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.