Stop-Motion: Tim Andrews’ ‘Over The Hill’ Photo Project

Rosie Hardy

I’m often drawn to art that draws on ideas about the brain, mind and mental health, and the combination of these. Tim Andrews’ ‘Over The Hill’ project is one that I’ve followed for some time and I feel it speaks a lot about identity and illness, as well as creativity and pushing the boundaries of portrait photography. Tim was diagnosed with Parkinsons in 2005, when he was 54. A couple of years later, he answered an advert in Time Out from a professional photographer looking for people to pose for nude pictures. The experience was enlightening and prompted him to respond to other adverts, and he took to Gumtree to find other photographers to capture him. Now his project includes a couple of hundred different photographers, from students and amateur hobbyists to well-known professionals such as Rankin, who have all photographed Tim in their unique way. The pictures range from candid portraits to monochrome nudes, vibrantly styled pictures and more surreal and bizarre imagery. I was already familiar with some of the photographers Tim has worked with and I like seeing how they incorporated him into their signature-style.  As a photographer myself, the images offer me inspiration for the myriad of different things one could create with a model (as well as thinking about getting in front of the lens!).

Miss Aneila

On his blog Tim documents his experiences with each of the photographers. What comes across is his real passion for art and how much he enjoys getting to know the different artists and being a part of their work. It’s fascinating seeing the many different ways that they have represented him, sometimes in a very intimate manner, sometimes more fantastical. One of the most noticeable features of Parkinson’s is the motor tremor that individuals develop. Given this, it’s interesting how the images often give such a picture of stillness and of peace. They’re static representations, frozen micro-second captures of someone who’s life must be rippled with hard to control motion. Parkinson’s is unfortunately a neuro-degenerative condition for which there is no cure, and given the subject matter you could imagine that the project could be quite depressing, charting the body’s decline. However, as Tim takes encounters a wider range of photographers, travels to further locations and creates ever more striking images, he tells a story of someone pushing to get the most out of life.

Justyna Neyring

Rekha Garton

Interview with Tim in the Times here

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EDAW’13: Now that I don’t have an eating disorder…

Cake: Something I enjoy.

Cake: Much tastier without a side of guilt and self-loathing.

So today’s the last day of this year’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I’ve read the blog-posts, the newspaper articles and watched the campaign videos – there’s been some fantastic stuff this year. And I’ve spent quite a bit of the week thinking about what my offering would be. Last year I wrote this post about how difficult it is to spot someone suffering from an eating disorder.

The days ticked on. And I realised that maybe the reason I’m struggling to engage with this topic is that, really, I don’t have an eating disorder.

I used to. I had an eating disorder for 6 years and recovery, like the onset, has snuck insidiously into my life. At first it was all big steps, exceptions and firsts. Challenges and a lot of tears. But slowly, it started becoming more and more everyday until I reached a point where I don’t really remember the last time I engaged in some typically ‘eating disordered’ behaviour. Every time I eat a typical meal or don’t beat myself up about gaining a couple of pounds, it’s not ‘a step in recovery‘, it’s just ‘living‘.

It’s taken a long time and a lot of work to get here, and I don’t want to lose track of that. I’ve done a whole lot of treatment (thank you NHS!) and I’ve had some brilliant support from my long-suffering friends, family and partners. It didn’t ‘just happen’, but then, suddenly, here I am. I have off-days and times when I get down about my body, but they’re not extreme and they don’t restrict my life. So I thought this year I’d reflect on some of the quiet achievements of recovery and living in (relative) balance with food and my body. I’d like to encourage others still stuck in ED-hell that recovery, though not easy, really is possible. And life on the other side is rather good.

