A Tuscan adventure by Laura Ward

Recently I was on a train bound for a northern city in Italy . People were boarding like they were on a Ryan Air flight, desperate to cram their suitcases into whatever space they could. They stood in the aisles and muttered to one another in tense and tired tones. At one stage the train stopped inside a long, dark tunnel and the lights went out. Heat began to rise and I forced myself to take deeper, slower breathes. The train would start moving again and the lights would come on soon, surely.

By this point I’d been in Italy for 6 days. It may have been September but the heat was still pounding the low 30s and I’d been bitten by mosquitos almost 50 times. On day 3 I had started to sleep more soundly than I had for a while. It was probably all the cycling I’d been doing through Tuscany. It was as idylic as it sounds and worth every mosquito bite.

 5 minutes away by bike

5 minutes away by bike

I’d been out of sorts for a few weeks. Books, music, gardening and art were not really helping. During the tense, dark moment on the train I had just about enough time to have a stern word with myself. What the hell was wrong with me? I started to form a bit of a plan to try and get to the bottom of it.

A year ago I decided I really wanted to go to Norway for a landmark birthday but for some reason found myself in Italy. This, of course, was no hardship. I casually discussed Italy with an Italian colleague and then found myself going to her neck of the Tuscan woods, doing photography work at an Air B&B in Torre del Lago. A later blog post on that will follow.

I don’t normally travel with my heavier camera gear but this gave me a good reason. I had a job to do. I could take as many pictures as I wanted of the apartment, Torre del Lago and the places I visited from that base including Lucca and Florence. I also traveled up to Como via Milan and then onto Zurich to celebrate another landmark birthday (and to photograph that too). This was a lot of travel so I packed lightly and made sure I could cycle with my camera gear.

All was well until I lost my Olympus Pen EE-2, gifted only two weeks before on my birthday. Foolishly it had dangled from my handlebar. Foolishly I had only shot one roll through it. I was so angry with myself and didn’t talk for hours. At least it hadn’t been my professional gear, right?

 My lovely camera, now lost.

My lovely camera, now lost.

I took around 850 photographs on my trip. I was surprised to take so many. There are around a roll of film’s worth of photographs I’d like to keep, but the rest don’t really do very much for me. I found myself pining for film the entire time, wishing I’d packed differently and mourning the loss of my Olympus Pen EE-2 hard.

When I finally came back from my trip (with the mandatory flu caught on the plane home, which I still have 2 weeks later), I found myself back in waiting rooms with surgeons deciding what they’re going to do to me. There will be a bit more of that going on it seems. I am not fed up, nor do I have post-holiday blues, but it’s been an interesting time of reflection. A lot of clearing out.

There’s a lot of good stuff though. More writing, books through the post (thank you Hannah!), trees through the post (I love you CB), a friend on my doorstep with a plant and in need of a cuppa. And a staggering evening watching Kathryn Joseph. We hugged, chatted a little, she made me blush and wrote me a love note. A perfectly timed tonic.

There is also the fact I am helping out and taking part with the Shutter Hub Open at Truman Brewery for East London International Photography Festival which is going to be brilliant. I’m exhibiting at the British Museum staff art show and I am curating something for Shutter Hub at Bridewell Theatre. I am ridiculously excited about that. More posts about this soon.

Greenhouses and plastic by Laura Ward

I often blog on a bank holiday. There's nothing sweeter than a cosy bank holiday when you feel like you've earned a day to be lazy. This is the first day I've truly stopped moving for months.

Fantastic Plastic: In exciting news, Lomography have given me a Diana F+ camera to use and take pictures with! I am really thrilled to be asked.  The greatest thing about this is that I've managed to get through two 'vintage' Dianas in the last 15 years (Ebay and vintage shop finds) but this Lomography one is slightly more robust and has a flash. It's been raining almost every day since it arrived so it may have to come to Italy with me in a few weeks.

Not Fantastic Plastic: I've published a new series called 1000 years. I began taking pictures of helium balloons trapped in trees after their majestic prime. It's slowly growing to include other plastic items which end up becoming intertwined (un)comfortably with nature. Where possible I've picking them up and keeping them in my shed. It's amazing where you'll find balloons. A couple of times recently I've watched them fall slowly and aimlessly down from the sky. This happened on Friday night. It's lucky when humans are around to pick them up. Not so lucky for livestock and the rivers and oceans out there.

I've spent a lot of time in greenhouses and gardens lately so here's a bunch of pictures of the hottest summer in a long time. I took most of these on cinestill film. Autumn now please!

