The Truth and Beauty of Me

I think my project is about love, illness, death and loss.

As we progress in to the module Informing Contexts it is time to gather my thoughts on where my project goes next. My wife, princess, soulmate and best friend dies in Switzerland on January 27th in an assisted suicide she wanted after a long chronic illness with Multiple Sclerosis. It was a beautiful way to die. I desperately miss her as we spoke several times a day for the last forty years and with humour, love, interest and challenge. The project arose initially out of Cemre’s and Jesse’s guidance that my landscape project ideas were banal, insignificant and derivative of things that had been done before. Cemre asked ‘did I have any pain in my life’ and I said ‘oh boy yes.’

Over the last year I have pointed the camera at myself as I experienced the various emotions that go with living with someone who is chronically ill. These emotions are magnified with the inability to relieve the pain and suffering of the one I love and seeing her get worse despite every effort to help. As the year progressed Karen became part of the project. She regularly reviewed the portfolio and towards the end of the year was not only comfortable being photographed but also had ideas herself on what should be photographed.

In September after Karen had taken her decision she wished to end her suffering with the help of Dignitas Cemre asked me if I would be taking a camera. My initial instinct was not to as it felt inappropriate. As I thought about it more I challenged my human feelings and squared up to being a photographer. I could take photographs and they could be helpful to me, my family and others in the future who may wish to understand what happens in situations like the one we faced.

These images are taken in the final days of the life of my princess. I am still struggling to look at them and understand. I still believe she will be here again to talk to.

As a photographer I now need to gather these images and those that have gone before and those that follow in to my FMP to tell a story of love, illness, death and loss.

The above images are taken moments before my princess died. It is only now I can comprehend how brave and strong her decision to end her life in this way was. In our daily battle with the disease she made it sound so obvious and straightforward. There is a lot still for me to resolve in my own head. As a photographer the challenge is now to distill this in to something meaningful and useful while I am still working through the many conflicting thoughts that arise.

Works by Nan Goldin, Charles Latham, Elena Brotherus, Jo Spence, Rosy Martin and Cristina Nuñez are all informing my work. David Heath and Alex Soth have captured my interest as photographers who get close to painting in the way they capture people. Ivor Prickett recent works on the end of the Caliphate also come to mind. They are all great influences and the challenge now is to assimilate these influences in to a signature and style of my own.

I am also interested in what photographs do to us and how they play with memory. These images absorb me. Karen when she was five and I did not know her but it expresses so much of what I think about her and her is a similar pose recently.

It is the start of the module. I have some ideas where to go but need challenge and to try some things out.

Let’s get on with it.

Categories: Positions and Practice

LEN

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
decisions.

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.