Emulating Laura Letinsky – Exercise 4.11 – Emulation

Brief:- Remember, there’s no need to make a direct copy of a photograph, for example a Man Ray photogram; make your own photographic experiment as Adam Fuss did (you can compare their photograms online). If you chose to emulate Man Ray, you might seek out interesting objects that can be rendered graphic shapes in silhouette by shooting them against a white background. Or perhaps you want to emulate the uncanny, liminal sense of space created in a Laura Letinsky photograph but using landscapes. Make the image your own. Artists rarely copy each other, but they do learn from each other. Try to identify exactly what it is in the photograph that appeals to you: the visual quality (tones, colours, light and dark) the composition or design the subject the concept the photographer’s viewpoint the way the photographer has influenced or constructed the image. When you’ve identified these elements, plan what you’ll need: equipment location models.  When you’ve organised all this, make the photo.

Final Two Photos

I need to begin by saying that I am not happy with the results of either photo, but there are aspects to each of them that I do like.

The first photo is the one that I most prefer, and makes more use of colour and planes. Yes it is far busy and less subtle than a Letinsky, but I ensured that it used two planes, and it is also 3D in nature because of the net which drops down from the main canvas, and the roses which are hanging down from the light socket. It is aesthetically pleasing to me, it’s pretty and beautiful.

The second photo has more movement, which I prefer. I love how the sheet hangs, and envision this as being similar in nature to the roof of a marquee. But the second plane that I tried to create, with a petal at the end of each piece of thread, just doesn’t work.

Neither photo has the amount of neutral space that Letinsky makes use of so well. Both photos have finger prints, creases and glue marks, which it goes without saying that I am not pleased with. The first photo also has a gap between the satin effect canvas (pinned to the ceiling) and the net (hanging down).

Technically this was a complicated project. Flower petals shrivel and die, each sheet was three meters by one meter, and very difficult to pin to the ceiling. I made use of super glue to place the petals in the second photo, which was a big mistake. Super glue discolours the petals, sticks the canvas to the carpet, and whilst I was raising the sheet from the floor, a lot of the petals became unatuck. I used PVA glue for the first photo and it didn’t stick the petals to the floor, but still left unsightly marks when a petal refused to stick.

Despite the piece of art that I have created being of poor standard, because of the technical errors, I am pleased with the result of the first photo. I have had a lot of fun, and developing techniques to control the space that I am choosing to work with is good progress. I definitely wish to create art in this style in the future. To do so I would need at least one technician, a large board so the canvas can be ironed, and find an alternate way to glue the petals onto the sheet.

My creation is not a copy of Letinsky, but I believe that I have used elements of her style and technique to make something that is pleasing to my eye.

Contact sheets (here)

Reference

Keys, R; 2018; Picture Analysis – Laura Letinsky – David Bate – Pieter Claesz; Online: AT:  https://photosociology.photography/2018/09/28/picture-analysis-laura-letinsky-david-bate-pieter-claesz/ (accessed on 17/11/2018)

Project 3 – Learning From Other Photographers

Brief:- Research point – Self reflection – Requirement Most visual artists learn from one another. Both historic and contemporary photographers and visual artists can teach you new things and by learning from them you can bring something new to the subject. So how do you learn from other photographers? There’s a tradition of ‘after’ painting, where an artist copies a master’s work – but in his own style rather than theirs. Pablo Picasso often did this for inspiration. Édouard Manet’s Olympia is slightly different in that it’s a critical response to Alexandre Cabanel’s The Birth of Venus and other such romantic and idealised nudes. Cubism’s visual experimentation was influenced by the work of Paul Cézanne, who had a ‘blocky’ style of painting in daubs of paint. Hannah Starkey’s photographs are clearly influenced by Jeff Wall’s tableau pictures without ever being copies. So really you take from the artist anything that interests you: the arrangement of characters in a scene, the pose of a figure, the way light and dark interact, the type of subject matter, the mixing of media, the visual strategy, etc… Research point – Self reflection – Throughout this course you’ve been introduced to the work of different photographers to help give you an understanding of the creative potential of photography. Now it’s time to question your own work and identify anything you think is lacking. You don’t have to be over-critical, just honest. Write down any areas in photography you need to develop. (Your tutor reports should give you some clues here.) Write what sort of photographs you want to take. Just note down keywords. Now look through a book like Hacking, J. (2012) Photography: The Whole Story, or Cotton, C. (2014) The Photograph as Contemporary Art (3rd edition) (both London: Thames & Hudson) and try to identify some photographers who have exactly the key elements that you want to attain or just things that interest you. It doesn’t matter if the photographer is contemporary or historic. Make a note of these key elements. Now research these photographers online and choose one key photograph to use in the next exercise.

There’s one area which glaringly stands out for me to work on. Lighting. Making use of lights to create an atmosphere, using spots, using ambient lighting or controlling background light, I need to develop these techniques. My tutor has recommended observing light in indoor settings and then trying to recreate it at home.

