Sunday, March 08, 2009

My Portrait Of Jo Brand

Jo Brand, Belfast, 1994

Wikipedia requested permission to reproduce the above image on their page on Jo Brand, the well-known stand-up comedian. There were two drawbacks: no fee and (rather more seriously) a requirement that I alter the copyright status of the image to CC (or Creative Commons), since their policy only allows them to use images which can be downloaded for free.

Wikipedia, for all its faults, is an amazing resource, so it was nice to be asked to contribute something. Also, any image on their pages will obviously get far more hits than those gathering dust in some barely-known writer/photographer's Flickr gallery, and they made it clear that they would happy to provide a link to my work.

After a chat with a person I know who is well-versed in copyright law, I opted for 'Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons'(Cc-by-3.0), which allows me to keep some control over the manner in which my image is used.

I remember taking this portrait of Jo in Belfast in 1994. I think it was after or before a show, though I can't actually remember her performance. I've always found her droll-with-daggers-drawn humour hilarious (""men are fantastic – as a concept"). So it seems unlikely that I would have forgotten the one live performance I'd attended. It's possible that we had to leave before her show, to get back to Co Antrim, where I was doing an MA in poetry/creative writing with Jimmy and Janice Simmons.

Jo was a delight to photograph, funny, obliging, utterly unselfconscious and seemingly happy in her own skin. Much as I might have imagined her to be, judging from her performances. Great stand-up comedy has, in my opinion, quite a lot in common with great poetry readings (and I don't mean poetry "performances"). Billy Collins, Seamus Heaney, James Fenton and Carol Ann Duffy come to mind (and maybe Paul Durcan, on a good day). There is a similar sense of confidence (but not overconfidence, nothing gauche), a clarity of delivery and, especially, a genius with timing. It really is "the way you tell em", with poems or jokes. If Jo ever glances at her page in Wikipedia I hope she likes the picture.