Thursday, 20 December 2018

CAROLINE BURROWS - Hide and Seek

I hardly got to see very many other exhibitions in the Brighton Photo Fringe and one I missed was Caroline Burrows' exhibition "See me Hide". I heard about it from a guy who wandered into mine and challenged me about the preponderance of nude photographs on display. Unfortunately, I cannot recall the reasons for his questioning but the good news was that it prompted me to look up Caroline's project online (the exhibition had ended) and I was intrigued by the honesty of the pictures and the rawness of the words or was it the other way round? It doesn't matter because the adjectives apply equally to both. 

I wrote to Caroline telling her about my projects and the exhibition and suggesting a collaboration. She then replied with these wonderful words about her work:-

Dear Tim,
Thank you for your lovely email. This project for me has been very empowering - creating images out of feeling desperate or shitty or full of rage has been cathartic, a way to get in touch with resilience and defiance rather than having to sit with and endure overwhelming feelings. Exhibiting it has been something else entirely! Seeing, hearing and reading people's reactions is fascinating, supportive, affirming, encouraging, positive. Your email confirms how this process of creating, whether from behind the camera, in front of it, or both, offers agency and empowerment and choice in who and how we can be.
I'm planning to come and see your exhibition towards the end of this week, so if you're there we can meet and have a chat I hope. Let me know when you're likely to be there and we can go from there.
Thank you again,
Caroline

She is a serious, thoughtful person and does not easily show emotion but I felt from the start that she was excited by my invitation. I put it to her that our reasons for exposing our bodies were similar in that we had both wanted to hide them when we were younger but nothing is ever that simple and the more that she explained, the more I realised this. There followed an interesting series of emails in which we discussed the difficulty of moving from self portraiture to photographing another person and her tendency to defer to the other person in such circumstances. We met a second time at my house and talked about a venue and what to wear; we were slowly formulating a plan for the shoot. She showed me some very personal poems that she had written and in the days that followed I felt the need to express my own feelings and sent her these words:-

Let me hear

You showed me the words,
Which I did not ask to read,
Which I needed to read,
Which you needed to show me,
Which I wanted to hear.
Your poems were strangely beautiful,
Beautifully expressed,
Beautifully composed;
They told a story,
A story of hell.


I cannot remember the question,
But I do remember the answer I gave,
Without mercy,
That I had, we had,
Given my own daughter the happiest of childhoods.
Soon you and I shall dance together,
And after, you shall tell another story,
In words and pictures.
A story of a woman and a man;
It will not be strange or beautiful
But normal and safe. 


Then the shoot itself. Caroline had worried beforehand about her inexperience as a photographer, especially compared to others I had worked with. I reassured her saying that her lack of experience
meant nothing to me - I was interested in the way she thought and expressed her feelings. It was awkward for both of us. Caroline did not say much but nevertheless, bit by bit we relaxed and tried different things and by the end, we were flying. The photographs show this progression and, good as they are, I feel that they are a stepping stone to more intimate and intense work which I am hoping we shall start soon.

 Whenever I begin a shoot, unless I am instructed otherwise, I wear a blank expression. This was my intention with this shot but I was surprised by the sadness in my face accentuated by the open collar of my shirt and the angle of the hat. I am sad, about the state of my body, my voice and my energy but this was completely unexpected.


   Not so sad but there is a poignancy and a pathos nevertheless. The great entertainer in front of a plain linen curtain and walls pitted with age.


I didn't know what Caroline would do when she entered the shot and she didn't know how I would react but it works. This time, she is the performer wearing her flamboyant hat whilst she strikes a subordinate pose in my presence.



One of the last shots as the music on the 78rpm record boomed out a jazzy Latin beat. I like the blur of my right arm whilst my left hand points to the exit.


Slightly funereal, waiting for something or someone. The rich colours contrast nicely. Enigmatic. Suggestive. Quiet.


Wanton. Passionate. Scarlet. I play to the crowd whilst my dancing partner "dies" in my arms. I adore the way Caroline's right hand hovers in the air ever so gently and how the outline of her slim bicep and the shadow of her armpit reveal a hidden strength and resilience in her frail figure. 


Is Caroline looking at me or the camera? Am I aware of her presence and what are my thoughts? A ghostly companion on the day with the bouquets of green vegetation and our clothing suggesting a celebratory theme.

