It has been 5 years since I maintained an internet presence for my photography and 4 years since I held a camera with a desire to do anything more than look in front of me and click. 5 years ago I moved to London in search of the dream- To be a professional photographer full time.
Life is well known for throwing curve balls and within a month I received my life changer. My sister phoned me late one evening to tell me that my mother was ill and in hospital. Later I would find out her diagnosis was terminal lung cancer and it had spread, effecting her personality and her ability to care for herself. Within a week I moved back to Northampton to help care for her and to be closer to her, a role I shared with my sister and other family members.
Suddenly I needed a job and I needed income, fast. Moving to London was an all or nothing move by me to consciously control the direction of my future and in doing so I left myself short. I sold my camera to pay the bills on the new house in Northampton and stopped taking photographs. I still had cameras- A photography enthusiast or someone pursuing a career in photography rarely has just one, but they had no hold over me anymore and whilst I took some photographs of my mother when I thought it was appropriate It didn’t feel like my story to tell. My story became a supporting role in someone else’s suffering and that was where I wanted to be. My anger with the camera grew slowly over the next 18 months as my mother slowly died in front of me.
Was I a little to blame? If i’d been at home would I have noticed the cough sooner? These kinds of questions are not helpful and of course I wasn’t to blame- Yet I blamed my camera. The resentment between myself and photography grew so much that ‘I used to take pictures’ became the common phrase i’d utter when people asked me what i used to do. I’d justify it by saying that it was a ‘young mans game’ and that ‘I’m too tall for London!’ In the meantime my career moved into mental health and I began working at a modern Asylum for young children. The work became absorbing and allowed me to pour everything into it, the perfect distraction.
Around a year after mother passed away I realised that a creative outlet was missing from life and that the feelings usually released by the process of creating art were beginning to back up. I was still angry at the ‘camera’ and did not feel like i had a story to tell or an interest strong enough to push me through. I had built the perfect structure of comfort for myself- a cocoon in which I’d retreated where emotion had been replaced with a contempt feeling for the minimal gain I was achieving. Money coming in was equal to or a little bit more than money going out and I’d received enough praise in my new job to know I was good at it but something was missing.
3 months ago I was asked by a line manager and very inspirational woman to create some posters to promote an internal campaign to improve fitness. ‘Sure’ I said without hesitation- I still have all the software I used to use and a laptop I could bring into work to work on and in the space of a day I created a number of posters that the charity has since used across a number of hospitals and in their own advertising. The joy of creating returned to me and a month later I was again asked to create and this time it required a studio. I still own a travel studio from all those years ago and was happy to oblige- creating a resource for physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists to instruct circuit training in any location from seclusion cell to a sports field. My anger with the camera subsided, but I still remained frustrated.
I have always tried to live in the black or white, I give my all to any project and struggle to see past the blinkers I force upon myself. Photography for me for the last 10 years has been all or nothing and for a large chunk of that 10 years this has led to nothing more often than all. Recently I’ve come to understand that people can live happy in the grey and balance a life of work and a life of following interests that go hand in hand. I’m not sure if I can do this yet, but I’m willing to try. I feel a little like the emerging caterpillar, ready to try to tell stories again. The world has changed for me so much in the past few years and a year after mothers death I feel ready to embrace a wider range of emotion again.
Thank you to those who helped me see grey in black. Over the course of two weeks I had the same conversation with 4 very different people and one of them did not let me finish it without taking a photograph. The fire was already lit before then but you poured enough petrol on that fire to allow it to burn a lot brighter within me again.
So here’s to 2017, the year I try to live in the grey.
(The photographs taken and displayed here were taken on my phone. It was the only camera I could take photographs on because like a microcosm of the cocoon it had become an appendage. It rarely left my hand and i’d become one of those people viewed more frequently behind a screen than engaging with my surroundings. The phone camera is not the problem, the readily available distraction of a portable connection to the internet is. I have since deleted the apps that almost deleted me.)