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Aof A People: Mish Aminoff Moon – Artist and Photographer


8 Minute Read

Mish Aminoff Moon, 63, is an artist and photographer. She captures images every day with her camera – from her particular perspective, details of London life. She blogs at https://www.mishaminoff.com/ with her photographs being the main focus. Mish took some amazing shots of our Dance Me To Death performance; no one else had her eye.

What is your age?

I’ll be 64 in August.

Where do you live?

In London, near Kentish Town.  I love the location as it’s near Hampstead Heath and also quite close to the centre of town, so it’s urban but also close to nature. One of my photographic projects has been taking the ever-changing view from my window through different seasons and light conditions. It feels exciting to me to witness a cityscape out of the window.

What do you do?

I’m an artist. Most days I wander around the streets with my camera capturing whatever piques my interest. I paint too but photography is something I do every day. I also produce a regular blog that combines images and text.

Tell us what it’s like to be your age?

I feel very fortunate to be here and to be relatively fit and healthy. I lost a good friend a few days ago and another of my friends has been seriously ill for a while. I reached a turning point when I turned 60 – when I began to appreciate life in a different way. In my 30s and 40s I was probably more concerned about ageing but now I see life as a gift.

What do you have now that you didn’t have at 25?

For a start, I have two grown-up sons! I’m also married (for the second time), and we live together in our own apartment. I have nearly 40 more years of experience and am still learning. I’ve discovered that I’m a good singer – this only happened as I approached 50 when I was looking for a transitional activity to replace the regular salsa dancing in clubs. I joined an Afrocuban choir called The London Lucumi choir and have been singing ever since. We’ve performed alongside amazing artists and recorded several albums. In terms of my physical identity, I have much longer hair, which is streaked with grey.

What about sex?

On the one hand, I felt a bit wary of this question as I don’t want it to be sensationalist like “we broke the bed the other day” (which we did). I value all the senses and for me, sex and sensuality are an important part of intimacy and connection. I treasure the fact that my partner and I are lovers as well as companions. I don’t know if my feelings around this will change but this is how I’ve felt up to now.

And relationships?

I met my husband Stephen when we were both 55 and single. I was in a good place creatively and socially but relationship-wise I had totally resigned myself to being single. There’s actually a funny story connected to this. When we met, I had an exhibition of my photos at Bar Italia and sold some pictures to several people, one of them being Stephen. With some of the deposit money I went and treated myself to some fancy lingerie. I was recounting the story to a woman from the Great British Song Book who used my words verbatim as the chorus to a song which we performed at the Barbican. The chorus goes like this:

“ I’m going to buy myself the most beautiful bra in the world. Nobody’s ever gonna see this bra but I DON’T CARE!!”

So, after the exhibition was over, Stephen and I arranged to meet for an afternoon coffee. This coffee was the start of something that then developed into a relationship I hadn’t anticipated or expected. It felt and still feels incredible to have met my soulmate and something about finding each other at such a late stage means that we are appreciative of each day we have together.

How free do you feel?

I feel quite free as an autonomous individual but I also feel that my duties and responsibilities are going to increase in terms having to care for my mother who is in her 80s. So fantasies about spending months living in Venice might have to remain fantasies for a while.

What are you proud of?

This is a tough one. I’m proud of my sons and my relationship with them. I’m proud of what I consider to be my bravery and fearlessness in certain situations – I’ve worked hard to live in a way that I feel is authentic.

What keeps you inspired?

I’m inspired by reading. Relatively recently I read The Choice by Edith Eger, a holocaust survivor who was presumed dead amongst a pile of corpses but survived. She still goes swing dancing with another nonagenarian! Talk about Carpe Diem. I’m particularly inspired by black women authors and am currently reading a fascinating book by Raven Leilani who is only 30. I love watching world cinema (which I used to teach) and listening to music. But I am also aware of too much “consumption” so try to keep a balance.

When are you happiest?

Lots of situations – I’m happiest hanging out quietly at home with Stephen, but I’m also extremely in the sense of pure life energy when I’m dancing, singing and around rhythm. I recently bought a pandeiro-type of Brazilian tambourine and even a few minutes of playing totally raises my spirits.

And where does your creativity go?

I take photographs or work on my photography every day. I’m also into fashion and some of that creativity goes into my personal style. I think I’m quite a creative cook too, which has made lockdown a rather tasty one. My newest dish is a re-creation of a Sicilian speciality I read about in one of Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano novels!

What’s your philosophy of living?

The following phrases inform and inspire me day to day:

“Keep on Trying … I just keep on trying” Faith Ringgold, an incredible artist from Harlem who found success relatively late in life, said this in an interview to Alan Yentob prior to her solo exhibition the Serpentine. She was in her late 80s at the time.

“You don’t have to keep up dear. You just have to keep open”- spoken by Anna Madrigal, the transgender character created by Armistead Maupin from the conclusion of Tales of the City series of books.

I mentioned Edith Eger before; she writes that we always have a choice irrespective of how dire the situation is, and we can choose to have a victim’s mentality or that of a survivor. She says “we have a choice: to pay attention to what we’ve lost or to pay attention to what we still have.”

This is also linked to the idea of being an active or passive agent in your life. This brings me to my next nugget of philosophy:

“Some pursue happiness, others create it”. I first came across this in New York – part of a motivational project called Be Mighty where people could tear off little inspirational quotes from flyers in the street (see attached photo). This one really resonated with me. I later found out it is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

And dying?

I’ve taken small steps towards acknowledging and confronting dying; the tai chi and qigong practice I’ve been doing increasingly since lockdown (see attached photo of people practising on Hampstead Heath) help me come to terms with acknowledging loss, notions of seasons, transience, change and letting go.