Well, enough for now. I have learned a great deal through writing this piece and I hope that you will understand why I should want more.

seen - known. valued.
taken seriously. respected.
to be whole
a full sized person
not to fold myself into the spaces
left by other people
not to acquiesce, accommodate, hide.
                                                      - From "See me Hide" by Caroline Burrows

Caroline's project - See me hide - https://www.behance.net/carolineburrows

Sunday, 2 December 2018

OUT OF THE WOODS OF THOUGHT

(c) Rob Hudson


HUG NUMBER ONE:
This was me hugging myself for booking a place on Eventbrite for the talk to be given by the members of the Inside the Outside collective (plus Lynda Laird) at The Argentea Gallery in Birmingham on 1st December.

HUG NUMBER TWO:
Was for Jacqui Booth as we met for the first time in quite a while at Birmingham New Street Station. She too had booked a place on the talk. We walked to the gallery and enjoyed a nice chat over a pint and lunch at a pub just round the corner from St Paul's Square. Jacqui has strong connections with the group having exhibited with them at their show in Nottingham a few years ago.

HUG NUMBERS THREE, FOUR FIVE AND SIX:
These were for Rob Hudson, Steve Segasby, Al Brydon and Joe Wright respectively as we entered the gallery and then at Rob's suggestion, a GROUP HUG with the all of them followed by a kiss and a squeeze from the lovely Jennie Anderson, the owner of the Gallery. 

HUG NUMBER SEVEN:
This was for the work on display. It shocked me how good it was and how emotional I felt looking at it. First, there were Al Brydon's brilliant solargraphs which fizzed and blazed on the wall. It was interesting later when a member of the audience raised a question which prompted a discussion about how the works on display spoke for themselves but also how they told a story as the speakers revealed more about their creation during their individual talks. Al spoke particularly about how fascinated he was about how his solargraphs represented periods of time in his life and made him wonder how he and his life had changed over that period. As he spoke, I looked again at the work on the wall behind him and on the screen and they had now become infused with a deeper significance.

Then Joseph Wright's series, "The Floods", dripping with mournful tone and form. The richness of the wash of colour which Joe achieves is incredible. An audience member also complimented Joe on the beauty of his book making and Joe spoke with great humility and love about how much of himself is invested in each volume. I am the grateful and proud recipient of a book of photographs made by Joe and can attest to the love and care put into making it.

The series of photographs by the lovely Brian David Stevens is desperately moving. There is a terribly sad photograph showing a single BT telephone box which is a moving metaphor for the end of the line reached by the many people who have used the cliffs at Beachy Head to end their lives. The irony is that the image is beautifully shot - it provokes a similar wrenching sense of loss as those taken by Chloe Dewe Matthews in her "series "Shot at Dawn" although perhaps more immediate as the deaths at Beachy Head are so recent and continue to occur.

Lynda Laird introduced herself and confirmed that she would like to collaborate on something with me which thrills me beyond measure as I adored her incredible images printed on silk showing the shots of old military bunkers and the surrounding landscape of trees awash with bleeding red. These pictures are truly astonishing but more amazement hit me as I wondered at Rob Hudson's photographs from his series "Mametz Wood", an eerie world of shape and texture which I feel lucky to have visited twice with Rob. His work is magical and poetic.

Then the fearsome set by Steve Segasby, "Malevolence" with its frightening blotches of black which, in the same week we lost Nicolas Roeg, call to mind Roeg's own wonderful cinematography and imagery in "Don't Look Now" although the stains are red in that film - maybe the black blood in "Psycho" is more relevant.There is a strong link here with Al Brydon's bubbles and stains caused by rain leaking into his beer cans containing the strips of film.

Then, finally, wonderful work by Tom Wilkinson, JM Golding and Guy Dickinson which stirs the soul and delights the eye and will prompt me to look at their work in more detail.

In the end, a great five hours in Birmingham ending with a mad dash for the train and a sound sleep all the way to Euston and then home to tell Jane all about it.

A great gallery, a great show and only an hour and a half from London - it continues until 21st December  - DON'T MISS!!

