Nige' Ollis

Photographer and Writer

Posts from the ‘Art’ category

Don’t Turn Your Back

A modern dilemma…

Since the end of summer, with increasing frequency – a tucked away rock overhang where I drop down into the woods to walk along the river with Willow – piles of litter. Not just any litter, of course, but a curious mix of hard drug remnants [blackened foil], wet wipes, empty crisp packets, sweet wrappers and lollipop sticks. Just how young are these users?

The rock overhang is only just out of view of a public footpath, before a steep tumble down into the valley, but would otherwise only be sparsely frequented by the intrepid dog-walker, or possibly kids looking for a den in the holidays. Suffice to say, without the occasional black sack intervention by myself and another regular dog-walker, it would otherwise be an indescribable shite heap by now.

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Don’t Turn Your Back

As I say, the frequency had been exponential – in line with a growing addiction? – and the inevitable happened: I bumped into them. The penny dropped with an incredulous clang. A guy in his mid-20s preparing his next fix; a woman, of similar age; and four kids chomping on crisps and sweets, aged maybe 8, 5, 3 and a baby in a buggy. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I doubt I would’ve believed it.

The guy quickly scampered from view, leaving me to say to her, ‘Unusual place for a picnic?’ [It was close to freezing and light rain fell from impending twilight.] We had a brief conversation about ‘rubbish in the woods/kids’ laced with metaphor. I’m not sure she grasped the desired references. Then he returned, shielding his face with high collar and hat and they hurriedly left.

I wondered what might happen? If I should do something?

Throughout the following week, the ‘littering’ continued for a handful of almost consecutive days. The inevitable happened again. The eldest child’s rushed voice, ‘Someone’s coming!’ The man runs around the overhang from view. The mother is scrunching up tin foil into balls and the kids are ‘playing’ Who can throw the rubbish down into the valley the furthest! There’s another fractured conversation – she glibly suggests the wind will deal with any of the litter.

It’s another cruel winter’s day. She breaks away from the awkwardness of our conversation and prepares to leave. I fix the eldest child with the softest expression I can muster and ask him what he thinks about coming into the woods to play such games. He shrugs his shoulders, but there’s far more than a child in those sad eyes.

The man returns again in a flustered rush, she says, ‘Let’s go kids, we’ve got to pick up Mary from school.’ Shoulders are nudged, a hand is grasped, and a flurry of muddied feet and the mud clogged wheels of buggy melt into the narrow path. The smallest boy turns in my direction, “I’m not your friend,” he says . The man briefly meets my eye from beneath his wintry disguise; a connection. I know him. He knows me.

We don’t know each other by name. But he’s grown up around here. I recall the teenage, slow-witted demeanour from years gone by; he’s cuts a desperately sad cliché.

So… What would you do?

A direct report to the police/authorities now, and the source is probably clear. He/they know where I live, and walk – often in isolated darkness. Ramifications are a distinct possibility – they’re certainly from the rougher side of the tracks. But I can’t ignore this completely, can I?

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UPDATE:

It’s now one week down the line since my intervention – and a number of days since this blog post. It’s been invaluable to gain other people’s thoughts [notable thanks to my Instagram followers], and it might have been considerably more helpful to have put it out there earlier[!], therefore saving a lot of personal soul searching and wandering of thoughts.

I discussed the scenario with a couple of colleagues in school [I work in a high school environment, in case any reader isn’t aware]. And it’s an important distinction to draw, simply for the reason that in my position as a teacher I have a responsibility for safeguarding and child protection. Effectively this means, had, say, a child come into our room and made reference to potentially going down into the woods with dad/a man while he does drugs, then it would be professionally incumbent on me to report this to the head of safeguarding. So, as you can see, there was always thinly-veiled semantics, as far as my experience and professional obligations were concerned.

In school, I spoke to both a support tutor/counsellor, the latter – known for quite strong opinions – suggested How would I feel if something happened to one/some of those children? [Something alluded to during the discussion on Instagram, too.] A slightly brutal analysis of the situation; at the end of the day, it’s not me who should be responsible for the welfare of those children; and my discovery was purely accidental. But it did make me feel less comfortable about doing nothing, or delaying any further.

