Thursday, 26 October 2017


Can I just say that I  love Christmas even it's already flooding into the shops. Why? Because it's Christmas that's why. Not because my mother gave us wonderful Christmases by staying up all night to cook the turkey and fill the stockings (sorry Kids) and then spent Christmas Day getting pissed and moaning about it. And not because I want it all to be the same as it always was - I don't give a tinker's cuss what we do because whatever it is that we do, its Christmas. Yes, I'm happy to have a turkey and stockings for the little ones and brandy burning on the pudding and drink sherry but it still doesn't matter if I don't . Why? Because it's Christmas, that's why. So clear off everyone that moans about it - clear right off.

Monday, 23 October 2017

TWO OF US: Stuart Pilkington and Tim Andrews - Part Three

And so to the photographs themselves. They are clear and uncomplicated. By the sea, by the British Airways sign, in the shelter and against a wall. Stuart and I left his Mum and Dad outside the restaurant and the first shot was in the shelter. It has colour and it has cool but I realised as I sat there that it was a beginning. I have no idea how our friendship will develop but I think it will be important for both of us.

I mucked about in front of the British Airways sign. I sat on a concrete stool. Stuart wheeled around me as we searched for places to shoot but the taking of the photographs was secondary to our developing companionship on the day. I think Stuart felt the same. No, I don't - I'm sure he felt the same. This has always been of paramount importance to me during the time I have been photographed; the photographs are wonderful but it is my connection with the photographer which matters most. I don't expect all the photographers to feel that way too but I am certain that a great number of them do and that is why they have produced such brilliant images.

Stuart is a handsome man. He is well dressed. He is gentle. He is loved by so many people because he loves them and it shows. In his photography, in his bearing and in his eyes. 

I thought that I was saying goodbye to Stuart and his parents when they dropped me off after the photography. I did say goodbye. But I went inside and I huffed and I puffed and I mooched around but I felt that we hadn't finished. I wanted to understand more. So, the next morning I suggested that we meet again so that I could interview him. We had a coffee with his parents in the lobby of his hotel and then Stuart and I went up to his room and I set up the video camera. Unlike the other interviews I have conducted in the past, this time I had not prepared any questions but decided to ask whatever came into my head and immediately it became more of a conversation than an interview. When one chats with a friend, it isn't always so much what one talks about that matters but the act of chatting, the to and fro, and in Stuart's case, the yeahs and the tilt of his head forwards and backwards, the lifting of an eyebrow or two and the creasing of his face into a smile. His beautiful face. 

After about an hour, we agreed to stop and took some photographs in the room but I could see that Stuart preferred to be outside so out we went and mucked about some more. Stuart handed me his camera and I took some photographs of him. Then we filmed for few minutes and this time I did say goodbye as I had some things I had to do. I felt satisfied. I felt invigorated. I had felt ignorant too after coming home the day before - about the effect of a stroke on someone's life - but now I felt that I had begun to understand.

Stuart left for Winsford the next morning and then, after he got there, he sent me the photographs he had taken of me and a few I had taken of him. 

Just the two of us.



Thursday, 19 October 2017


This is a man who I met for the first time today. He didn't say much because he can't very easily but we understood each other. What is Stuart Pilkington like? There is a calmness about him, an acceptance of what life has taken away from him and yet one cannot help seeing his strength and his determination. All I wanted to do today was touch him; I wanted to walk with him, speak to him. 

I asked Linda, his mother, why they had come down to Brighton and she answered simply, "Stuart wanted to see you". Maybe he realised something that I did not know before we met - that we have both made a journey into another world, a world of which we had no inkling previously.  

