It was Milan, it was December but the exact year is fuzzier – although definitely in the late 80s. A work colleague was leaving and I’d offered to make a farewell card.
After various attempts at drawing his likeness, it wasn’t looking good. I’d got his hair-line and the shape of his head but those fiddly details, the eyes, were proving elusive. Then I thought of his trademark Cheshire Cat’s grin and suddenly there he was – didn’t need the eyes at all – just an endearing lop-sided line with multiple dimples on either side.
Perhaps I’ve retained this reductionist approach when photographing people – seeking to pin down their visual signatures. It can be a tilt of the head, a widening of the eyes, a certain crease at the jawline, an unguarded gaze – but it is immediately identifiable and is theirs.
In thinking of a title for this piece I went to my precious inherited Chambers English Dictionary where one definition given is the face as an index of the mind.