THESE PEOPLE #7 – THOMAS REES

THOMAS REES – Thomas is a journalist and editor who lives on Golborne Road and works with me on my magazine, SMACK.

I met Thomas when I was about 19 working in a bar in Nottinghill called 192. It was frequented by luminaries from the arts (all branches) and Thomas was a regular. Much later (I’m now 45) I met Thomas again when I opened my studio on Portobello Road.

Thomas is a finely tuned human by which I mean he is alive to the stories of other people. He is interested in everyone (and devastatingly disdainful of others who he might describe as a ‘long drink of water’ – for Thomas this is as low as you can get. It means you are a bore) and he has created a kind of personal republic in which everyone; beggar, thief, magnate, artist are equal.

Normally Thomas wears glasses but because they were reflecting badly I asked him to take them off. Suddenly he looked naked. I chose this picture because it surprised me – who am I to tell you who my sitters are through an arbitrary selection of one image? If I’m surprised then so much the better.

We look at portraits as objects or, in other words, a literal depiction of the human they represent. But are they not something quite different? A psychologist told me that when someone with ‘body dysmorphia‘ looks at themselves in a picture or mirror they see not purely what is reflected but a comparison with every physiognomy they have ever encountered and the ideals of their imaginations. In this way, I would assert, when we look at a picture of another face the image which is formed in the mind is coloured according to one’s own psychology.

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Perhaps the portrait that you are looking at should really be considered as a ‘one off’ because portraits can only be viewed on an individual basis according to one’s own experience and influences. Perhaps all images are just starting points for the imagination and should no longer be regarded as having universal significance.

 To be continued

The process of making a portrait seems to be very fluid and perhaps never finished.

PORTRAIT OF THOMAS REES

As the series continues I will expand on this psychological theory of portraiture and how we, the viewers, engage with it.

Please click on ‘best seen in full’ (bottom left) to view correctly.

THESE PEOPLE #5 – LENE SAHLHOLDT

LENE SAHLHODT – Lene is a singer who lives in London but comes from Denmark.

1_L1020219_schneidemanLene is one of the bravest people I know. This is probably why I chose this image. I responded to the strength of her gaze and her posture. Her look to camera is pure and not riven with circumspection or apprehension. To what extent is this picture, or even this selection, an expression of something I responded to both during the shoot and while I was selecting?

The process of making a portrait seems to be very fluid and perhaps never finished.

PORTRAIT OF LENE SAHLHOLDT

As the series continues I will expand on this psychological theory of portraiture and how we, the viewers, engage with it.

Please click on ‘best seen in full’ (bottom left) to view correctly.

THESE PEOPLE #4 – JON LEVENE

JON LEVENE – Jon and I have been friends for some years. He is a photographer/film maker/writer.

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This portrait was made when he was very tired. We are similar in age and have some vague cultural (Jewish) similarities in our backgrounds. Jon is impressively unimpressed by what other people might make of him. This is not the way I find myself. This picture of Jon appeals to me more than the others, perhaps its the slightly twisted neck or the exhausted look straight into camera. Perhaps its the way his poise is slightly uncomfortable. I’m not sure but I prefer it to the others I shot at the time.

PORTRAIT OF JON LEVENE

As the series continues I will expand on this psychological theory of portraiture and how we, the viewers, engage with it.

Please click on ‘best seen in full’ (bottom left) to view correctly.

THESE PEOPLE #3 – AMANDO PIAVANO

AMANDO PIAVANO – I encountered Amando one dark evening as I was locking up. He looked like he wanted to come in and to be honest I was a bit put off by his demeanour – he looked like he’d given up on life and I couldn’t think what he’d find of interest in the shop. I told him I was going but I’d be back the next morning at 9. I never expected to see him again.

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The next morning he was waiting. He got there before me. As far as I could tell he may have been there all night. My heart went out to him and I invited him in. Immediately I realised that there was something different about him – something I had not detected the night before. He told me his story (avionics electrical engineer from Milan). He told me he now travels somewhere every week and that his dog ate his glasses (you can see this if you look closely at the portrait).

Perhaps what I perceived in Amando initially was something I was scared of for myself. In choosing the shot I liked the best I felt most right about showing one of him steadily looking in to the camera – unafraid and far from defeated by life.

As the series continues I will expand on this psychological theory of portraiture and how we, the viewers, engage with it.

PORTRAIT OF AMANDO PIAVANO

Please click on ‘best seen in full’ (bottom left) to view correctly.

THESE PEOPLE #6 – JEAN LELONG

JEAN LELONG – Is there fear in the eyes of Jean? Or is it enquiry? To what extent do you (does one) anthropomorphise the faces of the old? Do we see the emotions in his eyes that we expect to feel ourselves when we are his age or are his inner thoughts and feelings disguised by the patina of age?

PORTRAIT OF JEAN LELONG

As the series continues I will expand on this psychological theory of portraiture and how we, the viewers, engage with it.

Please click on ‘best seen in full’ (bottom left) to view correctly.

THESE PEOPLE #2 – KATE LOWRY

KATE LOWRY – Kate owns and runs the cafe Lowry & Baker. I have known Kate for a few years but like so many acquaintances you make I don’t know her at all beyond the casual encounters that happen in the course of a working day.

Kate Lowrie, cafe owner, Portobello Road

Despite not really ‘knowing’ someone we make assumptions about people. These are based only partially on the clues we are given. But mainly, I believe, our assumptions are based on the projections we place on others. In other words what we see in someone else is a clue to what we see in ourselves (even if only subconsciously). 

As the series continues I will expand on this psychological theory of portraiture and how we, the viewers, engage with it.

PORTRAIT OF KATE LOWRY

Please click on ‘best seen in full’ (bottom left) to view correctly.

THESE PEOPLE #1 – SHELDON JAMES

My print shop has a big window fronting onto the street. People call in or pass by. I feel drawn to making a portrait of some of these passers by.

I suspend a grey cloth and ask my subject to stand in front of it and, using the abundant daylight streaming through the window, I make between 10 and 20 exposures. I always use the same lens and camera. The ‘noise’ visible in the image increases when the weather is bad and I can’t get a good exposure. I choose my favourite picture and post it on my website.

The exposures I choose show the internal gap of the sitter; the space between their personality (that which they project – their ego) and the most profound silence within them; something which we all share. And something of myself which, I, the photographer, subconsciously project onto the subject.

This first one is of Sheldon James. Sheldon has a food stall on Golborne Road called Trini Flava. On any Friday or Saturday you will find a group of people surrounding the stall some of whom are eating but the rest are discussing metaphysics and philosophy. Conversations can run for hours and even days. Sheldon chairs the discussions with grace.

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Gazing at (and indeed making) portraits of others is as much about self projection as it is about objective concentration on an other being. Rembrandt understood this and in another post I will relate which aspects of his work have been so important in influencing mine.

I’ll be posting new portraits regularly.

Alex

 

PORTRAIT OF SHELDON JAMES