The past few weeks have been incredibly challenging for me, with intense paranoia, suicidality and relapse with my eating disorder. It’s been a very painful time to be honest, and I’ve needed to delve into the pain in order to survive.
Diving into the pain means to stop resisting it, to lean into it and to allow it to be, just as it is. It’s had me curled up on my bed in tears and too scared to move, and it’s taken me into leaving my home upon awakening and returning in the evening because I’ve been to scared to be at home. Paranoia is a fucker, I hate it, it’s been overwhelming, but it’s eased somewhat.
The shift happened last Thursday when it hit me that despite feeling unsafe, I’ve actually been safe. I’ve used the rationalisation for a while, but it finally dropped into place.
Going to Brighton last Sunday and Monday was a decision to go out because I wanted to, not because I felt that I had to. I have spent most of the last week out as well, as an act of protecting my mental health. There’s a workman decorating the communal space and having him around triggers my experience of paranoia, so I’ve been out every day, and I will be for the next week too. Sometimes it’s knowing which fight to battle and which to accept. The good news is that I’ve stayed at home this weekend. I’ve felt anxious, I’ve experienced paranoid thinking, but it’s been at a level that I can cope with.
The fear has reduced significantly, and I believe this has had a positive impact upon my eating disorder. I’ve increased my food intake to around 3/4 of my bodies daily requirement. My body is larger than I want it to be, heavier than what I feel comfortable with, but I’m eating more and I feel better for it.
Life is still a challenge, I don’t find living easy, but this week has been more enjoyable. Getting out with my camera on my trip to Brighton was very enjoyable, and shooting whilst being down on my knees has been a learning experience and I’m going to post about that over the next couple of days.
A friend sent me a link to an artists call for submission for a health related exhibition. Submitting was such an invigorating thing to do. I felt alive with enthusiasm and passion. I haven’t had the motivation to continue with embroidering on photography as yet, but it will return. I’m sleeping for longer and up later in the day, my most creative time, but the motivation will return.
My recovery from my overdose and consequent surgery is going well, which is good for my photography and art.
I’m so grateful that I have the energy and desire to continue with my final assignment. I’ve managed a few hours of embroidery over the past few days. By making use of the research I conducted, and adapting the input from others, I now have a very good technique for embroidering on top of photography. Result!
I have several pressure sores. Some of these were acquired whilst unconscious following my overdose, and one which I acquired in hospital whilst under sedation. A good friend suggested that I photograph the one on my arm, the one acquired in hospital, and create some documentary photography.
I liked the idea but felt it was not particularly practical. So instead I decided to photograph the consequences of a failed suicide attempt. During my stay at the Heart hospital (they saved my life) I was in a single room, which gave me the freedom to make Photography of my experience. The Heart hospital is where I had surgery to remove a septic abcess and part of my right lung, and where I had a cardiac arrest.
The critical care unit at the Whittington Hospital was the first ward that I was on. They somehow managed to bring me around from my overdose. It wasn’t expected. They informed friends and family that I wasn’t expected to pull through. However, I survived. I was in no fit state to take photos in the Whittington until just before I left, so I have very few photos from there.
During my recuperation with friends and my cousin I’ve taken some photos of my recovery. I shall evaluate and collate all of these and put together a documentary series.
Of note:- during my coursework I reviewed a documentary series called “Ray’s a Laugh” by Richard Billingham, (see here). I feel that documenting my failed suicide attempt is similar to the style of Billingham, and has opened my mind to the value of documenting the everyday. Many people try to commit suicide, and considerably more survive than die (over 15 successful suicide attempts per day in the UK). This is why I use the term “everyday”, I’m not dismissing the tragedy of suicide or attempted suicide. There is good work being done to prevent suicide and I hope more will be done in the future.
Documentary photography in the style of Billingham, and my own series, creates a space for reflection and discourse, and this can create connection and change.
Here are a couple of photos from my series. Not quite sure when I will get the time to put my series together as I have so many medical appointments.
