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Paul { Northern Rivers Portrait Photographer }

Paul & I spent a few hours together one morning last week. Talking, listening, laughing. We share the same view on some things. On others we are diametrically opposed. We have a routine that is similar in ways, but indescribably different in others.

Paul lives under a house owned by a friend of his, here in Lismore.

Like Paul, I am an early riser. Both of us are up before the sun. I like the peace & the quiet & the fact that I can work & think for a few hours  without phone calls & emails to distract me. The gentle onset of day simultaneously stirs & focuses me & I am at my most productive in this time. Of course good quality coffee helps……

Paul starts his day the same way he ends it. Drinking. Before dawn he has started on the first of what is, most days, two four litre casks of white wine.

I enjoyed chatting & joking with him & I know he like my company. He has a lot to say but, I suspect, no one who will listen. I hadn’t known him to this point so have no history to influence my opinion or perception of him. Even accounting for the effects of a few litres of wine he is a gregarious, non threatening person. He was relatively comfortable with me photographing him in what is essentially his home

Bella, the Italian greyhound

Every so often as we spoke, a look would come across Paul’s face. Sometimes it would pass laterally, like a ripple, other times it burned me from his eyes & lingered. It was like a realisation, perhaps buried or half forgotten. I was searching for some kind of clarity into what had been Paul’s life until this point, & how he had come to where he know was, both in a physical & psychological sense.

As a people photographer I am always searching for visual metaphors & ways to illustrate what I am seeing & feeling. Paul, surrounded by rubbish, just blended in with the squalour. We live in a disposable society, in which we are encouraged to discard things we no longer want & move on, buy more, buy new. We also discard human beings, the ones we don’t want & move on. This is essentially Paul’s lounge room.

That look, penetrating the fog.

I left & went home. I have always been acutely aware & deeply grateful that I have a family that loves me, parents who always encouraged me & gave me the self belief that I could do whatever I wanted. I have a beautiful wife who tells me she loves me everyday & wants me to be the best me that I can. Soon we will have a our first child, whom we will love unconditionally no matter what they say or do.

But I just had this nagging thought, & maybe you do too…………..that under the right (or wrong) circumstances, with a couple of 50/50 calls going against you or a bad decision made you or someone you love could NEVER one day wake up & realise you are just like Paul.

3 comments
  • Cate

    Beautiful and sad.
    With photo’s like these Paul is not forgotten.

  • Great emotive writing with heartbreakingly beautiful images to match.

  • Diane

    Ben you must work on this exhibition. It has to be the most insightful thing you can do.

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