Now that I have a speedlight I am making slow inroads into understanding flash photography, and that’s going to be an ongoing process.

cof

Mixed media art is also a growing interest. It’s something that’s been developing over the period that I’ve been studying. Exercise 3.5 Photography from text (here) was a good introduction. I’m part of an OCA collaboration group and have enjoyed collaborating with other artists. Toxic Shame (here) provided me with the opportunity to write and narrate prose as part of a collaborative project. People with Autism co-authored Autism: Out Of The Box (here) with me, a project in which I wrote the essay and encouraged the co-authors to produce accompanying photography or art for the essay.

A woman with autism is currently writing her story, and my role will be to support her to make photography which will accompany her writing. This is a role I wish to develop. The OCA collaboration group is on-going, and I have had initial contact with an artist in Australia who may wish to collaborate with me.

I’m very pleased to be studying Experimentation:- Still Life, which is part 4 of Foundations in Photography. This part of the course has opened up my creative potential. I made a sensory collage, just for fun, out of materials left over from the emulation exercise. Photomontage, collage and sensory collage all give me the opportunity to practice with lighting.

Lighting is the way forward. When I return from my travels I will look through my many books to find find photographers who inspire me, and who make creative use of lighting. I will then create some emulation based upon their work.

The piece I produced to emulate Laura Letinsky will be added next week when I return home.cof

Exercise 4.9 – Repetition

Brief:- Repetition of one image or very similar images, whether exactly the same or with slight differences in exposure, crop or image quality, elicits an inquisitive eye. Repetition emphasises the sameness and yet paradoxically indicates a difference. Andy Warhol used this strategy in his screen prints and photographs. In the image below, do you notice how the dog’s ‘stare’ becomes more insistant. Make a still life set-up of your choice, but you can use any subject. Try to emphasise your subject with the use of light. Aim to make around 20 photographs. Choose the best shot and process it to your liking. Now create a presentation of that one photograph that involves six to eight copies. Make some notes on the overall effect.

final

I found the repetition example used in the Foundations in Photography manual (face of a dog) to be quite uninspiring. To be honest I didn’t find that the dogs stare became more insistant. I would go as far as to say that it was full and unimaginative.

Because of this I was reluctant to produce a piece of work that was a simple replication of the initial image  Havin remembered Warhol’s series of Campbell’s Soup cans (a – Warhol, A; 1962), and some pop art posters of Marilyn Monroe, which were based upon his silkscreen canvas diptychs (b Warhol, A; 1962), I decided I would emulate these.

The most challenging aspect is beginning to understand how to use my speedlight. I used gels which cover the flash, but soon found that I couldn’t have them underneath, behind or in front of the camera. The effect was too strong even when the speedlight was on its lowest power output. The amount of light that each gel let through differed significantly, so I had to position the speedlight accordingly. Altering the aperture and ISO was necessary, and I’ve developed the images in Photoshop in order to remove shadows. I’m not comfortable with the speedlight as yet, and it would probably have worked better if I had an assistant with a reflector. Using a speedlight is a new experience, but it would have been harder to create the same result with a gel and light set up.

 

 

References

Warhol, A; 1962; Campbell’s Soup [Synthetic polymer paint on canvas]; Online AT: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/79809 (accessed on 07/11/2018)

b Warhol, A; 1962; Marilyn Monroe [Acrylic on canvas]; Online: AT: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/warhol-marilyn-diptych-t03093 (accessed on 07/11/2018)

My Anorexia Recovery Update

The ups and downs of anorexia recovery

The ups
Eating public is highly uncomfortable, I don’t like doing it. But it was time for my snack. I reminded myself that if anyone notices they just see a person eating. For many people this is so normal they wouldn’t even notice. If they had noticed they wouldn’t see an anorexic eating, they would just see a guy eating. Do I identify myself too much as an anorexic, rather than a person with a mental illness? The seagull was the only one who noticed.

IMG_20181102_112352.jpg

Two hours later and I’m now in a cafe and am about to have two chicken salad sandwiches. My meal plan for today is two ciabattas with jam, but I can’t get that in a cafe. I took advice from somebody who is further along in their recovery than I am. As chicken is on my plan (day 5) then I can have the chicken, I’m used to it, and it means that I’m not introducing a new food unplanned. New foods are tricky and are best eaten at home. It feels like everyone is staring at me.

IMG_20181102_135842.jpg

The downs
I purged on Wednesday. It’s irrelevant how I purged, but I did. That’s a relapse. It left me feeling distant from the people who love me and my support network. Purging brought up feelings of shame, guilt and worthlessness. I felt useless and had thoughts of not attending my self-help group. Addictive behaviour makes my world smaller, and hand on heart 💓, I deserve better.

