A Better Version of Us: A Small Photographic Atlas on Moving On (Falmouth Symposium 2020)

I am travelling to Falmouth on Sunday. I cancelled my trip to London from Spain this week partly because of the panic around corona virus but mostly because my granddaughter Ella, aged 8, sent me a video showing me it snowing in England. As it was 25 degs and sunny here in Spain I am glad I stayed here. My trip on Sunday looked in doubt when Flybe went into receivership on Wednesday. Flybe did have the Alicante Newquay route but I am saved as it is now Ryan Air.

I know I am keen to come to Falmouth to the Symposium as I was very disappointed when I thought my flight was cancelled. This pop up exhibition and title made me wonder why. There are two answers I think. One is to help me explore where I am currently in my own life journey and where I am going. As important is to meet face to face the many people on the course and in the faculty who have enriched my life so much over the last year.

My own life has been challenging over recent years. My wife had chronic MS and her health was declining rapidly. In July last year she took the decision she wanted to end her suffering with an assisted suicide in Switzerland. In January this year she went to Switzerland and died in a very beautiful and peaceful way.

These events have left me in what I describe as an emotional swamp with quicksand all around seeking to swallow me up. I am exhausted from the efforts of supporting my wife in her final stages. In the end she was almost completely paralysed with us needing to feed her and she was in considerable pain.

I am relieved her suffering is over. At the same time I am struggling to come to terms with the loss of my soulmate of the last forty years. I spoke to her several times a day for every day of those forty years and we were each others best friends. There is big hole in my life. There is nobody to tell about my life now in the way I could with her each day. I become a single man again and our home is deathly quiet if I dare to sit for a moment.

Photographically I have been interested in how the surface image fails to show what is going on with our thoughts. In my project last year The Truth And Beauty of Me this failure became therapeutic as I saw many images of me showing a fully functioning human being who appeared to have few problems. This contrasted so strongly with what I was feeling and experiencing inside me. However, seeing the photographs helped me achieve a better overall equilibrium as I could see my thoughts were not the totality of me.

In the image of me below a viewer can project a lot on to this image. A whole novel could be written about the life of the person in this image. It would be a novel because it is impossible to tell what this individual is thinking at the time the photograph was taken. It was me and I see no clues to help me.

I decided to take this further. I do a standing meditation for 30 minutes every morning as part of a process to ground me whilst in the turmoil I am experiencing. Tai chi for 90 minutes is another component of this. During one meditation this week I took interval timed images of myself. Although I am supposed to be focussing on my breath and body for meditation I am normal and therefore had many other thoughts passing through my mind. Some were about things I needed to do. Many were about my wife. Others were about worries running through my mind. Can you tell which image goes with which type of thought?

I can’t. Here is a version standing up on the following day.

And another with a selection from my Tai Chi routine.

I find this fascinating. During the couple of days I took these I have gone through all the emotions from deep despair and grief through manic activity to moments of calm. When you look at me or a photograph of me it will be difficult for you to know which state I am in.

Mike Padilla is to be credited with making the link to Muybridge’s images that educated us on how horses gallop. Before Muybridge the image below is how we thought horses galloped.

https://www.amusingplanet.com/2019/06/the-galloping-horse-problem-and-worlds.html

Muybridge used an interval freeze frame to show us how horsed do gallop.

Returning to the images above of a human being in thought. We might have believed that human thought followed some process such as the following.

In reality it is more like the following.

Or, perhaps photographically like this.

So to end before I physically start the journey to Falmouth.

  • The problem is I am uncomfortably out of balance
  • The options are to fall apart, do nothing and hope, end it all or do some work to get in to a new comfortable balance.
  • I use a process given to me by my parents, influencers in my life, therapists and the mechanisms that have become me.
  • The solution is to travel to Falmouth and the answer will appear.

OH THAT IT WERE THAT EASY.

Categories: Coursework IC, Informing Contexts, 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.