Archive for September 2011
“I like this picture because it represents my whole family. Although there’s only me and my son in it, he’s wearing a T-shirt that says Smiley on it, which is my husband’s name; and I’m five months pregnant with our daughter. So there’s four people in there, not just two.
I look quite mad in it, which I like too. That crazy, rictus grin: I was hot, and fat, and tired and my son was playing up. The only solution was to turn him upside down and make him laugh. I notice that in another one of the 140 Characters pictures, another small boy is being held in the same way. It’s a default solution for boys, it makes them normal again, like rebooting a computer, or reprogramming Buzz Lightyear to his factory settings.
Unlike most of the other people photographed, I’ve known Chris Floyd for a long time. I was the journalist on his very first paid commission, for Select magazine: we went out on a boat on the Thames with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. It was a laugh, though Chris was quite quiet – he isn’t, usually, but underneath his charm, he’s a teeny bit shy and I think that was evident then. On other jobs, he was much more outgoing: we spent a hilarious afternoon at Shaun Ryder’s house when Shaun was living next door to Bez, in a small town in the Peak District (where the League of Gentlemen was filmed, fact fans). Their gardens abutted and we nipped in and out of their houses, with Shaun and Bez getting more and more relaxed: Shaun going quiet, except for the odd, growly outburst, Bez morphing into a cartoon on fast forward. Their kids were there, messing about, but it felt like a chill-out room at a nightclub. Except with no roof and in Royston Vasey.
It’s been nice to hook up with Chris again via Twitter: he’s funny and he refuses to go along with the liberal consensus that Twitter can create. Sometimes Twitter is like a sixth form common room, with everyone getting overheated about the most trivial deviation from the politically correct line. But mostly, for me, it’s the office I don’t have to travel to: I work from home, by myself, and Twitter gives me the gossip and laughs and advice that I can’t give myself. It’s a massive distraction, of course, so I tend to binge-tweet, usually after too many coffees.
It irritates me when people who don’t use Twitter slag it off, make out that tweeting means that you don’t talk to people in real life. Well, no, I don’t: I’m at home, on my own. I don’t talk to people unless I’m sitting next to them. I never answer the phone. Twitter has definitely made my life more fun, and it isn’t such a big deal. It’s just people chatting, bringing news, trying to make each other laugh.”
“I know I’m addicted to Twitter. My partner takes the trouble to remind me all the time. Refresh refresh refresh, tweet tweet tweet. Who’s said something funny. Who do we all think is a cunt. How long can I keep this going before I have to get on with something important – like paid work.
It’s the cameraderie I find utterly intoxicating; a rare bit of (sort of) direct contact in an age where emails and text messages have made the very act of communication so stilted, so troubled. With Twitter, TV shows that used to pass idly by are enhanced – retooled and subjected to a ticker tape feed of brilliantly carousing scorn. It’s as if you’ve brought the pub back to the comfort of your sofa; a rolling director’s commentary from a bunch of randoms all firing in the same direction. Newsnight with a laughter track? Sold. A BBC4 music night reduced to a series of petty, bigoted bon mots? I’m in.
Occasionally, I receive a horrible jolt of morbid recognition and am forced to stare directly at my addiction. Its like looking straight at the raw data of the Matrix. This usually happens as I find myself checking updates whilst going for a pee in the deep black of night. Right there, I see everything as it is, the scales having fallen from my eyes to somewhere just around the base of the toilet bowl. Then, I’m not witty or informed – I’m simply an idiot trying to fill thirty seconds of urination with something – anything. Its around that point – just when the cat senses I’m not sleepwalking and starts bawling for food – that I sigh at my powerlessness, my idiocy. Everybody knows that no fucker is posting anything interesting at 5am. What the hell am I doing?
Shuffling back to bed, I manage to right wrongs, to find peace and drift back off. Yeah, I tell myself. My own stupid fault for not having funnier friends in California. Only another few hours before the UK comes online. Snore snore snore, refresh refresh refresh until the dawn chorus wakes me. Tweet tweet tweet.”
“I am married to Chris so my relationship with the 140 Characters Project is a little different to everyone elses’.
