Wednesday, 11 January 2017

OVER THE HILL: A PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY

OVER THE HILL by Roberto Foddai

          
‘Alright boys, this is it, over the hill’ is the intro of the song “Bring on Lucie” by John Lennon and, although the phrase ‘over the hill’ has somewhat negative connotations, it is announced on the record in a very positive way by Lennon who goes on to sing ‘Do it, do it, do it, do it now!’ and so, for me, the title of this exhibition is optimistic despite the double meaning.

In May 2007, I answered an advertisement in Time Out from Graeme Montgomery, whom I know now to be an extremely talented professional photographer. He was compiling a book of nudes and wanted to photograph the first 100 people to answer the advert so I thought ‘why not?’ and went along and found that I was number one! Strangely enough, two other photographers advertised in the following two issues of Time Out, this time for people to pose for portraits, and they both photographed me subsequently. That was that for a while until, in February 2008, I answered an advert in our local newspaper from a student, Daisy Lang, who wanted to photograph people with illnesses for her final year’s project. Subsequently, I discovered that there were many photographers advertising on the Internet for models for particular projects. I wrote an email to the first photographer explaining that I was 57 and had Parkinson’s Disease and that ‘I wanted to continue on my path of being photographed by different people during the course of my illness’. Suddenly, as I wrote those words, I realised that I had my own project.

Since then, over 400 different photographers have photographed and filmed me and it has been incredibly interesting and exciting as I have seen the project develop day by day. I have met many wonderful, skilful people many of whom, normally, I would never have met let alone spent several hours with them.

It has been a fascinating journey. I have always loved photography but never had the patience or skill to practice it successfully. However, being a model has enabled me to collaborate with brilliant practitioners of the art and to be part of the artistic photographic process.

I decided on "Over the Hill" as the title of the project in January 2009 but I had not discussed this with anyone until I met Roberto Foddai a few weeks later to talk about his ideas for our shoot. He produced two pieces of headgear he wanted me to wear and said that one of them had some wording on it which he felt was somewhat ironic. He turned it over and on the front were the words  – ‘Over the Hill’.
Free the people, now.
Do it, do it, do it, do it now.

Tim Andrews


Saturday, 7 January 2017

I'M YOUR MAN by Graeme Montgomery THE FINAL SHOOT Part Two

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