Monday, 22 May 2017
Well, just one week to go and it has been fun. I have recently taken some friends and my twin sister, Sally to the exhibition and they have all enjoyed it. As you can see from the composite picture above, there is such a variety of images and means of approaching the same subject - me. But not only that, each photograph is excellent. Each time I put a photograph up I held it in front of me and thought, "this is a great photograph!" and then, once they were all up, I thought "Wow!" A question that has been asked of me a lot over the last few weeks is "How do you feel seeing so many photographs of yourself?" It is strange but I feel quite separate from them - obviously, my face is familiar to me but it is almost like looking at someone else. However, when I look at them all, I feel a great sense of pride that I have managed to bring all these superb artists together and I find it incredibly moving that they have each worked so hard to produce an amazing image.
The other question often asked is "Which is your favourite?" Well, I can now reveal the one I like best - it is (drum roll) the one top left by Mike McCartney. I love him, I loved the shoot and I love the picture with Peter Pan in the background. Yep, that's the one! Although, I quite like the Rankin one next to it. What a day that was - nice chap and good fun and a great shot. Sorry, Mike it's the Rankin. Mm, actually, can I change my mind because Steve Bloom's pic (3rd from left, top row) is bloody good and it got into the final exhibition at the Taylor Wessing Prize in the National Portrait Gallery. No. it has to be Steve's - yes, that is it. And yet, and yet, I have always had a soft spot for the next one, "Beautiful Decay" by the lovely Danielle Tunstall - oh, Steve, I am sure you will understand that and accept that this is a fantastic shot taken by someone who, at the time, had only owned a camera for two years and had to wait for the kids to go to sleep before she could work on her images and she is the sweetest person as well. Congratulations! The number one! But, no, how can I choose that and ignore the next one with the dinosaur. Clayton, so generous with is time and so imaginative in creating his final image. I LOVE this. How could I have chosen anything else? There we are - I feel so much better having chosen the one.
Look, I must apologise but what about Tanya Simpson's shot of me in the sea on Portobello beach in Scotland or Jeronimo Sanz' manipulated image of my self portraits or Henrietta Bowden-Jones' photo or Jim Stephenson's brilliantly funny one of me rolled up in the backdrop? Yes, "Cadbury's Dairy Milk" by Robert Ludlow. Yes! No! I've made my mind up - it's definitely Cat Lane's "Under the Pier" well, either that or me on the railway line photographed by the gorgeous Jacqui Booth but then there is Hannah Lucy Jones' polaroid. No, enough of this, my favourite is....Kathy Foote's underwater shot - full of colour and light! But for goodness' sake, it has to be Nigel Maudsley's beautiful "Distant" but even he might agree that "Fitzrovia Chapel" by Claude Savona should be chosen given the connections to my family. Ok, Erika Szostak's "No Expectations" featuring the incredible make up by Elloise Willetts. At last! Well, I'm glad that's sorted.......except Viveca Koh's shot of me and her cat, Milo, will always be my number one. Amanda Harman I...er.. have to tell you that my favourite photo in this show is yours! It is the one of me on the beach at West Wittering, my childhood home - next to the best one of all by Lenka Rayn H. However, talking of beaches, Max Langran took that excellent shot of me "Early One Morning" - that eclipses everything else, Max - well done - if it wasn't for Steve Segasby's pic, you would have been my favourite but even Steve would stand aside for the gorilla suit by Jay Brooks or "Comfort " by the lovely Gemma Day or "Three Colours Tim" by Amit Lennon........or maybe the superb B & W study by Daniel Regan? No, forget it - I have just looked again at "Limpid Flight" by Elaine Perks but how would her colleague Tess Hurrell feel? Doesn't matter because I have just realised that "Eloquence" by Tess is my special one. Thanks Tess.
What am I thanking Tess for? It is magnificent image but, talking of hands, look at "Jamais" by Itziar Olaberria - it wins, hands down! if it wasn't for the photo taken by Strat Mastoris on the beach - you know, the one of me reading the Guardian but, come on, Cathy Pyle's "Light and Dark" take a bow, my favourite photograph in the show! Take a Bow? Hang on - Ben Smith - how can I ignore this? Well, I have to because of Katariina Jarvinen's silky smooth "Silent Moment". But what about the noise coming from The Wet Plate Collodion method applied by the handsome Nicolas Laborie??
