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 answer was the same. It was the experiences....definitely.....

And I fell asleep.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019


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 

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.
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,
but me.

LENKA RAYN H -The Beautiful Truth

When I saw examples of Lenka's recent work, I wanted immediately to be subjected to her camera's gaze again and I asked if she might also agree to be part of the images. Lenka readily agreed to the first request but was not sure about committing to the second. It wasn't no but it wasn't yes.

Well, she did stand in some of the shots but, when she looked through them all, some weeks later, she decided that, stylistically, they did not work and I accepted that and so here we are, the results of my second shoot with Lenka. And they are beautiful photographs - absolutely stunningly beautiful - of a broken man. A man with a disease who cannot walk properly and cannot speak properly. I am merely biding my time before I go. But! before that has happened, I have been privileged to be photographed a second time by an incredible artist. 

For example, the picture above says so much. What you see immediately is my silver hair and the broad expanse of my back. Then you wonder why I am turned away from the viewer. Have I turned my back on the world or has it turned its back on me? Both are true. When I waddle down the street, people either stare, look away or nudge the guy they are with and nod in my direction. Of course there is an element of paranoia but I have seen the nudge and the stare. I have not imagined it.

This second picture I adore. My hands rest palliatively on my legs which for a few moments are not having to support my bulbous stomach (see below). My thigh muscles are lit beautifully showing the shallow curve of my right leg and again, below the knee, there is just a tinge of light brushing my shin. All is calm, all is tranquil, all is beauty. Not the beauty of a seemingly perfect magazine body but the beauty of the combination of light, shadow and colour conjured up by Lenka. At one point, she dropped her camera down from her face and we both smiled at each other in the sure knowledge that we were on the same wavelength and capturing the truth. 

This third photograph says it all. And why not?

I am 68. I have Parkinson's Disease. I am fat and my breasts are held up not by muscle but by the lump of stomach below. My willy lies dormant and appears to draw my gaze but, in fact, the bend of my head speaks of exhaustion from life, love and loneliness. The light is gentle, even the dab on my shoulder which emphasises the bearing of a heavy load, physical as well as emotional.

"You lookin' at me?"

My mother would have said, "shoulders back and stomach in" - halcyon days of my youth when I was so skinny that she called me "Belsen" - she never was politically correct at the best of times.

The final three below are like a triptych of naked clowns. Lenka did not retouch the nails or the plug socket in the wall behind me as she felt that these strengthened the story of fragility and reality of the images and I agree totally. In the first shot, my head is again bent down but, this time, my gaze is more obviously directed rather than hanging as a result of exhaustion. The second shot does at least contain a self-portrait of Lenka hanging from a nail on the wall. It would have been interesting to see the real thing standing next to me but I trust Lenka's judgement.

The final shot. Lenka was not going to include this one but then felt that there was something about it  which meant that she found that she could not exclude it. I said to her that I thought it was my expression. I have a quizzical look which says "What's it all about, Alfie?*" combined with a beautiful glow on my torso and the sad light on my foreskin.

They are the truth, the beautiful truth. The more l look at them, the more wonderful they become. They are magical and Lenka is the magician. No-one else could have taken these photographs and they are what l was searching for when l asked her if she might consider another shoot.

I love them. l hate my present state. C'est ca.

It is interesting that, when Lenka was asked to pose a question that would be put to me at the talk at the London Institute of Photography earlier this month, her question was:-
“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?”

A beautiful person and a great artist and l feel so, so special to have been photographed by Lenka Rayn H (no, I don't know what the 'H' stands for either) - twice!


*The opening lines to the title song of the 1966 film, "Alfie", composed by Burt Bacharch and Hal David

Sunday, 7 July 2019


I came whistling down the corridors past Room 237, then 236 then a door with no number and then Room 235. Friends were there and greeted me as I walked in - Michael, Clare, Phil, Tim B and, of course, Jane, wonderful Jane, infuriating Jane, crazy-mixed-up-kid Jane, beautiful Jane, talented-up-to-her-eyeballs Jane.

yesterday tomorrow 

If you have to ask then you might as well go back to first principles. "Those that ask, don't get" - I'm not sure that I agree with that dictum. I think that, however open or closed the viewer's mind, he or she will always come away with something from a show containing work by Jane Andrews. It hits you smack between the eyes - the colour, the humour, the defiance, the poignancy. It blazes with ideas, quests and possibilities. A look, a long look, at the first piece opens you up for the next one. You want to scramble under the bed clothes in "Yesterday, Tomorrow" and see what the fuck is going on with the poor creature under there.

St. Teresa Pray for Me

"If you ever meet a nun, lift your cap". Have you ever met a nun like St Teresa? With arms, fingers, feet and teeth in her care but out of her control. Lift her cap and what do you find? Rotten gums, atrophied tissue or an empty shell under a forbidding sky - well, step inside the rubber ring and float about among the detritus and you will discover that the answer lies in your own mind.

Keep the Home Fires Burning
"Bye, busy backsun". Even a bear with little brain will love this room -it has a little smackerel of something for all the animals in the wood.

I am not going to comment on any more except to say that there are surprises galore. The MA show at Brighton University 58-67 Grand Parade, Brighton BN2 0JY is on until Saturday 13th July. It is open today until 4pm and every day thereafter from 10am to 5pm. The caretakers/security clear the place on the dot of closing time so, give yourself plenty of time not only to enjoy Room 235 but also the rest of an excellent show. 

I  really, really don't want to talk about it any more.

....and Pooh lay back with his paws under his head and asked himself "What are all these honey bees doing, buzzing around in my head?" And the more he wondered and found it difficult to understand, the more he liked the feeling the buzzing gave him. He got up and said to himself I must tell Piglet about this and he set off for Piglet's house. He found Piglet nailing a sign to his front door - it said "MiNe" Piglet sat down to rest and Pooh sat next to him and they both looked at the sign. After a while, Pooh said "Piglet, when you thought of what to write on that sign, did you feel a buzzing feeling inside your head?" Piglet thought back a few hours. He had thought of putting a door knocker under the sign but maybe a buzzer would be better. But he was tired of putting things on his door and said "I really, really, don't want to talk about it anymore " and Pooh closed his eyes and said "I understand".........