Now that I don’t have an eating disorder…

  • I go out to dinner, to parties and events. I don’t have to live in fear of a buffet being suddenly sprung on me! And these events don’t revolve around the food, I can focus on being together with others.
  • I have no ‘forbidden’ foods. I eat all sorts of food. Sometimes I go for a very indulgent meal or eat a whole packet of biscuits and I don’t really care because everyone does that and one day of indulgence will not make me balloon-out. 
  • I don’t cry when I go clothes shopping. I go get another size. Or just shop online.
  • Sometimes I gain weight. And sometimes I lose weight. It doesn’t have a huge impact on my day/week/month. I actually rarely weigh myself.
  • There are things about my appearance I’m not so keen on. I still have hang-ups and insecurities. But I don’t think anyone has a 100% positive body-image. However, looking in the mirror and not liking how I look doesn’t stop me going out and doing the things I want to do.
  • When someone tells me I look ‘well’ or ‘healthy’ I don’t automatically assume that they mean I’ve put on weight. I can actually take a compliment now!
  • I don’t get into ‘diet talks’. They really bore me. Diets have had enough of my life already.
  • I can think about things other than food, weight, body sizes and the massive long lists of numbers (calories, time in the gym, km run, inches round the waist) that an eating disorder can involve. There’s so much space inside my head now to think so many different things.

So well done to everyone involved in the week raising awareness, there’s still so much more to do but every year I feel like people are becoming more sensitive and understanding of eating disorders.

Strong & Beautiful Style at MAC

strength

I’m currently loving the current MAC ‘Strength’ campaign, featuring fitness model and female body-builder, Jelena Abbou. I’m a long-term fan of MAC make-up and they’re known for employing eye-catching concepts and styling for their photo-shoots, but it’s really refreshing to see a mainstream advertisement that celebrates some diversity in female beauty. Other than rather tokenistic (and often insulting) ‘real women have curves’ shots, a particular standard of young, waifish (and usually white) beauty is very much the published norm. Though being fit and exercising has never exactly been unfashionable, often it seems to be marketed only as a means to losing weight and becoming a particular shape. See this rather depressing article about a New York-based trainer who helps agency models get down to sample size with a very particular exercise regime “Push-ups are out — developing the chest is bad news — as are squats and lunges, which make the derrière too round to fit into the clothes”. When muscular women have featured in ad campaigns and editorials, they’re often portrayed as something of a freak-show attraction, or in a rather masculine manner. It’s nice so see that this campaign celebrates Abbou as a feminine woman as well as an athlete, whose body is a testament to her power and dedication. Strength indeed.

Shop the collection here.

Closet Skeletons – Halloween Inspiration

Photo by Pauline Darley. 

It’s less than a month until the dress-up event of the year (Purim excluded), it’s the Goth Xmas, it’s Halloween! And I have already begun scheming about outfits Some of the best/funniest costumes I see each year are based on recent cultural references (who’s going as one of the Avengers, Effie Trinket or Christian Grey this time?) or an extremely poor taste zombie version of a recently dead celebrity. Or this could be a chance to, Mean Girls-style, wear your most revealing costume under the guise of fancy-dress (teenage sex-worker seems to be a popular choice year on year). What are you planning on wearing? (What do you mean you’d not thought about it yet?!)

Personally, I think I’ll be going for something a bit more elegant. At the moment I’m drawing on my love of things anatomical and considering going for something with a skeletal-theme (though not day-of-the-dead sugar skulls, they’ve been done rather to…death).

 I’ve completely fallen in love with this embroidered body-suit from Marchesa. The detail is beautiful and I like how the sheer fabric shows off the body, whilst juxtaposing the bones on the outside, a gilded exo-skeleton. I’d like to wear this under a low cut dress, so the golden ribs would show across the chest (or wear it on it’s own to a rather wilder party!). Kirsten Stewart wore a dress from this collection to the Snow White and the Huntsman premier.

Other beautiful examples of the skeleton in fashion are this amazing leather harness from Zana Bayne (this too would look good over or under something more floaty and feminine. NSFW image here. I’m particularly taken with the detachable arms (complete with ulna and radius) and finger-harnesses.

