Tim Andrews' moving portrayal of Parkinson’s Disease at Woking Lightbox

By Kirstie Brewer | 24 January 2011
A photo of a man in a boat on a river
Harry Borden, Invisible© Harry Borden
Exhibition: Over the Hill: A Photographic Journey, The Lightbox, Woking, February 1 – 27 2011

When Tim Andrews was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2005, his lifelong tendency to look on the bright side was put to the ultimate test.

The degenerative neurological condition changed his life forever – but not in the detrimental way one might expect.

Ironically, since being forced to retire as a solicitor, the 54 year old Surrey resident says he’s “never felt happier”.

His Parkinson’s Disease experience has also become the inspiration for a compelling digital installation at The Lightbox Gallery, Woking.

The installation dramatically showcases powerful portraits of Andrews, taken by more than 100 photographers since the onset of his illness.

A photo of a man standing at a train station
Roberto Foddai, Over the Hill© Roberto Foddai
Ranging from degree students to celebrated luminaries such as Rankin, Harry Borden and Jillian Edelstein, each photographer has played their part in constructing a humble yet profound narrative of one man’s confrontation with life, death and mortality.

“I am an incredibly happy man – Parkinson’s disease has opened new doors and given me a new lease of life,” he explains.

“I feel very blessed because I have none of the stress of working life but all the enjoyment and creativity of pursuing projects like this one.”

The title of the exhibition is a nod to John Lennon’s 1973 single, Bring on the Lucie (Freeda Peeple); before launching into a rousing recording of the track, Lennon announces to his band: “Alright boys, this is it, over the hill.”

Like the earlier Give Peace a Chance, strident spirit pulses through the percussion laden track. Such an energetic and passionate song appears to perfectly complement the exhibition which, after all, is essentially about resilience.

A photo of a man painted in white holding a bunch of yellow flowers against a black background
Danielle Tunstall© Danielle Tunstall
“Although the phrase ‘over the hill’ has negative connotations, the song is sung by Lennon in a very positive way. He goes on to sing, ‘Free the people/Do it, do it, do it, do it now’. So for me, the title of the exhibition is optimistic despite the double meaning,” says Andrews.

“It might initially sound like I’ve had it and am on the refuse heap when in fact I am something completely different, completely the opposite.”

In 2009, Andrews took part in Anthony Gormley’s Fourth Plinth project, One & Other. Clad in a mini top hat, Victorian coat frock and wielding a cane, Andrews danced on the plinth to Madness for a full hour and raised £5,000 for Parkinson’s UK.

“I was shaking partly due to my fear of heights and partly due to the Parkinson’s,” he says, laughing.

Indeed, a touch of the theatrical also permeates throughout this installation; Andrews’ plethora of guises are often aided by eccentric props and dramatic costume. He always dreamed of being an actor, so in many ways this ambition has been fulfilled through the opportunity the project has given him to perform for the cameras.

A photo of a naked man curled up in a box
Liz Orton, Box© Liz Orton
Candid, moving and often comical, each of the photographs serve as poignant testament to how precious, fragile and fleeting life really is.

His evident good humour and incurable optimism shine through many of the photographs he appears in, while others bravely reveal a darker, more vulnerable side to a man who refuses to be beaten by life’s challenges.

“I think I’m less afraid of death now than I used to be because I feel like if I fill my life with the right things I won’t have wasted my time. If you start doing things life moves much more slowly and you fit more in.”

Andrews is certainly proof that one should never underestimate the power of positive thinking.

Watch Tim Andrews dancing on the Fourth Plinth:

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