A Change Of Direction

A recent health event has meant I’ve had to reconsider the direction of my life on all fronts.

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I have a heart condition, which has suddenly deteriorated, and I’ve made the decision not to have surgery. It was diagnosed several years ago, and I have known that I would need to make a decision regarding surgery for a long time. Generally the condition gets worse gradually, and mine was following the usual path until last month. After a routine scan I was held back and the registrar asked to speak to me. I wasn’t expecting the news at this stage, so it has been a shock. Creating the space to speak with my nearest and dearest has been my priority.

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My spiritual beliefs have been the bedrock of my decision to allow my life to follow its natural course. I feel a deep sense of peace with my decision.

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What I want right now is to have the best possible quality of life for as long as possible. When I consider my future a few things are important to me. My friends and family, photography and study. I had planned to move on to studying for a degree in photography, but I no longer think that this is appropriate for my health and wellbeing, so I have decided to alter my direction.

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Naturally I will still make photography and continue with personal projects, but I’ve decided to study for an Open Foundation in Creative Writing with the Open College of the Arts. I like to write, and I combine photography with my writing, especially when producing photo-essays. Converting to creative writing will minimise the stress, and it also means that during those times when I’m less able to be physically active, I will still be able to be meaningfully occupied.

Quality of life is the most important thing whilst I allow the cycle of life to play out. Daily I ask myself “What can I do today that will bring meaning to my life, and give me the opportunity to create value and culture?”

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Eid Mubarak

Happy Eid to all of my Muslim friends and followers. May the blessings of Allah be with you and you’re loved ones.

Enjoy the festival of Eid al-Fitr

 

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Exercise 3.7 – Planning – Judaism – Christianity – Object Of Devotion

Having given some thought to the exercise I have decided that I am going to make use of two approaches.

My altar is highly personal, but at the same time it is calm, peaceful and a refuge, and as such I would like it to be photographed early on a sunny morning so that natural daylight provides an element of grace. Other people will also have significant objects of devotion and I am going to send out a group email, blog post, and a couple of personal emails to ask others if they would collaborate with me and send me a photo of their object within its environment, and taken with the same lighting and composition, as the brief asks.. This is my prefered option because it retains the individual and personal connection that I feel is important.

The second option is to use a photo that I have already taken of a church altar, and then to find a local synagogue and ask if I can make some photos there. Having never been to a synagogue and having no connection with Judaism then I know very little of their faith or objects of devotion.

The importance of Jewish faith and culture to me is that I believe that Jews, for at least the past 2,000 are the second most persecuted group of people in the world (women being the people who have been the most persecuted), and because I find that when I read about the holocaust I am left feeling utterly bereft.

Review – Bernd And Hilla Becher

Brief:- You probably own many significant objects, from a wedding ring to old clothes, trophies of achievement to mementos that recall special events or times of your life, like toys or records. Choose one of these to photograph. This mustn’t be a general thing like ‘flowers’ but something entirely specific to you. Respect the fact that this object matters to you. Photograph it carefully, thinking about how this object ought to be viewed through the camera. Consider the framing, viewpoint, background, placement, light and composition. Does the photograph (the representation) have the same meaning as the object itself ? Is there a difference? Now develop this exercise into a series of three photographs of similar objects. For example, if you chose to photograph your wedding ring, ask friends if you can photograph their wedding rings. If you photographed your home, photograph other people’s homes. Use exactly the same viewpoint, framing, lighting (as far as possible), background, etc., for each. This will help the three final photos fit together as a conclusive series. Look online at the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Note how the composition, framing and lighting is almost identical in each photograph and how this ‘gels’ the series together. 

Becher, B and Becher, 1959 to 1973 H Framework HousesFig. 1. Framework Houses (1959-73)

Bernd Becher (1931-2007) Hilla Becher (1934 – 2015)

Initial thoughts

Not Tudor, not imitation Tudor. I haven’t seen frame houses that are neither Tudor nor imitation. Maybe from the USA or parts of Europe that I havent visited. Orderliness, structure, unusual perspective, is there actually a house there or are these just mock walls like a film set? Very little background/vegetation and no people, but would like to see on a gallery wall for a closer inspection. The structure of each house is highly visible because there are no distractions. Routine – each house fills roughly the same area of the frame, and with only minor fluctuations in exposure and tone. All black and white so there are no contrasting or colours to distract. Very few windows, what do the residents do for daylight? Vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines – this appeals to me. Although there are slight differences it is possible to suggest that they were built by only three different builders (see the framework/bricks between the slopes of the roof’s).