Monday, 12 November 2018

MEGAN BENDALL - A New Landscape

I read the sad story of Megan's mother. Sad? No, that is the wrong word. There was a sadness about it but I did not come away feeling down. - I felt uplifted, I suppose because Megan's reaction to her mother's illness and death was a positive one. In her sadness, she had, at the same time found that her photography became a means of expressing her grief, her love of her mother and her family. In this respect, we had a connection because I could have succumbed quite easily to my illness but I found that, weirdly, photography saved me and this positivism has led to other projects involving the past and family.

Anyway, enough of all that.


I contacted Megan first in January 2018 through Twitter and I looked up her website and particularly liked her photographs of Colin the Cello maker which were taken with such care and love and reminded me of the film "Un Couer en Hiver" and the similar approach by the director, Claude Sautet, to the violin making by Daniel Autieul. They spoke of a deep respect for her fellow humans and their endeavours. Then in October 2018, having forgotten my original approach, I sent another email this time prompted by her extraordinary series of images of and about her mother.


Megan travelled down from Cheltenham for the shoot and I met her at Brighton Station. She has a very open countenance and we started chatting immediately and that basically continued for the rest of the day. We talked about all sorts of things but mainly the past and our respective mothers. Megan is young but I do feel that our future is in good hands with such sensitive souls having an influence even if those hands have been tied by the Brexit situation - now that is sad. 
 

Megan and I moved around the house and she took photographs in various rooms, each one lit up by her charm and her warmth. I feel certain that Megan is going to succeed in all she does because she is aware of how little time we have and she has the capacity to fill that time with her talent for looking into peple's lives and telling their stories with pictures of them and their environment.


One only has to look at the photograph of her mother in her portfolio on her website to understand the heart that beats inside Megan.

WEBSITE: https://www.meganbendall.com/

Sunday, 11 November 2018

HOLLY WREN - Bad Santa.


I received an email in October 2018 from the lovely Holly Wren explaining that she was putting together a few shoots featuring Santa when he was "off-work" and that she needed a Santa Claus and asking if I would be up for this. Well, I thought about it for a nanosecond and replied in the affirmative. Of course I did. My two previous shoots with Holly were such fun and she is a very nice person as well as an excellent photographer. Also, at present, I have a pot belly that would rival the real Santa's tummy.

The shoot took place in a very swanky restaurant in Mayfair which, for the shoot, doubled up as an upmarket but sleazy night club. Holly explained that she was going to photograph me in a number of attitudes and then was going to use one model and photograph her in various poses around me and then photoshop these shots in so that it looked as if I was taking time out surrounded by several sexy hostesses. 

I travelled up to London from Brighton by train and walked from the underground through Mayfair and looked at the well dressed people and the shop windows and thought how far removed most of society is from this world of money. When I arrived, Holly introduced me to her assistant, Hayley, who was very nice and that helped me relax although the atmosphere was very friendly because everyone had worked together before. Eventually, I was shown upstairs and met Charlotte, the make-up artist, and her identical twin sister, Shiv, who was helping her. Charlotte had also agreed to be the model and she was already dressed and made up. She then made me up and stuck on my beard and moustache and, while she was doing this, we all chatted and got to know each other which helped when it came to the shooting because I think it was Charlotte's first stint as a model and, although she had been on similar sets before, it was never like this. She was excellent as you can see and it was great fun to do.

Hayley then asked if she could take a selfie with me and I felt somehow honoured when she also asked if she could film me as Santa sending a message to her children for Christmas and later, I did the same for Charlotte for her children. 

Eventually, my bit was done and, after removing my beard etc (with Shiv's help), I said goodbye to them all and left them to finish shooting. On the way home, I thought how different life has been since I ended "Over the Hill" in 2016 - not so frenetic and full on - it is calmer and slower and I have more time to dwell on my physical and mental states which is not necessarily a good thing . However, every so often, I dip my toe into the water and experience the zing that comes with a shoot like this, and it lifts me up as did the photograph when it arrived.

From left - Hayley, Charlotte, Me, Holly and Shiv
Holly and Me
WEBSITE: https://www.hollywren.com/

Friday, 2 November 2018

ANDY O'HARA - Just as the sun was rising


In the early days of "Over the Hill", I would approach just about anyone who held a camera but then this began to change and I only contacted those photographers whose work I particularly liked. Now and again, I would be asked by a  photographer if he or she could photograph me and this made me feel uncomfortable because, what if I didn't like their work? I would have to say that and who was I to comment on their work in this way? 