Notes by Laura Ward

So much has happened in my life during the last six months. I've been more London based than ever, in part due to a big house move (I've inherited 28 roses bushes), but I managed to squeeze in a magical break in the Isle of Arran and quick jaunts to York and Southend. Arran was a truly picture perfect place, though I was blown over by the wind as I tried to descend a cliff side path on a mountain. Things like this always happen to me. Thankfully I put my camera away just before it happened.

For the last couple of years I've been taking pictures of my mum on her journey through vision loss. Last week her specialists admitted that 'she came to them too late'. Her mission to save some vision was thwarted by a blood clot the size of her entire lung - they said it massive, they meant it.  I'm not quite ready to publish the pictures yet because I thought she'd have a happier ending, but I'll get there.

In contrast, I've come to the end of my own years-long-hanging-around-in-waiting-rooms which is like having a chain cut off my neck. When I look at the pictures I've been taking, I wonder if they're better because they have more depth to them but to be honest, I'm happiest taking pictures of a wet landscape and blooms on a blissful morning. It's not difficult to understand why when photography is your true escape.

Some good news... I'm exhibiting with Shutter Hub in a show called Because We Can at Festival Pil’ours, Saint Gilles Croix de Vie in France.  That is going to be wonderful. Shutter Hub are wonderful. 

Here's a few of the pictures I've taken..

Dino Island and The Lake by Laura Ward

I blogged a little bit last year about how I found myself gravitating towards water, and in particular Crystal Palace lake which is a local London Victorian charm. The lake and the spaces around it served as an antidote to the noise and bustle of central London. I'm now showing some of these pictures alongside Nik Strangelove from February 23rd at The Douglas Fir in London.

Entitled Dino Island (Nik's bit) and The Lake (my bit), my photographs are from two separate series which explore the healing properties of water and the positive impact of nature during periods of personal metamorphosis. I met Nik through making these photographs. It was that classic tale of discovering someone on Instagram who is also interested in local landmarks.

Nik's work is a collection of photographs of the dinosaurs that live in Crystal Palace Park, that were created in 1854 as part of the Crystal Palace Exhibition. These prehistoric park dwelling friends are in danger of crumbling into extinction all over again. Working in partnership with the Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs Nik gained exclusive access to Dino Island to photograph the dinosaurs, in a bid to help with fundraising efforts for their conservation. 

Come and join us this Friday. It's up for 6 weeks!

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2017 photography review by Laura Ward

Like a lot of people, I love the turning of a year. I love the newness of January and how it feels like shedding a skin. 2017 on the whole has been pretty amazing, though December has been a beast. As we edge closer to January I thank my lucky stars that everyone I love is still alive.

I set out to push myself in 2017 to do things I hadn't done before. I gave a couple of talks which were well received. I played a small role in an appeal for homeless photographers. I wrote articles - something that doesn't come easily to me. I even blogged more which is a small miracle. I only exhibited once and that was at The Paxton Centre, but my work was published in Oh Comely and presented at the ICA thanks to Emma Watson.

I need to scale back a bit next year but I've just come back from a short meeting to discuss a small possible exhibition on my doorstep with a local photographer.  Effra FC also turns 10, so something had better mark that occasion.

Here are some of my favourites from the year shot on 35mm and digital.  Go here for 20162015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.

#waitingforthecall by Laura Ward

I met Dr Emma Watson in my mid-twenties in the early 2000s. We were both working for a bowel cancer charity; a place which was challenging but encouraged a lot of bowel talk. This kind of envirmonment made it very easy to bond with Emma and we quickly discovered we had a lot in commmon. To this day, Emma and I talk about a lot of shit. 

We also talk about our shared affliction; endometriosis. It's a complex disease and one that Emma has owned and fought head on for years.

Emma happens to be quite an amazing woman. A successful career woman at Imperial College, an inspirational fundraiser,  an athlete and an academic (her thesis was 'Positional Scanning Soluble Libraries of Protease Inhibitors' which is something I can't pretend to understand). Put simply she likes a challenge.

She asked me to collaborate with her on a project called #waitingforthecall. She was to swim the English Channel as part of a relay team and was literally waiting for the phone call to say that conditions were right for her to make the swim. Her coach told her to always be ready.

She waited for that call for 3 months. Some of our pictures can be found here.

Emma managed to raise several thousand pounds with a trending justgiving page, gave interviews for magazines, raised awareness of the disease and encouraged women to get back in the pool. After her 13 hour swim, she gave a talk at the ICA and presented some of my pictures. She's awesome.

Notes by Laura Ward

July-August-September over in a flash.  I stumbled through September in a mist of coffee, alarm clocks and schedules.

I had a wonderful conversation or two during these months with photographers Grant Simon Rogers, Ted Dave, Jonny Hughes. Ted gave me loads of expired 35mm he found at a market. He kept a roll for himself which I'm keen to see the results of. 

