Thursday, 31 March 2011

Portraits: 11

Willem Dafoe, actor, in a hotel in London, 1990
I shot this as the interview was going on. Of the interviews I attended, this seemed one of the more engaged, as journalist and interviewee ranged around the room and allowed time for photos. Coincidentally, I'd photographed film director John Waters only the week before. I'd heard that he and Dafoe were friends, so I mentioned this and Dafoe said, oh yes, Waters had done some babysitting for their child only recently. I remember liking the idea of having John Waters as a babysitter. For City Limits.

John R. T. Davies, sound technician and musician, in his studio, England, 1993
Described in The Independent after his death in 2004 as "… the world's leading specialist in the art of sound restoration" and "a gentle and supremely English mixture of the intense and the absurd". He notably restored jazz 78s – eventually (just for example, and after this shot) seeing the release of his complete 8-CD set of the music of Bessie Smith. The Independent added: "Affection and care for his family, animals, trees, insects and local miscreants showed a Buddhist core in this gentle genius of restoration." Shot in his studio, surrounded by notes, records, tapes, recording equipment and a great typewriter. For City Limits.

Roy Decarava, photographer, after his Photographers' Gallery talk, London, 1988
Roy's work was an inspiration to me when I first came across it. His work on jazz – in dark clubs without any extra lighting – helped me focus on what I wanted to capture. So I was keen to hear his talk, and took the opportunity to ask to take a couple of shots (barely portraiture) afterward. He was quite amenable, and even signed my copy of his The Sweet Flypaper of Life book of Harlem work accompanied by Langston Hughes' text. I remember him saying that he took pictures in such darkness that he sometimes didn't know if there was anything on the film until he got home and developed it. Although quickly taken, as he signed and talked with others, I kind of liked this blurry picture. He died in 2009.

Ian Dury, singer and songwriter, at home, London, 1989
One of Ian's hobbies was photography, and he had this tripod and carpet-backdrop setup for his use in his flat overlooking Hammersmith Bridge. He was energetic, emotional and talkative. Posing him in his own home-studio looked a good setting. Dury was later diagnosed with cancer and he died in 2000. His drummer, Charley Charles, also died of cancer in 1990. I very briefly worked alongside Charles in an attempt to save the theatre the Kilburn State in London – a classic art deco theatre – which nevertheless became a bingo hall. I see that now, the bingo has closed and there is a new campaign to save it. Life goes around. For City Limits.

For more on these portraits, see here, and the Portraits tag at right.

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