I shall start this entry in Tim’s words from his blog;
“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 300 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.”
Seven years later the project still runs and I was to become photographer 334 in Tim’s marathon project in early March this year. We met in The Mad Hatter cafe a week before the shoot. Every so often our paths cross with someone whose presence you feel immediately comfortable with and that was certainly the case with Tim. It is as the cliche goes, like you have known them for longer than those few moments you have just met. Tim Andrews is a man who has defined himself rather more post Parkinson’s Disease than before in his previous life as a lawyer I feel. Rather than sitting back and waiting for nature to do it’s thing he has taken life by the throat and began a creative journey to document his life and persona by working with amateur and professional photographers.
I must say that before every shoot Im just a little nervous. Anything can happen from gear failure to just making a complete idiot of yourself due to stupidity. In my life Ive done many street portraits which is in my opinion the most difficult to get right but nevertheless even with a willing subject and time the pressure is always there and I like to self impose the pressure regardless. I think only creative people understand the feeling of when ‘it’ happens. It’s that knowing of and rush of excitement and happiness when you have a result which defines what your wanting to achieve. The addiction of creative souls is the search for that elation and it’s as much a curse as it’s a blessing. So the shoot took 90 minutes and I quickly ventured into a realm Ive never visited before.. the nude portrait. Tim has experience and was so at ease it relaxed me which is just as well. I think it’s a measure of trust between the photographer and subject when the flow becomes seamless. We tried a variety of poses but the portrait of serenity (#3) followed by the scream (#4) shows two sides of all of us. What we strive for and those moments in our lives when all we want to do is scream. Tim of course doesn’t have what most of us take for granted.. he has a condition which can only be managed for a time but not cured.
The following images show an edited progression of the shoot. I think they speak for themselves. How you feel about them is for you to decide. The last two portraits show Tim in his alter ego of Roger A Destroyer and he can be seen talking here. The last portrait has been chosen by Tim for the project Over The Hill. Here is Tim’s blog entry about the shoot.
“Photography records the gamut of feelings written in the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created. It is a major force in explaining man to man.” – Edward Steichen.
Today I woke reminded of the seconds that pass as you lay there not quite awake and not quite asleep. Remembering dreams and not quite remembering others in a mush of mind chatter. Peicing together fragments and working out whether it’s relevant to my life or just the mind amusing itself with it’s own private soap show. So I wake and get that first coffee and the dreams become less real and more fragmented whilst other fragments remain as if they really happened yesterday. I’m going to add them to all of my other dream fragments that ‘really’ happened to me once upon a time.
I walked on gravestones, watched water flow in a cold Scottish loch with surfers in the far distance riding small but perfectly formed waves. I kissed a girl from my past from long ago and she smiled and said nothing. I rode a bicycle along a dusty path and saw where I wanted to go in the distance, then she was there again by my side but I went off down the hill and she turned and smiled again as I called out to her and as I did I felt love for everything, at peace and a forward momentum to somewhere I don’t know.
Last night I watched the documentary film Searching For Sugarman and I’m still thinking about the story of Sixto Rodriguez this morning. It’s had an impact but for now I’m still working it out. Iv’e found his music and will dig deep into what he had to say. I guess this is my point. We are forever working things out and yet for some like Sixto they appear to have it worked out. Wide awake to the world, spiritually gifted, humble and incredibly talented and even though he never became as big as he may have, he still gave with his heart for no material gain other than for his soul to be enriched by doing things his way and for others. He is the epitome of acceptance of how life goes… for better or worse.
So the seconds as they tick by every day give us many opportunities and chances to go this way or that. Left, right, yes or no to do or not to do. The image above is to me the choices we make today and the branches we choose to travel whether we like it or not… enforced or self imposed. We know this but how often do we really think about each fraction of time that passes us by to make that whole hour, day and year? Do we accept and are we humble in a way that Sixto teaches?
Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. J. Lubbock
“Man is the Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal… In truth, man is incurably foolish. Simple things which other animals easily learn, he is incapable of learning. Among my experiments was this. In an hour I taught a cat and a dog to be friends. I put them in a cage. In another hour I taught them to be friends with a rabbit. In the course of two days I was able to add a fox, a goose, a squirrel and some doves. Finally a monkey. They lived together in peace; even affectionately.
Next, in another cage I confined an Irish Catholic from Tipperary, and as soon as he seemed tame I added a Scotch Presbyterian from Aberdeen. Next a Turk from Constantinople; a Greek Christian from Crete; an Armenian; a Methodist from the wilds of Arkansas; a Buddhist from China; a Brahman from Benares. Finally, a Salvation Army Colonel from Wapping. Then I stayed away for two whole days. When I came back to note results, the cage of Higher Animals was all right, but in the other there was but a chaos of gory odds and ends of turbans and fezzes and plaids and bones and flesh–not a specimen left alive. These Reasoning Animals had disagreed on a theological detail and carried the matter to a Higher Court.”
Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” – Elliott Erwitt
Elliott Erwitt is the master of street photography and for any aspiring street photographer I think his wisdom sums up the the way of thinking required for successful images.
Street photography is tough and requires a huge amount of dedication and even more perseverance to walk the streets for many hours in ‘the zone’. Digital Photographer magazine gave me a challenge unusually putting me up against New York photographer James Maher to shoot a set of images based on several themes. A street photography shoot out with nothing but my reputation hanging by a few thousands of second! I don’t consider myself as a specialist street photographer so I was up for the challenge. For the assignment I decided to work in colour and not my preferred choice which is black and white. Also, the fact that New York is a far sexier place to photograph than Sussex by the sea was a worry!
I must say it was one of the toughest assignments Ive done but only because I was shooting in my home town. This assignment taught me a valuable lesson.. I assumed it was going to be easier than the reality. It’s surprisingly easy when shooting abroad or even in another British city but I’m so familiar with every nook and cranny of Brighton that a kind of photographers block fell onto me and instead of taking a day or two to shoot it took a week. Maybe it was paralysis by analysis or maybe it was panic as the days went by but my creative dead calm of nothingness was in hindsight a great lesson.
I wasn’t ‘seeing’ and more to the point not feeling ‘it’. Now when I say ‘it’ I’m referring to the meditation of shooting. It’s the sixth sense trust of your intuition and the connection felt with what your observing as you untangle life between your brain, eye, the camera and life.
The more I couldn’t feel ‘it’ the more stressed I felt. Perseverance forced me to walk a lot of miles and certainly more miles than was necessary. After three days of nothing I started to ‘see’ again. With 2 days before the deadline I had only one image out of five I was happy with. The last two days were spent out from early morning until the sun went down. I got the images I wanted in the end. To me each of the five images represents a battle with myself where no battle was necessary!
Does pressure enhance creativity or is it like being slapped around the face with a cold Haddock at four o’clock in the morning? There is only one pressure and it’s what you put on yourself. My arrogance and assuming it was going to be easy was my downfall but it’s a great lesson and I must say the shoot was one of my most enjoyable for some time but only because I worked through my first ever creative dead calm and delivered a set of images I was happy with on time. Not delivering the shoot to the picture editor on time is potential career suicide. Voting begins on the Digital Photographer website Thursday 29th December.
Image Themes .. City Pride, Life On The Streets, People and Signs, Reflections.