Monday, 4 November 2019

LOUISE FAGO-RUSKIN - Gunwalloe

(c) Louise Fago-Ruskin

On 18th December 2018, I am given an early Christmas present; I discover the work of Louise Fago-Ruskin. It is unusual. She states on her website that she aims "to deploy the camera much like a contemporary confessional box". When I read that, I said to myself, 'take me there!'. And over three days and two nights, that is what she did.

We first met in Brighton where she used to live. She had come over from Exeter to see her aged grandmother in her rest home and we arranged a meeting at my home. We talked - I cannot remember what about but there weren't any gaps and she departed with us both looking forward eagerly to the next time when she would photograph me.

On 4th November 2019, I travel down by rail to Cornwall. I watch the fields and trees of the southern counties of England flit by

To me it is home,
It is the green and the gold,
Where I was young,
Where I’ll grow old.

Louise catches my train at Exeter and we text but do not meet until we both alight on the platform at Penzance and hug as old friends hug, with smiles of joy and remembrance and also anticipation. After buying some provisions in the supermarket and Louise recovers from the shock of the beauty of the view from my brother's house in Gunwalloe, we talk at length about so many things - our lives, music, photography and the ideas for our shooting over the next two days. We have an early night and the next morning, I write in my room before I shower and dress and then lay the table. Louise joins me for breakfast and we talk some more about what she plans to do.

I do not feel that I reveal any secrets,
Nor discover any.
It is refreshing this advent;

Louise, dressed for the part in green overalls, begins with her Mamiya film camera and then her Rolleiflex. I love the clunking noise of the Mamiya. I love its size and its weight but, gradually, Louise defers to the digital camera which surprises her. I tell her the story of David Lynch vowing never to revert to using film after using a digital camera, wondering at the same time if I had told her the story before. I tell her that I like her overalls. She thanks me for the compliment but points out gently that it is a jump suit. 

You looked cute,
In your trendy jump suit.....

I loved your commanding presence today
I loved your assurance, your acceptance, your balance.



Louise is very keen on using props and she shows me a collection of some interesting items she had brought with her including a large ball of string and a pair of antlers. We have a break for lunch and carry on shooting through the afternoon around the house and end up in garden after darkness sets in. We then call it a day and open a bottle of wine and have a lovely steak for supper and watch some of my films. She loves "On top of the world". We each have an early night - it has been an intense day. She has worked hard and it takes its toll as we decide the following day to take it easy and she takes some still lifes. Nevertheless, we both know there is more to come so there is no disappointment. 

Louise is a lovely companion and a very intuitive photographer. I have really enjoyed her company and hope my hug at Penzance station is sufficient evidence of how much. I return to the house and, over the next day and a half I relax and write.....



The rain clouds pass by,

Taking their ammunition elsewhere,

I stand outside the bay window (yes, that one)

And watch them follow the horizon

They disappear.

All things must pass;

One day, sadness,

Another day, joy.

In between, we pick an apple from a tree

And,

We eat it,

Without guilt,

For each day is for living.



WEBSITE: http://www.louisefagoruskin.co.uk/

Thursday, 10 October 2019

AND FAR AWAY : A Continuing Journey

(c) Rachel Maloney

From. 2007 to 2016, I was photographed by 425 photographers. Some of them photographed me more than once. Between them, they took thousands of photographs in different styles, using different camera and ideas and concepts. I called this project "Over the Hill". I did not have one bad experience. I could have gone on and, as Rankin said, go for the 500 but I felt that there had to be an end point - I wanted to put it all into a box, tie it up with ribbon and put it on the shelf and, every so often, take it down and marvel at all the wonderful people I had met and experiences I had had and places I had been.

However, I did not want to stop seeing these guys but I wanted to try a different approach which was not all about numbers and choosing one image from each shoot. I wanted to go further (whatever that meant). So, I continued approaching photographers but with a view to examining the whole shoot and also the intellectual and emotional connection with the photographer. So began "And Far Away"......

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Over the Hill and Far Away at the LIP

Thursday, 3rd October 2019, I was walking along along Brick Lane with my music playing in my earphones and remembering the many times I had walked on this street before when I had gate-crashed Free Range, the annual coming together of all the Photography degree shows in the Truman Brewery building. So many people - the lovely Claudine Quinn, Mauro Sanna whose photographs of me and another male model looked so convincing, the fantastic and varied work of Giulia Zucchetti, Inzajeano Latif with whom I spent only 20 minutes with on the shoot but who speaks so lovingly when we correspond every so often and many, many more.

