Independent Reflection – Week 3 – Constructed Realities.

I start by reminding myself there is no absolute reality as much as we would like there to be one. In that sense all realities are constructed. They are constructed in our heads or in the way we interpret what we see, hear, read, touch, smell or taste. For the purposes of this weeks work let’s forget that and assume there is an absolute reality we can refer to which is distinct from one that is constructed. Then let’s consider it photographically.

I will start with my own work. I was blocked at the start of the week. I was unclear about next steps for my project. Stimulating conversations with Sarah, Paul and Steph this week have opened me up, unblocked me and given me a lot of ideas to work on.

In the photography world of constructed reality in photobooks there is a conformity taking place with the standard approach for consistency, coherence, continuity, connection and narrative. Look at David Heath’s Dialogue with Solitudes, Alec Soth Sleeping by the Mississippi, Sally Mann’s A Thousand Crossings and Matthew Brandt’s Lakes and Reservoirs and you will see a formula for the creation of a photobook version of constructed reality. Dissonance, distraction and incoherence is currently not in play. I love all these books by the way but am just making an observation.

When I was blocked I was wondering if my project is now about me, about my wife, about existence, about the death of my wife and wondering what I wanted it to achieve. Unblocking is about it perhaps being about all of these things but unclear about how I might put such an idea together. Out of the conversations two paths appeared. Trace and Face.

Trace came out of a conversation about Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida when he seeks to find a photograph of his mother. He does eventually do so in an image of when she was seven and with her brother. What is annoying or tantalising about this story is he never left us the image to see. I was annoyed but following a conversation with Steph am now intrigued at the power of this absence. This gave rise to the idea of a constructed reality around a trace of someone, in my case, my wife.

Here is a first attempt at a trace of something that might be called ‘A beautiful way to die.’

All the viewer has to go on here is the title ‘A Beautiful Way to Die.’ Who has died? Where did they die? How do these images fit together to create a resolved narrative? Every viewer will make up there own narrative from this set of images and all the narratives will be different. To be a successful piece of photographic work it needs to create interest, curiosity and an element of frustration mixed with a strong desire to resolve. If it holds all of these for a length of time then it is a very successful piece of work.

Going back to Barthes mother I am intrigued with this set in that they are clearly about someone about which we only see a trace. As with Barthes his mother lives on in our minds more powerfully because we never saw the image but followed the trace of his words to create an image in our minds of what she looked like. I have so wanted to check out my own view with the image he found but will never be able to. A masterstroke by him.

Contrast this with another set of images that could be titled ‘A Beautiful Life.’

I can’t tell you how difficult pulling this together was. I experienced such pain….such love….such gratitude for what was. That is the human being in me. The photographer must write here. This is using Face to create a constructed reality of ‘a beautiful life.’ Here it is clear who is being presented and in addition we have the hint that it was a ‘beautiful life.’ For me it was, despite the difficulties and suffering. The question is what story comes across to the viewer? Does it intrigue and challenge in the same way as Trace?

Both sets of constructed realities are covering similar ground. They are about the life and death of my princess. They are about me and my relation to my own life and what has happened recently. They are very different in approach and show the amazing possibilities a photographer has. Neither is the reality as non such exists.

Lots more work to do as I now open up. Just remains to say that there is a link between the two sets of work. One of the images in Face is from the time of the images in Trace. Can you find which one. Of course. What does that do to you and how does it change the stories of Trace or Face for you?

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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.