I have been taking photos as I walk around London. These are part of my research for when I begin the degree in Photography with the Open College of the Arts.m. Square Mile is the first assignment. I’m considering shooting in The City and capturing the contrast between wealth and poverty.
Brief:- Most imagery contains layers of some kind: subject and background, f/g m/g and b/g, for example. In this exercise you’ll experiment with ways of making layered imagery in your camera. In the following exercise, you’ll experiment with using image layers in Photoshop. Look out of a window from inside and make a photograph that includes all three of these elements:
foreground detail in front of the window
a reflection of something otherwise unseen in the window
background environment on the other side of the window.
Consider the light carefully. If there’s a dark area on the other side of the window, it will help the window act as a mirror for an illuminated object inside. It may be best to shoot in the evening or at night to achieve this, but then you’ll have to consider the balance of exposures between the inside and the outside environments.
Having fun exploring layers
Guess who followed the brief fully and completely? I have had so much fun with this exercise. I took all of the photography whilst I was on holiday in London, and tried to find situations where there were multiple layers within the frame. Here are a few of my favourites. These have been through Lightroom for re-sizing and auto-colour neutral only.
One of the most pleasing aesthetically for me, and additional layers are created by the multiple frames from within the shop.
The reflection in the window that I am looking out of, a secondary one in the other coach’s windows, and them the layers through the bus station into the car park beyond.
This one plays tricks with my mind. What exactly am I looking at? Whats outside and whats a reflection from the inside of the bus?
The repeated reflection, and difference between mirrored reflection and glass reflection is appealing to me, along with the colours.
The glass cover of the escalator provides a view through to an indoor shopping centre, which is all glass. But what really makes this are the reflections of St Paul’s Cathedral. The dome is enlarged at the bottom of the frame, with a smaller reflection which shows more of the tower in the top of the frame.
I really appreciate all of the kind words, wishes and comments upon my last post. Since returning home I have rested deeply, and haven’t checked WordPress nor Instagram, I’ve allowed myself to switch off, and build my model aeroplane.
Although I am feeling better than I was I’m still very tired. Getting checked up by the Dr has confirmed my blood pressure is low and that the anaemia has worsened, which are as a result of anorexia.
I am going to take my time in replying to people’s comments over the next few days, and although I wont be able to catch up with your past posts, I will endeavour to read current ones as and when I can.
The good news is that my referral to the eating disorders day centre has gone through, funding has been approved, so fingers crossed that they will accept me. In the mean time I increased my calories again on Saturday.
Here are a few photos of reflections that I took whilst in London. I came to realise that central London could easily be known as The Glass City. It’s everywhere. It was useful preparation for one of the exercise coming up in part 4 of Foundations in Photography. There is a Starbucks very close by, which meant that I could recharge my lapstop whilst I was having a break.
The brief asked us to produce a series of photo’s that reflect a piece of written material, and I completed this with my own photography earlier in the coursework (seen here). Having previously read ‘Behind The Image: Research In Photography’ By Anna Fox and Natashe Caruana (2012) I had started to make a photo archive which includes my own photography, photo’s purchased from EBAY and second-hand shops, and photography and articles from newspapers and journals. Creating the archive reminded me of the montage produced by Gerhard Richter’s series Atlas (seen here), in which he makes use of newspaper photo’s and sometimes overlays text from those same papers.
Initially I was attracted to Richter’s overpainting, and my first response to Atlas was quite negative, it wasn’t something that I liked. However, over a period of time this has grown upon me, and exercise 3.5 gave me the perfect opportunity to try something different.
The process of selecting which photos and text to include required me to experiment with which worked together on each individual plate, and then create a layout that symbolises the line(s) from the poem (signifier). For example the presentation ‘what is this life if full of care’ (below) is about connections and networks that we create throughout our life and create value for each of us.
‘No time to stand beneath the boughs (below) is a reflection upon how precious life is, and that it will end in death – let us enjoy the life we have by slowing down to appreciate it.