I walked into the hotel lobby and I met Stuart and Linda and Les, his father. Stuart wrote a note on his digital message pad "Nat West. Lunch". In other words, lunch was on him. We all got into his car and Les drove us to the front where we parked in the Regency Square Car Park. We had a very pleasant lunch in Alfresco overlooking a grey, a beautiful grey, sea. We talked about our mutual friend Mirja Paljakka and her daughter Iiris who had visited both of us last year. We talked about music, especially The Beatles, about Vimeo and Rankin, about Jazz, about Over the Hill, The Swap - all subjects raised by Stuart on his message pad. We then went down in a lift to the area level with the sea and Stuart took several photographs of me. He moves around in his electric wheel chair swiftly and easily; sometimes, he moved me into position by waving his finger a little to the left or a little to the right. A man stopped his own filming to take some shots of us both together.

We spent about three hours together - long enough for taking photographs, long enough to become friends. The rain kept away. We drove back to my house where they dropped me off. I really would have liked to have invited them in for a cup of tea but it would have been impossible for Stuart because of all the steps. One day, perhaps, one day.

So I said goodbye.

Goodbye Stuart, until the next time we meet and touch and smile and raise our thumbs and understand.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

NHUNG DANG - Just the way you are


It was a dull day, so far as the weather was concerned, and yet Nhung lit up my life in this marvellous picture. The light floods in through the sash window and daubs white not only on me but on the objects which define me - the gramophone player to my right, sitting on top of the cupboard we bought years ago and which we have filled with photographs and video tapes of family. The surface of the wood underneath the sound system has been scratched and gouged by the feet of the old TV that sat there at our beloved Ravenswood but, no matter, they tell a story.

"You may not believe this" I replied, "but it is the cigarette burns and stains I am really buying. They are so incredibly far out"

The records to my left, the books, the sheet music and the scrapbooks and the chair on which I sit all evoke so many memories. So many. Nhung has her own story which she tells me as I sit there and try to think of an answer to the question - how does that jacket make you feel? "Flamboyant" I reply. It does. I am not big on clothes and I have little dress sense but the guy in the shop saw me coming and even though I asked to try on something completely different, he swerved and he swayed and I ended up walking out of the shop holding something I wasn't sure that I would ever have the nerve to wear. In fact, after that day, whenever I walked past the shop wearing another coat, I felt the salesman's eyes on me and him mouthing"what the f...." But buy it I did and wear it I have done and, when I do, I feel flamboyant.

No. It is not bird shit on my black jeans but paint. Household paint. "Casual and Fat" should be the caption here but I cannot complain. Nhung photographed me as she found me. The sheep on top of the column to my left knows nothing. I wonder if sheep have any understanding of 'casual'? I love this garden - it is tiny but manageable which is more than can be said of my stomach but, forget all that and look at the photograph. Everything around me is crisp and black and white. I am not thinking of how I shall look in the picture -  I am thinking "casual". After this shot was taken, Nhung asked me if I wanted to try a different pose so I turned about 45 degrees to my left and stood the same way.


After the effort of standing in two different poses in my garden, I had to rest. I get so tired sometimes but I find it difficult to nap in my bed and I have found that lying on the floor of the dining area off the kitchen is much more restful and, if you need any convincing of that, I can tell you that I nodded off while Nhung took these shots and woke up with a wonderful rush of refreshment when the shutter clicked. 

"Please don't wake me, 
No, don't shake me, 
Leave me where I am, 
I'm only sleeping"

I don't remember. I don't remember saying that I felt shy when this was taken but certainly my body language betrays that feeling. This was taken in our basement where there is a lovely gentle light. I have filmed a lot down there. I asked Nhung, "Do you want me to move the table?" She said "No". Everything looks perfect in this shot - the flowers, the edge of the tablecloth, my hand on my leg, Jane's painting of "Girl", the whiteness of my shirt and the little brass bolts on the shutters. 

"Is that not how good stories run?"

Formal? Smart? Or sad that the day is drawing to a close? I have absolutely no idea where this expression came from and yet it is sodden with love and gratitude and compassion. People often ask how I feel when I see so many pictures of myself. I find that, usually, I look at them objectively - that the person I see is often someone else but here, in this picture, I see my heart and my soul. I see the boy at school, the man who fell in love. I see the other side. I am astonished by this photograph. I wonder if  I am mistaken but no, it is all there. And Nhung found it and pressed the shutter at just the right moment.  