In the end …

I came up with my own compromise solution. A compromise in the sense that I had, at least, done something, while also hopefully protecting myself against any potential repercussion.

I researched and located Bristol Drugs Project and Frank . “There is no easy way to pick up that phone or knock on that door but take that step and you’ll find knowledgeable, free and confidential help…”  I photocopied their main website pages and inserted them into a couple of weatherproof sleeves. I then wrote a personal, handwritten message headed with a loud THINK! [Slightly annoyingly, I didn’t keep a copy of it, as it was simply a stream of conciousness – but it referred to BDP and Frank and assured the reader, if they were open and ready for help with their addiction, that they were great people; I also posed a question, referring to my own connection with safeguarding/child protection: If you were me, what would you do? I closed out with further encouragement to seek help, but at the very least, to take this habit away from the children and think what they might be doing to them.] I added the note to top of one of the clear sleeves, went down into the woods and cleared every scrap of ‘litter’ [again!], before placing them on the ledge, held in place by two large stones.

The following day [last Saturday], I returned to the spot. There was a single discarded cigarette paper on the floor and the remains of one of the man’s distinctive roll-ups on the ledge … the sleeves were gone. I had a good look around, they had seemingly been taken, rather than discarded in the immediate surroundings, at least.

The addiction-driven habit, since just before and across the Christmas period, had become almost daily – certainly every other day.

It’s now one week down the line … and absolutely no sign of any return. I can only hope there was an impact, on his/her conscience and awareness of the children, at the very least.

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2017 Calendar & Print Offers!

Inertia Creeps …

People who know me well will be aware that I’ve suffered with a chronic health issue for more than a couple of decades. [I don’t propose to bore you with the details here, but you can read a related blog should you wish to enlighten yourself further here.] Essentially, this has resulted in me working part-time and finances have always been … tight.

In 2012 my friends and family generously contributed to a surprise Oklahoma Tour Fund [for my 50th birthday], which enabled me to fly to Tulsa for the opening of the Where The Land Meets The Sea exhibition with artist Michelle Firment Reid.

Time has drifted on and my ability to create images has slowly been suffocated, mainly due to having a steam-driven computer! But after another year of stuttering [and spluttering], I have been driven to action. By the time spring rolls around I hope to have a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign up and running. Unlike the time I relied purely on the generosity of my friends and family with nothing in return except my immense, humbled gratitude, this time I will be offering prints, books and other assorted planned ideas in return for contributions.

So, I’m beginning the process by following on from last year’s wonderfully successful single 2016 Calendar Auction by offering two new 2017 A3 Wall Calendars, alongside a choice of 10×8 inch fine art print.

The Calendars:

Street Photography

To The Dogs [A Tribute To Elliott Erwitt]

I’ve carefully selected a set of personal favourite Street Photography images, as well as a To The Dogs set as a personal tribute to Elliott Erwitt, whose images proved to be the gateway drug to my true love of photography.

There are THREE options for each calendar, as well as different prices to suit either UK or International shipping:

Option 1 : Street Photography OR To The Dogs A3 Calendar ONLY:

UK: £29.99

International : £32.99

Option 2 : Street Photography OR To The Dogs A3 Calendar PLUS 10×8 inch fine art print of your choice. [You can choose any of the images included in the calendar to have as an individual print.]:

UK: £49.99

International: £52.99

Option 3 : Street Photography AND To The Dogs A3 Calendars PLUS 2 10×8 inch fine art prints of your choice. [Choose one image from each calendar to have as two individual prints.]:

UK: £79.99

International: £84.99

IMPORTANT: All above prices include postage, packing and shipping. Preferred method of transaction via UK-based BACS system or PayPal. Please use the Contact details at the foot of the Enquiries page to order these items, or if you have any queries. Thank you!

