Today we take a look at life below stairs in Muir Hall. While I swan around the drawing room punishing the brandy and making sharp observations, Ryoko Uyama is downstairs polishing the brass and blackening the boots. She might not exactly be the engine of Muir Hall, but she’s one of the big pistons. She is my assistant - my driver, my bodyguard, my technical expert, my external short-term memory. She is Cato to my Clouseau.
Some interesting things about Ryoko:
- Her name in Japanese means Cool Child Space Mountain.
- She is a morris dancer.
- When I first heard her say the word ‘polaroid’ I thought she was having a stroke. I have since painstakingly trained her to pronounce it correctly, along with other problem words like ‘umbrella’ and ‘squirrel’. The difficulty in pronunciation has got something to do with the sound of ‘l’ and ‘r’ in the Japanese language. She explained it to me once but I wasn’t really listening.
- She is a very resourceful napper:
- We have never touched each other. I don’t just mean inappropriate touching, I mean appropriate touching too, like shaking hands. We don’t shake hands or hug or do media kisses. We greet each other with a curt nod. I like this. All the double-kissing and hugging you have to do can be exhausting. Ryoko is strictly business.
- She’s pretty good at standing in for people:
Sir Benjamin Slade:
I was once doing a location shoot with Ryoko when we ran out of supplies. I sent her off to get some more thinking she would only be five minutes, but she still hadn’t returned after half an hour so I went looking for her. As I was walking down a path she jumped out from behind a tree and shouted “SUPPLIES!”
Anyway let’s hear from Ryoko:
- What was your first impression of me?
We met up at a cafe in Hackney.
I said look for a Japanese, and he said look for a Ginger afro.
- What have been some highlights of working for me?
Becoming a friend with his lovely girl friend.
I get fed lots of Bacon rolls!
Charity shop surfing after the shoot.
- And some lowlights?
Asking me to bring my light meter which is more expensive than my day rate.
- What am I good at as a photographer?
The amount of crap comes out from his mouth, to anyone, for hours and hours.
The confidence he has in his jokes and his photography.
Open-mindness; His mental age is about 5 years old I reckon, which is great as a photographer and also fun to go on a long road trip with.
- What am I bad at?
Being nice to me.
- Any tough moments?
When I have to listen to him when he goes on how good he looks.
- Any funny moments?
His Mum, Dad and son came to the shoot together in a small car.
- What have you learned?
How to swear.
Ryoko is a really good assistant; she’s smart, and is always thinking of how she can help. She’s great fun to hang out with and talk shit with but when the client or subject turns up she goes into PhotoBot 2.0 mode, silently and efficiently doing useful things while I’m talking crap and taking photos. But that’s faint praise, she’s also a really good photographer. Which is why she’s resigning her post here to shoot full time. She’s leaving me to carry my own bags and I will be lost without her. For a couple of days anyway, until I find someone else to carry my bags.
If you want more Ryoko you can go here: www.ryokouyama.com