I saw lots of incredible music in Wales, Nottingham, London. I spent nights in tents across the country, waking up to dense fog in valleys and in gardens. I studied, I looked after people and I worked really hard.

I spent some time discussing endometriosis with Emma Watson and taking photos for her #waitingforthecall project. It's how we met in 2003; the one silver lining in this hideous disease. Emma is still waiting for the call and we are still taking photos.  Some of them can be seen here in a brilliant article with heart warming comments.

A couple of pictures from from the last few months below...

Little fish by Laura Ward

The end of last year marked a full stop in a journey I had been on for some years. These years were incredibly difficult and painful, both physically and emotionally. I learned a great deal about myself and the world. I also accepted there are several ways to get to your destination. 

I always thought I would be a mother by now. This is quite a difficult sentence to type, let alone say out loud. Luckily for me, I have an incredible husband and a small number of trusted people who are an incredible support.  Not everyone is able to demonstrate kindness and perhaps this is in response to the lack of conversations going on in the world. 

I feel lucky that my tool box was stocked with the ability to record my experiences through a camera. My relationship with water in all of it's terrifying and healing forms became the vehicle to carry my story along. Last summer during a very isolating medical episode, I asked my dear friend Meg McNulty to collaborate and write a fictional response to my work. Little did I know at the time that she would gift me the ability to step away from the experience and embrace another. 

I really want to publish my work alongside Meg's. I haven't been able to do that yet, but  I have published some of my images with a few snippets of Meg's words. This series of images isn't static so I expect it could change. It's not entirely edited or sequenced correctly, but I have new chapters to begin living. 

The images were all taken on film across a variety of important places I visited during these years. 

Thank you my dear Meg for your gift.

May and June by Laura Ward

Busy days roll into weeks and months. I'd be nothing without my calendars and planners. 

I exhibited for the month of May in a multi-media group show called View/Review in south east London. The Paxton Centre is a really beautiful creative space in Crystal Palace and just one of the many reasons I really love living where I do. 

I also helped to launch an appeal with Shutter Hub and Accumulate to get homeless photographers to keep taking photos. If you have an old camera you could donate to the appeal, we would love to hear from you. 

Just last weekend I ventured to Edinburgh’s Retina Festival with Shutter Hub to deliver the 2017 Shutter Hub OPEN . I also escaped for a weekend to the Norfolk coast with Karen Harvey, Jayne Lloyd and Rachel Wright (aka The Dream Team) to talk photography, eat chips and rescue trapped birds.

My little cohort of south London photographers Effra FC have recently been putting on a couple of great little events. Effra 'maintains' a pretty low social media presence but somehow we manage to pull things together. 

Somewhere in between all of that I had my annual jaunt into the peak district, got chased by a wild horse, documented my mother's high risk eye operation, tried really hard to study and went to a series of exquisite gigs. A true respite from the horrors of current affairs.

And I wonder why I’ve taken fewer photographs recently?

 

 

Oh Comely by Laura Ward

This blogging marlarky is becoming a regular thing. Just a quick one for the Easter weekend as it comes to a close (sob).

The lovely Oh Comely magazine (issue 36) have featured my photos 7 times to accompany stories on Awakenings. It looks marvelous and feels even better.  If you have never read Oh Comely, it's a curious and playful independent magazine presented in a beautiful artbook style magazine combining writing, photography and illustration. It's really beautiful. You can purchase Oh Comely at WH Smiths, Sainsbury's, Waitrose and other good arty independent shops.

Thank you Lara and Frances.

Note: I didn't take the above cover photo.

A love letter by Laura Ward

I got a handwritten letter recently. Not a card, but a letter, and it wasn’t from my mother-in-law who often writes very thoughtful letters. It wasn’t a love letter either but one filled with gratitude reminding me that in the occasional drudgery of business making-decisions, you can make truly worthwhile ones. Decision making can be a mystical maze of wrong-turnings and occasional dead-ends.

Business aside, when it comes to projects I decided to try a few things out. Approach that person I’ve admired for a while. Do a talk about my work (inspired by my womb) to a small mostly-male audience. Say yes to small publishing projects. Say hells-yes to taking projects overseas. Be honest, even if people don’t like it. Review practically everything else to see what I don’t have time for, including relatively noxious things that float my way simply by the wind changing course. There are fewer dead-ends here.

Current photos: went to Sheffield for the weekend and ventured to Wales again.

Talking about yourself by Laura Ward

I've been keeping myself busy since the beginning of the year. I hear a lot of people telling me to make more time for doing nothing, like it's better for the soul. In my case, it's not. I'd always rather be doing something rather than nothing. Some of these somethings are developing into exciting ventures.

