Moving Forward on my Project – That Other Place

‘absent illness, famine, war or other stresses, a lot of life is lived in the neutral zone, a familiar garden, but a grey one, unremarkable, immediately forgotten, hard to describe.’ (Machines Like Us, Ian McEwan p7).

I am reflecting on this quote from Ian McEwan’s latest novel. I have been painfully agonising over my current project ‘That Other Place’, what it is like to live with someone with chronic illness. How I would love a neutral zone instead of the terrible experience I am going through now. After several really bad days I found it was too much to pick up my camera and pursue my subject. It was too upsetting. I had decided to change my project.

Over the past week I have been studying projects in the archives of Aperture magazine and the British Journal of Photography over the last ten years. A growing insight is the relevance of context to any photograph. Put in a sequence with context leverages the significance and meaning of a single photograph so much more. In line with Don McCullin’s thinking I also recognise that there is strong emotion conveyed from within the photographer in the subject matter they choose. I begin to believe for photography to be significant it needs to originate from some disequilibrium in the photographers emotional state. This can be euphoria but appears more often to be associated with more painful states.

In Gestalt psychology one idea is that an individual grows most when confronting boundaries he or she is uncomfortable crossing and crossing them. It seems there are parallels in photography. Powerful photography comes from tuning in to strong emotional states and pointing the camera at it or crossing boundaries we are uncomfortable crossing.

This leads me to find ways of pursuing my proposed project further. I have two avenues to pursue. The first is noticing my own emotional state and considering ways of capturing what is occurring. I am working on some images of myself when I am in a bad state and making notes on why I am in a bad state at that moment. The other is to consider metaphors for the state I am in.

I am photographing abandoned villages because they affect me in a deep way that I am still trying to understand. There is a metaphor for my state. I see buildings once lived in with a full and happy life now empty or being repossessed by nature. Interestingly, this made me think that something abandoned is only really abandoned by those who left it. As in the above picture new residents are thriving in this space that has been left. This image above resonates with the way I feel inside and raises a question about how I can accept the growth of this new resident inside me.

The other thought that arose was that the alternative projects I was beginning to think about were grey and trivial in comparison. I am in pain and it is not going to go away any time soon so somehow I intend to find strength to pursue it in my photography.

Categories: Project Development, Project Proposal, Surfaces and Strategies


I am a Photographer. As well as taking many photographs I am currently studying for an MA in Photography at Falmouth University. I will direct my attention through the lens of my camera for the next couple of years and see what shows up. I see a photograph as a little bit of magic capturing a moment in time. If successful it surprises and engages your emotions. It tells a story about the wonders of being alive or tells us what we need to change to make it a better world to live in. That is enough for me to get going and then like walking a 1000 miles, which I did across the UK in 2010, or walking 200 miles across Cyprus, which I did in November last year, it is one step at a time.

I was a writer. The title of my unpublished book was ‘You Would Have Done The Same.' It is about a successful guy in love with his wife who lets her die when he discovers her in the process of committing suicide. The title gives a clue as to what I think you would have done. The book is 200 pages long. I found it cathartic to write it but after two years of work and reviewing with agents decided it probably needed another 2000 hours to get the whole book up to the standard of some of the pages. Writing is great but it is a lot of sitting down so I decided to get out and walk, play tennis, play bridge, go birding, watch football at Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Valencia and anywhere else if I can, meditate, cook and eat. I was a writer who has so far failed to become an author.
I was a young man who loved Mathematics and thoroughly enjoyed getting a BSc at Liverpool University. While there I went often to Anfield and the Philharmonic Hall. I was all set on doing a PhD until I went for interview practice at BP and got seduced by the excitement of an International business career. BP was a great adventure building trading teams and businesses in London, Antwerp, Cleveland Ohio and Singapore. Fabulous people and some great challenges and also very hard work, constant jet lag and lots of fun along the way. I married Karen, my stunning wife, and had the most amazing time with her and our three boys Alex, Tom and Dan. She has multiple sclerosis and we have taken on many challenges together but somehow keep creating a new normal against the horrors thrown our way. She is the love of my life.

After BP I decided to coach senior executives and quickly realized I had a lot to learn
about what makes people tick. I had a fantastic 18 months on the International Programme of the Cleveland Gestalt Institute. A great faculty and a
wonderful group of people on the programme. We studied and worked in Dingle, Singapore, Holland, Cape Town and
Lisbon. This also got me interested in the way we think and make decisions so I studied for an MSc in Psychology atUniversity College London in 2010. The
Masters was in Cognitive and Decision Sciences and I found it fascinating what
we do know but also how much we don’t know about how we think and make

I loved coaching and making a difference. I got a number of people to hear themselves, remove some of their own chains and free up the way they thought about the world. I remain fascinated by how people react to and engage with the world. My Masters thesis was why do two people given the same information make different decisions? Put simply, it is because each of us are unique in the way we are constructed.

Since returning from Singapore I found English winters tough so moved to Spain where I now live. The people are lovely, the scenery amazing, food delicious and the sun shines all the time. Almost.

All of these experiences will feed in to my time now as a Photographer. Three motivations I am lucky to have are enthusiasm, curiosity and a continuous interest in learning. All the time I look forward to meeting old friends and making new friends and experiencing this wonderful life together.