The love
Despite fearing rejection I got honest. I told people that I have built trust with, my long-term friends, and I also shared about it in a self help group that I attend. I was treated with love, gentleness, kindness and understanding. People called me after the meeting and helped me to explore why I did it.

cof

The why
I have so many thoughts about food, about bingeing, about starving myself. Its obsessive, it dirsturbs me. I hate those thoughts. The way that I purged isnt important. It takes those crazy food thoughts away from me and brings some relief. But it also puts me at risk in so many ways. My paranoia and anxiety increase.

The solution
Shopping is a trigger for me. I need to stop walking around shops just to be around food. I need to either shop online or just shop at the co-op. I know where everything is in the co-op so I can go in with a list and shop quickly. As shopping is a trigger I could message a friend before hand so that I can remain accountable, and to have someone else that cares about me aware of my discomfort.

cof

I also need to be patient, loving, kind and gentle with myself. Recovery is a process – it’s not an instant fix. Some days I will struggle, and some times my thinking will drive me mad. I’m going to have to learn to sit in discomfort. Many of my peers in the self help group have been recovered for years. I can’t force myself to be at their stage. I need to give myself permission to be where I am, and to keep moving forward. Hope will help me with this. Knowing that others have been through this and come out of the otherwise is inspiring.
Richard, I love you. Richard, eating is the loving thing to do. You’re so worth it.

cof

The last half of the sandwich was so hard to eat. It looks to much for me. But my therapist, nutritionist says this is the right amount for now.

UK Based Eating Disorder Charities

BEAT

Men Get Eating Disorders Too

Men and Boys Get Eating And Exercise Disorders Scotland

International Eating Disorder Charities

United States

NEDA

Canada

NEDIC

India

The Minds Foundation

Australia

NEDC

Peer Support groups

Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous

Smart Recovery

Over-Eaters Anonymous

Eating Disorders Anonymous

Two vlogersI have found useful who are in recovery or recovered

Megsy recovery

Tabitha Farrar

The End Of The Pagan/Celtic Year – My Review Of The Past 12 Months And Goals For The Year Ahead

When I’m in tune spiritually at the end of the pagan year, I like to reflect upon the past year and say thanks for it. I also consider the year ahead.

The start of the new year as winter sets in makes sense. Traditionally winter would be the end of the life cycle for many people. Even now winter is a time of increased death rates for the elderly and vulnerable. The new year was a spiritual occasion in which prayers would be asked for protection over the winter months. It was also believed that the half way points of the spring and autumn (equinox), was when the barrier between the physical world and the underworld was at its weakest. A time when spirits could cross over and would take the weakest. During the middle ages and up to the Victorian era, communities would gather, light bonfires, celebrate and also cross dress . Men would dress as women and vice versa, in order to confuse the spirits and thereby preserve their life for the year ahead.

Today i took the opportunity for prayer and reflection whist I was walking between Redcar and Maske By The Sea. I have a lot to be grateful for this year. I have some wonderful friends, who have been part of my life for many years, I am developing deeper friendships with my peers, and I’m also developing friendships and a supportive community on WordPress.

IMG_20181031_163245.jpg

I got accepted into university – I’m glad I deferred it because I would have been to Ill to attend anyway. My tutor has given me some ideas which organisations that I can approach with a view to an exhibition of my photographic body of work about eating disorders. She values the personal integrity of my photography, and this was also stated in my interview with the University for the Creative Arts. I’m beginning to get a feel for the kind of photography that I want to make, the photography for relaxation and fun – and events. I really enjoyed the narrative of A Hermits Journey (here). Technically I’m improving as well, especially in Photoshop, although I do need to stop and consider which is the easiest approach to bring the quality that I desire. I need to read more books on photography as well. When reviewing the work of other photographers, finding a balance between books and internet resources is critical.

I’m  also enjoying the creativity of mixed media art, and I’m loving being part of the OCA collaboration group. I don’t make photographs for that. I’m using it as an opportunity to explore written and spoken word.

One of the highlights of my year was the photomontage I created using street art (here). It was wonderful to gain consent to use music by DJ’s from Mars. Approaching established artists with a view to making use of their work is new to me, and feels like a huge leap forward.oznor

It’s also a pleasure to witness the development and progress of my peers. We all have different skills, preferences and unique styles of the photography and it’s been a privilege to view. I’ve been able to try techniques that I wouldn’t have considered if I hadn’t seen their work. We all comment upon each others work, and this has been a vital part of my progression. I still find it hard to critique the work of my peers, although it is getting easier.

One particular photo produced by @andykabi on Instagram – touched that place of shame, persecution, unworthiness and vulnerability within me. It’s the most I’ve been affected by a photograph. Andy was kind enough to send me a signed copy. I get it back from the picture framers tomorrow.

As for my WordPress buddies, I’m touched by your honesty, integrity and support. You are so compassionate and have so much wisdom, which you share on your blogs and in comments.

