Friends & Family
Where would I be if it wasn’t for my friends? I know, that’s such a cliche but there’s a good reason for that, it’s true. Some friendships have come and gone, as they do, but are none the less for the impact they had on my life, and some remain and are extraordinary to me…I’m not an easy person to have as a friend. I’ve just heard from one of those old friends, who had a big impact on my life and who I don’t see as often as I’d like to, through no fault of his. He’s just told me that one of our mutual friends, Jackie, has died. And that another friend, Andrea, is far from well. These two women cannot go without mention for various reasons…
The first two photographs on this page were taken in Burnham-Overy-Staithe, in Norfolk, in 1988…I think. Michael, who has just rung me with the sad news, had arranged with others that weekend, to celebrate the fact that we were all turning 40yrs old. It was a really special weekend. It was March and the weather was hot and sunny…really. They were a very creative group of people and I loved being around them. Jackie, who I knew pretty well, especially after we travelled to Bali and Australia in 1982, is in the centre of both these pictures. Andrea, is also in both photo’s. They’re not my best photo’s, in fact they were taken at a time when I still carried a cheap instamatic in my shoulder bag and probably only took about 3 or 4 rolls of film a year. With little or no thought of photography, just using it to record things. But that weekend and for some months leading up to it, I’d started to record more and more and even started to think about framing. That weekend was a turning point for me because when we gathered in London a few weeks later to look at everybody’s photographs that had been taken in Norfolk, I got some surprisingly good comments. These were the only people I knew who all had SLR’s and took lots of photographs. They were all creatives and they knew what they were talking about. Some suggested that I should take photography more seriously and get a ‘proper’ camera…maybe even set up a darkroom. And I did…
I therefor have all the people in these two photographs to thank for their encouragement and for setting me off on an adventure in photography.
The other person I have mentioned above is Andrea. She and her partner Bill were people I didn’t know that well but when ever I saw them at parties or gatherings, I always felt drawn to them. Like me, I always felt that Andrea wasn’t settled in the work she was doing or creatively. She was creatively restless. Bill on the other hand, seemed calm and more settled. I really liked them but as with so many of my friendships of that time, I lost contact eventually. Little did I know that out of that creative restlessness, a star would be born. More cliches, I know, but again, true… Andrea is Andrea Levy. She is, of course, rather belatedly, now recognised as one of this countries foremost Authors and has won multiple awards for her books, especially ‘Small Islands’ and the recently televised ” The Long Song”. I’m not a big reader and it was a while before I realised that the Andrea Levy that I was beginning to hear about, was Andrea, the person I knew back in the late ’70’s and ’80’s. What a wonderful achievement. I watched her being interviewed on ‘Imagine’ for the BBC just before Christmas and my heart filled with emotion. I could have sat and listened to her honesty all night…and her lack of pretension and humility were a master class. Especially in an age of ‘so called’ celebrities. My kind of celebrity is someone with great talent and credibility. Someone I can truly admire and who isn’t effected by their fame. Someone like Andrea in fact. So I was truly saddened by the announcement on the news last week to hear that she had died from cancer. We’ve lost a unique and very talented person. February 2019.
I’m very fortunate in that I have two families. One Biological and one Chosen…both loved unconditionally.
They are very different families. One providing me with love, security, support and a good upbringing and the other with deep understanding and a different kind of love and generosity.
Most biological families are complicated…mine was no different. Meeting Yash [Mike] when I was at college, was the beginning of a lifelong friendship, the like of which is pretty rare. When he married Ros and they had Rob and Jack, I was overwhelmed by their ‘invitation’ to be a part of the boy’s lives in a meaningful way. Having sadly not had any children of my own, this was a gift beyond compare. Rob’s birth coincided with my new interest in photography and he and Jack became my first ‘muses’. I can’t thank them and Mike and Ros enough for allowing me to practice my new ‘Hobby’ on them.
My sister Wendy and brother David both went off to lead independent lives…as did I. This meant that our only point of contact was family gatherings on special occasions. By the time Wendy and Kevin had Tim, and David and Pip had Rebekah and Paul, I had Rob and Jack in my life but because it was a slightly unconventional relationship, they were not part of my real family’s gatherings. As a consequence, my photographs are of two distinct ‘families’. Rather than allowing this to be awkward, I saw it as a privilege…two distinct families with different qualities.
I have one Uncle, Ken, one Aunt, Pat and one Cousin, Nicky [we’re a small family]. Again, our lives didn’t come together very often but I’ve always felt great affection for Nicky. She’s married to Anthony and they have three children, Hetty, George and William. Their presence at family gatherings was alway’s such a welcome surprise, with lot’s of fighting , fun and music. George got married last summer to Sophie.
I’m also fortunate enough to have some wonderful friends. Two of whom I’ve known since we were teens. Ed and Andy were part of a ‘crowd’ that hung out in Epsom and roundabouts during the 60’s. We shared all those formative experiences together and continued to have lifelong friendships…to this present day. I recently travelled to Morocco with Ed, who has lived in Canada for over 30 years now. Distance has not dimmed our friendship. Andy and I have always had an occasionally awkward relationship but at heart, it is based on real love and understanding and has got stronger over the years. Ed is married to Trish and they have two sons, Rhys and Todd. Andy is also married, to Didi who has a daughter, Amy.
In the 80’s, whilst living in West Hampstead, I met Neil. We were living complicated lives but came together as friends during a shared love for alternative arts, as members of the wonderful ‘Mombasa Road Show’. A brilliant ‘Punk’ theatre company that was based around Kingsgate Road and took community theatre to a very different level. He is married to Susie and has two delightful children, Hugh and Helen. We are firm friends to this day. He’s a ray of light in my life.
You may have noticed on the ‘Home’ page that I’ve dedicated this website to my nephew Paul. He was 19 when he died from a brain tumour and his death left a void in the lives of all who knew him. David, Pip and Rebekah have somehow found a way of carrying on with their lives but the pain of loss never goes away and their courage is a shining example to me. Rebekah got married to Dan last year and continues to work for a major charity. She is also a wonderful photographer.