John Cogan ARPS
There is a casual assortment of Olympic Gold Medals scattered across the restaurant table. They cover Olympics from Atlanta, Athens, Sydney and Beijing. As people walk past they pause to take in the spectacle. Some even divert their passage to come close to us. The problem for them is who to attribute the medals to. Looking closely at the group at the table it should be clear… Stephen Miller stands out as the athlete though our own Joanne Coates qualifies. As this procession passes by Stephen is more interested in discussing motorized wheelchairs with Dr John. They’re like two petrol-heads swapping performance data about a twin-carb version of a Renault Clio. By some interference from the weird of photo-shoots they both have the same model and make of wheelchair. Stephen’s, however, has a beanstalk seat which, at the press of a button, raises him a further four feet off the ground. Challenged by some competitive little devil, Stephen proceeds to do a wheelie much to Dr John’s obvious delight which is leavened by a modicum of envy. When we move outside the two of them race across the Sage, and once outside there is no stopping them!
The banter is warm and Stephen a good source of dry one-liners. Rachel, his wife, is concerned Dr John’s wheelchair shines from energetic polishing whilst Stephen’s still has field dirt. There is never any problem with the taking of photographs and Joanne, new to our team, soon finds her initial reserve disappears as the Canon 5D Mark III, with BIG lens goes about its business and she takes picture after picture. Eventually, after over an hour, they leave us all the better for sharing time with them. Stephen is a modest, humorous and gentle man. Even the medals are kept in nothing more glamorous than an old Co-operative Bank cash bag. He is modest about his fame and when people approach him he is gracious and patient.
But, it is his eyes that you will remember… his intense gaze, the way they are intent upon knowing who you are. His eyes and the easy way he laughs these are part of the special person that he undoubtedly is. If you have a chance, the photo exhibition of his training regime, called 100%, is worth a visit… it’s in the Sports Centre of Northumbria University.
Throughout this project we have met, and are meeting, so many wonderful people. To Joanne and Dr John I say “Thanks” for being there and making the shoot a pleasure… and to Rachel and Stephan Miller a great big thanks for their generosity and kindness. This photo is Joanne’s first for the Project and it’s a beauty…
Pictured: the black and white portrait of Stephen Miller is by Joanne Coates, the other by John Cogan
See also Dr John Clarke’s article, ‘A Different Point of View’ below