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.
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.
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...
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.