24 Dec 2009


Wisdom from The Bard:
'Address to the Toothache'

My curse upon your venom'd stang.
That shoots my tortur'd gums alang,
An thro my lug gies monie a twang,
Wi gnawing vengeance,
Tearing my nerves wi bitter pang,
Like racking engines!

A' down my beard the slavers trickle,

I throw the wee stools o'er the mickle.
While round the fire the giglets keckle,
To see me loup.
An raving mad, I wish a heckle
Were i' their doup!

When fevers burn, or ague freezes, 

Rheumatics gnaw, or colic squeezes,
Our neebors sympathise to ease us,
Wi pitying moan;
But thee! - thou hell o a' diseases -
They mock our groan!


Of a' the numerous human dools -
Ill-hairsts, daft bargains, cutty-stools,
Or worthy frien's laid i' the mools, 

Sad sight to see!
The tricks o knaves, or fash o fools -
Thou bear'st the gree!


Whare'er that place be priests ca' Hell,
Whare a' the tones o misery yell,An ranked plagues their numbers tell,In dreadfu raw,
Thou, Toothache, surely bear'st the bell,
Amang them a'!

O thou grim, mischief-making chiel,
That gars the notes o discord squeel,
Till human kind aft dance a reel
In gore, a shoe-thick,Gie a' the faes o Scotland's weal
A towmond's toothache! 

My teeth grieve for these tombstones. Beauty, youth and esteem are cannibalised by the toothless gurn. These cankered pusses can only savour the memory of a steak or apple. Balanced meals are off the menu for those who can't chew. Life sucks.

Q: What's got fifty legs and two teeth? A: The queue for a 'script.'

The punchline (25 people queuing for a methadone pre'script'ion) hits below the belt- it's the sugar that makes the acidic medicine and the gumline go down. 
 Dereliction of dental care is the catalyst for a spectrum of remediable and chronic illnesses. The symptoms of neglect are rooted in poverty, diet and phobia - in parts of Glasgow men are condemned to a life expectancy of just 54 years. Teeth are a crude litmus test; when the paper turns red society is at risk.
 So many of The Big Issue vendors I meet endure the torment of wracked mouths, gum gouging and bodged extractions. Vendors in Glasgow universally complain that access to free care is fraught with pit-falls - there's always a loop-hole ready to ensnare them.


  The counter-point to this rueful passage came when a vendor told me of a clinic providing free dental care buried somewhere in the catacombs of Edinburgh's Cowgate. Working from a surgery at the back of a converted chapel were a pair of Santos Dentistas. Dental surgeons Adam and Ania man the post at the Edinburgh Access Practice two days a week and provide free dental care to anyone unfortunate enough to qualify for their services. Both apportion their days between victims of the poverty trap and patients with blood-born viruses. Ania also works one day at a psychiatric hospital carrying the torch for Mary Seacole. Against implausible odds they are heroically plugging a septic health service. "If you're on benefits then you're entitled to free dental care" they conceded. And there was the rub; to qualify for benefits you need an address - a home!

 Neither break the rules, they'll treat anyone who needs their care out of hours.


You'll find Santa on Christmas Day working at the emergency dental clinic- ask for Ania.

Kamikaze has had another visitation from the "tattoo spirit". A sacred patch of virginal terrain on his ink-etched torso had been consecrated by another of my images. His chromium skirl, framed by the motto 'C'est la Fuckin' Vie', roars out from the encroaching crevice like a chrome Leo the MGM lion.

11 Dec 2009

Bristol Old Vic

The Bristol Old Vic have commissioned me to create images for a play scheduled for next March. 'Juliet and her Romeo' is Tom Morris's first production as new director of Britain's longest running theatre. Tom's adaptation of "Shakespeare's text with some cuts," is performed by octogenarians and set in a care-home. The images should be unapologetic, beautiful and celebrate love's ability to transcend age - not buried in digital-botox.

Sîan Phillips CBE

Tom has cast iconic Welsh actress Sian Phillips CBE as his Juliet. Sian's distinctive features and extraordinary presence command the frame. Her lover is to be played by the wickedly charming Michael Byrne - a surprising role model who made me want to sprint to seventy. Sian and Michael regaled me with stories of them with legends such as Olivier, Jacobi, Richardson and Guinness. With 141 years of experience between them they are hyperlinks to stage and cinema history. One anomaly struck me as out-of-sync; neither had seen Romeo and Juliet performed on stage!

Michael Byrne

  This was pre-pre-production and to make the exercise more of a challenge this would be the first time the principal actors had met. I had two and a half hours to shoot in a production office donated by Jerwood Studios. The intimate 4x3 metre space, complete with desks and chairs would have to make do. Fortunately there were no assistants, wardrobe or props. I maneuvered between a web of cables and stands, careful not to spark a domino-effect. The session opened with Sîan. She was well accustomed to the lens. Once I'd found a niche in her repertoire of reflexive poses I moved swiftly on. Michael was photo-putty; playful, provocative and consummately versatile.
 Today would have been my fathers birthday - he'd have enjoyed the company.

(selection of outtakes)

 In the days of photo-chemistry I operated within the confines of the characteristics of manufacturer's film and papers. Once the shutter was pressed the process came to an end, save a few arbitrary adjustments made by the printer. The photographic community's appetite for manipulation was whet with the advent of (Ilford) Multi-Grade. They embraced it's ability to allow the manipulation of not only exposure but also contrast. The photographer (or printer) could be further imbued in the image by the shake of a mask or wave of a dodging wand.

A liquid crystal now radiates where a halide crystal once burned and the physical imprint continues through the photographer's stylus. The connection is strengthened and expanded exponentially through the myriad tones, colours and hues at the disposal of today's photographer. The digital palette marks the departure from the one-click traditionalist.

After more than a decade in my Adobe cell I have developed a synergy integral to the creating of my images. Intervention by the most skillful pixel surgeon only derails expression and severs the creative link.

No one else can do this for me - I won't to apportion credit for my vision.