This is the first photograph I ever took. It is my parents. We were queuing to see and exhibition of Dr Who costumes at Sudley Castle. I’m not talking about the snazzy new Dr Who. I’m talking wobbly scenery and costumes that looked as if they had been sent to Vision On as art projects and not quite made the grade. This was England in the 1970s. It looked a lot like Poland at the same time. People wore a lot of brown and there were power cuts and food shortages.
I love this photograph because it’s got them down to pat. My mother was a generous photographic subject, she still is, it’s hard to get her off guard, she cares about how she appears, which is probably why she is forever nagging me about my appearance. My father, on the other hand, had the attention span of a gnat and the sort of tolerance and generosity towards photographers that meant if you didn’t click fast, he was either dicking about or just plain gone. This photo gets them just in the moment where she is still determined to look nice and he’s about to go and investigate whatever it is that has piqued his interest out of shot.
I took the photograph with a Prakitica Super TL. An East German pacifier for those who aspired to Canon or Nikon. He bought it a year or so earlier and from the very first moment I saw it, I wanted it. I wasn’t allowed to touch it; to be honest, I’m not sure he really understood it enough to explain it to me. He did allow me to look through the view-finder once, on holiday in Wales. We were off for a walk in the inevitable drizzle, along the rump of the Worms Head at the Gower Coast. I guess I must have been pestering him because he told me to close one eye and to look through the viewfinder. Then he held the camera in front of my face and twisted the focus. Suddenly the green grey blur of the view resolved into green grass and steel sky. I clearly remember thinking: this is like being in my own personal cinema and I’m in charge.
Megalomania, that’s why I do it.