Gathering moments and momentum.

Ray Burmiston

29 September 2020
Just before lockdown took hold (and turned the world turned upside down) I had the pleasure of photographing national treasure and president of Mind, Stephen Fry.

During a break in shooting I showed him a collection of portraits, hundreds of well-known faces with their eyes closed. (that exact moment captured here). Stephen said that he found the images especially powerful and despite the famous saying: “the eyes are the window to the soul” to him the portraits still said so much more…

I told him that I really wanted to exhibit the collection in aid of a mental health charity as I felt that the idea of “Taking A Moment” had a close connection with the issue of good mental health. And, so began a journey to create a huge and evolving artwork, where everyone can take a moment together.

Stephen introduced me to the wonderful folk at Mind, who embraced the idea so fully that the concept grew wings and all kinds of people expressed a desire to help, at a unique moment in history, when they themselves were forced to down tools.

REWIND: you may ask, ‘how did such a huge collections of eyes closed pictures come to be in the first place? I have been photographing well known faces for more than a couple decades and there are two things that are characteristic of my shoots.

Music always sets the tone and is normally the choice of my subject aided by a request from me of “pick a decade, or a genre”. Everything from Kanye to Bowie, Classical to The Clash, basically if the subject wants to hear it ,thats what we will play.

The other thing that happens is a moment when I ask my subjects to close their eyes to refresh the connection with the camera. This is always a welcome break, as shoots like these can be very demanding, and so I would sometimes suggest they take themselves off, eyes closed and elsewhere.

The shutter never stops though and the result when I was archiving my work not long ago was a collection of portraits that resonated with a different energy echoing that moment between the exhale and the inhale when just for a second or two, everything is still.

I sat down with a friend, Lara Journo, who I have worked with on numerous projects and together we hatched a plan to make the collection count and do something good. Covid-19 put its own spin on it. A physical exhibition idea was transformed in our minds to a virtual exhibition where everyone could view the portraits, donate and become a part of a little bit of history by uploading their own moment. Take A Moment – an exhibition that would hopefully document a little slice of all of us in 2020.

It has taken quite a few years to photograph this collection of well- known faces. However, it would not have been possible to exhibit them without the amazing help and guidance of the team around it who have taken what seemed and impossible idea and transformed into a virtual reality. They have given their time and incredible talents, pro bono, and have all made this little idea in my head become a reality. To them and all the wonderful faces who have not only allowed me to share their ‘moment’ and to be a part of “TakeAMoment4Mind’ but created videos of support and shared the concept on their own social channels, I am deeply grateful.

The pandemic has meant that that two out of three adults are suffering with mental health problems and there has never been a more important time to donate to Mind. The exhibition launches in Oct 2020 and my hope of all hopes is to share the message, ‘We’re all in this together’.

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