John House -The Shot I Never Forgot – ‘Contemplation’


This is the photograph that first inspired this project.

It was taken over a decade ago, I think in 2001 and it has always stayed with me.

I was on a train journey to Hamble-le-Rice (near Southampton) with a close friend. We were meant to be visiting a friend in Glasgow for the weekend, but severe snow stopped us being able to fly, so we decided to go on a random road trip and see where the weekend took us.

 At the time, we were both processing a lot of personal issues and the weekend turned into a 3 day long debate about the meaning and philosophies of life, which acted as a sort of therapy for the both of us.  The weekend remains with me as one of the most poignant in my life.  I took this portrait on a whim, during a brief period of silence after a particularly hard and heavy discussion (about spirituality – if my memory serves correctly).  For me, the picture captures the essence of this moment perfectly and the mood of the trip in general.

 I never take portraits and it rarely occurs to me to photograph people.  However, in this moment, my friends face was so full of expression and meaning, I fired the shot off as he pondered the world out of the scratched and grubby train window. I love the stillness and depth of his expression, and the glimpse of the landscape passing him by and often wondered if he saw his own expression in the reflection.

I find the image beautiful and troubling because of the memories I associate with it so I have always kept a copy of it next to my desk to act as a memory of my very dear friend and a life affirming trip.

Whilst looking at the portrait one day, I began to reflect on the number of significant pictures that Photographers take for their own satisfaction and never think about sharing with others.

I began to contact artists and asked them if they would be prepared to share a shot they never forgot.

Willie Robb - 7 March 2013