Cork and london have presented me with opportunities to explore the unfamiliar. I love London, my holiday and time there were incredible. Sadly, I became very ill and had to return home. However, I’m trying to arrange a home-swap so that I can live in London. One of my main motivators is to become involved in a dynamic, vibrant and creative community. I was fortunate enough to meet two of my OCA friends whilst in London, but was too I’ll to meet two others as planned.

Now is the time to move, and to build a face to face community. Am I ready to start meeting up with people? Yes I am. It will be beneficial in so many ways, and one of those is in relation to my mental health.

Anorexia has taken it’s toll on my body and mind. The possibility of dying from anorexia was never going to be a motivating factor to change. However, my illness affected my photography and that was enough for me to seek and utilise supoort so that I can recover. Photography is saving my life for the second time. My passion for photography is intense. The more I make photos, watch the photography of others, and study photography – the more I fall in love with it. The more I have to give and the more I have to receive. Now that I’m in early recovery from anorexia and eating regularly, my ability to go back out with my camera has returned. The process of forming and developing creative ideas is such and pleasure, to be coming up with new idead again is wonderful. This is enough motivator for me to eat and continue with my recovery.

Occasionally I write photo essays, which have all been published in The Sociological Mail. Shaneka kindly publishes my writing, and I’d like to produce more articles over the next 12 months. Shaneka is always on the lookout for contributors, and I believe that she would appreciate the services of someone who can help with site maintenance and communicating with the feature writers.

My hopes and goals for the year ahead are :-

  • Move to London, Guildford or Farnham
  • Complete Foundations in Photography
  • Start a degree in photography with either the OCA or UCA
  • Exhibit my eating disorders body of work
  • Stay in recovery from anorexia
  • Develop the friendships I have
  • Develop new face to face friendships
  • Explore mixed media art
  • Assisted/guided photography/portraits for those who want to add photos in with their writing
  • Get involved with creatives in London
  • Travel to India
  • Write 7 photo essays
  • Write more poetry
  • Deepen my spirituality
  • Come to trust that the universe wants what’s best for me
  • Take a street photography workshop
  • Meet up with fellow students
  • Attend OCATV
  • Find some good birdwatching spots and go birdwatching monthly.
  • Find a photographer to get to know.
  • Eat no more and no less than what’s on my plan
  • Meditate every day
  • Attend yoga classes
  • Finish my model
  • Create a folder for competition stand photos
  • Read part of a photography book each morning

Exercise 4.8 – Photomontage In Photoshop

Brief:- Now that you’ve seen how to make a photomontage with newspaper cuttings, search through your archive of images to make a photomontage with your own photographs. Photomontage requires a playful, experimental attitude to exploring different arrangements, so don’t try to be too ‘tidy’ or perfect about your final result. Decide on the different picture elements: the background, the different parts of the environment, objects different people in the environment. Think in terms of depth: fg,mg, and bg. When you’ve completed your photomontage, photograph it or save it as a finished image. 

Things That Matterphotosociology.wordpress.com

I’m surprised at how short a time this take me to complete. Just a few hours this afternoon. Clearly the practice of using Photoshop is paying off. During other pieces of coursework I have used Photoshop to create montages of differing styles, one was made from several hundred photos that I had taken of street art (here), and another which combined faces (here).

It’s been enjoyable for me to connect with what matters to me. It can be easy to get bogged down with some aspects of life, which become detrimental to others. The background picture reminds me that my passion is photography. It’s become a vital part of regaining my health. Macro photography helps me to chill, to forget the things which can disable me, and to help me get present. The two family members are amazing. We never knew each other until I neared the end of my twenties, it was a chance meeting. But we lost contact and then a real life miracle happened. L was robbed in the street and she flagged down a car, the driver took them home so the police could be called. My photo was on the mantelpiece. I’m so grateful to the man who robbed L. L and G are amazing, if you’re reading – I love you deeply. The gannet is representative of birds, nature, birdwatching and wildlife photography. How can you not love a bird? The car is flying – events photography – I love the action, the fast pace of photographic technique, pushing myself technically and creatively. I’m feeling very grateful as I join some of the dots of my life.

When I embarked upon Foundations in Photography I preferred Lightroom over Photoshop. I still find Lightroom to be my go to for digitally developing my photos. However, my personal creative development has had a seismic shift, by following other creatives blogs I have started to explore mixed media art and production. I have an exciting developmental journey ahead, and I need Photoshop for the development of my creativity.

