FORMAT21 Open Call ‘Control’

Wendy McMurdo encouraged me to enter my work in this open call. Details are here and it needs to be submitted by September 13th. This is the first draft of the Project Description, Installation plan and Biography/CV. I am putting this out to a wide circulation for input to make it be as good as it can be.

Project Description (1943 of 2000 characters)

My experience of living with my wife over the last two years during which she became almost totally paralysed from chronic Multiple Sclerosis and then ended her life in Switzerland with Dignitas in January of this year. Her illness was beyond the control of the medical profession and a massive challenge for our relationship. I became suicidal as no matter what effort I made to make things better for her she just got worse. She lost the feeling in her lips and upper body ten years ago. We had to have separate beds from five years ago as the slightest movement by me sent her in to a violent spasm. She was in extreme pain every day at the end and had the choice of medication with no pain but unconscious or no medication and pain but being able to be present in the world. Even a gently hug would send her in to screaming pain. We were married for forty years, she was my soulmate, more than half of me and I adored her.
Turning the camera on myself during this period proved to be therapeutic at times and extremely painful at others. In the images of me I saw more strength than I felt. In other images I saw pain and suffering over which I could have no control. My wife joined Dignitas four years ago as she feared a long slow painful death. We agreed any decision she took should not involve me other than I would support her wishes if I could. In July last year paralysis was moving down her arms so she could no longer paint. She knew the next step was to be in a bed with 24 hour care totally paralysed. She took control and made the decision she wished to go to Dignitas to die with dignity. She took the decision in July, told me in August and our three sons in September.
We had a beautiful time together as a family in December and shared stories of the many wonderful times we had together. She passed away peacefully with a smile on her face.
My images are a representation of my experience through this time.

Installation Description (368 of 2000 characters)

The installation comprises 16 A3 images printed and presented on 100 by 70 cms Wall Mounted Gallery Standard Black Oak Solid Wood Artbox by Whitewall. They are to be hung in groups of 4 together with 50 cms spacing between horizontal and vertical hanging. In a perfect world they would be hung on four separate walls enabling the viewer to walk around the display.


I am currently completing an MA in Photography at Falmouth University. The work presented here is titled ‘every bird I see will be part of you’ and is to be my submission for my Final Major Project in December of this year. I am continuing an enquiry into what it is to be human. The idea to represent my own experience of life follows an MSc in Psychology in 2010 focussing on cognitive and decision processes. On the subject of control I developed a personal view that we have no conscious control on our actions and as Libet suggested all our decisions are taken in a stimulus response fashion within our unconscious processes before they reach our conscious mind. To live life in an interesting way I am a compatibilist.
Prior to my current enquiries I worked for thirty years in the International Energy business living in the UK, Belgium, USA, Singapore and Spain. After that I created an Executive Coaching business coaching executives at board level. I used my Psychology training and deep Gestalt training to build this business and worked for a year with a premier Coaching company in the UK to gain experience. My original degree many years ago was in Mathematics and back then my dream was to be a Mathematics professor at a university. Somehow my head got turned.

Categories: Final Major Project, Project Development FMP


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.