Tim(e), Gentleman

Subject: Photography
From: Tim Andrews

“I came across your mazing work today. I wonder if l might tell you about my photographic project, "Over the Hill"? I am 64 and have taken early retirement due to being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease……I wonder if you might be interested in photographing me? l would be so honoured if you would. l appreciate that essentially you deal with Landscapes but it could be interesting to explore the techniques which you use and apply them to portraiture. What do you think?”

You never quite know what you’ll find when a message arrives via your website. I certainly hadn’t expected this. Tim didn’t need an introduction - I recognised his name straight away and remembered reading Valda’s blog about photographing him along with words and images by Al Brydon, Stephen Segasby, and others….

How did I feel? Surprised. Flattered. Slightly intimidated. And how do I explain this to my non photographer OH? There was never really any prospect of ‘no’. I was intrigued though at the time I had no idea what, where or how. At 380 and still counting, was there really anything that hadn’t been done? In the middle of the night my brain rebooted and wouldn’t shut down. By morning I had the germ of an idea, or two. Confusingly, the same day Tim tweeted that it was all to come to an end. In terms of my commitments over the next couple of months and the where had been thinking ‘summer’; in practice the ‘end’ simply meant bringing things forward so that the shoot was before the last (by the first).

My initial idea was around the theme of person movement from something I tried earlier this year though there are no beaches near me. Where to go? Tim had already been made to lie in a stream. I thought of the ‘in the round’ technique that I’ve seen and sometimes wondered about trying. Could it work with a figure? With or without tree-like arms akimbo. Having done a practice run in the Cellarium at Fountains Abbey (no comparison to Tim I know) I decided that the number of images would deconstruct him a little too much. So I decided to go back to the subject and photographer movement that I have been exploring, divining the water on land. I did a dummy run into Buxton to scout locations and surreptitiously photographed a few people as they walked in the gardens.

We settled on 1 June and I met Tim at the train station with a head full of ideas. We chatted over croque messieurs and I resisted the temptation to point out the beret clad statue nearby. So to the Pavilion Gardens and a double first for me – not only to produce an interesting image of a person, but to do so within a finite time period. Before I met Tim I’d warmed up with a few more surreptitious time and motion studies so I was at ease, having already started creating. We began by working through some of my ideas and then went for a wander, experimenting as we went. Tim walked back and forth. Tim swung around a lamp-post. I lay on my back on the path in a vain effort to recreate the high key beach look Tim had liked. I said hello to a passing man as I rose; he replied but looked like he would rather be someplace else. Aside from that I really couldn’t tell you if anyone paid us any attention. Tim waved his arms and jumped around. We used dark trees, daisy speckled grass and glaucous grey green water as backdrops. We reviewed degrees of blur and tweaked shutter speeds. Tim, and multiples thereof, appeared in varying degrees of blur, at times recognisable, at times less so. He sprouted wings and changed from bird to angel. Finally we found a light coloured wall and adding extra exposure made a series of high key images as Tim moved his head. He floated in his shirt collar, a many faced, and sometimes faceless man. And among my many sketches of Tim, I found the young man inside.

Contemplation I
A Young Man Inside
Grown Wings
All Smoke and Geese

Footnote: Tim had liked the fact that he’d been able to see something of the images as we worked, and that I had been happy to discuss ‘where next’ so in the end I sent him a selection of images – otherwise there would be no way for him to know how they had come out. “My first thought when I received them was excited anticipation, then l looked at them and ADORED them and now as l look again, l am even more pleased. It was very difficult to choose one but overall l think my favourite has to be Contemplation. It has everything apart from a bird but otherwise, the movement and colour and light are stunning.” I was pleased that Tim liked the images, and happy to go with his choice for the final one. I could have argued for one or two others but it seems apt that my image of Tim should have water and light as its backdrop. I just hope Jane won’t tick him off too much for wearing ‘that coat’!

You can see more of my images in the accompanying gallery Tim(e), Gentleman

Tim's blog is at Over the Hill
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