First up: I’ve been organizing my first solo photography exhibition. And I hadn’t quite realised, when supplying everything but the walls, everything can be quite a lot of work! I just about made it – hanging the ten images last night. Time to breathe. Hopefully you’ll all now be booking flights from the four corners of the world for this must see event. Ahem.
Anyhoo… If any of you good [local] folk should head this way, feel free to give me the heads up, and I’ll do my utmost to meet you there. Coffees* are on you! Uh, call it your entrance fee and having the sheer pleasure of my company. Think of me as your photographic pim… uh, escort.
* Oh, yeah, that’s the bonus. Rubicon is a lounge café and chocolatiers. So you can easily be distracted from both my company and images with even more delicious distractible culinary treats.
The Anatomy Of A Stroke [One Year Plus]
When I began the project documenting my father’s battle with his stroke, clearly I had no idea where fate and circumstance might lead us. In my opening public comments I essentially concluded my introduction of the documentary with “…and for what I ultimately truly hope will be an uplifting journey to recovery.” Even when I wrote those words, I wasn’t fully aware, having survived the initial dramatic stroke, how the odds were stacked against him.
Happily, for those who followed the unfolding story, you’ll know that my father was lucky to fall into the third of people having such an event who subsequently go on to make a good recovery.
Once again, thanks for all your support through this difficult period in my/our family’s life. I had mixed feelings about making this public, but I was genuinely overwhelmed by those who took the time to write and offer their support and prayers, etc.
And special thanks to John, Alison, Claudio, Tracie, Louise, Kyre, Chris, Sharon, Hameed, Alex, Robert, Dawn, Jen and Giuliana for taking the time to ask some really quite probing questions, and allowing this to have an ideal completion.
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.
It’s been a difficult month. As those who’ve been following the story will know, it began with dad back in hospital with a heart scare. [In a nutshell, for those who might not have subsequently followed updates in the Comments under the previous Flickr image: in hospital for nearly two weeks, essentially awaiting continually cancelled angiogram; procedure eventually confirmed atrial fibrillation; probably the best outcome given the admission; more meds and back home on the recovery path.]
But momentum has been lost. One notable unwelcome side-effect of the hospital admission: the daily physio visits stopped and weren’t resumed when he returned home. When you have people visiting and encouraging you on a daily basis, only to suddenly have that disappear, it’s understandable to see that motivation can all too easily ebb, too.
Tiredness is certainly a factor, but potential negative feelings and associated frustrations will bring with them the next challenge in dad’s recovery. The other day his brother was helping him replace a handrail, but by refusing to acknowledge the creeping tiredness – as it was something he felt he should be able to do – it simply resulted in exhaustion and fractiousness. It’s a fine line.
And that will be the next challenge in dad’s rehabilitation. To defeat old habits, expectations and gnawing negative feelings and refocus on the momentum achieved prior to his hospital admission; all the while accepting that tiredness will be a likely running mate, but not necessarily the governing force.
Recovery isn’t just survival. Recovery isn’t just the good fortune of avoiding significant, lingering disability. Recovery is focussing on the achievable, then taking the next step.
I get messages most days asking about my dad. I generally reply saying things are progressing well, but slowly, and had intended to make this generalised update over the weekend – exactly two months after suffering his stroke [19th December].
But, suddenly, in a moment, everything changes…
Last week one of dad’s physio sessions decamped to the local golf driving range; a new experience for both girls supporting him, whose first job, after placing the basket under the wrong delivery chute, was to roll around scrabbling to pick up the 50 balls now randomly bouncing around the hard-stone-floor corridor. Considerable hilarity ensued. I wish I’d witnessed that. And to highlight my dad’s often twisted perspective, he later bemoaned his apparent loss of form without a shred of irony!
Other than that, the last few weeks have mainly been characterised by the inching forward in hand mobility and walking distance; the sheer tiredness associated with the mental and physical effort; and the small tremor in his hand, which the support staff believe is likely to be a combination of working it so hard, coupled with his own sense of anxiety and frustration.
Early yesterday afternoon my step-mum was set to go to the supermarket and dad happily decides he’s fit and well enough to go, too. His first return to routine mundanity; now a genuine challenge.
Apparently he tired quite quickly. My step-mum told him to go and sit down. He wouldn’t. Eventually, at the checkout, he admitted to feeling quite unwell. They got back to the car with him ‘wobbling all over the place’. Now a little concerned, my step-mum returned to the shop and asked if there were any first-aiders present. No less than four of them swiftly descended on the car and immediately called the emergency services.
The rapid-response paramedic arrived. ‘He was the strangest colour. His lips looked almost blue and he said he couldn’t see anything.’ The problem wasn’t obvious, but she wasn’t happy with the ECG trace, so an ambulance was called and off they went to A&E.
Time dragged on. Five hours later, amidst a hectic A&E with people on beds in corridors, and the ECG monitoring had revealed nothing. Dad was feeling better – though exhausted – and asked to go home. He was disconnected from all the wires and traces, slowly got dressed, and was pulling on his coat as the doctor approached, “I’m sorry. You’re not going anywhere…” The blood tests showed some abnormal results which suggest a problem with his heart.
24 hours later and the cardiologist still isn’t entirely sure what the problem is. Three men are next to each other in beds at the end of the ward, currently grouped together as ‘Mystery’. He’ll definitely be there all weekend now, with little further investigation likely before Monday.
I think he’s beginning to crave much less drama and mystery and considerably more mundanity. We all are.