Exercise 4.7 – Photomontage

Brief:- Juxtaposition in photography can be as simple as placing two photos side by side. But juxtaposition can also be said to happen within the frame in still life when objects are purposefully placed together. In photomontage rougher and often amusing juxtapositions result from sticking bits of pictures together. Have a look at the work of John Heartfield and Hannah Hoch to prepare for this exercise. Heartfield’s photomontage’s are politically charged images designed to express social ills: www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/heartfield. For more advanced contemporary examples, search for Beaten Gutschow’s “S” series. Get a few old magazines or newspapers. Decide on a background picture – for example a large view of space or any place. Now add to it a figure, or at least the head and shoulders of a person. Now find some other images that you can substitute for the person’s head (for example a cabbage) or their eyes (telescopes) or mouth (a pothole). Stick them on the face. Photograph the result. As you can see, the process tends to result in bizarre combinations. But there is a deeper meaning to this process. By cutting and pasting fragments of images, you’re choosing how a picture should be made and offering an interpretation of the different subjects you choose. You’re also constructing an image in a way that would be impossible to construct in reality.

For this exercise I produced two ideas boards (seen here), neither of which I have followed through with as yet. Brexit is something which concerns me . IIa  a remainer, I value cultural diversity and I want to remain part of a wider European community. Regardless of my desire for Britain totremain as part of theEU, I feel that the current British Government is making a right pigs ear of Brexit negotiations. When I made the initial collage I had the intent of producing a mixed media image. My final two images include the handmade collage, digital editing I. Photoshop, acquired images from the internet, an uploaded photo, and the Photoshop text tool. I’ve produced two results, one of which replaces Theresa May’s face, as per the brief, and my preferred picture which doesn’t. Overall I’m pleased with the result, but I took far too long in Photoshop when turning the background white.

Original Collage

cof

First Draft

You Will Regret This Brexit Mayhem

Final (as per brief)

You Will Regret This Brexit Mayhem

Final (preferred version)

You Will Regret This Brexit Mayhem

I believe my montage makes a strong political statement, similar in nature to Heartfield, but Hoch had more of an influence. I like that she makes use of image and text, and the business of her collages were more appropriate for my chosen theme, than Heartfield’s minimalist approach.

Anorexia: It Costs More Than An Arm And A Leg

This is my story, which has been published today in The Sociological Mail.  If you like to read about current affairs, lifestyle, psychology and sociology, and to hear diverse viewpoints, then its worth popping over and becoming a follower. Shenaka has published all of my photo-essays, which I am very grateful for, and she welcomes new contributors.

Disclaimer: This article covers sensitive subjects which may not be suitable for certain audiences.

For just over a year I have been producing photography about anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders. This is the beginning of a photographic body of work which I intend to exhibit. I have had an eating disorder since I was 17 years old, which for me has predominantly been anorexia. Shaneka from The Sociological Mail has given me the opportunity to tie these projects together and to share about my history with an eating disorder.

I can only speak from my own experience. I am not an expert in the field, and I am not medically trained, but I have a lot of knowledge about eating disorders. I think that it’s common for people with eating disorders to arm themselves with information, I most certainly have. The anorexic brain becomes distorted and narrowly focused. It does this because the brain isn’t getting the nourishment which it requires to function, and hormone production increases around hunger and appetite cues. Thoughts about food increase to the point of obsession, and for me this also includes a focus upon my eating disorder. I have spent hours of my life reading about anorexia from all sources, I do particularly enjoy peer reviewed research. There have been a few occasions when I have had to correct professionals who don’t know the correct information, or when they have tried to coerce me into doing things their way. The knowledge that I have gained has become a barrier to accepting treatment, and hand on heart, that’s why I spent those hours reading. It has been a brick wall that has kept anorexia and I within, defending ourselves against those who were assaulting us by trying to cajole, manipulate or compel me to eat. Ultimately the justifications that I have used have harmed me, because I have been compelled to have treatment under the Mental Health Act, against my wishes. My refusal to have treatment has damaged my body and my mind. The consideration of treatment, having to eat and recovery have filled me with fear.

Fear has been a recurring theme throughout my life, and I think that there is a link between my eating disorder and fear. I experienced a lot of trauma during my childhood, repeatedly and in many forms. I had a violent alcoholic step-father, and a mother that didn’t protect me or my siblings from his violence. Sadly Mum was also violent and emotionally abusive, and she was inconsistent, giving and withholding love. As a young child, I had to learn to read people, it was self-protection – “what do I need to do to stay safe today”. This hasn’t left me, and my body and mind are always alert to potential risk. Unfortunately, this even impacts upon my closest friendships. I was also abused sexually, and when I informed my mother and (the latest) step-father I was ignored. From early on I knew that it didn’t matter whether I did well or failed, I would be in trouble anyway.

I took an overdose when I was 17. I can’t tell you why because I don’t know. As soon as I had taken it I went to hospital because I hadn’t intended to do it. However, it was a turning point that led to the onset of my anorexia. My mum threw me out because I had overdosed and I couldn’t tell her why I had done so. I moved into a friends caravan and I started to unravel.