Well, no more noise than is coming from under the black cloth supplied by Ameena Rojee - you cannot hide class can you, Matt Finn? A class act. And that is what in my mind speaks so loudly from Michela Griffith and Denise Myers or is it Dave Wares? Some sunset, Dave - you win or you would have but for "Control" by Anja Barte Telin & Moa Thörneby. So, where were we? Oh yes, Mike McCar......I can't choose a favourite and do you know why? Because they are all my favourites and I have loved every minute of every shoot.
Thank you, Montefiore (Sandeep, Gavin and Tom). Thank you Keely Harrison for the great publicity - see especially the feature on BBC TV - https://vimeo.com/218429539. Thank you Alex Bamford for the labels, Julia Horbaschk for chairing the discussion on 14th May, my wife Jane for her support and forbearance, Parkinson's UK for the frames and Parkinson's Disease itself, without which NONE of this would have happened. Amen.
Monday, 15 May 2017
Today was a grand day.
It started early – I woke up at about 3am and then turned over and tried to sleep but I only dozed and then became fully awake when I thought I heard someone other than me breathing in the room.
I got up and watched the repeat of “Match of the Day” from the night before. It was a little taste of what was to come later, the match against Manchester United - the last ever game at the old Tottenham ground at White Hart Lane. My beloved Tottenham.
Jane wasn’t feeling well and so she couldn't come to the Forum Discussion event at the Montefiore Hospital as part of the exhibition of “Over the Hill”. In the meantime, I ironed a shirt and got ready to go. It had rained during the night and early morning but, as I stepped out of the house, it was sunny and everything felt fresh and clean and washed as I drove to the Hospital. I parked outside and was about to cross the road when I was tooted by Julia Horbaschk and her husband, Mark in their flash black 4x4 which they had been given as a courtesy car whilst their own car was being repaired.
I love Julia. She can be wonderfully loud and outspoken at times but it all comes from a good place as she is a very warm, gentle and caring person and very funny too. Mark is a very lucky man and I am proud to call them my friends. I entered the reception area of the hospital and the photographs looked good – some of the frames and labels were slightly wonky but, for some reason, I did not want to straighten them up.
|Julia, me and Katariina|
I was met by the lovely Tom Collins, who has been so helpful in preparing and hanging the exhibition, and he had already started moving the sofas to clear the space for the discussion. We gradually got everything set up and Nicolas Laborie arrived looking very handsome followed by Cathy Pyle, looking very beautiful. Gavin Weal, the hospital’s commercial manager, stopped by to say a quick hello. He had not intended to do so but I suppose he couldn’t help himself. He looks after the place very well.
The discussion went very well. Not all the people who had booked came but that meant it was an intimate chat and between I guess about 16 or so people. Each of the photographers spoke about their experience of working with me and it was then that I began to feel awkward but nicely awkward. I felt that a fuss was being made about me and yet it was the work of the photographers which made the project what it was. We ended the discussion with the slideshow of the images set to Madness’ song “House of Fun” and everyone applauded. It had been a lovely couple of hours and in some way, validated my decision to end the project. I said earlier that I wanted to put it into a box, tie ribbon around it and put it up on to a shelf and then bring it down every so often to wonder at the lovely times I had had with these people. And today was just such an experience. I opened the box and the magic created by the project burst out and sprinkled over the audience like fairy dust. People said some very kind things but I could not have done it without them.
|Me and Viveca|
Viveca Koh had come and thought that I had not recognised her but I had and she joined us at the pub later with Katariina Jarvinen, Julia, Mark and the Wares family (Dave’s photograph is in the show). We had a drink and chatted about this and that and then went out separate ways. I returned to my car with Viveca and she gave me the warmest and huggiest of hugs. I drove home feeling wonderful.