The most recent time I was here was last August when I spoke at an event arranged by London Institute of Photography. Tonight, I was attending the Private View of the 31st Anniversary Exhibition of the members of the London Independent Photography group (LIP) at the invitation of Colleen Rowe Harvey who had organised the whole thing. It was held at the Espacio Gallery in Bethnal Green Road and, when I arrived, it was already quite full.

I locked eyes with Colleen almost immediately and, as every good host does, she introduced me to the person standing next to me who happened to be consultant psychotherapist Dr Jeannette (that's two 'Ns') Josse, who looked exquisite in her brightly coloured jacket and I said so. She had two photographs on display. We were standing next to one, a picture of her mother's photograph album which she had brought over to England before the Second World War. It was a beautiful photograph and the way in which it had been lovingly composed reminded me of Celine Marchbank's images of her own mother's bookshelves in her book "Tulip".

I went off in search of Jeannette's other photograph whilst Jeannette waited for her family to arrive. I kept bumping into Colleen who looked increasingly flushed with the success of her evening and justifiably so, because the place was now throbbing. I asked to be introduced to Mieke Thomas whose glorious black and white close up studies of of horses reminded me of Tim Flach's work which had influenced Emma Tunbridge's pictures of me in 2008. I met Nick Simpson at the top of the stairs and we swapped stories of Skegness and spoke of a possible shoot together. Eventually, I left and stepped back again on the street with another memory pack lodged in my addled brain.

Friday 4th October 2019. 5pm. An early supper in Suvlaki, a great little Greek restaurant in Brick Lane where I meet Colleen and Nicolas Laborie to chat and gather our thoughts about the evening ahead. Nicolas is a wonderful man who is a very enthusiastic supporter of my projects "Over the Hill" and "...And Far Away" and who kindly agreed to chair the discussion about them. I had suggested we include both Astrid Schulz (a member of LIP) and Louise Haywood-Schiefer on the panel to talk about their work and their experience of working with me. The audience slowly filed in and included two more of 'my' photographers, Gemma Day and Vanja Karas, as well as my brother and my son and his girlfriend. Colleen opened the evening with some introductions and then gave way to Nicolas who deftly chaired the remaining discussions. First of all, I read out the piece I had written a few years ago after I had brought "Over the Hill" to an end.

We borrowed Dave Wares' idea from his film of me which is that we asked some of my photographers to send in questions to be put to me on the night, the most intriguing was the question from Lanka Rayn H. who asked the following:-


“You have often shared in your blog not just how the photographs were taken, but also the experiences and memories from the day spent with people that you have often not previously met before.

If you had to choose between only having the memories from the day or only be left with the photographs that were taken, but have no recollection of the day which would you choose?

The experiences or the images?”
My answer was "The experiences".

We showed my film "bubble" and I read out my poem "Let me Hear" written to Caroline Burrows just before our first shoot together. And then, after some very interesting questions from the audience, we ended the evening with my Zorro film "Todo!".

Me and Louise

I chatted to some people afterwards and then Louise and I reprised the kick which we had executed together on the two occasions we had met previously. I said my goodbyes with hugs and kisses and my son and Clare, his girlfriend, and I wandered off and had a quiet drink together at The Carpenters' pub which was just right after a quite emotional evening.

I started writing this on the train home but my eyelids began to droop with Lenka's choice swimming around in my head. I thought of all the photographs which had been shown to the audience and they are all wonderful shots but....but....my answer was the same. It was the experiences....definitely.....

And I fell asleep.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

PAULENE AND I by TINA ROWE



I met Paulene when she kindly allowed the photographer, Tina Rowe, to use her yoga studio in Dalston as a location for Tina's oyster shell shots of me in the nude. She waited until the shoot was over before introducing herself and I felt that this discretion was interesting. Paulene joined me and Tina and her assistant Marcelo at the local cafe later and there was a period of a few minutes when we chatted together. She has a fascinating face. Its beauty is enhanced by her eyes which are full  of kindness and seem to challenge but not aggressively - they invite you to open your mind, without fear, and communicate....which I did and, at the same time, I noticed her calmness in her conversation and her easy ability to flit from chat to deeper discussion and enjoy both. I came away sensing that, behind the visage, there was a story to be told but one which would unfold slowly, if it was told at all.



One of the subjects we discussed was books and she recommended a few by Thomas Pynchon and when I was writing an email to thank her, I thought how good it would be to be photographed together and to ask Tina to do the photographing. I asked them both and they agreed. Apart from the recent shoots with Caroline Burrows and Lenka Rayn H and one or two shoots as part of "Over the Hill" this was a new departure for me. I suggested to Paulene that we pose clothed, looking at each other; she wore a brilliant retro grey/green two piece suit on the day although we tried out various poses all of which involved us communicating in some way.