I had never heard of anorexia, bulimia or self-harm, but I started cutting myself and restricting calories. I would eat two slices of toast with mustard each day, and vomit as soon as I had eaten it. Surprisingly, I had no support from the mental health services for a couple of years, and it took until my early twenties to get diagnosed with anorexia – binge/purge subtype. By this point, I had so many difficulties that we didn’t get anywhere with my eating disorder, nor my other mental health issues. I had several hospital admissions because of suicidality and depression, and my eating disorder continued. There were short periods of rapid weight gain due to binging, which were then followed by rapid weight loss because of restricting.

When the opportunity came along for me to use amphetamine I did. By this point, I was aware that it speeds up the metabolism and reduces the desire to eat. It was successful on that level, but my mental health worsened with the development of intense paranoia. I started to distrust my friends and became so scared of them that I walked out of my flat, got a train halfway across the country, and ended up in a homeless hostel. Paranoia is a feature of my poor mental health, and I am sure that the amphetamine contributed towards its development.

I progressed from using amphetamine to heroin, which precipitated a further crisis, but one which meant I became ready and willing to take responsibility for, and the necessary action to change my life. When I got clean I knew that I had to eat because if I didn’t then I was unlikely to stay away from substances. So I started eating three meals a day. Gradually my portions increased, and I put on more weight than I needed to. I was fully aware that missing a meal was risk-taking behaviour, and I stuck solidly with the plan for 6 years. Although by now I had progressed to over-eating with regular binges. Then every now and again I would miss a meal. It really wasn’t a regular thing, to begin with, but over time those missed meals increased. I liked the sense of power, being able to overcome hunger by not eating. I experienced a strong feeling of being in control, so the number of meals that I missed increased. The period from when I started missing meals and back to intense anorexic behaviour took several years. But once I had started missing meals and experiencing the feeling of power and control that came with it, then it was inevitable that fully restrictive behaviour would ensue.

My wife and I separated, and I moved and found new employment. The work was intense, and I stopped having lunch. I didn’t eat breakfast by this point, and my evening meal consisted of a bread roll sliced in two, with half a tin of tuna on top of each piece, and sometimes with cheese on top (if I had the cheese it was toasted and lots of black pepper). I lost weight very quickly.

One meal a day went down to not eating at all. I mean nothing. I went 52 days with only fluids – I have to say I was fu)*i:g nuts at this point. I couldn’t think properly, my memory went, I couldn’t answer peoples questions because my brain had shut down. I guess it was preserving the essentials for survival and switching everything else off. Not eating for these kinds of long periods is both easy and hard. The obsession and compulsion to resist food is overwhelming and coupled with an obsession to buy and hide food, to write out recipes, watch all the tv cookery shows, and to cook for friends. I loved to smell food. At that point, just smelling food felt like it was filling me up.

The compulsion to not eat was what made not eating easy, I can’t explain what that’s like. Perhaps it’s similar to determination, but 100 times stronger. It’s a fixation, it doesn’t matter what you say to me, I will not eat. It doesn’t matter what I say to me, what I think, rationalisation – I WILL NOT EAT. My self-hatred increased over this period of “fasting” I didn’t try to fight it, just accepted that it was linked to not eating, and my self harm returned, but that’s OK because I’m not eating. With hindsight I can say that the more people tried to get me to eat, or put pressure on me too, the firmer my determination to not eat became. Again it’s that sense of control. My whole life felt out of control, except for the will that I had to not eat and to control the size of my body, and no matter how hard you tried, you could not take that away from me.

The worst experience was the self-hatred, shouting at myself, calling myself names, and the self-harm. I’ve self-harmed before, as a coping mechanism, and it’s been (for want of a better word) gentle. However, during this period I cut aggressively out of anger, rage, and hatred. I cut names into my legs and chunks out of my arms. When I look back on that time I have empathy for myself, I actually feel sorry for myself. How I treated and spoke to myself at that point was tragic, it brings a tear to my eye to think of it.

I was referred to a community mental health team and could attend their day centre. It was a safe space, daily occupation and it provided me with a connection with other people. I used the centre to help me get back into a pattern of eating, it was a slow process, and I was allowed to go at my own pace. They had no eating disorder training so they observed and encouraged but ultimately left me to sort out and manage my own recovery.

After not eating for so long the brain produces hormones to make you feel hungry, which is why there is often an obsession with food for many people with anorexia. For some of us, it also means that when you begin to eat again there can be an overwhelming urgency to do so, it certainly did for me. My food slowly increased and developed into compulsive overeating, and I put all the weight that I had lost back on, and more. It took six months to do so, and then I stopped eating again. Without effective treatment, the cycle continues.

My anorexia is extreme. I don’t restrict food like many, I completely stop eating. I still drink coffee with skimmed milk, herbal tea, and juice, but I won’t have any food at all. My mind becomes so rigid, fixated on not eating, I am either thinking about not eating, researching anorexia, or hoarding food. I spent so much money on food with absolutely no intention of eating it. It got so bad that a friend had to come around and clear my flat out. It’s such a strange compulsion, to starve and be obsessed with food. I wish there was a way that I could put into words just how strong both obsessions are. There is just nothing that I can compare it too. Hoarding is a common symptom of starvation and anorexia, which was also demonstrated by the Minnesota experiment (https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/10/hunger.aspx).

