“Before we begin – you do understand I’m recording this telephone conversation?”
“Yes dear that’s fine – though you do sound a bit distant and echoing”
“Sorry about that. I have it on speaker phone so I can record with a microphone. You will sound ok – it doesn’t matter about my sound – I will try and be as clear as possible”.
Thus began my phone interview with Marion Keene yesterday (mentioned previously in a post here).
We have had quite a few telephone conversations but this is the only one I have recorded, so some of the topics we cover have already been talked around previously. Although I am genuinely interested in some of the facts and figures of her singing career, it is the less obvious stuff that I’m really looking for. She takes pain killers all the time so I’m concerned not to tire her out as I know sitting in one position is uncomfortable for her – but I also know that to get to the more personal I necessarily have to go a bit of a circuitous route. As long as she’s ok with it I’m on the end of that phone until we both have had enough.
After about two and a half hours there is a natural place to stop talking;
“I feel like I’ve known you for ages” says Marion. I agree, despite the fact that only I have been asking the questions.
The’ person’ we know of each other is of course a very focused one. She is in the spot light and I’m some sort of ‘media man’ to her as I’m not sure the concept of ‘artist’ in this context is helpful . Her image of me comes from a press clipping sent to her by a cousin back in Hartlepool a couple of months ago. My image of her is gleaned from a myriad of photocopies she has sent of her press clippings from all manner of music and general publicity over the years.
Marion doesn’t have a computer. She can’t be doing with such things. We both exist in the world of the imagination. We both complain about aspects of the impersonal and the ironic falseness of targeted marketing et al. Of the pursuit of celebrity status for its own sake brought on by the adoption of mass media culture…
…and yet I can’t help thinking that ours is a virtual friendship in a spookily 21st century way and that for all our talking about when she was a little girl in the 40’s, that the’ here and now’ of our adult voices is based on an unequal balance of me having all the agenda and her having only sent me pictures of herself from over 40 years ago.
I still might go and see her in the summer – but quite how that will work out I don’t know yet.
Marion’s ‘other-worldly’ presence in my work is very much offset by a whole bunch of other scenarios I have been filming. I don’t really know what to call them. In some ways they are traditional ‘interviews’ but I know that I’m really looking for some of the spaces between the obvious meaning, so am in effect using a recognisable format merely to put the subject at ease. It’s easier to call them interviews I suppose, though, in my mind, they are really ‘hunting for clues’. I totally understand how some cultures could conceive of photography as the process of soul capturing.
I do my ‘fly on the wall’ and general bonhomie chat thing when filming some of the sessions with the project participants and then try and spirit one or two of them off to a quieter spot to get some more considered responses from them.
It was particularly heart warming the other day when the 6th formers from English Martyr’s college met up with the over 60’s (one lady is 100 – and full of smiles) to work on dance routines for the Rink revival final show.
“Days like these are what make my job worth doing” said Sandra from Hartlepool Council’s outreach team. I had to agree… it was a grand day out.