Pain, Risk and Boundaries

I got great insight this week watching the Lewis Bush guest lecture from March 2019 and further reviewing his work. Lewis considers and confronts invisible power and the helplessness of those without it to do anything to take it on. In Metropole he looks at the investment in new major buildings to show that ‘London is now a city of demolition, cranes, and glittering new high rises, built not for Londoners but for anonymous overseas investors and speculators.’ source He further carries out ‘an extensive investigation into the activities of many of the property developers behind these schemes, including the extensive use of opaque offshore financial structures and unaccountable political lobbying.’

The insight is the value of a work of photography as a witness to something that is going on but putting yourself at personal risk. What Lewis does is brave and produces important work. What is of concern in a democratic society is how political figures and investors such as Mandelson and Ganduja can subvert the system and get away with it in broad daylight. The witnessing and documenting is important and brave.

Lewis did a project ‘Shadows of the State’ in which he listened in to short wave radio transmissions by spies. The technology is basic and numbers were being read out for long periods on certain frequencies. Using public information he sought to find the transmitters and worked on the ‘possibility of turning the practices and technologies of espionage back against their users, and in doing so bringing some light and accountability to a world which exists in stark contrast to these things.’ He located sights in ‘Russia to Liberia, Cyprus to South Korea’. ‘These sites are then mapped using high resolution satellite imagery and the signals themselves are made visible to in the form of radio spectrograms alongside recordings and extensive information about each station.’ source

In his lecture he talks of nights hearing helicopters hovering above his house and wondering if he was at risk. It is another example of work that witnesses what is happening in the world.

It makes sense that emotions experienced within a photographer can help him or her produce work that will have an emotional impact on an audience. Capturing something that comes out of pain, risk or crossing a boundary we normally stay within can produce interesting work.

I crossed a boundary recently in my own project. Being encouraged by Laura Hynd to explore further different ways of representing myself and ‘let go’ (the name of one of her own projects) I considered photographing myself nude. I was also interested to play with lighting to get an effect. On the way to Arles I went to Figueres to visit the Dali Museum. A great place I would recommend to anyone. In my hotel room the curtains were closed and I saw the light from the bathroom on to the curtains and thought that is interesting light to play with. I thought let’s have a go at the nude. It was interesting observing the battle within myself to do this. But I said….’let go’ and ‘have a go.’ I set up the tripod and chair and had a go.

What interests me about these images now is that I have no problem with them. I can show them freely and as Elina Brotherus would say ‘they are not me.’ The boundary I crossed to make these images is no longer a boundary. Furthermore whilst it is not a boundary I feel totally free to make and distribute images like this or to say this was one of my experiments with a boundary. We shall see.

As input to the development of my practice and my project I wish to consider more the role of pain, risk and boundaries. I will add fear to this. Does what I fear offer interesting work for either the truth or beauty of me?

Categories: Contextual Research, Coursework, Project Development, 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.