The Truth & Beauty of You – Extending the project

I have developed the idea of creating a retreat and workshops to use photography to explore the self. It is very consistent with the work of Cristina Nuñez Self Portrait Experience in which she helps people explore me, me and other and me and the world. I plan to try out Cristina’s own method over the xmas break from her book ‘Higher Self. The Self Portrait Experience.’ which I now own.

Last week I had two volunteers willing to participate in an early test of my work. Kate and Steve, great University friends of Karens from their Bristol days together. I put a brief together which I shared with them. I then said they would be left in the studio by themselves with the camera on timed exposures of a shot every 15 seconds. Prior to each situation I would give each of them a scenario to consider while they were being photographed.

The Brief

The aim of this self portrait sitting is to capture images of you while you are thinking about certain scenarios.  I will give you four different scenarios.  A scenario could be ‘imagine you are sitting at a café in Paris and are remembering all the great books you have read.’  In each scenario you will be alone facing the camera.  An exposure will be taken every 15 seconds for three minutes for each scenario.

As far as is possible ignore the camera and immerse yourself in the scenario.  You are welcome to express yourself in any way that occurs to you.  Try to notice if your mind wanders from the current scenario and if it does bring yourself back.

Afterwards we will look at the images together and discuss what we see.

Just be you.

Scenario 1

You are sitting in your favourite chair and your mother comes to mind.  You start to remember moments with her from your childhood.  Picture these moments, freeze some frames and look at them.   Then move on to the next one.

A sample 2 images from Steve followed by 2 images from Kate in this scenario.

Neither knew the scenario before going in the studio so it is interesting to see both cupping their hands around their face.

Scenario 2

Remember a time in your life when you feel that you failed.  Run that failure through your mind again. Really have a go at yourself for all the things you did wrong at that time.

Scenario 3

Imagine the camera is the person you love most in the world.  Express your feelings for that person as you think about them.

Both point hands forward with full open eyes and both rest their head to one side in a relaxed smiling pose.

Scenario 4

Communicate with your inner mother.  This is the part of you that can care for and nourish you.  Tell yourself how special you are.  Praise yourself.  Tell yourself how you are going to take care of yourself.  Love yourself.


Kate and Steve were very comfortable with the experience and found it interesting. The next stage in the development of this product will be to engage with subjects in an exploration of the photographs taken. I will do some work on the type of questions to ask to prompt the subject to talk.

The other question that interests me is whether to go down the road of directing the subjects with scripted scenarios or to allow the subjects free form choice which we then use in dialogue in an enquiry.

This small sample suggests interesting things are happening when leaving subjects alone with a camera and a scripted scenario. Further work is to read Cristina’s book and to try out her method on myself. I can then expand the work above with some knowledge of what has been done so far in this field.

Sian Davey, Jo Spence, Rosie Martin, Elena Brotherus and Del Loewenthal are other sources to explore for what has been done using the camera to explore ourselves and those around us.


Nuñez, C. 2012. Higher Self. The Self Portrait Experience. Generaltat de Catalunya. Dept of Culture.

Categories: Project Development SP, Sustainable Prospects


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.