Some of the photo’s and text were cut carefully, and others I tore from the newspaper, I wanted to see the effect of each – my structured mind has resistance to having torn edges, and layouts that are not aligned. The non-aligned layouts work, it creates a scrap-book style, and the torn edges are effective as a physical collage, but this comes out poorly in the photographs of the art.
My aim was to create light box style digital images from the pastiches, and although the process for doing so takes just a few steps – Lightroom, set white balance the same in each image, adjust clarity, contrast, vibrance and exposure to create brightness in the text and pictures, adjustment brush up to the edge of each text/photo – increase exposure to maximum (bright white background). This sounds simple, however auto-mask was tricky for images with a white border and without auto mask the process was time-consuming. The process wasn’t 100% accurately even when I followed up with the auto-masked erase brush. Consequently I was left with some digital artifacts around the edges. They have been removed or altered in some places by exporting to Photoshop and painted out.
Relationship to current photographic trends
There is a lot of talk in relation to how the digitization of photography and the excellent cameras in smart phones, along with social media, have created a situation in which photographs are taken with ease, shared almost instantly and then deleted or never seen again, and only printed on very rare occasions.. The reaction by many professional and academic photographers has been to focus upon the materiality of photography by printing, creating photobooks and making use of scrapbooks and albums to store and present photography. I am in agreement with the argument and have begun to print my own photos, make photo-books and use appropriated images.
However, I don’t think the argument is as simple as it appears. The digitization of photography has meant that old and damaged photos have been saved by uploading them and digitally removing scratches and marks, adding colour, and creating archives or new print’s. There is a saying ‘What goes on the net, stays on the net’. What this means is that if I or you publish a photo on the world wide web, there is always the possibility that it remains as a record that could be permanent even if I delete it. As soon as a photo is published on-line it can be copied, downloaded for individual or collective use, re-posted in a positive manner, or used to troll and embarrass. Deleting my original post in no way guarantees that it has been removed from the web. My creative process has been a representation of this, and a rejection of the view that physical photos are the only ones with intrinsic value.
Although I created the collages as a physical piece of art, once I had created and photographed them I removed them from the white card and returned them to my archive. Yes I can recreate the physical object as a permanent record because I have kept the photo’s and text, but right now, none of these plates exist in the material form. The only places that these exist are on my hard drive and online. The digitization has provided me with a permanent record of the art I have created.
As mentioned previously, the use of the adjustment brush, which was necessary in order to achieve my objective, has left digital artifacts. You can’t see them unless you zoom in very close, but I can, I know where they exist. The use of WordPress slide show is the correct presentation for this sequence, however it isn’t possible to adjust the caption text colour on a free site. This meant that white text on a white background left the text unreadable. I have had to return to Photoshop and include a layer the length and position of the caption on the slide show, dark in colour, with reduced transparency, so that the text can be read. It works, but it is not how I want the presentation to be.
What an enjoyable and interesting project this has been for me. I love photography, so much I cannot express it enough in words. Becoming more involved with photography has increased my creative drive, and this has freed me up to let go of some of my rigid thinking so that I can explore and express myself with other media. Despite the challenges of the adjustment brush, technically this has been straight forward, creatively it has felt powerful and dynamic, but again very simple.
This has been my first attempt at working with these materials and this genre, and there is room for improvement. The photo’s in each plate work well with each other, but tI haven’t created a consistent sequence photographically, and wouldn’t be effective without the captions. Leisure is my favourite poem, and the words create a strong narrative, in future I can strengthen this by using photographs which connect from one plate to the next.
You know what – despite the imperfection (my perfectionism may be easing? Or that inner critical voice may be becoming a touch kinder?), I am pleased and excited about what I have produced.
I’m so pleased that I am now going out into the sun, walking to the cliff’s and I am going to stand and stare.