I find myself only able to agree with the course manual in relation to the composition, framing and lighting. The routine and conformity highlight the shapes and lines of the buildings and their frames, and its interesting how the small structural differences and patterns are noticable and quite intriguing. Obviously this could not be the case if a single photo was exhibited alone. I think that if the series was to be taken and displayed with the same houses but shot at different angles, the detail would be lost. The 3D structure of the houses would alter the perspective greatly, and the backgrounds would then be a distraction. This is a great technique for photographing similar subjects if you want to highlight differences in detail and have an orderly presentation.

Stacy McCarroll Cutshaw (2012) describes the Becher’s work as being an important change of direction in landscape photography, moving away from the old romanticism and into a systemic approach, which is also more scientific. “The idea of topographies as applied to the photographed landscape stems from the exhibition ‘New Topographies: Photographs of a Man-altered Landscape’ held in 1975 at the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House in Rochester, New York… The Photographs were not romanticized images of the vast outdoors of the American West but depictions of everyday suburban sprawl. They focused on manufactured, industrialized landscapes, paying particular attention to the environment altered by human kind… Works by the German collaborative photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher, such as Framework Houses (1958-1973…) also featured in the show. Their oeuvre is pivotal to a generation of European and US photographers who cultivated a systematic approach to photography.” (Hacking; 2014; pp 400 + 401).

My significant object

This maybe a tricky exercise for me. The most important object to me is my Gohonzon. The Gohonzon is  a scroll that is used by practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism. It contains the Mystical Law of the Lotus Sutra written in Japanese text. It is the centre piece of my alter, sitting above the fireplace with several crystals and candles. I would not want to use anything else for this exercise.

My difficulty is that I do not meet other people regularly. In fact outside of appointments that I attend I have only met up three people, and a couple (all friends and family) this year. Currently I have no plans to meet up with anyone.

At the moment I see my options as being – find a church that’s open and photograph the alter, or make use of a photo that I took in Lindisfarne. It would be better to photograph my alter first and then go and shoot in a church. This would mean that I could control the composition, although the lighting will be significantly different (however I could make use of bracketed exposure, 5 stops each way and convert to HDR for the inside of the church). Then to find a different religious building, or a group, or individual and photograph their alter or significant spiritual object.

My second idea would be to make my photo first and then email it to several people and ask them if they can make a photo of their spiritually significant place, using the same composition and similar lighting if possible.

Difficulties are just solutions playing hide and seek.

Illustrations

Figure 1; Becher, B andBecher, H; 1959-73; Framework Houses; AT: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/127884 (accessed on 19/05/2018)

References

Hacking, J; 2014; Photography: The Whole Story; London; Thames and Hudson

Who Am I? Who Are You? Society, Change, The Pain Of Ownership, The Journey From Me To We, Who Are We.

The beginning of my personal enquiry seems a little strange, but my thoughts were in response to a discussion on another blog.

Who Are We?

I agree. One positive change is beginning to happen with children being taught mindfulness in schools. It’s already creating communication, acceptance, tolerance, and the ability to look within. I like the idea of the shamanic talking stick. You can only speak when you have the stick. You hold the stick and state whatever you need to discuss and then pass the stick over. The person who is now holding the stick then has to say “this is what I heard you say…..and I think you mean this….” The stick gets passed back and you  respond to the other person. You agree with what tbe person heard and then explain what the second person didn’t hear or understand. This process is re6peated until you have been heard. The second person then holds the stick and they can then discuss whats bothering them, and repeat the process. Honest dialogue, honest speak, honest watching and honest listening. Honest listening is really hearing what has been said without mentally preparing to add your perspective, and without planning a response.  Honest watching is discussed by CE HALL in her essay Woman: The Mystery Decoded.

The bigger picture

I’m going to get political now – with the big P (government) the issue is that they can’t and don’t look at the big picture. They tackle single issues, crime, housing, tobacco, gambling, mental health, teen pregnancy etc. They do this because their aim is to get re-elected. They seek power not change.If they tackle the big picture and see that there is something wrong with the whole system, then they have to work from the ground up. Why does the UK have so much debt, a higher proportion of people in prison than other European countries. The biggest ratio of teenage pregnancies, food banks, an increase in betting shops; etc etc. To tackle the big picture is a long term process, and no government will dare to undertake this because the change is a slow and will take many years. This brings the risk of not being elected again. With governments of any kind – labour; conservative, Republican, Democrat. They are all the same. They all seek power and re-election rather than creating a cohesive and open society.
The small p is the politics of individuals and ownership. This is MY house, MY football team, MY religion, MY wife. My country. When we focus on me and ownership we create a polemic system where I am right and you are wrong. Suffering comes from ownership. It’s painful to defend a position that we find security in, so we then become defensive on the inside and create violence on the outside, and not necessarily physical violence.

