It’s not easy to get flondo to talk (he is after all, a man of few words), and he especially dislikes talking about himself. But making Eye Music together allowed me some glimpses of the man behind the pictures which tickled my curiosity. Finally, I decided to corner him and interview him.
I think it may have hurt a little; there was definitely some growling and hissing involved, but he actually did answer questions! Here it is, Q&A with flondo!
K: Reading your bio in Eye Music, I see you mention a background in the theatre. I am so curious! Where did you work, what did you do?
f: For many years at the National Theatre of Great Britain. I assisted my then wife, the Wig Mistress (Joyce Beagarie, now retired) in running the wig department. We worked closely with the costume designers and costume department to create characters in every timeframe.
We made and daily redressed wigs, did special effects makeup, and did a lot of babysitting. ("Actors are children playing hide and ego seek" - quote from 'Applause' - my first West End musical). Over the years our wig-making companies helped create a few little shows - (Evita, Cats, Phantom, to name a couple)
With period hairdressing as a specialty, I was occasionally invited to advise on or participate in the making of a television programme or series. The first of my own - so to speak - was 'A Woman of Substance', a piece that still makes me proud today.
K: And what about the film business?
f: All here:
K: Some of your photos look so painterly. Did you ever actually paint?
f: In art school, I was considered good. As a teen I dabbled in oils - at the time oils was the only recognized 'ART'.
Even sold some - landscapes, bad copies of 'Modern Art' - YUK! When I look back on it.
There were some watercolours that I still remember.
K: About photography… when/how did you start taking pictures?
f: My first real memory is as a child, standing on a chair to take a photo of Christmas dinner with a 'Brownie', probably around 1960. As a teenager I bought my first real camera at about 15, a 'Praktica'. I did mainly candid shots, flowers and landscapes.
K: And the pictures of men?
f: Having created men in photoshop, making what I called my 'Frankenpeople', and embelishing them, I tired of fake men and decided, about 5 years ago, to start shooting them myself.
For many years my creative juices were normally being used in my theatre and film work, as well as doing hair and makeup for some photographers.
I hadn't picked up a camera in years other than to take holiday snaps and stuff like that, and working with these amazing photographers was rather intimidating, so I didn't shoot, but eyes and soul always open, I learned, not by rote, but by osmosis.
K: And where/how/when did you learn to use Photoshop?
f: While working with one particular photographer in the nineties, I noticed that his/our work was being really messed up by the advertising agencies he worked for. Bad airbrushing and close cutting were sometimes laughable and destroyed the work we did (we were still using film then, and counting frames).
At the time Photoshop was young, but I knew I could do better (there are many things you can do in post-production that you can't do with a make-up brush).
So, I found a Photoshop program. I was totally lost, but having decided to conquer it, I did. I can't claim to be an expert, but I do what I do.
K: Indeed! How do you get the inspiration for all the different fantasy worlds that beckon from your pictures? Readings, other art, the model themselves, dreams out of your head?
f: Inspiration comes from everywhere.
I have long been an admirer of Jacques-Louis David's art as well as that of Caravaggio. Classic/classical artists have always been a draw for me. I have spent hours in galleries simply absorbing certain pieces of art, and have inhabited Art galleries most of my adult life when I could.
Now that I don't travel much, I get to visit online those I have no physical access to.
The end results of my planned shoot may not even be what my initial idea was. I may start with an image in my head, yes I know it sound cliché, but as I work the image creates itself, and that may be in the camera or in Photoshop.
Working with any model is a challenge in itself. I don't just do 'naked man standing', there must to be something else, or it is simply boring to me.
K: Speaking of which, what makes you decide if a model "will do"?
f: Everyone has 'Model' potential, but Personality is a must. Not everyone HAS one.
I have my personal preferences as to looks - but, hey, it's a visual art.
I rarely have the opportunity to photograph my own fantasy, but I create for others.
My fantasies are personal, but come out somewhat in my art.
K: All your models are very different, but have always have "special eyes". Do you pick them for “eye power”, or does that come out in the pictures because you are so damn good a photographing them?
f: That is something I couldn't possibly explain. Perhaps it is the relationship I create with a model.
Like first impressions, it's the first few moments of meeting that dictate the end result of a shoot, be it the first and only shoot, or on a long term basis (and sometimes Photoshop helps).
And no I do not sleep with my models. Well, not anymore. Sleeping with your model creates a completely different bond/level, and I cannot look at the photo as an image alone. It changes what I do with an image.
K: And props? Where are all the beautiful props from? f: Most of my props are fabrics - a few suitcases’ worth of them. Other stuff may be from the location I am shooting at, the model’s wardrobe, or things lying around. I have a small collection of jewels - cheap, dollar store variety, that is very useful. Children’s toys can always become something else :)) (rainbow ropes - swords etc). Others are regularly added in Photoshop, even the backdrops.
K: Where do they all go after the shoot is over?
f: Back in the coffee tins and suitcases in the storage locker.
K: What possessed you to associate yourself with a loony poet for your new book?
f: I fell in love with her work online and then started communicating with a wonderful creature, and in a mad moment I thought that it might be a good idea to combine our talents, hence - "Eye Music".
The title Eye music comes from a comment on one of my online pics - someone said - 'this is Music for my eyes'.
Thank you for your time. It was great to have you here!