Then I sat down to watch Spurs and, as usual, they put me through the ringer. They played pretty well but almost let United come back from the dead but, in the end, they hung on. . The noise made by the crowd was deafening and then, at the end, the pitch was invaded and it took some time for the fans to be persuaded back to their seats. Then, as the rain poured down, they announced a long line of former players, Berbatov, Hoddle, Steve Archibald, Garth Crooks, Tony Galvin, Terry Dyson and Terry Medwin (both of whom I have interviewed) Martin Chivers, Alan Gilzean, the Allens (Les, his son Clive and his nephew Paul), Pat Jennings, Erik Thorsvedt, Gary Mabbutt, Mike England, Phil Beal, Ardiles and Villa, Cliff Jones, Jimmy Robertson, Joe Kinnear, Alan Neilsen, John Pratt, Mark Falco, Justin Edinburgh, Micky Hazard, and loads more. I called Jane into the room as a tenor began to sing ”Glory, Glory, Hallejuliah” and the crowd joined in as tears ran down my face (as they are doing now as I write this) and I said my own goodbye to this wonderful ground, where I have had so many happy times..
But the day wasn’t over yet. It finished with a speech at the Bafta TV Award ceremony given by Joanna Lumley who was awarded the fellowship. She had been preceded by some lovely contributions by Michael McIntire (who seems to have a genuinely nice and happy soul), Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Sarah Lancashire, who in her speech thanked her fellow nominee, Claire Foy, for giving her the best ten years underneath the duvet. But it was what Lumley said and the way she said it which made my day. She brought the whole audience together in her arms and said “I love you”
And, as my character, Alice from Paris says, “When people ask me what is the greatest thing in life, ‘Love’ is the answer”.
Yes, it was a grand day.
Sunday, 9 April 2017
I woke at 6am in the guest bedroom of the flat owned by my best friend, John, who I met at University in the early 1970s and with whom I still share an inane sense of humour. He works, as I used to, as a solicitor but enjoys it marginally more than I did - certainly he is more suited, intellectually, to the job. John walked with me as far as Queens Square and I carried on to The Watershed where I had been invited to take part in "Feeling Images", a symposium on Photography's relationship with Illness, Mental Health and Wellbeing co-ordinated by the wonderful Shawn Sobers of University of West of England (UWE) in Bristol.
I walked up the stairs and felt good vibes wash over me - the atmosphere of the building combined with the anticipation of meeting Shawn was a good mix. As it was, I was met by Nick Bright from UWE first with a smiling face and a warm handshake. Within a few minutes, I was chatting easily to Ruth Davey whom I had not met before and who told me that she had been asked to to speak about "Look Again", her Mindfulness and Therapeutic photographic practice. She introduced me, in turn, to Jimmy Edmonds, a documentary filmmaker and the three of us chatted until Shawn entered, dressed all in black although, to be completely accurate, his suit was a dark charcoal grey but his shirt and shoes were black with his hair tucked neatly away under a cap. His infectious smile lit up the room over which he sprayed his magic dust and made everyone feel welcome - it was ever thus - no wonder he is spoken of so fondly.
I joined the queue into the auditorium and there was the lovely Jessa Fairbrother. We last met in Bristol in November last year when I came away from her studio totally inspired by our time together. She sat one seat away from me and and that allowed Jayne Taylor to sit between us as I introduced her to Jessa.
The event was a sell-out and the seats filled up quickly and the buzz of conversation died away as Shawn stood up and said a few words of welcome before asking Ruth Davey to take the stage to begin her interactive opening assisted by a cup of coffee and a glass of water. She spoke confidently and almost inevitably during the still sequence, all was quiet until a jingle on a mobile phone started but somehow its melody seemed to fit the mood.
Next up was an intriguing pairing, Patrick Graham and Heather Agyepong. Patrick went first and told of his fascinating visual essay on his father "The Things You Left Behind" He looked calm and comfortable in his belief that he had found closure on dealing with his father's abandonment of his family but I did wonder if that would always be the case bearing in mind that he had taken the concertina book of images with him when he visited his father in Portugal but could not actually bring himself to show it to him. He was followed by Heather whose project "Too Many Blackamoors" was inspired by her astonishment on hearing that the history of black people in Britain dated back some 500 years and yet Heather has very recently been treated like shit because of the colour of her skin. However, she raised a huge laugh she recounted how her father had failed to recognise his own daughter in her self portraits on display at the opening of her exhibition but when he was told, he was so proud - in stark contrast to Patrick Graham's father's attitude to his children. Nick Bright interviewed them both afterwards and posed some astute questions followed by more from members of the audience. The warm applause at the end of the Q&A session felt like an enormous group hug.
