sides of my nature that Amit took time to discover but they are also a reflection of his own interest in his fellow human beings.
Amit gave me his card at the Private View at Portrait Salon in November 2015. Two months later, I was being photographed and filmed by him at a studio at PhotoFusion in Brixton. He was very thoughtful in his session with me, anxious that I was comfortable and that meant that I relaxed almost immediately into the poses he wanted me to make. There were two parts to the shoot. The first (at least I think this came first) was taking stills and the second was a video which is going to be part of a larger project which Amit had embarked on, the results of which will be seen in due course. We talked about various things during the shoot such as family, Portrait Salon, The Taylor Wessing prize, my talk at Photo Fusion a few years back and the current exhibition in the Photo Fusion Gallery which he recommended that I look at and I am so glad he did because that is where I came across the work by Paloma Tendero who photographed me subsequently.
It is now 7.35am and I feel much better about what I have written.
Monday, 11 January 2016
|I CAN HEAR SO MUCH IN YOUR SIGHS by Kasia Wozniak|
As I wandered around the Portrait Salon exhibition, I thought to myself, "I am just going to enjoy this evening and not go searching for photographers" - I failed miserably, because I saw a haunting photograph by Kasia Wozniak. Even then, I did not write down her name but, when I got back to the ranch, I looked at the Portrait Salon site and there it was again, beckoning to me. So, I looked at Kasia's website and Kapow! as they say in cowboy language. It was like the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, full of wonderful jewels that I felt I could bathe in and let fall through my fingers. I did the only decent thing - I wrote to her asking if she might photograph me. By the way, right from early on in the project and throughout, I have never, ever lost the excitement of finding some wonderful work on the internet and then writing to the photographer concerned and waiting for the reply. And in this case, the reply was positive as Kasia wrote saying that she would certainly like to photograph me at her studio close to Elephant & Castle.
We met her at her studio and immediately, we hit it off. Kasia used the wet plate collodion method which I had experienced twice before but what surprised me was how neat it all was. Kasia was dressed in a skirt with an apron on top and gloves and I loved the way she retreated into another room with each plate and then returned to stack them carefully on a shelf. It was so tidy and, well, gentle as if they were ancient biblical scripts that should be handled with the utmost care. It was fascinating to watch and, all the time, we chatted of this that and the other. It was simply the most lovely time. It was cold as I made my way back to the tube station and thought how privileged I am to to have met and worked with such nice people as Kasia.
The Winter gradually turned into Spring and, on a warm day in May, I was in the middle of a shoot when a call came through on my mobile. The reception wasn't brilliant but I was expecting a call from a particular photographer and I assumed it was her and arranged to meet her at London Bridge on my way home. Then I began to have doubts that I had heard her name correctly and guessed that it could have been someone else. So I got to London Bridge not knowing which of the two people I was going to meet and suddenly a beautiful, smiling face appeared - it wasn't either of them! It was Kasia. Even then, I had to blink because she was dressed much less formally (in T shirt and jeans) than she had been in our shoot. We then each had a glass of Pimms in the sunshine and picked up where we had left off some four months previously and it was then that she showed me the photographs that she had taken. The screen on her phone was cracked but I could see enough to know that they were good, very good indeed. She explained that the nude shot had not worked out satisfactorily but she preferred, as I did, the composite image. My expression appears to say everything and yet gives nothing away. It has movement and a depth accentuated by the second image hovering on my shoulder.
Kasia Wozniak, the neatly dressed, efficient practitioner has produced a rough, splodgy image full of thought, emotion and substance. It takes its place proudly amongst the superb images created in this project. As I write this, my thoughts travel to the moment I saw her picture at Portrait Salon and then on to the next day when I looked at her website and finally my eyes rest on her photograph of me. Kapow!