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.
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:
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
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.
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.
As I am looking at the archive of my own family I was directed to look at Nicky Bird and her project Travelling the Archive (2015-2016). Wendy and I discussed that this would be a great way to start.
Bird’s work showed my techniques that I could use to represent the loss my family still feels in our lives years after the death of my Grandma from Alzheimer’s.
Whilst Bird’s images are composites and also show images from yesteryear displayed to the public in the community they were originally taken in, the images I was creating felt more raw and emotive – Though this is probably because they are my memories.
The images I selected were all treasured family memories, many were from my own house where I still live and this had a big effect. The images had more impact as they featured my Grandma, along with other relatives some of which have also passed away – making it one of the most difficult photography tasks that I have ever carried out.
Like Bird’s work the sites that I visited still resonate and the genealogy links tell a story of not only my past but my family, and the gigantic loss we all felt when we lost of family matriarch.
As with the Family Ties Network, that Bird was involved in I explored the feelings and motivation towards the work I was carrying out.
I feel I wanted to explore Alzheimer’s in a way that respected my Grandma, and in a way that also protected her as when she died she had lost her identity due to the illness so I was very reluctant to share the work as if she no longer knew herself and our family why should I share her identity with those who did not know her. I was adamant and very reluctant as I did not want to exploit vulnerability especially when there was no way to seek permission.
There was also the guilt – when she was alive maybe I didn’t do as much as I should have – even though I was only 15, I should have been more present with her – and this made this piece of work even more difficult and if I shared these images would everyone be able to see that I didn’t do enough? That I should have been a better Grand-Daughter.
This week also came with the news that I no longer have my venue booking for my exhibition due to an administration error and this added to my already over emotional week.
This week has been a big focus on my oral presentation.
It has been a bit difficult as I have been working away which made things quite difficult.
Whilst working on my presentation I did come up with the titles that I want to use for my images. As I want the images to represent reinventions of the same life using the Titles 1:1, 1:2, 1:3 etc this was the best way I felt I could illustrate this.
I complete the last edit of my Work in Progress Portfolio in terms of reformatting one of the images that had a square format. This shape no longer fits the aesthetic of the project. This is quite a strange feeling as at one point of the module that had been the only mainstay of the project.
My 1:2:1 tutorial confirmed my feelings that my Work in Progress Portfolio is complete and ready to be submitted, this is a huge relief.
What I have found interesting this week is looking back through my CRJ and seeing how much my project has changed.
In week 2 when I was observing the work of Heikki Leis, a view of mine what it would have been beneficial to see what the item was before hand. Now I’ve thrown this idea right out of the window! Whilst my work is far more abstract and not still life like Leis – our work is being produced along a similar theme of the decomposition of items. I don’t believe his work to be based on life and death like mine but it shares a genre of photography.
The work will continue with my research, but the focus is to complete all of the assignment work before moving on further.
This week I had a break through with my Work in Progress Portfolio.
I took the time this week to build a whole new setup/studio this meant that I was able to achieve some of the images that I hadn’t been previously able to.
I was really pleased with the images and feel they will complete my portfolio.
Sadly my presentation wouldn’t compress in time to share at the webinar, but I got to go back over my selected images which was really helpful. Especially as I hadn’t met Roger before so it was a fresh reaction/response to my imagery.
The webinar brought up how I might title my images. it has been my belief for a little while that I didn’t want to keep the titles of red grape, strawberry and raspberry as I didn’t want it to be completely obvious what people are looking at so this is something that I plan to work on this week.
I believe each image does need their own title as they should be independent in their own right as they are each a life of their own which should also be able to be recognised as such. I don’t think that my project is actually about recognising the fruit anymore. This is a big change in direction from when I first started this module.
As part of my work this week I gave myself a refresher of what my project really is really about. This has been really helpful for preparing my oral presentation. Brainstorming words that I could relate to my project and also definitions, this assists in the communication of my project to the audience.
A reference to research, mentioned at this weeks webinar was Andres Serrano – Piss Christ.
There is a tonal similarity between the image and some of my work, but Serrano’s work is far more controversial than my own. Piss Christ was a crucifix submerged in Serrano’s urine. It caused uproar when it was published I don’t feel that this is a reaction that I would personally want for my work. The only objection to my own work would be if individuals do not believe in life after death, reincarnation of the life of objects.
My work and Serrano’s would sit in the same genre of abstraction dealing with topics that could be seen as religion/spiritualism. Perhaps instead of linking to religion perhaps it is more a case or morality – is it moral that he has done this to something so symbolic? For my work the process of renewing life is the symbolic part, I haven’t used anything that could be identified as religious symbolism.
The work of Serrano however shows me what I would not want to achieve, more than what I would. Whilst I can see that Serrano achieve a furore with his work, which I can only imagine was his intention, he did gain audiences that he would not normally have been able to achieve. Whether this is moral or not, I’m not convinced. If the intent was to incite emotions he was certainly successful.