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.
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.
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.
Well, here we are in the foothills of 2013, so I thought I’d have a swift and fond look back at the year that was and highlight a sprinkling of exciting early 2013 news, too.
Regular readers of my blog [well, both of you] will know that 2012 was undoubtedly my most creatively rewarding year, with my work featuring in 5 different exhibitions and galleries both nationally and internationally. It’s never easy to predict what any new year will bring, but my goal will simply be to maintain the momentum that a wonderful 2012 afforded me. And I’d like to especially thank everyone who has supported me along the way. Making images can be a relatively insular activity, but to have them step out of the digital darkroom and into the light often takes the considerable support of like minds. So, thanks to every encouraging one of you that I’ve met along the way, both physically and virtually.
On reflection, though, 2012 was a slightly curious one, for my photography … a year, while exceptionally rewarding – Oklahoma being the pinnacle with its adventure, press and television coverage – with the majority of that work stemming from images produced prior to 2012, and the production of that exhibition with Michelle itself being time consuming, and hurling in some significant life events and major computer headaches, I don’t feel like I’ve produced a great deal this past 12 months. And as the central image up there might suggest, many might be excused for believing that, in terms of new visual production, I’ve mostly been sleeping!
2013 has been similarly unkind in life events, so far – with the end of the year and January bringing two surprise and shocking deaths of close friends of my wife’s and a very good friend of my own now fighting breast cancer. But I’m hoping that these events can consciously conspire to motivate me and shine a magnifying glass on now, because if there’s anything this past month has illustrated all to graphically, now is all we have.
In Praise Of Trees : In praise of the emotional pull of the seasons. The heartbeat. The melancholy sadness of winter. Waiting. Pausing for breath. Before spring delivers renewal. The promise of things to come. But a tree never forgets. It stands witness to a lifetime of memories.
In Praise Of Trees is an image from my relatively new Instagram account. I recently upgraded my phone to a Samsung Galaxy Ace 2. My first smartphone. So I’m using the Instagram account for words/images that flow through my day. [Some of the images are taken with the phone, some are older images previously unprocessed now cropped and processed within the phone.] The following composite image is from the end of last year when I was delighted to find one of these images had been featured on the wonderful Blipoint website:
2012 will also be mostly fondly recalled for the satisfaction of the near culmination of my most personal and emotional project: anatomyofastroke.tumblr.com/ and to have seen my father make a quite extraordinary physical recovery. [More on that soon. One year later. A Q&A session with questions supplied by my friends on the Flickr and a final image is planned. “I began documenting this journey for my own emotional release and peace of mind; as a record of progress in the challenge that undoubtedly lay ahead, for him; as an education for others; and for what I ultimately truly hope will be an uplifting journey to recovery.” It certainly proved to be an exceptionally challenging experience for my father and everyone around him.]
So, here we are in the foothills of 2013, and with two exhibitions ending in the past month or so, it felt like the year was set to start quietly. But during the past week I’ve been contacted by a gallery directly who want to feature me in a collection of 9 photographers from the region “…[in the] gallery’s first hand picked photography exhibition. Following on from recent successful open submission exhibitions where photography played a strong central role, the exhibition seeks to showcase top regional photographers engaged in the most creative applications of the medium.” Most notable as this will be the first exhibition where I’ve been simply asked to participate as a photographer – rather than have my images curated from a general submission. In the same week a further international exhibition has been mooted for some of the Where The Land Meets The Sea work with Michelle Firment Reid. And I’ve also been approached by a magazine to feature an image in their “…monthly collection of the world’s best short stories, curated from the likes of The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Moth, McSweeney’s and more… each issue pulls together some of the finest stories available and offers them to the reader alongside captivating imagery.” More flesh on these bones soon, and I’m hoping the latter doesn’t simple evolve into a mass trawling for free images. What is it about photography and free images? I can barely afford my existing gear, and certainly can’t afford any [no matter how desired] expansion… uh, but don’t get me started on that! Ahem.
He walked a thousand miles. And when he got there she had gone. Nearly 20 years earlier. A terrible, creeping, insidious cancer. And in those final days, although he would never know, she had said his name. Softly. Quietly. Until her last breath. As the door closed in front of him, all he could do was stare. Empty. Hollow. He’d wasted a lifetime to reach this conclusion. And now, her door, once as bright and welcoming as her smile, was cracked and weathered; etched with the memory of her passing and a naked reflection of his own aged and time weathered face and hands. In the cherry tree above his head a blackbird sang its plaintive tune. An echo of her memory.
I’ve looked on eBay… nothing. I thought you could buy anything on eBay? Music, comics, golf clubs, virginity, Britney Spears’ used bubble gum, a cornflake the shape of Illinois, a 50,000-year-old mammoth and a decommissioned nuclear bunker. [A somewhat curious single lot, for sure!] Clearly there’s a gap in the market here: the buying and selling of immune systems.
Another option might be to look into genetics. My dog, Willow, clearly has exceptional genes. He never gets sick and possesses the kind of energy and silky coat that I could only dream of. I think it might just work… with that amount of vitality coursing through my veins, I’d be dangerous. And if the only potential down side was a need to be wormed every six months and a mildly disturbing propensity to wander around in public randomly sniffing strangers’ arses, then I believe that would be a small price to pay.
Anyone who might know the kind of doctor/scientist that may consider such an undertaking, let me know. No questions asked.
Footnote: Sue drove off to work this morning and returned a few minutes later having forgotten her mobile phone charger. She eventually found it in a basket in the bedroom. She then couldn’t find the car keys she’d just come in with. Five minutes later… in the basket she’d found the phone charger in. I fear it’s going to be a long haul into senility from here.