Ruth Davey then returned to speak enthusiastically about her love of nature and the need to take time and I was really impressed by her assured delivery obviously honed in the workshops she holds regularly -in fact, another one is coming soon to Bristol. Ruth was followed by Tim Shaw, a strapping young man with an open and engaging manner. Tim founded the 'Hospital Rooms' project with Niamh White and, again the questions posed by Angus Fraser and the audience were incisive and the answers given were revealing.
I nipped off quickly at the lunch break to find my friend Lin with whom I had also studied Law at university and who lives in Bristol. We quickly caught up on our respective news before we took our places in the front row ready for my own session but before that we and the rest of the audience had the privilege of witnessing the searing honesty of the next two speakers, Clare Hewitt and Sian Davey. First, Clare spoke spoke emotionally of her two projects ''Eugenie'' and ''Kamera'' the second of which is ongoing. Her photographs were absolutely beautiful (no surprise there as I knew of the quality of her work from my own shoots with her over recent times) but it was her earnest desire to connect with her subjects which I found so moving. She is completely dedicated to what she does. She looks so delicate and yet her resolve and courage have enabled her to befriend and earn the trust of the blind Eugenie and the prisoner Chuck who sits on Death Row in the States for a crime that Clare has never sought to investigate. Reeling from this, we were then put through the wringer by Sian who spoke eloquently of her empty childhood and her subsequent depression following a crazy time in her youth and then showed us an incredible array of photographs of her daughters with the back view of Alice clambering on a gate contrasting with the bold and brazen gaze of her stepdaughter Martha looking directly into Sian's camera. Another group hug followed the Q&A session as the audience demonstrated the level of love and support in the room by their applause.
Then it was my turn. Gulp. I shall leave others to comment on my presentation but what I would say is that it was lovely to look across at the smiling faces of Amanda Harman, Kathy Foote and Ameena Rojee and to be reminded of Shawn Sobers' relief that he did not have to undress on the nudist beach when he came to film me in Brighton for my project "Over the Hill". I felt proud to be on the same stage as the four of them and to look out into the audience and see Clare Hewitt, Jayne Taylor and Jocelyn Allen - all members of my family of 425 photographers who had shot me over a nine year period.
There was a coffee break and then the final pairing Rosy Martin and Tamany Baker. Rosy was delightful; she huffed and puffed at the podium and gradually revealed her unique self portraits of her parents whom she loved so much and who lived in a house full of memory. Tamany's description of her work was, on her own admission, more intellectual but no less entertaining for all that especially the story of her son's discovery in the freezer of the seemingly endless production line of their cat's presents of the mutilated bodies of a variety of wild birds and animals.
At the end, I felt pleasantly tired but invigorated by the day and the wonderful collection of artists which Shawn had chosen so wisely to entertain and inform us so brilliantly on Photography's relationship with illness, mental health and well being. I sat the balcony of my friend John's flat overlooking the waterfront sipping a gin and tonic made by his girlfriend Alison and thought, not for the first time, that life is wonderful.
Monday, 20 March 2017
|The Montefiore Hospital Hove|
In 2014, I was very pleased and proud to present an exhibition of photographs from "Over the Hill" at Create Studios (then based in New England House) as part of the Brighton Photo Fringe. It was a great success and the Private View in particular was good fun. One of the people who came that evening was Sandeep Chauhan, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon based at the Montefiore Hospital in Hove, whom I had met through mutual friends some months before.
Afterwards, he wrote to me saying that he and his wife, Rosie, had not known what to expect but he added, very kindly, that they found it inspiring and, instead of putting the photographs away in storage, he suggested a possible exhibition at Montefiore as part of the Brighton Fringe proper. We met and everything was very positive but l had to withdraw because my son was gravely ill at the time. Nevertheless, as Sandeep was so keen, l resurrected the idea a few months ago and we started discussions again about the Fringe this year.
Great progress has been made and I am pleased to say that, with the assistance of a bursary from the Brighton Lions charity, the very generous support of Montefiore itself and the provision of prints by the photographers and frames from Parkinson's UK, it is all set to happen.
The exhibition of 40 photographs from the project, the bulk of which have not been previously exhibited, will run from 5th to 26th May 2017 and will be located in the ground floor reception area of the Montefiore Hospital. Entrance is free and ideally visitors should only come between 10 am and 5 pm and, of course, should respect the fact that it is a working hospital and that patients and their relatives and friends might also be using the reception at the same time.