Usually I don’t get a look in. I get to hear about it after. The Paul McCartney moment, the girl who decided it would be a better portrait if she removed all her clothes, the man diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease running around a field in the middle of winter (naked again ), the trips to Taiwan, etc etc. So when the 140 Characters Twitter Project was born I wanted to be part of it. I wanted to be involved in this thing that was so consuming him. I wanted to see what it was that was pulling him out of his morose nihilism and into some kind of happy(ish) state of mind.
I have lots of amazing photos of our kids (and some of me too) that Chris has taken. I would never have had them if he wasn’t a photographer. I cherish them and know that its only because of his profession that these moments were captured, but my twitter portrait feels like it’s mine because I asked to do it. I like it. It’s not super feminine but I think I look quite cool and I just like being part of this thing that has morphed into such an interesting project.
Who knows? One day in 100 years time it might be something people really reference as a fantastic idea and that wouldn’t be a surprise to me, because it is.”
“This is all @GarethAveyard’s fault.
He told me he was down in London for the day, what was I doing? I was working. He was going to have his picture taken. I should go too. I should have my picture taken.
I hate having my picture taken. I’m 6’4” and skinny and gawky and I hate having my picture taken. But it was Gareth. I’d jump a row of buses like Eddie Kidd to see Gareth. And he was in London. Having his picture taken.
So I had my picture taken. When I walked in I imagine Chris thought “who the hell’s this giant Gareth has dragged in? He’s 6’4” and skinny and gawky. I bet he hates having his picture taken.” But he didn’t say it out loud, which was nice. Instead he made me and Gareth and @Klutchenko and @LaraPattison feel more relaxed than a cat on a radiator and he took the best pictures of me I’ve ever seen.
One effect of Twitter is the way it randomly throws people together in odd ways. A few days before the shoot, I’d been at a comedy gig, watching Simon Evans on stage. He said someone had tweeted that they were coming to the gig. The person in question identified themselves but it was an L-shaped room so I couldn’t see who it was. While we were in Chris’ studio for the shoot, I realised it was @LaraPattison. We had never met, but we’d been in the same room twice in a week.
It wasn’t really random, of course. We like to think Twitter is a microcosm of the world, but we select who we follow and we create our own echo chamber. Media people claim that Twitter is full of media people. It’s not, it’s just that they are following lots of other media people. I imagine that firemen and librarians and unemployed shepherds experience the same thing. But look at the list of trending topics on any one day, and you realise we’re barely scraping the surface.”
“I can remember getting the call. It was hot. Real hot. Hot like like Cheryl Cole smoking on a fire. I was in town. Kentish Town. I was moving stuff. Don’t ask me what. Just stuff.
The voice on the phone was Chris Floyd. It had been ages since I’d spoken to this shutter-monkey. I needed to flick back through the rolodex of my memory to FurstSearch a decent image. He’d been following me for a while now. Just to be kind I followed him back. My fear was; could the man step up to the plate? Could he deliver? I needn’t have worried. Floyd is a born wiseass. Even limited to 140 Characters here was a man that talked the talk. Not only that, he knows his onions; every variety.
As soon as I heard his voice I knew he wanted something but I didn’t mind giving it. You see………Floyd and I went way back. Back to a previous life when New Labour was still a glint in Tony Blair’s eye. Back when the drugs were better but the women were worse.
‘Sure you can take my picture. Why the hell not. I’ll ask a few buddies…..its for a project you say?’ I didn’t tell him that I always hated projects ever since my pop-up How The Tudors Lived was ridiculed in front of my 6th grade class by Mr Nalewajko. ‘For you Floyd, I’ll do it! Just make sure there’s a buffet……’ I’m a Jew. And we gotta eat.
My friends were less than helpful. I was subjected to all manner of excuse : ‘We’re busy…’ ‘I’m a sick man’ ‘get out of my garden’. The only two who took their place in the spotlight were two blonde lady musos. The sultry voiced leggy soul chanteuse Corrina Greyson and gorgeous Welsh fiddle virtuoso Eos Chater. What man wouldn’t kill another man to have his photograph taken with these two insanely hot lady-people? Thankfully I didn’t have to kill. Not that day anyways.
We did it every which way. Threes-up, one on one, two over one, ladies together with me watching, on the floor, stood up – it was an orgy of digi pics. After 15 minutes we were spent.
The pictures are gorgeous.
Needless to say, there was no buffet.”
“So Chris Floyd has been on at me to write a thing. It’s like he doesn’t realise I’m busy or something. It’s all me, me, me with him*.
