Posted: Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
Earlier this month, Tim Andrews invited me to photograph him for his Over The Hill project, where he's been photographed by over 300 photographers in the last 6 years since being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. I've known Tim for a while now, and followed his project for even longer - back in March I co-curated a whole day of discussions and talks about him and his project with the Miniclick team in Brighton and it proved a fascinating look into the relationship between the photographer and the subject, as well as a great look into how so many people approach photographing the same person. A lot of the people who have taken portraits of him are photographers that I really respect (and a lot of them are friends too), so it was a great honour to be asked. More info and a video (with nudity!), after the break...
Tim and I meet for coffee from time to time to have a chat about photography, books and the like. He's walking anecdote machine, particularly with all the photographers he's worked so closely with over the years. We talk about serious things too, but my general mood after seeing him is always lifted, usually I have a smile on my face, and I always go away with the buzz of inspiration inside me after talking about one idea for a project or another.
He'd asked me if I'd be up for photographing him in my own architectural style. This proved interesting as I've been, for a long time, an advocate of having people involved in architectural photography but I've rarely considered them to be the subject. The building is the star, but I always try to show some life happening in and around it. In the photo I took of Tim, I played on this a bit by having him hide underneath the colorama backdrop, so only Tim's calfs and ankles are visible. Indeed, the camera is pulled back to show lots of the building too. I really didn't want to take it all too seriously, since every time I meet Tim we always have a good laugh.
I'd actually done a series of images, with Tim in different poses, full body in front of the backdrop, but I felt this one worked best. I do do portraits, and it's something I'm becoming more and more interested in, but the thing I find hardest is posing people. I started off having Tim in quite a stately pose, legs crossed, back straight, eyes peering down his nose into the camera. I got what I thought I would, but it wasn't a reflection on the Tim that I know at all. I asked him to throw his arms back and be a bit more theatrical, mainly to loosen him up after making him sit bolt upright for a while. Those shots worked out alright, but they were maybe a little forced.
When we first met, we talked about doing something in a Guy Bourdin
style, with Tim's legs popping out from behind a chair or something. I'm also a bit of a Roman history geek, and I love the story of Cleopatra being smuggled back into court in Egypt, rolled in a carpet, to present herself to Caesar. These two inceptions, plus the thought of having the building in as much as possible are what lead to this shot. In truth, I'd rather it wasn't a run down, empty space like this, but I could't arrange the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern quickly enough...
In addition to the photo I took of Tim, we always did a video together as well. The video sits separately from the photo really, but was approached with the same amount of fun and tongue-in-cheekness. It's all done in one shot and I had Tim read the lyrics to The Smiths "This Charming Man"; I was mainly interested in the line "I would go out tonight, but I haven't got a stitch to wear", as a nod to how frequently Tim appears naked in the photos of him.
Please do check out Tim's blog for all the photos he's had done so far, and some great stories to go with them.