The images used in this blog are not the ones I will be using for the final show, they are alternates used basically because it seems daft to have a photography blog without images.
I went down to Toulons yesterday via Marseille to shoot Jonny Wilkinson’s hands at the Stade Mayol. It was quite a hike there and back in a day, but well worth it, even if they did steal my cheese (more on that later). We met up and the stadium and walked out onto the huge pitch to take some shots, trying out a few different ideas. Of course the shot I ought to use is the classic one of his pre-kick hands gesture, but I like the others too, it’s a tough choice. Apart from the obvious reasons for using it, I was also struck by his explanation of it. It’s his key focus point amidst the maelstrom of on pitch pressure and distraction. The roar of the crowd is so great you can hardly hear yourself think, and his gesture, developed over the years, helps him go to a place where he can drown out the mayhem, and it becomes ‘the still point of the turning world’. Of course we all know that focus and clearing your mind can take you there, but it’s not easy to do. It made me think how much we should all try from time to time to take ourselves to that place, away from the white noise, and free from all the endless inner chatter in our minds. His gesture is a sort of instant meditation technique I think, a way of channelling both thought and energy to a single focus point, where your one goal can crystalize and become unencumbered, doubt free and pure. He’s a very focused and thoughtful (in both respects) man, who emanates a calm kindness and generosity of spirit, without ego, and is certainly one of the nicest ‘famous’ people (for want of a better and less shallow word) I’ve met and photographed.
As for the considerably less interesting cheese incident…
Having missed trains due to late buses I gave up on French public transport and hired a car, well more of a sewing machine actually, to get to Toulons from Marseille. I was still late, but Jonny kindly shifted our meeting to just before his evening training session – which I didn’t envy him in thirty-five degrees of heat! So we were able to shoot, still within my pre-requisite half an hour per subject, before I dashed back to Marseille to fly home. I bought some cheese, because it’s the law in France, but the bored French customs officers at an empty security desk saw fit to classify it as a liquid. Now if it had been a runny brie then they may arguably have had a point, but a stout goat’s cheese and sheep’s cheese just simply aren’t liquids. For a Frenchman to take away another man’s cheese, surely that’s cause for war? I wanted to shout at him ‘You may have stolen my cheese, but we whipped your arses at Agincourt’, but as he’d almost stripped me to my boxers, I felt he might not see the funny side. Still I shan’t forget you, cheese man, have you no shame?
A very long (home by 3.00 am) and great, if at times tense and frustrating, day. Mr Wilkinson you’re a gentleman and a scholar, thank you.