This period of not eating lead to me, once again, being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. I had stopped eating for 56 days at this point, and I had refused all of their offers of help, including meal replacement. I really did not believe that there was anything wrong with me at all. Thing is, I have other mental health problems as well as an eating disorder, and these include anxiety, paranoia and suicidal ideation. There are times when not eating reduces or stops these symptoms. Not always, but this was a time in which my I became symptom free, and that makes me feel well. Who would want to change if they were free from other overwhelming and disabling symptoms?

I was given the option of having meal replacement drinks and building up my calories or going into the medical hospital for nasogastric feeding. I chose the meal replacement. It really wasn’t easy, and in that hospital, I only got up to 900 calories a day. I then went to an eating disorders unit as an inpatient, which I found challenging, stressful and intrusive. I tried to want to be there, but having other people in control of the food which was going into my body was too difficult. I would argue with the dietician every time that we met up, was very hostile and resistant to treatment. They got my calories up, but I then asked if I could leave. I really don’t do well when others have control over me or my food, and I don’t do well as an inpatient in hospital. I never have. It makes it so hard for the professionals to work with me. I guess that’s why I am mid-forties and still sick and suffering from an eating disorder. Perhaps control is the issue rather than the food. Feeling out of control or that others are in charge of me induces intense fear, which leads me to feel like I have to escape.

Once they had discharged me I reduced my calories and started to purge every day. There was a community eating disorder therapist whom I was referred to. She was patient with me, and we developed a plan between us. I agreed to get to a minimum of 1200 calories per day. This was to be an initial target and is based upon the fact that with 1200 calories our organs can function. It’s the level that a patient would be given if they were in a coma. The other thing that she was very clear about was that I needed to have blood pressure, blood tests, and an ECG each week. If any of these indicated that I needed medical care, either as an inpatient or outpatient then I had to have it. It was made clear that if I didn’t comply then I would be detained under the Mental Health Act. She let me go at my own pace, and I slowly introduced solid foods to replace the drinks that I was on. I have to say that she was the best therapist that I have had for my eating disorder. She had boundaries and limits, explained these to me, and then worked with me as an individual. She understood how strong my control issues with regard to food were, and helped me to make progress. I got to 1500 calories per day, was eating solid food most of the time, and my physical health was improving.

Unfortunately, I got a sudden bout of depression and tried to kill myself. Whilst in the psychiatric hospital I started to binge. The staff on general psychiatric wards in the UK are generally not eating disorder trained, and they do not help a patient with anorexia to either eat or build up eating slowly. Having so much access to food after a long period of starvation sent those hormones wild again. The hunger was intense, and the amount of food that I would eat left me in pain all of the time. After eating the hospital dinner I would call up a take away, order a meal deal for two or three people, and sit and eat all of it. There was no real enjoyment of the food, just an insatiable appetite and an inability to stop eating once I had begun.

I find it so sad that I have been through all of this, and the harm that my poor body has had to cope with. Getting the right treatment for eating disorders in the UK does not always happen. I have no specialised eating disorder support at the moment, and this is a common issue for many sufferers. Part of it is the area that I live. In the UK each individual health authority decides how it is going to spend its budget, and which services it will commission. Here they funded one community eating disorder therapist to cover the whole county. She has changed role recently and hasn’t been replaced, and neither has the dietician who left last year.

So how did I get to this point on this occasion? My compulsive overeating following the last hospital admission led to me developing diabetes. I am terrified of the doctors and the hospital, so I looked into the research results from Newcastle University into reversing type two diabetes. They put their patients onto a very low calorie diet, which is medically supervised at all stages. The diet lasts for eight weeks, and then other foods are slowly introduced. The results are astounding. Type two diabetes can be reversed. Having reviewed the research results I decided that I would create my own very low calorie diet so that I could reverse my diabetes, which I have managed to do. However, the reduction in calories soon triggered the anorexic thoughts and behaviour, and I lost control.

Something was different this time though – my photography studies. I love photography and I love studying with the Open College of the Arts. My photography has developed considerably, and so has my contact with people. I can walk up to strangers on the street and ask if I can photograph them, and I have photographed at many events and around large groups of people. I feel safe with a camera in front of my face, and the whole experience is mindfulness in action. Its like I slow down, real slow, I look and see all that is around me, completely focused, present and in the moment. In January I returned to not eating anything at all. This time I went for 18 days. During that time my motivation to study disappeared and I became depressed. I couldn’t live with the impact it had on my photography so I began to eat again. Not a lot at all, but it was enough to make a difference. This has also been a time where not eating/severe restriction has had a positive impact on the reduction of other mental health symptoms. I haven’t had suicidal thoughts for some time, my anxiety has reduced, and so has the paranoia to a degree. I still get PTSD symptoms, but these are more manageable when my other symptoms are low. My energy increased significantly as well. Lack of food intake can mean that the body produces more adrenaline and cortisol, and this increases energy. To be honest it has been an absolutely amazing time that I have really enjoyed.