"This time, at last, it is the real, the unmistakable thing, simple - passionate- perfect-"

Sunday, 1 October 2017

NHUNG DANG - A Gentle Woman

Yesterday, I spent about five hours being photographed by Nhung Dang and it was an absolute pleasure. Nhung had visited me in Brighton in January of this year to chat about the proposed shoot and we got on really well and agreed to go ahead in the Spring but one or two problems arose and so it wasn't until yesterday that we went ahead finally. And it was fun!

I had come across Nhung's work in December 2014 and thought it was astonishing and I was taken particularly by the statement on her website that narratives in her work were often influenced by her own personal feelings of melancholy and yearning. She left Vietnam as a refugee with her parents and brother when very young but she has since achieved success as a photographic artist and has recently completed a course in Psychotherapeutic Counselling.

Our shoot was all on film although her Hasselblad jammed but she carried on with her 35 mm SLR as well as a delightful little pinhole camera - I couldn't remember ever being photographed with a pinhole camera before. Unfortunately, the light was not good enough to produce a decent image on the pinhole shots apart from those in the garden which are interesting.


Nhung likes to tell stories in her work and so she took me to various parts of our house and garden and questioned me very gently about how I felt there, wearing the clothes I wore - I changed clothes three times during the shoot. We started in the garden first where I wore my paint-splattered jeans and a  white vest and then moved into the kitchen where I lay down on the floor as I do sometimes to sleep and I slept only to be woken by the click of the shutter. I had bought a coat, a rather flamboyant coat for me, when I last saw Nhung and told her that I needed a bit of courage to wear it and so she suggested that I put it on for the shots in our sitting room - she asked how I felt wearing this coat and all I could think was... flamboyant. She then asked me to close my eyes and breathe in and out and she repeated her question and as, I sat there I felt brave and ready and, after a while, she asked me to look at her and I felt my eyes blaze with daring and derring-do as I opened them and stared down the lens. We ended the shoot in my suit (not both of us, just me) in my study (both of us) for a more formal set of photographs. 

In the middle somewhere, we had a break for lunch and I made scrambled egg on toast and we talked about families and friends and, as for the latter, I felt that I had found a new friend and this was confirmed when Nhung asked for a hug as we said goodbye at the front door.

A very interesting day with a very interesting artist - I am expecting some very interesting results.

Saturday, 30 September 2017


This is not a photograph of Jean Edwards, - it is yet another delicious photograph posted on Twitter by Daniel Brami - but it reminds me of a time when my mother (who was a dancer) took me, when I was little, to the flat in Holland Park where Jean, also a dancer, lived with Alf Edwards, the then celebrated accordionist.

At some point, in the kitchen, Jean lifted her leg like the woman in this photograph and I was amazed.

That's it - just wanted to tell you this. Oh maybe one more thing - here is a picture of my mum by Roye.

C'est beau n'est-ce pas?

Wednesday, 27 September 2017


Hi Rob,

Whilst we are on the subject of Francis Ford Coppola, I would like to mention "One from the Heart" (1981), a gorgeous film made in his Zoetrope studio, awash with colour and light, sensuality and beautiful songs sung by Crystal Gayle and Tom Waits, a mixture of the rough and the smooth. Well, amazingly, you have created in Black and White, the same mix - pictures both blanc and noir and yet they literally drip with colour. The camera is like a pen, full of light and shade and vitality, a poet's pen lyrical and loving, fun and furious. It is impossible to choose a favourite of all the pictures you sent but I think the one which moves me most is the one where I am kneeling and have my hands raised to the sky with a brush of silver light on my body. You asked me to sit but I could only kneel, which was my contribution to the shot but to be in it makes me exceptionally proud.