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Young and Naked: Vee Speers’ Party Guests

I caught sight of Vee Speers‘ photographs in an article recently in the Metro, where residents living near her Chelsea gallery show had kicked up a fuss about her work being ‘distasteful’ and ‘semi-pornographic’. No doubt the complaints have generated more publicity for the exhibition and the artist than they have deterred visitors. The exhibition, entitled ‘The Birthday Party’ features children dressed up as if to attend a party in a range of quirky and curious outfits. The pictures have an almost-painted quality, they’re pale and slightly eerie, staring doe-eyed, reminding me of the work of Erwin Olaf and digital artist Ray Caesar. The photographs are of Veers’ own daughter and her friends, though she has put together the outfits for the photographs. Some of the shots do involve nudity; a girl clutches dolls to her bare chest, a boy poses with in his underwear with boxing gloves, a girl wears a Minnie mouse-style outfit un-buttoned at the chest. Admittedly these poses might be more provocative for an adult, but I don’t think they’re presented in a sexualised way. Even the shots in which the children dress in more ‘adult’ outfits, the image seems more like ‘playing dress-up as grown-ups’ rather than imitating maturity.

Nudity in itself need not be something sexual or offensive, and in childhood it can be very innocent and playful. Often family photos of children when they’re young will involve some nudity, perhaps playing on the beach or in the garden. Sometimes kids don’t want to wear clothes! Young children don’t tend to feel embarrassed or ashamed of their naked bodies, they haven’t yet learnt to treat it as such. Where does the concern come from over these images? Is it that they might encourage others to view children in a sexual way, or that those who have an attraction to children might find them arousing? Unfortunately we can’t choose what other people get turned on by, one man’s porn is another’s M&S lingerie catalogue. Personally I find these photos rather fascinating, they seem to create a rather bizarre and perfect world ruled by children, with its own rites and customs, that we are not invited to. Sometimes children wear less clothing, but it’s for themselves, it’s their own, not for others. The photos are beautifully composed, simple yet exquisite. The combination of something soft and natural and something more fantastical. We’re all naked underneath and maybe there’s nothing inherently offensive or erotic about a nude body out of any associated context. Maybe we need to decouple the body and nudity from sexuality, which though often intertwined, can exist separately.

Re-capture – Eating Disorder Recovery in Photographs

I had a bit of good news today. Which I rather needed as this morning I went out to find someone had broken into my car, which left me more than a little bit miffed. Anyway, back to my news.

I found out that a photograph I took is going to be included in an exhibition of photos by young people (I still count as young!) about recovery from eating disorders. The exhibition is going to be displayed at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh during eating disorders awareness week (20th – 26th February) and then will be touring around Scotland. The people from the project say: ‘It is hoped that the exhibition will create a better understanding of eating disorders and the journey of recovery, while helping to tackle stereotypes and stigma attached to the illness.’  I sadly can’t go to the launch event, but I’m quite excited that so many people will see my photo (I’ve never had a photo in anything like this! I’m going to see if I can get a photo of my photo on the wall). I hope that people will see something in it, that it’ll mean something.

The photo I took probably isn’t one of my ‘technically’ best shots, but it’s one that I felt summed up a lot of my recovery (very much an on-going process). It’s quite simple, but it’s something about ‘making friends’ with my body, after putting it through so much. It’s a picture of my stomach, which if I’m honest, is the part of my body I’ve disliked the most. It does feel a bit strange to put it out there, to the world! I’ve spent many years obsessing over it, trying to hide it, sucking it in, measuring it, doing ever-more sit-ups and crunches. But it’s a part of my body, a part of me. And I don’t have to love it every single day, but I’m learning to live with it, to accept it. And maybe there’s something beautiful about the human body, just as it is. As a photographer I find the human body fascinating. I enjoy photographing people of all different sizes, physiques and looks, but I find it hard to apply this to myself. I’ve come a long way, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever feel 100% recovered. Maybe I will, I don’t know. It doesn’t dominate my life as it once did, and that’s amazing. There are days when I feel quite ambivalent about it all, but getting the email about this today kind of made me feel that even though it can be really tough, it’s worth it, it’s worth trying.

I haven’t seen the other photographs yet (part of my is hoping there aren’t too many images of smashed scales and tape-measures, but I guess a bit of that kind of imagery is inevitable), but I there’s going to be an online gallery. I’ll post a link when it comes up. I feel quite honoured to be involved in a project like this and be able to use something I love like photography to do something for the cause. Rather than a more public audience, I’m kind of wondering about what reaction I’ll get from other people with eating disorders, what they’ll think. If anyone’s in Scotland and gets a chance to see the exhibition in-real-life, I’d love to hear what you thought!