The Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize exhibition is at London’s National Portrait Gallery.
My photogaph of Tim Andrews is in the exhibition. When Tim was fifty-four, he was diagnosed with Parkinsons, and two years later he embarked on a personal project to be photographed by numerous different photographers. The picture was made with a long exposure of almost a minute in his darkened bedroom. The bedroom is both the most private sanctuary and the place in which we sometimes have nightmares. Though Tim was naked in front of his bedroom wall, all props and clues to his whereabouts have been removed, so that layers of his character could be revealed without distractions.
Tim’s body was illuminated with an undulating light during the long exposure, so he was effectively painted with light. The picture has a painterly quality, capturing facets of his persona as his expression changed during the exposure. The word ‘photograph’ literally means to draw with light.
The picture challenges the ‘decisive moment’ school of photographic thinking. One of the reasons why paintings often have a greater resonance than photographs, is because they are made over a period of time and built up in layers. We don’t see or experience life in flashes of a 250th of a second. Instead, our eyes dart around and there is an unfolding synthesis of images which our brains interpret as experience.
Tim is a remarkable man who has allowed 130 photographers to portray him, and his project will be featured in The Guardian Weekend on 12th February. BBC2′s Culture Show is running a feature on Tim on February 10th.
Read critic Francis Hodgson’s review for the FT in which he discusses the picture. There’s also a link at the end of his article to a video which is worth watching.