|HERE TODAY by Strat Mastoris|
18th February 2016 - the evening on which Clare Best and I presented "TAKE ME WITH YOU: the Museum of Friendship, Remembrance and Loss" at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS). The event went really well, hampered slightly by the fact that the computer crashed which meant that we could not show the films or photographs or play the music which we had prepared to illustrate the project. Nevertheless, it all went incredibly well because it suddenly became more intimate and, due to the goodwill of the members of the audience, they seemed to identify that much more closely with the issues discussed and explored in the project.
Strat knows Clare and had accepted her invitation to attend and, when I clapped eyes on him, I thought immediately "I know you". He thought the same and we tried to work out where we had met before and finally established that it was probably at the First Night of a play at The Emporium in Brighton where Strat was overseeing the lighting. he had also seen the "Over the Hill" exhibition at Create in the Brighton Photo Fringe in 2014 so he knew about my project already and said that he would love the opportunity to photograph me. Now, normally, I like to look at a photographer's portfolio before I approach him or her but, now and again, I meet someone whose enthusiasm makes the decision for me and so it was in Strat's case although, after agreeing to be photographed by him, I did look at his work and liked what I saw.
He wrote in some detail with his ideas for the shoot. Basically, they were derived from "Over the Hill" and my collaboration with Clare Best in that what I was trying to achieve in both was to leave some trace of my existence which would survive my own personal mortality. He felt that many people had this need (which he sometimes calls "Pyramid Building") including himself and that was one of the reasons he has a website and a photo archive and why he archives the theatre reviews and other writing he does. So, Strat's idea was to photograph me on the shore with the cliffs as the background which would represent the immensity of geological time and place our short mortal lives into some kind of perspective.
So, here we are, Strat's take on my mortality. Having recently succumbed to a second bout of Cellulitis plus the fact that it was freezing bloody cold in the north easterly wind, I really felt in touch with my mortality, especially when we tried the nude shot. The first pictures were shot on the beach at Peacehaven and then we moved on to Rottingdean for a few more followed by a welcome pint of Harvey's in front of a open fire where we looked back on what we had done that morning and how much we both enjoyed it and we chatted about Strat's father, his Greek heritage, his interest in the Theatre and the written word. It really lifted my spirits after a rotten few days.
Then the photographs arrived - dropped through my door on a memory stick - and my spirits were hoisted up again. I am not entirely sure that I chose the one which Strat liked best but this one just pipped the others post-wise. I felt that a close up was better but I am still dwarfed by the cliffs the luminous white of which contrasts so wonderfully with the deep blue of the sky and the age and structure of the cliffs are also at odds with the man-made concrete steps behind me, placed there for health and safety reasons below a cliff similar to those further to the East where, without any thought of health and safety, some people have decided to end their lives when they wanted to without waiting for the day of a more natural death. My expression has a spontaneity and a directness that challenges the viewer and says "Yes? So, it's a Guardian, so what?" but it also achieves what Strat wanted - placing me in that spot at that particular moment - my whole body says "Here. Today." and yet I am framed by a different order of time. Wonderful.
And if I say I really knew you well,
What would your answer be?
If you were here today
- Paul McCartney