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An Eye for the Sound

Tim Motion

21 - 30 May 2021


I was born in County Limerick, Ireland, surrounded by horses and ingesting Guinness with my milk. My parents returned to England and I was brought up in the West Country from the age of two. At school I studied art and music and learned the rudiments of photography at nine or ten years of age, fascinated by the appearance of 6x9 sepia daylight contact prints of the family dog, taken with a Kodak 620 film camera. I then spent two years National Service in the Royal Navy aircraft-carrier HMS Eagle, part of the Mediterranean Fleet. I was then using a Zeiss Ikonta 6x6 format camera, though few examples of my holiday snaps survive. Apart from scrubbing decks at 6am, painting ship, monitoring radar and other serious work, my time aboard constituted a working Mediterranean cruise, for which we were paid fifteen shillings a fortnight. The most memorable visits at that time were to Istanbul, Beirut and Damascus.

When I left the Royal Navy I couldn’t wait to get to London and, after various jobs and socialising in London, painting and trawling the art galleries, I took an apprenticeship in wine cellars in the City, passed a Vintners Exam and was awarded a week’s tour of the whisky distilleries of Scotland in a 1932 Rolls Royce 20/25. With a wine student friend I then made an epic tour, on a shoe-string, of the wine regions of France, starting with a week as guests in the Chateau Saran of Moet et Chandon in Epernay. On the way back to England I stayed in Paris with my paints and sketchbooks for a week or two, then went to the Gare d’Orleans and took a train going south. I got out at Tours, found a very cheap garret room smelling of stale herrings and vinegar and starved for six weeks, drawing the landscape and absorbing the special luminous light of the River Loire.

Still interested in the possibilities of finding employment in the wine trade, I worked in a wineshop in London where my consumption of wine and spirits tended to cancel out my weekly wages. I was then given a letter of introduction to a famous wine maker in Oporto. Combining the trip with my girlfriend’s holiday we roared down to Portugal in a Jaguar XK120, spending two weeks in an Algarve fishing village. I then stayed on in Oporto where I spent two weeks sampling a huge range of vintage Port wines.

After various jobs in London including driving the first mini-cabs, and learning to play the double bass, restlessness got the better of me. I was presented with the opportunity of returning to the Algarve village to paint, renting a five roomed house on the beach at £4 a month, an offer hard to resist. I lived in the village for thirteen years.

In 1963, in homage to Henri Cartier-Bresson, I bought a 1952 Leica IIIc. My first commission was to take the photographs for a travel book, “Algarve - A Portrait and Guide” by Patrick Swift and David Wright, who were living there. I took my first jazz photographs at the 1st Lisbon Jazz Festival in 1971, featuring the Newport All Stars, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Ornette Coleman and Keith Jarrett.

After painting, photography, music, house building, marriage and children, I ran a jazz club and discoteque in the village for nine years. Ronnie Scott played there in 1971 and 1972 with Tony Crombie and Mike Carr, with later visits by Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express with Jim Mullen and Alex Ligertwood. Jon Hendricks, Georgie Fame, Cat Stevens, George Melly and numerous local, Lisbon and Brazilian musicians also appeared there. In 1974 the Portuguese Revolution changed the scene for ever. In 1975 I purchased a second-hand Hasselblad camera, which constituted the basis of my future photographic armory. It is still functioning perfectly today. Later the same year, prompted by revolution, divorce and a change of direction I decided to return to England, from where I travelled extensively, and started full-time photography in 1977 based in London.

As well as working with travel, fashion, architecture, aerial and location photography, I began to build up an extensive library of jazz and blues photographs taken at Ronnie Scott’s, Pizza Express and other clubs and festivals in Europe and USA. My photographs have been published in numerous magazines including Vogue Paris, Harpers&Queen, Country Living, Homes & Gardens, Gardens Illustrated, Sunday Telegraph, Times, Time Out, Professional Photographer and specialist music and aeronautical magazines. I have been a member of the Association of Photographers since 1983 and won a Gold Award in the 1988 Association Awards in the special Landscape category.

Work and my passion for photography and travel, including business commissions, led me to Brazil, the Middle East, Morocco, Tunisia, Indonesia and Thailand. 1986 was a busy year with work in London, jazz festivals in Nice and Juan les Pins, France, and my first visit to the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Here, as well as the wonderful music and, due to a chance meeting, I was initiated into aerial photography which became an important extension of my commercial work. I then continued to Chicago for the Chicago Blues Festival - an unforgettable experience.

On my return to London and the French jazz festivals I received an invitation from a friend and fellow member of the Anglo-Indonesian Society to join an extended adventure tour of Indonesia at the end of September. I could not refuse and, as a result, I received commissions for corporate photography in various plantations in Java and Sumatra.

Through a friend who lived in the same house in London I became involved in the world of hot air ballooning adding an extension of my aerial work. I began hot-air balloon photography in Switzerland in 1992, then Tunisia and the Sahara Desert, France, Italy, Portugal, Austria, Germany, Bavaria, Latvia and the West Indies. From 1992 to 2002 I participated as official photographer for the Montgolfiades Internationales de Tunisie (Hot-air Balloon Rallies) in Southern Tunisia. I spent many weeks in the desert and, sponsored by Abderrezak Ben Ammar of AEROASIS, provided all the 140 photographs for his book “Tunisie - La Magie du Sud”. This encapsulated my fascination with the relentless, elemental but subtle power of the desert. “Sketches of Silence” was the title of my exhibition in the Friends Room at the Victoria & Albert Museum in June 1999 and other galleries. Some of the work was exhibited for an Arts Foundation in Indonesia.

Amongst all the travel and other work my music photography has been a firm constant, expanding to include much more than jazz and blues, especially during my yearly attendance at the French festivals every July since 1982.

My work has been exhibited in the UK, France, Spain, and the United States, and is held in private collections worldwide, as well as contributing to jazz and blues books and magazines, travel books and other publications.

TIM MOTION London. May 2021

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