'My dad tortured us as kids. He loved us. He wanted us to be strong. And we loved him.' Koulla, a Greek Cypriot bodybuilder, wrestler and dominatrix — operates a fetish dungeon in Brighton. The underground venue comprises a boudoir, torture rooms and stone pit, behind heavy iron bars. 'My slaves come from all over Europe. Usually once a month. Businessmen.' Koulla has five children and lives in Bexhill.
'The name's Watkins. What's all this for anyway?' I met Watkins outside Brunswick Square waiting for his bus. 'I moved here from Herfortshire. I love living by the sea. Email me what? No, no — I can't be bothered with all that internet stuff. Good luck.'
Kai was visiting Brighton for Trans Pride. I noticed her in the window of a bar sitting with friends. She was amazed to be approached but really enthusiastic about the photography. Despite the portrait here, she was very giggly and shy. "I'm gender fluid and have just split up with my girlfriend. I'm just trying to sort out my identity at the moment."
JJ helped me choose some new clothes recently from a very nice place in Duke Street. He's such a warm and approachable guy and when I emerged from the changing room wearing a shirt he said, 'That looks beautiful.' Sold. We talked about clothes and style and how less is more. Chatted for some time before I asked if I could shoot his portrait. 'More than happy bro.'
Hove's Member of Parliament, Peter Kyle agreed to meet me have his photograph taken. 'I don't know what a daguerreotype is, but I am happy to sit for your portrait!'
Peter's Hove constituency office looks — from the outside at least — like a cross between Poundland and the Post Office. But inside you can see the cogs of local government at work: Operations Directors, aids, staff. The atmosphere is light-hearted and fun; a Friday buzz about the room. Peter breezes through, hand outstretched: 'Yes the photograph...' He's tall, relaxed and driven. 'Hi Peter, thanks for seeing me. This should take no more than ten minutes,' 'You said five.'
Peter says things like, 'That's interesting,' and 'I can see that.' He's expert in listening to people and you come away feeling he absorbed what you said.
I talked about Winston Churchill's famous portrait in Ottawa and how the photographer, Yousuf Kirsh plucked Churchill's cigar from his mouth leading to that indignant scowl. The portrait became the most famous one of the great leader. Kirsch was celebrated for capturing the defiance Britain and Churchill were feeling at the time. Peter listened away nodding, 'Interesting.'
Peter didn't seem that interested when I said I'd send him the portraits for approval before publishing them. A member of the public had walked in behind me and straight away he was in greeting mode. 'Hello, how can we help?'
Andy is a tattooist and street artist. I asked him whether he knew clients who might be interested in this project. Clients with interesting faces or interesting facial tattoos. He said, 'I'll do it.' And that was that.
I called back a week later. I asked if he'd looked at his portraits yet. 'Yeah I did. I look about 100 years old.'
Sisters, chilling out on Brunswick Terrace. I haven't heard back from either, but in our brief chat I learned that the elder sister (head scarf) wasn't entirely happy she didn't have make up on, and that the younger was a fitness model.
I met Phil while he was sat chatting to a street busker near the Town Hall. They'd just met but were deep in conversation. Phil had a beer on the go and his dog in tow. He told me he too was a musician. 'I'm in a band called the Moods. I have moods so it's appropriate.'
Vivienne is my 95-year old grandmother. She still lives independently in Hove, managing her own life day-to-day and receiving help for shopping and cleaning. Her insistence on remaining independent, in her own home, seems to have contributed to her long life. She is very close to her two great grandchildren, my son and daughter.
Met while out walking with his family. Knew immediately this guy had an intense, interesting face. He came across as extremely warm and polite, though never got to know anything more.
I met this cheerful day-tripper on Brighton Pier with his wife, Mary (who you can see here). They were enjoying an ice cream and taking in the sea air. He was as pleased as punch to have his picture taken.
Paul Ostrer is a Brighton-based painter. His segue into painting is interesting to me as he spent the majority of his working career as a commercial photographer — before his creative change of direction. His realistic paintings are arresting and provocative; self portraits exploring identity — often in humorous ways.
"I started painting 10 years ago. I just woke up one day and felt I needed to paint. I'm colourblind and when I went to buy supplies I asked the assistant what colour oils I needed for painting people. She said burnt sienna. And that was it."
You can see his Paul's work here: www.paulostrer.co.uk
Simon Dixon was a Brighton-based pop artist.
I met Mary on Brighton Pier with her husband (who you can see here). They'd come down on a coach from the North. They were enjoying an ice cream together and happily watching the world go by.
Chris Kettle is a Brighton-based still-life painter who has shown widely in the UK, US and Europe. His brooding still life paintings feature arranged objects, including fruit, flowers, engraved metals and complex spaces. You can see his work here: www.chriskettle.co.uk
Sean is an old friend of mine. We knew each other 25 years ago, then met again 15 years ago when I first moved to Brighton. Writer, artist, actor and more recently, filmmaker. Most of Brighton seem to know Sean. One of the warmest, smartest guys I know.
Join is a Creative Director and caricaturist. His caricatures are funny, cruel and somehow sweet. Many are old faces from the British entertainment industry. You can see his drawings here: www.studiosyrup.tumblr.com
Met at taxi rank opposite The Pavilion. I asked how long he'd been growing his beard. Several years apparently. I gave him my card but never heard back from him. He said he needed the beard because he was a biker.
Graeme is a print specialist. He has a deep knowledge of print processes and colour management and owns an ornate drinks cabinet featuring hidden compartments for rare whiskies. I know him professionally and also through a mutual friend.
This guy was with another band member outside Brighton Station. He was really into having a few portraits taken and took my card. I never heard from him after this.
I met Red outside Waitrose one afternoon with his two dogs. He's a familiar face around the town being homeless. He was distressed when I met him as a close street friend of his had recently died but apparently a local journalist had reported incorrectly that it was Red who'd passed away — and this news had reached Red's family back home.
I noticed Red hanging out on Brighton seafront recently (July) and while walking past with my family stopped to show him his photographs (he didn't have email). I showed him the pictures and he was visibly surprised, then delighted. He laughed and said, 'Oh god I look like a criminal. But that's really good isn't it?' He continued to smile at the screen of my phone for some time, 'Yeah, that's really good.'
Javier was on a quick break from his work at a clothes shop in Churchill Square.