I haven’t really worked with my psychiatric team, and I have done the absolute minimum that I could get away with in order to stay out of hospital. I think that I have made it look like I am working with them and want to get well, but that hasn’t been my truth on the inside, until….

I went on holiday to London. It was to be a three week holiday so that I could be a tourist, make the most of the sights and scenes in London, go to galleries, museums, gardens and theatres. It was also an opportunity for me to meet up with my fellow students. Sadly, after just a week I became really ill. I felt dizzy, sick, and thought that I was going to pass out. I got to the point of not being able to function. My motivation to study and for photography went. Then a couple of weeks afterwards I was with a close friend, we had been out in his car for about an hour and we went for a coffee. My blood pressure dropped and I was unable to walk. These incidents frightened me into realising that I need recovery and I need it now.

Recently I have been making progress, and my photography has been an important part of that process, the enjoyment of photography is my motivation for change in a way that fear of dying from anorexia is not. I now know that if I do not make a drastic attempt to recover then I will suffer more serious health problems, be unable to take photos, and risk dying. Anorexia has the highest death rate as a proportion of sufferers than any other psychiatric disorder.

People can and do recover from eating disorders and anorexia. I was aware of the statistics about partial and full recovery, as well as those who never recover, but now I have started to attend an online peer support group for people with anorexia and bulimia I have met people, who I relate to, and who are in recovery. Meeting others who are no longer affected by the symptoms of their eating disorder gives me so much hope. Peer support isn’t the only thing that I need. Although I have a psychiatric and medical team, they are not eating disorder trained, and they have not replaced their dietitian or therapist. However, I have managed to find an experienced eating disorders therapist, who is also experienced in nutrition and diet. I grew up in a family of chefs, I know what a nutritious and balanced diet is, so why can’t I just do it? I am afraid of food, there are very few foods which I eat, I am obsessed with calories. I need help to overcome these difficulties, and I also need someone whom I can build up trust with so that they can manage my meal plan until I am able to put things into practice. I need to trust them to manage the calories for me. It’s a big part of letting go of controlling behaviour.

Eating disorders are not about food, even though the symptoms suggest that they are. Eating disorders are about control. By controlling my food intake, weight and body shape, I can  avoid or suppress fear, feelings, circumstances and the uncertainties of life.

Yesterday was a very big step for me. I consider it to be the first day of my recovery. Most people with anorexia go through intense obsessions with foods, watching TV shows about foods, reading recipe books, cooking for others and not eating, and some of us hoard food. Over months I spent hundreds of pounds buying food that I had no intention of eating, and hiding around the house, even though I live alone. Before I could have friends visit I informed them that they were not to touch the hoarded food. Yesterday I sorted through it, binned what was out of date, and have bagged the rest for the local food-bank. A momentous step for me, and I promise you it wasn’t easy. I cried, I felt angry, and I needed to reach out for support. But I did it. I am proud of myself for doing so, so proud that I bought myself some flowers. I earned them (written three weeks ago).

I accept that this is not going to be an easy process and that it will take time. There will be times when my emotions feel too intense and overwhelming, and the regime of three meals and snacks is frightening. With help, I have introduced a couple of new foods, cereal, and jacket potato with tuna or chili. The rest are a few select foods that I feel safe with. There are times when I feel so out of control, which isn’t surprising. Change does mean letting go of the old control measures and trying the unfamiliar. The amount of emotion that I experience around the times that I am eating now has been surprising, and often very intense. But I want to study, I want to walk around and take photos, and I cannot have that without recovery. Recovery is possible, which I now know because I have found a community of recovering people.

If you have an eating disorder or think that you may do, and are not currently receiving support then please seek help. Your doctor is important because there are so many health complications with eating disorders. Perhaps you can talk to someone who you trust and ask them to go to the doctors with you. There are also eating disorders charities in many countries around the world. They can answer questions that you may have and provide you with information and support. There are also many peer support groups around the world as well. We all have to find our own way, but we never have to do this alone.

Thank You for reading and best wishes, Richard.

 

UK Based Eating Disorder Charities

BEAT

Men Get Eating Disorders Too

Men and Boys Get Eating And Exercise Disorders Scotland

International Eating Disorder Charities

United States

NEDA

Canada

NEDIC

India

The Minds Foundation

Australia

NEDC

Peer Support groups

Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous

Smart Recovery

Over-Eaters Anonymous

Eating Disorders Anonymous

Two vlogersI have found useful who are in recovery or recovered

Megsy recovery

Tabitha Farrar