In Praise of Lasting Friendship
This man has been a massive presence in my life - John Watchman. I try to see John each time I'm in England, though it's not always possible. I came to know him initially through my older brother, Steve, and later developed my own deep friendship with him. During my late-teens we raced on the same cycling team. We competed all across the UK and I invariably travelled with John to meetings. He was not only a senior figure on the team, but also in the sport - a three time winner of the British Individual Championship.
1983 British Championship Final
Certainly I was at an impressionable age, but it's fair to say that John was viewed with a certain awe and reverence by the majority of his peers. He was the fiercest competitor I've known, and as a man, immensely charismatic. Equally, he's always been a great deal of fun, sharp and witty and informed.
British semi-final 1983, Leicester. Not the sharpest image or reproduction, but feel the competitive fire.
A son of Durham, in England's industrial north-east, I recall the many months that John, an engineer by trade, suffered without pay as his company went on strike in support of the miners during the dog-days of the Thatcher years in Britain. My early political views and life philosophies were much shaped by John.
1983/4 - first days of printing my own black-and-white images.
I've lived in the US for thirty-plus years now, and though we've not always been able to speak as often as I'd have liked, John has remained a steadfast presence in my life, someone from whom I learned so much over the course of many miles travelled, and over many pints of beer (mostly his beer, it's fair to say - for a long time back then I was drinking coca-cola, sometimes with a splash of Bacardi).
I didn't have much opportunity to see friends on this most recent trip home, but I brought my camera in the hope of finding time to capture a meaningful portrait of John. He's seventy-two years old now (and will not thank me for pointing this out). For as long as I've known him, he's ridden a bike as his primary means of transport, frequently along Manchester's canals and backroads, regardless of season or weather (always preferring two wheels to four, he rides a motorcycle on extended trips).
The very first of these portraits is probably my favorite as a composition - though this last one perhaps captures more of John's slightly mischievous, wry personality. So then, which is the more successful portrait?
Either way, these begin what I intend to be an ongoing series of portraits of people that I've had in my life over a number of years and who've managed to impact me in meaningful ways...