|A DAY OUT by Ellie Hones|
So, there I was on a grey day in March, sitting in my armchair on the beach with my gumboots on, minding my own business when this photographer comes along and photographs me - bloody cheek! If you can't do a bit of sunbathing without a camera being shoved in your face, what hope is there? I blame the EU.
Actually, I was there at the invitation of Ellie Hones, an extremely talented photographer who I found through Free Range, the collection of Degree shows comprising images displayed at the Truman Brewery Building by the final year photography students at various British universities. Her work included a collection of nude photographs which explored the idea of identity and how it is affected by social and environmental factors; by presenting the nude in nature, she intended to remove the constructed elements of one's identity. This was a collaboration though - everything was her idea but I brought my wellies to wear as I wanted to keep my feet dry after a recent attack of Cellulitis.
Ellie was very conscientious following my original approach and clearly she had carried out a lot of research before asking me to answer some searching questions about my life, work, the project and nudity. In fact, her main idea was to photograph me clothed but said that it would be great to try a few shots of me in the nude - apart from the boots of course. She intended to use a medium format camera as she loved not only the square format but also the feel of shooting in film. She noticed that, with the previous images on Identity, water was a key factor. She explained that this came about following a talk by Grayson Perry when he said that we are like cliffs and that every time the sea hits the cliff, it removes a layer and gradually reveals our truer self.
I gave Ellie some information about the beach at Southwick which she thought sounded perfect as a location. On the day of the shoot, she went there ahead to set things up and very kindly arranged for me to be collected from home by Hayley Wroe who was assisting her that day. When I arrived at the beach, Ellie came up to say hello and, as we shook hands, I really felt that we were all in this together. The armchair looked wonderful down by the sea (courtesy of Ellie's father who then disappeared to allow his daughter to get on with it all) and so we were all ready to go but it was bloody cold. Ellie photographed me both in and out of the chair and in and out of the sea and then we did similar shots but with me naked. It was all over quite quickly and I was very touched that they had come all the way over from Bournemouth with an old armchair and all the equipment for little old me. Hayley gave me a lift home and I was able to warm up.
A while later, this photograph arrived from Ellie. I thought it was quite magnificent. There I am, sitting regally in my armchair surveying my little kingdom with the sea about to arrive and possibly wash away me, my chair and all that identifies me. It looks both bizarre and commonplace. It has a touch of romance and it speaks of hope and endeavour. And the colours blend perfectly - the grey of the sea and the sky, the rich pointillism of the pebbles, the musty beige armchair, my pale skin and the black of my boots. It all combines to create an image both of grandeur and humility.