Tim Andrews, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2005, at the age of 54. He was working as a solicitor at the time.
“Having PD mean that I was able to retire and being able to retire meant that I could do all the things I wanted to do but never had the time i.e. watch cricket, go to the cinema and go out and have a coffee and do the crossword. As it happened, these things were not enough as they were all solitary experiences and I missed the daily, hourly contact with other human beings. So, when my photographic project came along, off I went into to the stratosphere.” (online blogpost 25thFebruary 2016)
His self-instigated project began in 2007 after he responded to an advertisement in “Time Out” magazine looking for 100 people to pose naked for a new book by photographer Graeme Montgomery . Within the next two weeks there were further requests listed from two other photographers so he responded to those as well. In 2008, he discovered that Graeme Montgomery was advertising on Gumtree and whilst searching for photography he found a lot of people, mainly students, looking for people to photograph. Thus, his project really began. In total, from 2007 to 2016, Tim was photographed by 425 photographers and he brought his project Over the Hill to an end in 2016 wanting it “…to be complete, to put it into a box, tie it with ribbon and place it on a shelf so that, every so often I could take it down and look inside and marvel at all the great times I had with these wonderful photographers”.
Tim took the box down this year however having decided to present another exhibition of 32 photographic works from both the project and subsequently, with the theme of Landscape (including Seascape) – the purpose being to examine how these photographers changed their approach to photograph Tim. Here’s a view of it – be aware it’s marked “Mature” :-
Tutor Jayne Taylor had organised for us to meet with Tim Andrews, after the Exhibition at the Regency Town House closed for the day, for a guided introduction. I experienced him as a very engaging speaker, full of anecdotes about his experiences with the various photographers and obviously immersed in his project and enjoying being in front of the camera and having attention. I’ve always enjoyed watching Gareth Malone, the English choirmaster and broadcaster giving a singing voice to people who never thought they had one but gave it a try anyway. Gareth Malone describes himself as an “animateur” and I think that term perfectly describes Tim Andrews in the way he contacted his potential photographers; directing proceedings (often collaboratively); posed in all weathers; starred in the theatre of his performance and collected and curated this Exhibition which is all about himself. His enthusiasm and energy would be impressive in even a fit, young man.
The theme of nudity does crop up quite often so I was surprised to read In an interview with Vice.com magazine (pub. 4thAugust 2016) that the percentage of nude photographs of Tim is less than 20 percent. Maybe he chose a higher proportion for this Exhibition; I was more aware of them just because he was nude or because he spent quite a while standing talking to us in front of a photograph of himself nude, painted blue all-over and wearing a turban – the photographer being Karen Knorr.
What did I gain from the talk and the Exhibition?
I was reminded of Isabelle Mège (who I read about in a blog post by my student colleague Sarah-Jane Field a medical secretary in Paris who, over two decades, persuaded many renowned photographers (mostly male) to take a photograph of her with an initial request of, “I would like to see myself from your point of view”. Mège amassed a large collection of photographs, in a large variety of styles, not all of which could be called portraits, but they all depicted her body. In 2016 Anna Heyward of The New Yorker interviewed one of the photographers, Fouad Elkoury who had photographed Mège in 2002. He told Anna Heyward that he had agreed to Mège’s request because, “I could tell this project came from an obsessive mind, this strange project of being photographed by photographers she liked—not those she thought were famous, but those she liked.” He was taken aback when they met. “She was veryordinary, a very normal-seeming person. I had thought, based on her letter, that she might be unusual.”
The philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy wrote in an email to Anne Heyward that the key to understanding Mege’s work was that it was an act that made her an artist of some sort; one whose medium is other artists He invented new words to describe this “It’s a selfothermade ….. not an auto-portrait…. But it’s not an alloportrait either”. Somehow this takes it beyond notions of the male/female gaze into another realm – a work created through some kind of projective identification between subject (initiator) and artist. There is a video about her on YouTube but I won’t give the link here as it contains a fair amount of nude photography.
Returning to Tim Andrews and his Exhibition – I was very impressed to see so many different versions of Tim by so many photographers, although I would need to do much more research on them all to gain a sense of how much was their own way of working anyway and how much they were responding to Tim ‘in the moment’. My favourite photograph overall was the one of Tim wearing his grandmother’s dress (also exhibited) from 1904 – shot by photographer Clare Park. There was something very poignant about it for me with his wistful, painted face as he holds the golden dress against him.
The series that attracted me was
A section of a larger piece by Tina Rowe Sixty Minutes (2015)
Tim wrote of being ‘hooked’ by Tina’s work after seeing it in a Photomonth brochure in 2014 and so he wrote her a message asking her to photograph him, “What she didn’t know was that it wasn’t purely portraiture I was after. I wanted to be in a photograph taken by her. I liked the way her mind worked. In particular, I liked her series ‘My Mother’s House” as I very much identified with this having made a documentary about my own mother’s house a few years ago.”
Tina writes about the session here . She had intended to use a wide angle pinhole camera with camera flashes for a particular effect before she met him, “…but when he walked into my studio I realised that he isn’t the sort of person who should be summed up in a single shot …..I had looked at the work of other photographers in his project and there was a wealth of different interpretations of him as a human and as a canvas. They didn’t really help because they are all so different. Just talking to him made me drop the one idea and pursue the other”.
So, there we have the two different types of personal alchemy resulting in the series created through joint authorship. The photographs were taken with a hasselblad camera and using a pack of fuji instant film. The emulsion was then lifted from the instant film and placed on oak blocks. Reflecting on the whole process, Tim wrote in second blog post at that time “I love the fact that these are so delicate and are not digitised”. I agree with him very much. There’s something about those small vignettes, taken in the moment, catching him in various poses. The wooden blocks look a bit battered now – perhaps grown into the metaphor of his life – but their oak remains stout.
Heyward, H.A. the Opposite of a Muse (2016) The New Yorker 17.9.2016 (accessed at https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-opposite-of-a-muse28.11.2018)