One of my new roles is Project Manager for Shutter Hub (I totally L-O-V-E that team). One afternoon in early February I had the opportunity to address a room of aspiring photographers at a workshop run by Accumul8. Their mission is to empower young, homeless people through creativity. I talked about my journey and approach to photography, and how my camera is my tool, my weapon, my voice and occasionally my therapist. Afterwards I spent some time with one of students who couldn't believe we had so much in common. 

The most refreshing thing about the afternoon was the lack of assumptions anyone made about me which is what I had feared the most. I walked away feeling empowered by the process of sharing advice, tips, fears, ideas and how I measure success. People listened and made notes. I'm very grateful to both Shutter Hub and Accumul8 for giving me that platform and for allowing me to listen to them too. 

It's helpful to spend a chunk of time thinking about your motivations, your work and the narrative behind the pictures you take. Sometimes it pays off to be honest about the stories to tell and the reason we pick up a camera or paintbrush or pencil or guitar. I've often found myself editing or deleting blog posts that tread onto the fringes of personal content. Recently a good photographer friend Ted told me 'if it's not personal, why bother?'. He's right. So right. My most recent projects have helped me heal, forced me to get outside of my comfortable zone and in turn, made me feel much better about my place in the world. The most immediate thing in my gift to change is where I put my energy, which projects I'll focus on and who I want to invest time in. It's my food for thought this year.

Here are a few pictures from my local park this winter.  I can't get enough of Crystal Palace when it's cold.

 

 

2016 photography review by Laura Ward

I had every intention to blog more in 2016. I prefer this space to wordpress even though very few venture here to read my words. That's OK. We're living in a world of likes and hearts and broadcasts via Twitter and Facebook these days.

I know it's been a difficult year for a lot of people, for countries, for the environment, for communities. The latter half of my own 2016 has been <insert very bad words>. I am not going to blog about that but I've found it incredibly easy to keep on taking photographs. 

There is plenty that I haven't blogged about which has been really, really, really exciting and good and cathartic and creative. Plenty of excursions - sometimes with only a tent, a camera and a willing companion. Exhibitions in Cambridge and London (one of which is due to head to Tel Aviv next year thanks to the force for good which is Shutterhub and Karen Harvey). There have been photography shows and conversations I can't stop thinking about. I've collaborated with Margaret Clift McNulty on a small project that I want to share in the new year.  Effra FC hosted its inaugural 'in conversation with..' event which was so inspiring. I'm looking forward to it being my turn in early 2017 where I'll be in conversation with David Viramati Sampson. I'm grateful for the support and warm words of so many people. Am I gushing? Maybe. These are darker days and it feels important to be grateful.

Here are my favourites (the ones I can share) from the year shot on film, digital and phone.  This is the first year I seem to have swapped musicians for trees.

Go here for 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.

 

Shutter Hub by Laura Ward

 

I am excited to be showing a bit of work in Cambridge next month with the awesome Shutter Hub. Not only has it felt really easy (they're so organised - I love them) but my prints look great and nearby family get to come along to the private view.

I'm grateful to them for showing me in two venues - Hot Numbers and Stir.

For more information on the full Shutter Hub Open programme, follow this link. Events, workshops, exhibitions, conversations etc.

<edit: I later won 2nd place for best in show. Thank you!>

 

 

 

 

Fast Forward: Women in Photography by Laura Ward

Last week I took over the 'Fast Forward: Women In Photo' Instagram account with photographers Maria Baoli and Shelia Zhao. Fast Forward is designed to promote and engage with women in photography across the globe which is resolved at a Tate Modern conference.

We explored the theme of 'extraordinary ordinary'. My contributions to the week are here below in order of posting.

I took this photo in central London, on one of its busiest shopping streets, as I was waiting 30 minutes for someone.

This pinhole photograph of an ocean wave was taken last year.

I selected this photo by photographer Jo Underhill. Jo enjoys exploring and documenting the built environment with a focus on light, material, detail and how people interact with spaces.

This picture is taken from an unpublished series of photographs about an unremarkable looking neighbourhood of my childhood. My 2014 exploration of the physical spaces of childhood was a departure in style, but influenced a significant shift in my outlook towards the present. I now embrace a more mindful approach to photography. 'Letting go' has transcended beyond creativity into an empowering mechanism to cope with personal turmoil.

This wall was sprayed with bullets by the IRA during their terrorism campaign of the '80s. I passed this on my school route and the threat of terror was a daily reality. Seeing the patched up wall in 2014 had a profound impact on me.

I shot this in a fleeting moment during a ground level shot of a small pony in Wales. Its mother trotted into protective view as I took it. This, combined with an accidental double exposure, produced something magical. On this trip I'd witnessed distressing cruelty to horses and ponies suffering obvious signs of neglect. This moment was uplifting.

Lights from Piccadilly, London.