Final Major Project: Reflection, 29th April 2019

I guess we are now at the time of the course to reflect upon how far I have come as a practitioner. Whilst it feels like the time has flown, it has not been without the peaks and troughs I described in my FMP.

I couldn’t have imagined when I got accepted onto the course that I would have created the type of FMP that I did. My projects up until FMP were with images of somethings, that I had made become something and it wasn’t until FMP that my work truly became about something, and to me it was a very import something at that.

Since my injury and subsequent Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis, mental and physical health has become very important to me, and I think that once I found the strength to talk about it really drove me to do something which could potentially help others.

This is the type of work I want to carry on with. Whilst I know I am not the best academic writer when it comes to this level of study, I have been in touch with the University of Sunderland about their PhD programme in photography and am busy starting to put together a proposal for exploring photography as a therapy.

I have also looked into Art Therapy and other Medical photography careers, which could be routes that I can explore further.

This course has led me to want to help others, who might be struggling to feel better, to use it as a complimentary therapy alongside more traditional methods, this is a huge step from when I started the course and just wanted to take visually pleasing images.

So thank you Falmouth for showing me the way, for showing me what is possible and letting me see that if I work hard enough nothing is out of my reach.

Project Presentation: Pop Up Exhibition at Advanced Electronics – 14th March 2019

For one of the public outcomes of my Final Major Project I held a pop up exhibition at my place of work.

My employers are currently going through a process of trying to change some of the culture habits that we have developed as a company and introduce some well being policies to assist colleagues through difficult times. With this in mind I discussed my project with some of the Senior Management Team and we decided it would be really useful to have my work open for others to see.

As someone who suffers with anxiety this was a very big personal challenge not only to speak in public but also to share the personal challenges that I have experienced over the last couple of years and explored very deeply through my project.

At the Face to Face event in Falmouth there were a couple of concerns over the display of the diary entries. There was a suggestion to have them recorded so that they could be listened to while the audience viewed – I tried this but some of the entries were still quite raw to me and I wouldn’t get them recorded in a way that would have allowed the audience to understand them as it was very emotional.

What I did decide to do was to have the sound of the lapping waves in the background, and as this was something that soothed me while creating the work did act as a comfort as I delivered my presentation.

These are some photos of how I set up the exhibition. I also have the video of my presentation.

I had some feedback forms at the end, which whilst I hoped people would enjoy the work – I don’t think I ever imaged that it would actually spark a conversation, that others would actually find the work helpful, that it made them feel better that they weren’t alone. I found this emotional, a little overwhelming – but it also helped me with the knowledge that the struggles that I have had could actually help other people to deal with their situations.

The outcome of this pop up exhibitions was really positive and I have been asked to show it again so that more people can benefit from the experience.

This experience has made me also want to share this work further – I am looking at venues again as it has given me the confidence boost to be able to do this.

Final Major Project – Project Development Research – 30th January 2019

Roni Horn – Another Water

This project was a very good insight into how art can represent troubles of the human existence. It raised thoughts that I hadn’t considered about water before but it also confirmed some of the thoughts that I had considered when working on my own work.

When using water in my own work, I think of the depth of water and how this can refer to the depth of emotion or the depth of my own anxieties and depression. When you look out to sea right out to the horizon, it seems never-ending, just like the feelings that come with low mood, it can also feel it is never going to end. The crashing of the waves or the bubbling of the tide coming in is how an anxiety attack can hit you and how it can bubble in your throat, with the feeling of suffocation or drowning.

As a person with mental health issues there are occasions where I have experience of this feeling of drowning. it feels like you aren’t going to make it back to the surface and be able to breathe again – but with the techniques that I have learnt, I now know that the water can help to get these feelings to go away, listening to the rhythm of the water actually assists me to breathe again.

However it is this feeling of drowning that is the link between my work and Horn’s

Horn focuses on the darkness of the water and the actions of dark forces that allow suicide to happen.

Horn’s images remain very dark and whilst this is the nature of many mental health issues and of course it is the dark thoughts that can lead an individual to suicide. I don’t want my work to go down this particular route, so whilst there are some dark images in my project, I want to also include the light as I want to ensure that there is a visible route to recovery and I want others to feel that there is hope.

An element that I did find very emotional with Horn’s work was each report of an individuals suicide, this put the images into context. Some individuals don’t find the light, some do succumb to the depths, to the darkness. Whilst not by drowning I personally have experience of losing people who have been taken into the darkness, also linked to struggling with their mental health, and perhaps this is also why this project is so important to me.

All of Horn’s imagery focused on the surface of the River Thames, however I am very keen to bring some seascapes to show scale, whilst I understand that Horn probable did this as it was this body of water that was her specific interest – with my work I felt it important to show the large scale of how big the problem is but also the more focused images to show how it feels for me.