Change can only come from individuals who enquire about who they are, and who others are. We let go of MY and understand WE. We look into our shame about who we are. We enter into our shadow and face it, and realise that shame is a myth, a social construct to create systemic control and obedience. When we see this we are free, we forgive ourselves and see that others act from shame, we understand their behaviour. Just because we understand their behaviour does not mean that we accept it. We set boundaries.  We can now see the bigger picture of WE. Shame is not personal, it is universal. We let go of the personal shame. No longer driven by our shadow, we are free to choose how we want to live. Free to set our boundaries, we now have choice because we are living from the bigger picture. This personal enquiry is happening with individuals around the world. If this change continues to develop, then change will happen from the grass roots upwards; and not from governments.

The realisation is I’m not who I think I am. The definitions and labels that I have received from myself and others, my defensive, restrictive belief system; my memories, my goals. These have all been possessive and restrictive. I thought I had choice, but when I started to explore these belief systems I realise how false and limiting they are. I am not my thoughts, feelings, beliefs, memories, ideologies, I am not my circumstances, I am not my personality (it’s just a restrictive perception).If am able to observe these things with an open mind, I realise that I cannot be what I observe. Everything that I think I am is impermanent. Even the cells in my body and the neurons in my brain change and die. There is a part of me, a “self” that has witnessed everything. It’s always been there. Here’s an analogy to explain this. I am the white board. You write on me and I remain as the white board. You rub out the writing and write something else, I remain as the white board . Another analogy. I am a tv screen. A documentary is played on the TV. I remain as the screen. You turn the TV off and the screen remains. You play a film. A tragic romance comes on. There is love and friendship and hope and dreams. The main character dies and there is grief, guilt and anger. All of these events and ideas happen on the screen. But they are not the screen. The screen is “self” who I am.

What remains needs meditation, contemplation, writing a journal, examining our beliefs and reactions. We question who or what am I beyond awareness. We realise that we are all “self” we are all the neutral observer. There is no separation from me and you. There is no MY.

The journey to discovery, to seeking the truth about who I am is a courageous path. To let go of false security and belief systems, to stand in presence, in this moment, with nothing to cling hold of, no false comfort blanket; We remain aware. The aware observer is following the warriors journey.

I now live with the knowledge that “we are”. Everything is ours. I am now free to share what is ours, rather than cling to what is mine. I have started “pay it forward friday” I go to the bakery and buy a pie. I pay with a  5 Pound note and ask the cashier to use the change to pay for whoever she serves next. I give 2 pound to a woman who sells the big issue, and 2 pound to a charity. It reaffirms that it’s our money, our connection; our pain and struggles, our hopes. “We are”. I am seeking the answer to who we really are beyond the veil of deception.

I am one of those people who have started to seek truth because of a crisis, because of the pain of breaking my boundaries, of doing “wrong”. The collapse of personal identity, the shame, the fear and grief, cracked my identity and personality wide open. Many people begin to seek answers to who they really are because of a total breakdown of the personality. There are more that seek because instinctively they feel that something is missing. Change is happening. We may not see the results in the near future, but as more people realise they are not who they think they are, more change begins.

The question remains – who am I?

Reference

Hall, CE; 2017; Women: The Mystery Decoded; Online at https://cehallweb.wordpress.com/2017/09/21/women-the-mystery-decoded/ (accessed on 30th September 2017)

Aos Si – The Fairie (Coming to Get You!)

At this time of year when

The night is drawing in,

The leaves they start to fall,

And my work can begin.

Cold and dampness penetrate,

Into muscle and bone,

I’m searching, watching out for you,

Will I find you alone?

Do you hear that rustling?

Or that suspicious crack?

It’s only the courageous,

Who stop and dare look back.

Hill of Tara, Hill of Tara

Samhain’s nearly here.

Spirits rise to claim your life,

At the end of the Pagan year.

Aos Si the Fairie

Are waiting to surprise,

And take you to the underworld,

Unless you’re in disguise.

You may trick the Aos Si

With mumming and fine song

But I am death! I’m winter!

If you think you’ll live – you’re wrong!

Winter is the season

That’s the hardest one to cheat.

It’s time to rest your shrivelled soul

And lay it at my feet.