Famous faces to grace the walls of the Black Swan Arts Centre in new exhibition
By fromepudding | Monday, May 07, 2012, 18:34
Famous faces from the past 40 years are going on display in a new photography exhibition at Frome's Black Swan Arts Centre from Saturday May 12.
The retrospective by Somerset photographer Tim Mercer will coincide with the launch of his accompanying book "Names and Faces" featuring his portrait shots from the 60s to the 90s.
Tim, who lives in Chantry, spent many years working as a freelance photographer for magazines such as the Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times, Observer, Elle, Harpers & Queen and Tatler and his work is also in the collections of National Portrait Gallery, V&A and Royal Academy.
He has now put together some of the best shots from his portfolio in an exhibition for the Black Swan Arts Centre and he's launched a book alongside the exhibition.
"I think the exhibition and book are a record of a remarkable period. The 60s and 70s were the heyday for magazine photography. Often they didn't give me a brief, they just left me to take the photo as I saw it. When I first started I was desperately nervous and did loads of research. Then I'd have a very limited time to talk to them and get ideas of how I could photograph them. But you use your intuition, instinct and wit to capture what is, in the end, your opinion of their personality."
The exhibition and book will also include local faces alongside his more famous subjects. There are photos of his wife Helen, who used to run the Montessori school in Frome, as well as Philip De Glanville, who has been involved with the Merlin Theatre for years.
It's been a challenge to whittle down the photos chosen for the special exhibition, says Tim, who runs his own design company Mercer Design from his studio in Mells. "I've done it as a kind of record for my four children showing some of my favourite photos, like one of the first ones of my wife Helen showing her at the window of our first flat. That photo is very influenced by the work of Bill Brandt in its use of dark and light."
Tim credits his painter father as a major influence. It was spending time watching him set up his easel and canvas that gave Tim ideas on how to construct his portraits like a painting. Using a Gandolfi camera he picked up as a student at the Royal College of Art, where he was a pupil of Bill Brandt, he spent 20 years capturing his subjects using this tripod camera, a very different piece of kit from the handheld Nikons used by his contemporaries.
"I'd only take 10 plates so that was a discipline in itself to get the shot. But I'd always have the photo I wanted already in my head before I started shooting."
Each selection has a story behind it. In his time he has captured Enoch Powell, famous for his 'rivers of blood' speech, sporting carpet slippers at his Belgravia home and HRH The Prince and Princess of Wales in a private shoot.
"This is the first time this photo has gone on public display. My name was chosen from a list of well-known photographers to photograph the couple during a private dinner at Sutton Place. It was 7.30 in the evening, the light was fading and they kept moving so I had to shout at them, politely I might add, to keep still because I needed half a second exposure. There was an audible intake of breath from their staff behind me but Prince Charles thought it was funny and I took four shots."
The free exhibition runs at the Black Swan Arts Centre in Frome from 12 May until 30 June. His accompanying book of portraits "Names and Faces" will also be on sale.