Completion of orders to hopefully ensure delivery before 1st January 2017:

UK: 21st December 2016

South America / Asia / Eastern Europe: 7th December 2016

Australia / New Zealand: 10th December 2016

Western Europe / USA / Canada: 15th December 2016

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In The End

Space is pretty amazing, I think many would agree. Huh? No, not green space, or a parking space, or even personal space – all of which have their place – but space space, that really big black, shimmery thing up in the air where the stars and things live …

 

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Somewhere In Outer Space Tomorrow

 

It fascinates me. And I’ve been hugely fascinated by Rosetta, which ended its two-year space mission by crash landing onto the Comet 67P earlier today. You might recall it launched its own lander, Philae, which after a bumpy start has since returned extraordinary data. The comet is not only highly porous – like a vast pumice stone; it would actually float in water. But is thought to be made up from material billions of years old dating back to the creation of the solar system.

On the dark side of the comet they also discovered early outlets for both McDonald’s and Starbucks. It’s understood they were probably built there simply as a tax offshoot.

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Talking About A Revolution

So, another Glastonbury Festival has slid into the muddy abyss; and all week regional hospitals have been reporting their usual increase of admissions with trench foot, dysentery, cholera and a pathological fear of public toilets. Climate change, meanwhile, rampages on unabated like an overwrought Coldplay set.

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A musician without boots and revelers enjoying underground heating yesterday

Glastonbury needs to move with the times; this is the modern world. The time has come to install artificial grass and drainage. And for the remaining 51 weeks of the year the landscape could be dotted with herds of plastic cows; people could be employed to move them around under cover of darkness to give the illusion of a working farm. Or, if the budget allows, they could even make them animatronic; preprogrammed to sit down at the first sign of rain.

And with no more real cows, not only is the threat of disease virtually wiped out at a stroke, excessive methane farts and slurry are also eradicated*, thus repairing the hole in the ozone layer.

Either that, or simply move the festival into the local village hall. Sorted.

* This might also require some tighter constraints on some of the food stalls at the festival itself. 

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“Our Time Is Indestructible…”

Music is emotion. Music has often sustained me during my lowest ebbs, when a pulse of rhythm, anthemic soar or lyrical flourish can lift me up and even give me the belief I could build a ladder to the stars.

Music itself has suffered its own high profile tragedies in recent months. And although I knew this was coming, it’s been an extraordinary couple of days…

I first saw School of Seven Bells live on a boat permanently  moored in the harbour of my home town during the summer of 2010. It wholly cemented my affection for the band. A couple of summers later and Benjamin Curtis, the multifaceted driving force behind the band, began writing their fourth album with Alejandra Deheza [and soul mate]. But as time ticked into 2013 Curtis was suddenly diagnosed with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma. In November, the usually private Curtis confirmed via an open message on the band’s Facebook page that the initial diagnosis had since progressed to leukemia. He signed off with a determined “In the meantime, please know that life is amazing, and I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.”

Curtis remained resolutely creative throughout the intensive treatment, even in his hospital bed – a recording of Joey Ramone’s I Got Knocked Down (But I’ll Get Up) was made entirely on his laptop in the room with Deheza later recording her vocal in a nearby studio with him directing via Skype! – fighting the aggressive cancer with equally aggressive spirit until his untimely death four days after Christmas. Benjamin Curtis was 35-years-old.

Finally, early last year, Alejandra Deheza found her own resolve and reopened Curtis’s laptop of demos and archives. And with the help of M83 and Beck producer, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, completed the love letter from start to finish that became SVIIB and finally released a couple of days ago.

 

 

With its release, alongside Bowie’s posthumous Blackstar, they share the passionate living embodiment of the emotive, lingering power of music. SVIIB is a joyously life affirming triumph over life’s innate and ultimate adversity.

I’ll leave you with the heartfelt words of Alejandra Deheza:

Friends, Benjamin and I wrote this record during a tour break in the summer of 2012. I can easily say that it was one of the most creative and inspired summers of our lives. What followed was the most tragic, soul shaking tidal wave that life could deliver, but even that wouldn’t stop the vision for this record from being realized. This is a love letter from start to finish. It’s the story of us starting from that first day we met in 2004, and that’s the story of School of Seven Bells. So much love to all of you. Thank you for being a constant light in our lives. This record is for you.

-Alejandra