Mish Aminoff

Are you still dreaming?

Yes, but I don’t always remember them. One dream that had a profound effect on me was a kind of premonition involving bonding with a woman in a red flowing dress. This was followed in waking life by encountering the Red Rebel Brigade of the Extinction Rebellion movement in a similar scenario. I photographed them and wrote a blog called Red Flow which develops the theme.

Mish Aminoff

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

I don’t really go for outrageous – I tend to strive for balance and harmony. But I do have a lot of adventures and spontaneous wonderful experiences. For instance the other week I had been dancing Forro – a type of Brazilian dance in the bandstand at Regents Park. After the class, a Brazilian dancer started a Maracatu line dance parade with live percussion in front of a crowd and my friend Alicia and I joined in even though we’d never done it before. We ended up performing in the front row, doing movements representing slaves getting rid of chains and it was incredibly powerful. We ended with impromptu wild ululation! And the crowds cheered…

AofA People: Ant Smith – Photographer


1 Minute Read

Ant Smith, 50, is a photographer, poet and computer programmer. What a combination! Not only has he been photographing every underground station in London, he’s also been running an anti-penis size anxiety campaign. What a man!

WHAT IS YOUR NAME?

Ant Smith

HOW OLD ARE YOU?

 50

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

 Dagenham

WHAT DO YOU DO?

 Photographer, poet, computer programmer

TELL US WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE YOUR AGE?

 Liberating. The pressures to conform slide away over time so that my non conformity is no longer a struggle

WHAT DO YOU HAVE NOW THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE AT 25?

A really, really good camera

WHAT ABOUT SEX?

I’m rubbish at it but having more fun trying now

AND RELATIONSHIPS?

 I’m choosy but accept people have their own ids so I try not to ask more of a person than they can, or they’re prepared to, share.

HOW FREE DO YOU FEEL?

Totally. I do stuff that’s required of me, but I do so because I decide to.

WHAT ARE YOU PROUD OF?

 Mostly, of being my father’s son. Specifically re knowing  more of London than any Londoner I’ve met, after a 2 year project to photograph every underground station AND of facing my fears and running a 3 year anti-penis size anxiety campaign. And of having a really well adjusted and happy cat called Gritz.

WHAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED?

My wife, Christine.

WHEN ARE YOU HAPPIEST?

When I see folk enjoy my work.

AND WHERE DOES YOUR CREATIVITY GO?

I don’t understand the question.

WHAT’S YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF LIVING?

 Life is an unresolvable contradiction of the self versus the herd.

AND DYING?

 It’s another country. It is what it is. It has no relation to living.

ARE YOU STILL DREAMING?

 No. I’m working too hard to make things happen to spend time in dreams.
Yes. They are the only things I want to make happen.

WHAT WAS A MOST RECENT OUTRAGEOUS ACTION OF YOURS?

They’ve all been outrageous, it just keeps happening to me; help!

AofA People: Charlie Phillips – Photographer


1 Minute Read

PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF, YOUR NAME, WHAT YOU DO, YOUR AGE AND WHERE YOU LIVE
Charlie Phillips, I’m 74. I live in Mitcham Surrey, nothing happens there. Everything finishes after News at Ten. I leisurely try to catch up on my reading and growing a variety of tomato plants. I’m a part time guest speaker about my life – everybody seems to think I’ve had an interesting life. One of my subjects is documenting the Afro-Caribbean communities in Notting Hill over the past 50 years. This includes documenting some of the most significant funerals that have happened in Kensal Rise Cemetery.
TELL US WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE YOUR AGE?
I feel like that the Hunchback of Notre Dame! Because I didn’t know age would have caught up with me so quick. Some of the things I dreamt of doing I still haven’t done them yet. If it wasn’t for the young kids dem who demand my time – I could have had more time for myself. Since I’ve retired I’m busier than ever.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE NOW THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE AT 25?
A dwelling and a caravan! When I was 25 in the late 60s, 70s I was squatting all over West London and travelling around Europe. It was the era of sex, drugs and rock n’roll! And free love!
WHAT ABOUT SEX?
What about it? Ha ha ha, I miss it! Haven’t got the stamina anymore. After three minutes I want 18 hours sleep.
AND RELATIONSHIPS?
In the inner city, it’s very difficult, some people who live within the concrete jungle have animalist behaviour patterns. So relationships, from a humanitarian perspective, can be very difficult. I prefer to go the countryside, people are completely different. More sociable and hospitable.
HOW FREE DO YOU FEEL?
Where? Here? Free? Nah, freedom is non-existent because your privacy is being invaded by the cameras and big brother everywhere you go.
WHAT ARE YOU PROUD OF?
Surviving. Life can be a bitch sometimes. After all the battering I’ve taken in my life I’m still here.
WHAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED?
Having like-minded people around me. People who can uplift you.
WHEN ARE YOU HAPPIEST?
When I’m in good company and when I have a good dream.
AND WHERE DOES YOUR CREATIVITY GO?
My thoughts. Especially when other people find inspiration in what I’ve done.
WHAT’S YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF LIVING?
Surviving my any means necessary… as long as I’m not hurting anyone.
AND DYING?
I’m looking forward to meeting my creator… if it exists.
ARE YOU STILL DREAMING?
Everyday. I hate when I’m deprived of my dreams.
WHAT WAS A RECENT OUTRAGEOUS ACTION OF YOURS?
I haven’t done anything outrageous for a long time. Life is so boring. I think I’ve done all the outrageous things in my life.
http://nickyakehurst.com/photographers/CharliePhillips/portfolio1.html
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