South Pole, record breaker Lewis Clarke

The ‘I AM NOT WHO YOU THINK I AM’ collection of tactile portraits includes the remarkable Lewis Clarke.
( to be shown at Riverhouse Barn Arts Centre. Walton on Thames 17th March to 28th March)

To create a collection of portraits I wanted to include a cross section of people in society, people who perhaps you would not give a second glance to. Lewis Clarke is one of these people.

I read an article in a Sunday paper about a 15 year old boy who was going to attempt to reach the South Polo. I was intrigued and I knew I had found my next sitter.

We arranged to meet after Lewis’ attempt on the South Pole. Prior to the meeting I heard on the national news that the attempt was successful. He had at the age of 16 years and 61 days walked 702 miles in 49 days in temperatures of often minus 50 degrees and now holds the Guinness World Record for the Youngest Person to trek to the South Pole.

I had chosen Lewis because he had the guts to take on the challenge, I did not in my wildest dreams think he would achieve it. I should not have been so surprised. At the age of 12 he was one of six children who swam a relay across the channel and hold the World Record for being the youngest ever to achieve this.

Before the meeting I asked if it would be possible for my 14 year old granddaughter Hannah to be present at the interview. This was a somewhat unusual request, however, I felt she would benefit enormously from having the opportunity to meet such a remarkable 16 year old.

Lewis is a tall very friendly and has a very quiet manner. He told me he was inspired to make the attempt after speaking with his swimming coach who had already done the trip. His training which had to be fitted in around school, involved travelling and working in Greenland and Norway, places chosen because of the wind, snow and unpredictable weather conditions. He also raised monies for the Princess Trust.

When we got to the end of an incredibly interesting interview I asked Lewis what he planned to do next, expecting to hear of another adventure. He replied ” Sit my GCSEs”. As simple as that, job done, ambition achieved, back to the normality of every day life.

Lewis’ achievements at such a young age are beyond comprehension. Hannah said ” I felt really calm when Lewis was talking” which I think describes him perfectly. It was a pleasure to meet this exceptional and inspirational young man.