FORMAT21 – OPEN CALL – CONTROL

The Format International Photography Festival was established in 2004 and is the UK’s leading contemporary festival of photography and related media. FORMAT21 is the open call for submissions under the title of ‘Control.’

Source

I have submitted ‘every bird I see will be a part of you’ as the current state of my FMP. Entries go in by September 14th with winners notified in October and the festival in March next year.

Images submitted.

Project Description

‘Every bird I see will be a part of you’ were amongst the last words I whispered to my wife, Karen, before she died in Switzerland in January. Ten years before she lost all feeling in her lips and breasts. Five years ago I had to vacate the marital bed as the slightest move by me lead to painful spasms in her body.
My work is a response to my experience of the last two years as Karen progressed towards total paralysis and then died. I asked my life long best friend Robert Kyprianou to describe what my response is about.

‘Len throughout his life has been a success. His education, his professional life, his family – he took on responsibility, took charge, he always found a solution, he did the right thing and did it the right way. They all turned out beautifully, so much so he became a counsellor professionally and personally, even to people who were regarded as successes.
And yet when darkness struck the one he loved the most, his soulmate, the mother of his beautiful boys, he could only standby and watch the darkness resist all his best efforts over many years to resolve it, to cure it, to just stop it and make it go away. Something so dark yet he could not better it. ‘I am not controllable’ it would shout at him, making him madder, more frustrated, more desperate. This cruel illness was a daily reminder, over many years, over decades, that it was in charge and that you are helpless – and hopeless.
It is surely enough to have to deal with the slow, painful, inevitable destruction of your beloved’s body and, worst of all, of their hope. But for the controller to be unable to control takes you to your own dark place where the darkest thoughts carouse and revel and end up taking control of you.
Man. Dad. Head of the household. Provider. Protector. Defender. Solution provider. Boss. Counsellor. Disciplinarian…
…Controller…
… you were not, could not be in control.
These are bad memories. These are deep scars. These are dangerous moments’

Installation Instructions

I will work with the exhibition curator to put an installation together that works with the overall theme and presentation of the show.  The images can be arranged in a number of ways.  I am keen for some of them to be up to A1 size and some much smaller.  There are a number of ways in which the images can be cropped.  They can be hung in a traditional gallery manner.  I will bring voice and video work to go with the images.  This additional media is not to explain the work but to immerse the viewer deeper in the overall experience.

Biography

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’.  It is my response to experiencing total loss of control during my wife’s chronic illness with Multiple Sclerosis over thirty years and then her death this year.  It is a continuing enquiry into what it is to be human.  In 2010 I completed an MSc in Psychology at UCL London focussing on cognitive and decision processes.  This showed me how little we know about how we function psychologically and has kept me interested in understanding more.  Photographs are one of the most enigmatic attempts to capture reality.  In my own process of turning the camera on me and what is around me has lead me to deeply question how much I know about myself.

Prior to my current enquiries I worked for thirty years in the International Energy business living and building Trading organisations  in the UK, Belgium, USA, Singapore and Spain.  After that I created an Executive Coaching business coaching executives at board level.  My work was based on asking questions that my clients themselves heard their own answers to.  Only then could they change to help themselves.  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

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.