Unconventional Midlife Crisis
Tim Hutchins, amateur IronMan, marathon runner and self confessed gym nut, visited me earlier in the year for a shoot, read what he had to say about his motivation for the shoot and his experience:
This time last year I turned 40, the prospect of which, with its obligatory bouts of self reflection on becoming old, over the hill, past it, blah blah blah, simply terrified me. But I didn’t want to be another midlife crisis of the red sports car, brown hair die and blonde au pair cliché. If I was going to have one, I wanted mine to be less obvious and more challenging.
Grace Vane Percy is one of the country’s foremost photographers of female nude portraiture. She and I had discussed the possibility of a nude photo shoot for some time. Grace’s motivation was to develop her incredible talent for photographing the female nude and all its curves and beauty, on a male subject with all its angles and ugliness. My motivation had midlife crisis written all over it (albeit a sidestep away from the sports car, hair die, au pair cliché). I wanted to capture an image of myself as I looked at 40, complete with 6-pack and pecs, to show that not all 40 year olds have to give up on their bodies and accept midlife decline as inevitable. Something to reflect on now as much as look back upon in future years.
I’m quite young and very fit for my age (an earlier health check showed my metabolic age to be 23, when I was in fact 39). I train fives times a week plus a weekly yoga class, I run or cycle to and from work every day, and throughout the year I compete in endurance events including Ironman triathlons, marathon running and open water swimming. I’ve never smoked and consciously eat well. And although I have grey hair, a fissured brow and a few wrinkles, my healthy and active lifestyle (and I dare say, the absence of children) have endowed me with a shape that is better than most guys my age. So, when the conversation came up about having nude photos taken, I thought “why the hell not?”.
One of Grace’s talents that I hadn’t considered before the shoot, was her ability to treat the situation with such normality that I actually forgot what I was doing. Standing fully naked in front of a woman who I wasn’t about to have sex with, or be examined by, was far from normal. Yet it didn’t feel abnormal. We were both there to do a job, and although she was the only professional in the room, I did my best to match her standards. I knew about Grace’s training as a fine artist in London and Florence, before she moved into photography. I imagine it was her fine art training that inspires her work as a photographer. The way she worked with light and shadows, the positioning of the human body and the framing of each shot, while managing to avoid any unsightly “cock shots”, was truly impressive. Especially when she told me that she was shooting on film and not digital. This meant the need for accuracy in every shot was much greater (there’s no delete button on a conventional SLR camera), and gave a level of artistic authenticity that today’s post-production trickery simply can’t match.
A few days after the shoot (a period that felt like the grown-up version of waiting for holiday photos to return from Boots as a child), Grace and I met to review the contact sheets, and I was genuinely shocked. They were incredible. Even at thumbnail size, the untouched, black and white images were really captivating. I couldn’t believe that these were photos of me, a 40 year old, not a model or sportsman. Grace is a talented photographer and a pleasure to work with. She produced images of me that went above and beyond anything I had imagined when I had the idea to confront my midlife anxiety through nude photographs of myself. Here are some of the shots: