The Cub // © Tim Topple
The Story behind the Portrait
‘The Cub’ (2016) shows my daughter Finlay, and as an image, it is something of an anomaly for me. I say that because not many of my photographs have the subject front and centre as this one does. Within my photography, I’m more interested in the spaces around those I photograph, the suggestion of what’s out of frame or the imprints that they have left on their environment. This photograph is different in that it’s all about Finn. I don’t really consider my work portraiture in a traditional sense but more so a portrait of lives, of family, and of domesticity which the fuller series (‘Elephants for Dinner’ – 2010 onwards) offers a wider reflection on.
Children’s internal worlds fascinate me, especially in the years before they can communicate effectively. Here Finn appears lost in a waking dream, unaware of the slipped headband, and unburdened with the self-consciousness that soon takes over most of us. She is still the same, 4 years later, and very different from her twin.
Before the birth of my eldest daughter 12 years ago, most of my photography – although still diaristic – was either out on the streets or of my ‘family’ of friends, and I worried that in raising small children I’d fall victim to the ‘pram in the hall’, Cyril Connolly’s notion that children inhibit a creative life. So, the natural solution was to combine my photography and my family, and if anything, that has given me a focus that was lacking before.
‘The Cub’, like the majority of my work, was a spontaneous shot. I’m interested in the idea of the ‘snapshot’ and hate it when the term is used in a negative way. Snapshots are what got me interested in photography – the accidents and the ones that didn’t make the albums on our parents’ shelves, the beauty in the truths captured by those who raised us.
‘Snapshot’ also sums up how I work; always ready, my camera a small, fast and simple tool, snatching moments. The frames either side of the photo above are totally different, and whereas usually I can see what I’m hoping to capture, with this one I had no idea until I saw it later amongst the other, rejected shots. I strive to catch these fleeting moments that only exist for a split second before the scene has changed completely. The moments that exist outside of the normal posed shots. And it’s mostly this that drives me – creating a life’s work that my children, partner and I will look back on with a smile, remembering what life was really like, which is in turns messy, surreal, funny, sad, and everything in-between.
Children’s internal worlds fascinate me, especially in the years before they can communicate effectively. Here Finn appears lost in a waking dream, unaware of the slipped headband, and unburdened with the self-consciousness that soon takes over most of us.
Tim Topple (b. 1975) is a Margate-based photographer with a background in graphic design and animation.
Tim currently delivers film and photography workshops in prisons and for local schoolchildren, alongside working on personal and collaborative projects in the South East.
Full bio on Tim’s website.