Recently I had the pleasure of photographing a man called Tim Andrews. Since retiring from his job as a lawyer because of Parkinson’s disease, Tim has been photographed by over 100 different photographers, from photography degree students, to ‘established’ artists including Rankin, Harry Borden, Mike McCartney and Jillian Edelstein, who have all interpreted his character and story in different ways.
In Tim’s own words:
“I was born in London years ago and, in 2005, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I was a solicitor for 29 years but had to retire in June 2006 and since then I have had the freedom to indulge my many interests which include watching cricket, going to the cinema, writing and taking photographs. I am also collaborating with a number of different photographers on an artistic venture, which examines my life at this time, and I am shortly arranging an exhibition of the photographs which have arisen from the project. I am an incredibly happy man, happier than I have ever been before. Ironically, Parkinson’s disease has given me a new lease of life. I feel very blessed.”
(images that can be viewed on Flickr are clickable)
Tim had approached me after seeing my work on Flickr, so we met up over hot chocolate in Shoreditch to have a chat and to talk about how we might collaborate (purely for artistic pleasure) on images that used my own style that he saw in my multiplicity images, images that use movement, and images that were shot in abandoned places. Tim was already planning on how he might exhibit all of his collaborations together, as a show, next year. I was intrigued by the prospect of a model collecting together images of themselves sampling the styles of so many different photographers, a subversion of the norm that a photographer shoots many different models for their portfolio.
In my own interpretation I wanted to focus on what Tim said when I first met him, that since retiring, he has never had so much fun and freedom. I wanted to juxtapose that carefree and happy notion with the more serious and disheartening future of his condition. I also wanted to keep it spontaneous and not get hung up on the concepts to a point where the images lose their own fun altogether.
I’m usually useless at deciding on a location before a shoot, with my self-portraits it’s all spur of the moment. So I was pretty pleased to come across the most ideal location I could ever have dreamt of for our shoot. The juxtaposition of childhood and age, and of fun and fear, was perfectly captured by this abandoned location in London in which we spent 3 amazing hours one Saturday morning. The time flew by far too quickly, as predicted, so I darted like a squirrel back and forth adjusting and shooting each scene.
I haven’t shot men much, just a few portraits here and there, but I thoroughly enjoyed shooting Tim. I was always convinced that I enjoyed shooting the female form more, but to be honest, in shooting such a different subject than I am used to, I enjoyed the absence of inclination to pose the model in a typical poserly feminine fashion. It was a challenge, but it was also surprisingly easy, because Tim was so easy to work with and came with a supply of props and garments that signified ideas as crazy as mine.
I enjoyed photographing the male nude form and realised it doesn’t look so awkward in front of camera than I felt inclined to believe in the past. I realise I can enjoy working the human form full stop, with both male and female. And for some reason, stepping into these abandoned locations has always worked wonders for my photoshoots. I seldom get frustrated in these places. It’s almost like their musty pooey smell has a cable connected straight to my imagination, and the camera turns itself onto ‘D’: derelict mode, to achieve the best from the light entering through the cracks and crevices of broken windows and doors…
Suffice to say it was one of the best shoot experiences I have ever had, and I did a jig round the kitchen when I got home. Also I was relieved to find that my images weren’t all out of focus, as I feared during an initial browse in Adobe Bridge. I had been mostly using my new cheapo Canon 50mm 1.8 on its lowest f-stop so the shallow DoF could have compromised the results. Tim also left his cane in the hospital so I was relieved that he managed to get back in to retrieve it. The happiest part for me was that Tim was as excited as I was with the final images! This blog post shows a selection of what I think are the best.
The room with the functional operating lamps was fantastic, but this surreal room with forest wallpaper and the very fitting words ‘Every day is a holiday’ that appeared on them, was probably my favourite. It was a happy accident, during a test shot, that I ended up keeping the flash and umbrella in the frame. For me, it straight away highlighted the photographic projects that Tim has engaged in over the past months.
Below is the main piece I produced, a composite that was partly Tim’s own idea, to use cloning to show him leading his separate and nude ‘child’ self.
I don’t usually play with scale like this, it more often looks daft than anything, but after a wild moment with the Transform tool it looked better than having him full size. The full size Tim looked too cumbersome in the frame and didn’t match the other Tim properly.
I did, however, like the image of Tim nude alone in the above images, so produced some of him standing alone with just the light.
I also had slightly crazy idea in post-production to make it look as if he were holding the umbrella. Just thought I’d add it here (further below) to illustrate the notion!
We burst (and removed) the balloons before we left this room…
Onto the ’scribble room’…
…and a large blue ward:
In a darker basement room, where black and white worked much better than colour…
I also had the chance to shoot a couple of SPs, thanks to Tim for clicking the shutter (click through to Flickr):
The scribble room
More about Tim:
Some other photographers’ images of Tim:
Please feel free to add your link to the comments if you have also photographed Tim…