Well, this happened recently during the course of the "Over Hills and Seas" exhibition when, one day, Andy O'Hara and his partner, Eleni, came to look at the show and I fell into conversation with them during which I was asked if I would be happy to accept an approach from a photographer. I explained my position and asked if they had a card and I would look at the work and then contact them if I was interested. I looked at Andy's work on his website and the portraits had a quietness and a power that I warmed to but, more than that, I thought back to our brief meeting and recalled Andy's quiet reserve and I felt that this revealed in his photographs a depth of thought and sensitivity that could be the foundation of an interesting collaboration.And so this is how Andy, his camera and I ended up together at Devils Dyke at sunrise one brisk and sunny morning in early November.

And these excellent pictures are the result.

The one above was truly collaborative. I suggested that I run and Andy went with that but, when I received the set of images from Andy, I wasn't convinced that they all worked - as I said - what do I know? But this one does because Andy made it work. First of all, he preferred black and white which gives the shot a certain authenticity and I love the folds in the coat and, in particular, I love the strangeness of a guy running across the grass in this landscape. Is he running from something? Is there fear in his face or possibly a smile? Maybe he is running purely for the sheer joy of it.

Then the others below. Simple. Quiet. Deep. They come from Andy's soulful look at the world and from the almost immediate connection we made with each other as Andy climbed into the car and we began to chat. 


Andy said at the time that I looked like a crime writer in some of these but my thought on receiving the photographs was that I resembled more a windswept Irish poet. I think we were both wrong because, when I look at them now, I really do feel that they are the genuine article - portraits of me, Tim Andrews.

This one recalls to mind the shot taken by Antonio Olmos in the long grass in 2015 and I told Andy of that day prompted by his direction that l walk through the long grass specifically for this shot. As always, I yap away on these occasions about previous shoots and I trust that my companion doesn't mind. After all, they are, every one of them, part of my photographic family. Andy became a very worthy member that day. The photographs above and below are indisputable proof of that.


After the last shot, we both fancied a hot drink but the cafe had not yet opened so we drove back into town and Andy invited me in for a cup of tea. He hurried on ahead to warn Eleni who was in the middle of ironing but was very welcoming. Tea was served in Beatle mugs and I discovered that Eleni was a great fan so there followed a lot of Beatle talk. Eventually, I took my leave and shook Andy by his hand thanking him for the morning. I drove home thinking that all one needs is love - it's easy. All together now...everybody.......



Wednesday, 31 October 2018

MIRJA PALJAKKA - A New Beginning Part Two


My body, draped over a rock on the beach, lit by a gentle sun. It is part of the landscape but no more natural than the rock itself. There is a small glimpse of the sea beyond my knees and the sky is brushed with pastel blues, pinks and greys. My skin is soft and fleshy and warm on the slab of grey. Only a person who loves nature as Mirja does, could compose such an image. She has placed on the rock, a stone in the shape of a heart but there is only the romance of the natural that is present. We are friends with a single aim - to understand how friendship can develop from names printed on a computer to our eventual meeting and the search for a picture or an album which will explain a mutual love of humanity and the natural world.


A shower of movement. Me on the edge of the sea in the early morning - why do l love photographs like these? They are like paintings with different shades of blue topped by the creamy sky. Who is this person and why is he here? What does he think about? Scratches of darkness and light slap against his shadowy body - who is he?



The odd-shaped man reappears. In 1983, we went on holiday to Minorca. our villa overlooked a cliff and one day I went off exploring and Jane took a photograph of me in the distance, staring out to sea and my shape with pot belly was very similar to this. However, in 2018, Mirja has composed a more interesting image with a little troupe of equally odd-shaped beings standing on guard with me on the edge of the land.


I like the incongruity of this photograph. The runner and I are there for different purposes but for the same reason. We want solitude to do what we want to do. The body is in the same position as in the first photograph above except that the angle of the camera this time reveals more. A beautifully composed shot.

A gaze away into the light. Relaxed and easy as Mirja circles me and examines me.


Go on, dive in. I couldn't but I liked putting my feet in the sea one more time before winter comes.....




A selection ending with the beginning - no nerves, just Mirja and I taking photographs - as easy as pie. We did it but I felt that it was unfinished business and that there is more to come.

