Paignton is my worst nightmare and a dream come true. Once establishing that I was going through yet another, yawn! Yawn! Depressive episode, it makes sense to hole up and hibernate even though the sun is shining and people around appear to be doing that thing which is commonly known as laughing. At most, I know that from experience any sensory overload could catapult my depression into full blown melt down and break down mentally and so I do have to manage my way through until I feel safe again. This can take weeks, days and sometimes months. it makes no sense to go on a short break at one of the most busiest times of the year at a holiday resort known for copious arcades, flashing lights, children screaming with joy and children screaming randomly which I have worked out has something to do with seagulls and ice cream. The many pubs with speakers bellowing out to the seafront are an affront to the senses, as a recovering alcoholic I had to walk past them full of longing but, thankfully, a feeling soon replace by the reality of recovery – a no go zone. So there I was in Paignton honouring a commitment with talented photographers, a portrait booking which had been made in advance and one in which I needed to update my Arts profile in all its shapes and forms. And a benchmark of time and place.
I heard Toya from ‘Oxyte’ photography on Radio 4, 2013 talking about her work and her modelling agency ‘Aesthetic Clarity’ and I had known Emma’s work too with ‘Dark Star’ photography and that they worked independently, but sometimes collaboratively. They are good friends and that shows in the way in which they communicate with each other, they don’t stifle each other’s creativity but stick to their own specific skills. Emma’s tends to be taking a photograph in any position she so chooses, if needed she would hang upside down from an automatic revolving door if it made a good image. I admire that agility in the young (or at least younger than me) I’m pleased that she didn’t ask me to pose lying on my stomach outside the main library as she had just done, but there were construction cranes nearby to get me up again.
Funny, warm, talkative, passionate and excitable – a true delight. And trendy, I felt privileged to be in her company, I almost felt ‘cool’ Toya, the core and main helm of all the projects and agency is a skilled photographer too, an astute business Woman who doesn’t take her work lightly although she makes it fun. She is warm, friendly and passionate about her work too and an incredible driving force behind it all. I could not believe that they got photos of me smiling. How can that be? I will repeat that: I cannot believe that they got photos of me smiling, no laughing … actually laughing and it dawned on me that I was having fun.
That my Girlfriend was there to support me and to enjoy the experience also made it better, that we combined the photo shoot with a short break was wise. And we posed for images toward our collaborative music projects and recording. I remember Toya talking about how building the confidence of the person being photographed was an integral thing about their work. And that, my understanding was, that disability or being ‘different’ was not an issue. By which One doesn’t have to be someone they or not, nor does One have to be someone they are meant to be by others standards. It is clear in all the photos taken by Toya and Emma, by ‘Oxyte’ and ‘Dark Star’ – Before you see anything – You see the person. You see their eyes and the honesty, rawness and energy is mind blowing. Each portrait is a living portrait. It is not confined by urban walls or streets or setting. The model is allowed to (or given freedom) in the environment. I love their work and I am greatly honoured to have been photographed by them both. And I love Paignton, never in my life would I have dreamed that I could manage the sensory onslaught of a penny arcade for two hours. It cost me £56 in two pence pieces to win a Spiderman key ring (wink)
But fun is fun and fun can still be fun in glimpses as Depression erodes away again for another rainy day.
Check out their websites and Facebook pages, these people need grants and bursaries and awards and funding, they should be globe trotters with all their models. They are Paignton’s Pride and Joy