When I started following him on Twitter I did so because he was funny. But then I read a blog he posted about being a photographer and how the solitude had prompted him to undertake the 140 characters Twitter portraits project. I loved the idea of taking Twitter to a physical next step where things get to happen in the real world. So we met in his studio with Steve Furst and Corrina Greyson. We stood on a sheet of paper and Corrina nearly trashed the place with her impressive leaping skills.
I can’t remember exactly what Steve was saying in the moment of time that was etched onto Chris’s digital hard drive- but I know it was funny. I know this because Steve is made of funny. And I’m laughing.
After we had done the pictures we went to a local pub where we got talking about photography and photographers and the sometimes odd relationship between photographer and subject. Being a musician in a group, I have had a fair amount of experience being photographed and it can range from being fun and enjoyable through tedious to really uncomfortable and a bit soul destroying. Chris’s shoot was the former.
Whilst models are pros at being photographed and snap into ‘work’ mode, for non-models the outcome of the shoot depends a lot on the relationship you develop with the photographer. My job is the violin and and my work sometimes expands into being photographed. I guess with musicians and other non-models, it’s more about photographing character than anything else, and the photographer can either make you go into yourself or bring out the best in you. After all, it’s very hard to fake a smile. It was interesting to hear things from the photographer’s point of view. Chris remembered that he had shot my group (Bond) years before for Marie Claire magazine. I remember that being a fun experience too and being really pleased with the results.
I’ve met lots of people through Twitter in the real world and I consider a lot of them to be actual friends. Yay Twitter and yay Chris for showing how it can straddle both virtual and physical realities.”
*It really isn’t.”
“Before and after…
This was taken on my way home from a weekend in Rotterdam, performing at The North Sea Jazz Festival. It was the same weekend the World Cup Final took place. I was due to play just before the match which, considering Holland lost 1-0 to Spain, was the perfect billing. But what an atmosphere. The rest of the weekend was spent watching, meeting, jammin’ and partying with astounding musicians from all over the world. It was an exciting and inspiring experience that will stay with me for a long time to come.
Amazingly Chris Floyd managed to capture my whole adventure in this one shot perfectly. Just as well, as what you don’t see is me skidding across the studio, arms flailing, grabbing everything within reach and bringing pretty much the whole set down around me upon landing a la Frank Spencer in a heap on the floor.“
“I wanted to be Debbie Harry when I grew up. I also wanted to be one of Pan’s People. My favourite film is Some Like It Hot. I’m terrified of thunder and sharks.
As a photographer, I find having my photograph taken a strangely nerve-racking experience. Even more so looking at the resulting picture. My critical, visual, photographer’s eye reaches new heights of scrutiny when analysing an image of myself it would seem. To some extent, surely we all hope that a photo of ourselves captures us in a good light, that it somehow conveys an idealised version of who we are (or who we would like people to think we are) to our eventual ‘audience’?
I have started to become more and more interested in genealogy. Tracing my ancestors. Attempting to work out why I am the way I am and look the way I do. With each death in the family this quest for information grows stronger. In this context, for me, photographs are historical documents. Once someone has died, a photograph of that person is sometimes all we have left to make an assessment from. I therefore find the stakes are high when being photographed. This is it. This is the image I will leave behind. In years to come, this is the document that other people may use to investigate, analyse and remember me by.
So. Here it is: this is me.”
“I look like a corrupt cop in my crumpled suit, but I don’t mind that.
People often mistake me for a detective, it only gets awkward when I have to take someone back to the station for questioning.
In this photo I look like I’ve seen many bad things and laughed at them. That’s about right, but I’m not a policeman.
On the day of the shoot it was raining and the studio was quite difficult to find.
When I got there the jumping lady, in the far bottom left of the poster, was having her go. I know her, but had no idea she was involved. It was a happy coincidence and helped me relax.
I think it’s fair to describe Twitter that way, as an ongoing series of countless happy coincidences. It’s a blend of invariably sensible people finding common ground with complete strangers by bouncing thoughts, links, jokes, ideas and opinions off each other. The content is invariably more banal than noteworthy, but gems are polished and presented every day in tweet form.
The poster hangs in my front room now and I often stop, stare and marvel at something which captures the essence of Twitter’s many different voices.”