WEBSITE: https://mirjapaljakka.weebly.com/

Sunday, 28 October 2018

MIRJA PALJAKKA - A New Beginning Part One

"Catastrophe! Catastrophe!" These were the first words uttered by Mirja as she and her son Aaro  arrived at our front door on 16th October 2018. They had booked our basement rooms on AirBnB and, having taken the taxi from the taxi rank near the coach station, they had paid the driver on arrival at our house and then watched him whizz off with a holdall, containing their laptop, still on the back seat. I drove them to the taxi rank and from there made several telephone calls and tracked down the driver who said he had the bag and would drop it off later. We drove back home, relieved at having avoided that catastrophe only for me to run into two pedestrians who thought it might be a good idea to cross the road at the same time as I was turning into it. I was horrified and pulled over but, according to Mirja and Aaro, they just carried on walking and so clearly were unhurt. Nothing like a few dramas to welcome Mirja back again to UK.  

We dined out at the Fish & Chip restaurant on the corner of Regency Square and I attempted to engage the handsome Aaro in conversation. It wasn't easy for either of us but I saw enough to know that, once relaxed, Aaro like his sister before him, would begin not only to enjoy himself but also that people he met would also enjoy talking to him.

We were all pretty tired so they bade me goodnight and Mirja and I agreed to meet in the morning at 6.30 for our shoot.

Morning. 17th October. Warmer than is usual at this time of year. l shower and get dressed and wait. There is something very magical about meeting someone before sunrise and then going off on a little adventure together. I have this thought - what if Mirja has overslept and we miss the morning light? The clock strikes 6.30. I hear a sound followed by a quiet tap on the door. Mirja wants to talk. She is excited but I put my finger to my lips and she stops but once we drive away, we both start chatting. We arrive at the beach at Southwick and Mirja adores the black shadows of the industrial buildings overlooking the sea. We disturb a couple in a parked van and they stop what they are doing and peer at us as if to say "What the fuck....? ".

We begin. A few shots clothed but nude after all the way after these. It feels right in these circumstances. Mirja directs. I make a few suggestions. She worries about me being cold and, eventually, I am cold. We bring it to an end. We flirt with the idea of swimming but it's just a bit too rough. And cold.  I dress and we go for breakfast at the beach cafe and talk thoroughly and urgently, both keen to catch up and say what we have been saving up to say. 

Later. I am tired and so Mirja and Aaro go exploring around Brighton. The Panel Discussion. I know Mirja is nervous but she knows what she is going to say and speaks, as always, from the heart and the applause is warm and well deserved. Rob Hudson has sent a message saying that he cannot come due to problems with the bloody railways. We try to call him as the talk begins but he is out shopping and doesn't answer. Mirja is disappointed but meeting Steve Segasby and Valda Bailey and the others makes up for it. Afterwards, Mirja, Aaro and I join Steve Segasby and his friend Angus Carlyle in the pub. Alex Bamford and Phil Blume join us later. I am so tired by then and, although happy to chat, after a few beers I am almost out for the count so much so that when I first began writing this piece, I had forgotten that Mirja and Aaro were even there. Mirja reminded me of this and of the stumble (my stumble) back to our house to Jane who had gone straight home after the Panel Discussion - I think!

The next day. We go to the Devil's Dyke and it blows them both away. Aaro is very taken by the scenery. I watch him walk over the grass and he looks so slim and handsome. We chat in the cafe while we wait for Mirja to finish photographing outside and I warm to him. He is decisive, personable and has a dry wit. He supports Manchester United but you can't have everything.

Goodbye. Again, Mirja and I hug goodbye at Brighton Station. Our time together is over but, in our hearts, we know that our friendship is stronger and we shall meet again. 

The Photographs. They arrive suddenly. l am transfixed. They are good. They are very good. I find I look at them as reminders of special moments working with Mirja. The time I spend with each photographer is unique. It has anticipation, excitement and connection. These images are evidence of that and it was a time that was special - the photographs are the proof. Mirja knows this and sends through an assortment that tells a story of a burgeoning friendship between an English person and a Finnish person. At all other times, we live different lives but, for a few hours on a beach in East Sussex on 17th October, all that was pushed to one side and filled with just us. Then the waves of family life and love and wash over the pebbles and the sand and all trace of us disappears....until the next time.

PART TWO with photographs to follow.