Horn’s work has assisted me to see how I can use text alongside my imagery to achieve a successful outcome for my project.

References:

Horn, R. (2011). Another water. Göttingen: Steidl

Final Major Project – Project Development – 15th January 2019

Mindfulness and Photography: Going with the flow.

Whilst I am not sure if mindfulness is the correct term it was the first steps I took in trying to process what it was that I wanted to look at in terms of mental health and photography in relation to my own experience.

I had been working through social media when I came across an image by a photographer I know who had spent the afternoon learning to capture reflections in water and how refreshed she felt afterwards.

I took this a a cue. As I have previously advised whenever I feel difficulties arising I take myself away to sit beside the water and let the sights and sounds wash over me and wait until I feel better.

I felt this was definitely the way that I needed to take my project and try out capturing the movement of the water as it is this element that I find important and turn it to be creative.

I took the images I had taken during one of my walks and edit them to be a bit more meaningful.

I was very pleased with the outcome and it has given me a really clear route forward.

Not only is this work in development helping me with my own well being, it is also allowing me to reintroduce some of the macro photography that I started my MA journey with. This is a real joy to me.

Final Major Project – Project Development – 8th January 2019

I have started to contemplate how I should use my experiences of photography and how I can use it as a technique to assist in my anxiety management.

Whenever my anxiety hits a fever pitch I can feel it creeping up my throat. It is times like this that I go in search of flowing water.

The smell of the sea or a river running through a forest is powerful – as are the connotations of strength. There being no pollution, just the nature and serenity and sound of flowing water or lapping waves is instantly calming to me. The patterns the water creates, the ripples that are far reaching. The way that it finds its route no matter what helps me to feel a bud of strength and positivity return.

This week I went out for a few hours to do exactly this, allowing me to be only present in the moment not to focus on my anxiety the affects of my physical disease, or the pressures of my work circumstance. I find this is the release to help me to move forward and not get trapped into the negativity.

Water is important to me also for the metaphors I associate with it.

  • Water like time does not stand still
  • It always finds a way whatever the obstacles are put in its path
  • You don’t know how deep it goes, like the depths of my emotions.
  • Water can help wash away the negative feelings I have.

This is really important to consider in relation to maintaining my mental health.

I have also been reading around the subject of Mindfulness and contemplative photography as I have adopted it as a very important step on my journey to good long term mental and physical health.

I have prepared a shooting list to follow up with more images:

  • Plessey Woods
  • Morpeth
  • St Mary’s Lighthouse
  • Tyne
  • Holywell Dene
  • Jesmond Dene
  • Seaton Sluice Harbour and beach
  • Longsands, Tynemouth
  • Blyth Beach

Final Major Project – Project Development – 11th December 2018

I haven’t done anything photographically recently I have lots to say but my motivation is very low.

In the last month I have looked at the disease that took my Grandma from us – and in my past I have raised money fro this cause to help others.

We lost another family member this year to a different mental illness and it was this moment that made me wonder if it was time to use this project to look at me own illness.

Earlier this year I received my diagnosis – broadly Inflammatory Arthritis more specifically Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis. I suffer pain and discomfort and fatigue everyday – but now it has a name.

There are times when the joy gets sucked out of me because I can no longer to the things that I used to do (and the things that I can not at the same level) there are times when even holding a camera is difficult. Along with all of this there are the mental health affects and for me this is the hardest.

I find that when I concentrate on photography whether that is the taking or the editing, it can some times take some of the pain away, the fuzziness doesn’t make my brain feel so sad. Taking the photographs shows me that I can still do something and I would like to think that by taking about these challenges to others that it could maybe help them too.

I want to hold a workshop to talk to others as well as display my images and show the journey is the way that I would like to go.

I have brainstormed some elements that help to describe my feelings:

  • Dead Flowers with the petals missing.
  • RSVP showing non attendance
  • Tablets

I have also been reading a lot about the #VersusArthritis campaign and this has been really been powerful in showing the different ways people are affected by this disease.

Final Major Project – Project Development – 24th November 2018

Whilst being in the stage of not being really sure where I want my work to go, I began some brainstorming of Ideas.

Being uncomfortable with what I feel is exploiting Dementia I thought of ways that I could turn the situation around.

John Darwell came into my memory – A black Dog Came Calling. This project was the basis to practice development within his PhD at Sunderland University and it set off some inspiration within myself.

If I am not comfortable exploiting what in my theory is my on guilt and in turn people who cannot give me permission to tell their story – I am very comfortable in turning this project around and pointing it at myself.

These were some of my thoughts.

I wanted to look at combining poetry or text along side my images with representations of feelings in the photographs.

References

https://johndarwell.com/index.php?r=image/default/category&alias=a-black-dog-came-calling