Fox, A and Caruana, N; 2012; Behind the image: Research in photography; Switzerland; AVA Publishing SA
Brief: – A narrative sequence – a narrative sequence can be like a story board or comic strip that tells a story in a series of images. The story may be mysterious or humorous like Duane Michals Things are Queer (1973). It can be a fleeting moment or a monumental event. But there’s always the sense of time passing and an event unfolding. Research the sequences of Duane Michals online. Use your own life and work experiences as a source for ideas. Or use your dreams. Here are some key elements to think about: Event – Your aim here is to express a situation or event. Perhaps it’s something you’ve noticed, like someone sneezing in the high street or two people arguing. You don’t need to encapsulate war and peace. People – It will almost certainly involve people who will need to be rehearsed and directed like actors. But they can be themselves, they don’t need to pretend to be other people and they don’t need to be actors. Try to just let them be themselves and see what kind of images you get. If that doesn’t work, ask them to think about a memory which reflects the one you’re trying to portray. Setting – Every event has a setting. it happens somewhere. So think about places that would be accessible and telling. If you can, use environments that you have access to, like your workplace, your home or back garden. Props – Objects you use are important for setting the scene and expressing meaningful and narrative points about the situation.
At this moment in time I find that I am not able to work with people for this assignment, and although I am submitting this, I will also be submitting a staged photograph as well.
Birds and bird photography are a life-sustaining and nurturing part of my life. They have long brought peace to the overwhelming mental chatter that has impacted upon my ability to function. Since I have had a camera, bird photography has been a safe haven, a meditation and a means of feeling and expressing joy.
This narrative is more important to me than my previous post of the moorhens. By making use of three different species there is a stronger impact demonstrating that the creation of life is a universal phenomenon, rather than an individualised event. It is also symbolic of my process of transformation with regard to my mental health. Building a nest is creating a safe community, incubating the eggs is the experience of hope, glimmers of potential, friendship, love and kindness, and the goslings are the foundations of manifesting and developing possibilities.We all know there is still a lot to be done to move towards maturity at this point.
My gosling is the passion that has developed within me for photography. It has been a life changing experience which has enabled me to face anxiety about being outdoors, and helped me to get out of my home at a time when it was too overwhelming for me to do so.
There are no people involved in this narrative, and the shots that I made, were spontaneous rather than planned. The planning has come from the process of digital developing and personal reflection. My narrative may not fulfill the brief in relation to people and planning but I believe that it’s strong and just as valid as if I had made the photo’s according to the brief.
Symbolism is an important part of photography. Discussions with my tutor with regard to the work of other photographers, and my own photography in relation to society and mental health, have helped me to begin considering how I can make more use of allegory in the work that I create.
Personally I believe that all three photos are good but the strongest is of the mute swans. They were in the process of changing which was one of them was incubating the eggs. The way the new sitter is staring at the eggs and making sure that they are all there is evocative of the value of life. I guess it means so much to me because I have not always felt that value, so this photo brings up both sadness and joy for me.
As always feedback/critique are welcome upon my reflections and the previous post with the photos.
This is a scary one for me because I am going to need to make this a self-portrait. As you are aware I do not have anyone that I can work with on this, and although I had initially considered working with one or two people who I know who are homeless, my mental health currently leaves me unable to approach people.
I have anxiety about revealing myself, so I am going to build upon my tutors feedback with regard to assignment two. She suggested that I explore identity by making portraits of people and by using masks where possible.
The brief is quite specific about what a formal portrait is, and I am choosing to break away from it a little, otherwise I will not be able to complete the exercise. I hate my face right now, so I cannot create a formal portrait of myself in which my face is revealed, it wouldn’t help my mental health.
So I am going to create a multi layered approach that will include the use of masks, clothing, and current books and camera, to explore questions around gender identity along with practice representations of my current lifestyle. The use of masks will mean that I am breaking away from the brief and also respecting my needs with regard to keeping my mental wellbeing as well as I can.
The photos in this post are self portraits that I have taken in a manner that I can cope with sharing with others.