I am also arranging a discussion forum during May fourther details of which will be publicised in due course.
I am also arranging a discussion forum during May fourther details of which will be publicised in due course.
The exhibiting photographers are:-
Hannah Lucy Jones
Lenka Rayn H.
Anja Barte Telin
Anja Barte Telin
Saturday, 7 January 2017
|I'M YOUR MAN by Graeme Montgomery|
17th June 2016 - the end of Over the Hill. People asked at the time and have asked since why I felt that I had to end it. I began to feel that it had had its day as a project even though I was fairly certain that I would carry on collaborating with photographers. Also, there were some tiny things that tipped me over the edge and I thought yeah, I think it's time to stop this, tie a ribbon around it and put it up on to the shelf and bring it down every so often to wonder at the fantastic times I had had with such clever, imaginative and talented artists.
Initially, Graeme reached out to me or people like me when he placed the advert in Time Out. At the time, neither of us were aware of what he had started so it seemed appropriate for me to ask him this time. He was very enthusiastic about it and said that he would like to film the final shoot as well.
I was nervous and sad as I reached Farringdon Station. Then suddenly I was confronted by the familiar smiling face of Alex Bamford. Alex, who had been so kind first on my shoot with him in February 2014 on the beach at Peacehaven when he photographed me naked in the moonlight and provided a dressing gown and a hot water bottle (and slippers?) and then again a few months later when he printed the labels for the exhibition as part of The Brighton Photo Fringe. I told him where I was going and somehow it felt right for him to be a witness to the end of this journey as he and his shoot summed up all the factors that had made the project what it was. The need to go further than I had gone before, to challenge myself and to expose my body and my feelings and to be met with simple acts of kindness in return. It is difficult to understand how it feels to be told you have an illness like Parkinson's. At the time, I thought I took it in my stride but with hindsight, I have understood more.
I found myself on the bank of a fast flowing river and I had fallen into the water and was flailing about and grabbed what seemed to be a branch of an overhanging tree but it was the paddle of a small boat being held out to me by an old man who was naked - as he hauled me to safety, I saw the light of the moon on his skin, his muscles, his hair and then his eyes which held that light as he looked down on me with such love and compassion that I was overcome with emotion as I collapsed on to the hard wooden floor of the boat. I lay there for a while as we moved slowly across the water. My saviour moved the boat so well or did the river move the boat? It was difficult to say. I tried to speak but no words came to my lips. I drifted off into a sleep accompanied by a harmony of sounds - water lapping against the creaking bow, the relieved breaths of slumber replacing the desperate heaving of my lungs and the soft whistle of a tune by the man who plunged the paddle into the water first one side and then the other. I woke in the sunlight of the morning to the muffled murmurs of voices. The boat was still moving. I raised myself up on one elbow and blinked. I was alone on the boat which nudged against the bank. I stood up and saw Jane. She was crying with tears of sadness and joy. She took the branch from my hand and threw it into the water and, as she did so, we looked over to the bank on the opposite side of the river. There was no tree, only the figure of a young man carrying a paddle walking away. He stopped, looked back and waved and then turned and disappeared into the long grass. I recognised him immediately.
After saying goodbye to Alex, I had a cup of tea at a cafe and then continued on the last part of my journey. I pressed the bell of the building and pushed the door which opened onto an iron staircase which clanged like a tolling bell as my steps took me up to the studio door. A man opened it and smiled. "Graeme?" I enquired. "No" he said and stood back to let me in. I saw another friendly face. "Graeme?" As he shook his head a voice said "Tim!" It was Graeme. I burst into tears. I think it was all too much for them all and I apologised squeakily between sobs.
A few hours later, into the afternoon, Graeme took this shot.
Call me good If you want a lover
Call me bad I'll do anything you ask me to
Call me anything you want to baby And if you want another kind of love
But I know that you're sad I'll wear a mask for you
And I know I'll make you happy If you want a partner take my hand, or
With the one thing that you never had If you want to strike me down in anger
Baby, I'm your man (don't you know that?) Here I stand
Baby, I'm your man. I'm your man.
- George Michael - Leonard Cohen