It was fun, it was different and it was easy and these are the results - more wonderful work by Tina. In the process, I got to know Paulene a bit better. Only a little bit but a little bit that went a long way. Communication and connection of the best kind.

Monday, 2 September 2019

CAROLINE BURROWS - Together again

"Let's get some fresh air" said Caroline. We had moved from room to room at my house and had taken some interesting shots but I think that Caroline wanted to change tack and the picture above is among her favourites and I like it too. I like it a lot - the angle of the red cloth, the way it catches the light, the contrast of colours and the seagull heading along the beach which is tucked into the right hand corner to complete the composition.

Caroline is a strong person. She fears that she doesn't take charge enough but, if you give her room, she does and the decision to move outside, which sounds simple enough, was symptomatic of this inner strength. And this, in some ways, explains her liking of the photograph in that it came about as a consequence of her taking charge but it is a great shot for me because also it represents so well how the shoot, and our relationship, was progressing at that point.

In complete contrast, the silhouettes below were suggested by me. There have been a few occasions when I have made suggestions and often they have not worked. I think this is why I could never aspire to be a photographer but I do like these. They are staged but they also represent the mood of the shoot - together and apart - together in friendship and in a common venture, apart physically and with our separate thoughts. 


 
Earlier, there was a surprise. Caroline asked me lie on the floor and close my eyes. I heard her set up the camera on the tripod and then press the timer. As it beeped, I felt her lie next to me and then as the beeps quickened, she blew into my ear and above is the resulting shot. At that point, it broke the rapidly melting ice and made way for other shots together but I haven't seen them and so obviously they did not make the cut as far as Caroline was concerned. 






Above is small selection of the remainder - all excellent and leaving me wanting to see Caroline again to discuss if and when and where we go next in our collaboration. 

"The untold want, by life and land ne'er granted,
Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find."
- Walt Whitman 

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

LINDA LIEBERMAN - What a wonderful world

(C) Linda Lieberman

Linda Lieberman is a beautiful person with goodness oozing out of every pore. When she smiles it is like taking a sip of the smoothest brandy and feeling it slip down past your tongue and warm and intoxicate your whole body. She is such an assured photographer and yet she seems nervous as she gives a running commentary whilst she sets up her shot. It is the rush of adrenalin as she begins to reach for the shot which she has been planning and dreaming about for months beforehand. She has loaded the roll of film in the camera and returns to the room, adjusts the position of the cross on my shoulder "... that goes here..." and then places the camera on the tripod "...just so...are you warm enough, Tim?" She steps forward and adjusts the position of a bottle on my back "....that goes there...and, Tim, maybe crouch down just a little more...perfect..." She returns to the camera "...look at the camera..." and, remembering my difficulty in keeping completely still "...ok...one, two, THREE!" The shutter clicks. "Beautiful...now what's next?....not much longer now and then you can rest...." 

Each shot has the same concentration lavished on it. "You'll tell me if you're tired, Tim..." I won't because I want the shot to show the same fear that Linda feels about the contamination of the seas by our plastic and I don't want to break the mood. Linda doesn't direct me but has subtly explained beforehand what is happening to our oceans and the fish and other creatures which inhabit them through this relentless onslaught of bottles and packaging after which I know exactly what level of seriousness she wants.

There is a small break each time Linda replaces a roll of film. I stretch but remain in position until she returns and we are off again.

And then the same weird mixture of relief and disappointment as she calls a halt. I dress whilst she puts the film to one side and clears a space for a light lunch and we chat as we eat. We chat about personal feelings and experiences and we sigh and laugh and then chat some more.

She insists on driving me to Victoria but apologises for stopping on the way to hand in the films to be developed. She exhibits the same impeccable manners when driving as she has done all day but she is a clever driver and is used to the London traffic and I feel relaxed as I step out and kiss her quickly before she disappears into the car and nips off.

Several weeks later I receive this shot. What can I say? It works brilliantly. Linda is very pleased. What a wonderful place this world is while Linda is here. What a wonderful place the world would be if everyone showed the same concern as she does about the damage we have caused and are still causing.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

LENKA RAYN H - Home - Part One

I stepped on the cobbles
leading to your garden gate.
you stood up
in a blue dress
I returned your wave.
home,
I felt I was coming home.
we arrived at the gate at the same time.
your open face,
full of smile and wonder,
greeted me.
I entered your house made of wood.
I entered your soul.
the floorboards creaked
it was as if the house was sighing.
we talked in circles
you pulled the curtain aside.
your dog, Kaja, was asleep.
the floor was covered in grey
you photographed me.
you stood behind me
and clicked
then it was over.
we ate,
we talked,
I drank cordial.
you invited me to walk with you and Kaja
but I declined.
I left,
I did not look back
until now.
I understand,
everything,
but me.