This has to be one of my favourite portraits I have ever taken. Mainly because it’s actually of my very beautiful Mum, but also because out of all the millions of pictures on display in my home, this is the one that people always remark on. As a photographer that is a wonderful thing. Roland Barthes talks in ‘Camera Lucida’ that what makes a photograph special is an ‘element which rises from the scene, shoots out like an arrow, and pierces me’. Out of all my pictures I think this is the closest I have come to achieving this. Coincidently, when Roland Barthes experienced this, it was also through a picture that represented his Mother.
Strangers always stop in front of this image, take a moment and then say the same thing every time, ‘wow who is this lady, she’s strikingly beautiful’. Of course I utterly agree, but I am convinced that I am not just biased, and there is something special about this picture, because of the genuine feedback I have got from it. Technically it’s not quite perfect, but for me that doesn’t matter because her strong confident facial expression seems to say pah! That is insignificant, I am timeless and classic! It was taken on my old Mamiya RZ67 medium format camera using Kodak NC 400…..I think the fact that it was taken on film actually gives the picture its (slightly imperfect) je nais c’est quoi.
The photograph was taken in my Mum’s house where she lives in rural France. She is sitting in the old grape press which they have now converted into a lovely and luxurious rustic bath. It came about because of a picture in our family of my Nana. She was a very central character in all of my families lives and there is a very significant huge framed portrait of her sitting on a chair wearing a black jumper. So this portrait is massively personal to me. I wanted to take a picture of my Mum that was equal in preciousness to my family. It now features in some shape or form in all of our homes, so I really couldn’t be more pleased that the closest I’ve come to photographic perfection, is through taking a picture of my Mum.