Where Am I Going?

Five weeks in to the final taught module, Informing Contexts, is a good time to reflect on where my work is going. There is a lot of scope for confusion. My project could be about me and my struggles of living with a chronically ill wife, it could just be about me, or my wife’s death, or my intent to help others experiencing similar difficulties. It is confusing but after a lot of walking and playing with images all roads lead back to me. I have been and am going through an emotional roller coaster. Perhaps more aptly phrased I feel like I am navigating a swamp with a lot of quicksand in places wanting to swallow me up.

One short story of me is lived with the love of my life for the last ten years with each six months being the worst of our lives as she got rapidly worse with her chronic MS. Then she took a decision to seek an assisted suicide to end her suffering. Then she died. Now I live through trying to make sense of all this in my head at the same time as emotions painfully ripping in to my soul.

There is a temptation to focus on the death of my wife.

Gathering images together and organising them in to some sort of feeling has evoked a lot of emotions in me. When I was emptying her drawers I found a piece of paper Karen had made notes on about 6 years ago. There was nothing new in what it said as we had discussed all the elements many times. It hit me hard seeing it all laid out like this. Any one item is tough but when you put them all together it is horrific. Her responses remind me how incredibly brave and strong she was. Through her pain she managed to have the most beautiful smile.

The piece of paper brought to mind Edgar Martins ‘Soliloquies and Solitudes on Death Life and other Interludes”. He produced a body of work photographing suicide notes, letters and other objects used in suicides. I saw this work at the Sony Awards last year and had read a review. I asked the friend I was with what he thought of them. He replied ‘does nothing for me….pretty lighting of pieces of paper.’ When I told him what they were he jumped two feet and suddenly paid attention. Karen’s note had a similar impact on me when I found it.

The images I have gathered above around the piece of paper I found lay out a trace of something that occurred around the death of my princess. The dancer she painted top right as an expression of what she wanted to be. Her favourite shoes going from this world to the next. She had not worn them for ten years but her first wish after death was to put them on again and dance for the rest of time. That was after taking our dog Raffles for a long walk.

There is a set of images like this that can make the submission for this module. There is a powerful tale to tell. It is full of emotion for me but if those who have seen it are anything to go by it impacts other people powerfully too. That is what photography should do.

There is more pushing its way to the surface. Last year I explored images of myself with The Truth & Beauty of me in an attempt to capture what it was like to be me living through my current experience. It was always so difficult to ‘represent’ in a surface image the state of my internal experience. The process became therapeutic as I began to realise my surface was not showing the despair and pain inside.

I did my morning meditation today. I do a thirty minute standing meditation. Here are a selection of images from interval timed exposures. Thirty minutes of my life.

During this thirty minutes I thought about my princess, I thought about my children, I thought about keeping my back straight in the posture my Tai Chi coach is getting me to work on, I thought about watching football tonight and I kept trying to think about my breath and to watch my thoughts. Can you tell which image goes with which thought? I can’t.

Raeanne Cheung and I had a stimulating conversation last week about her project. Her project is working around her mothers death in Hong Kong. As we chatted it made me wonder if that was what her project was really about. It also fed in to my own confusion as to what my project is about. I am comfortable with this confusion at this stage but know I need to get clearer as I approach my Final Major Project FMP. I am looking forward to talking more with Raeanne.

This weekend I spoke with Cristina Nunez of The Self Portrait Experience fame. Cristina Nunez TED Talk and her website . Cristina has been generous with her time talking through what her process achieves. She is running a Self Portrait Experience Workshop with 12 participants each with one in Spanish and one in Italian (she lives in Italy). I have said to her that if she can get a workshop in English with at least six participants beginning in April then I will sign up. Cristina now has a doctorate and many years experience working with the self portrait. Working with her and a number of other participants for us to ‘project’ with will be a powerful resource and input to my FMP.

I have decided that doing a deep dive in to my own personal state of being at the moment will be the source for the creative work I will produce for my FMP. I don’t know where this will go but do believe it will go somewhere interesting even though there may be pain on the way.

As I close off this summary I feel both lost and on course. For the body of work in the FMP to be significant it has to have evoke a powerful emotional response from me and from others. My own swamp and quicksand is full of powerful, pleasurable and painful emotions. My camera needs to be my net to dredge the swamp!

Categories: Informing Contexts, Project Development IC

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.