Making A Show Of Myself

Skydiving, food poisoning and photographic exhibitions.

You should always be prepared to try something new. As I get older and wiser [it’s all relative], the phrase: The Bucket List looms ever more prominently. Especially when a new Instagram friend of mine [‘Hello, Claire’] crosses off two from her/my[!] list in one go:

1. New Zealand
2. Skydiving

…and she’s barely 20-something! When did 20-somethings begin bucket lists? I must’ve missed that memo 20+ years ago! Now I find myself in a race against time. [Well, when compared to Claire, certainly!] So, this week I attempted to remove something memorable from my list. Both of the above are quite near the top of mine. Much further down, at No.197, is Self-Inflicted Food Poisoning. It wasn’t until later, when I looked at my list more carefully, I realised I’d actually been looking at the wrong one; I’d actually been reading the companion list I made due to my deeply inadequate pension provision: the How To Kick The Bucket List. [No.1 One way ticket to Switzerland for lovely fresh snow, excellent chocolates and the clinic.]

 

Note: This bucket doesn't appear in my previous blog: To Pee Or Not To Pee... it's merely your warped imagination
Note: This bucket doesn’t appear in my earlier blog: To Pee Or Not To Pee… it’s merely your warped imagination

My wonderful wife and gifted cook went to London for a couple of days. The ingredients for the feast were inadvertently set. Simply add me and some haphazardly prepared chicken breast fillet, thawed from frozen, leaking more juice than a bulging melon suffering water retention.

The stomach pain began later that evening. By morning my body was wracked with pain through every sinew, rolling its eyes at itself with hands on hips wagging an accusing finger as it began the arduous task of expelling the invader from all available, umm, ports.

It must be said, the human body can be a wholly remarkable thing in the face of adversity, or even idiocy, given the chance. Essentially sidelined by its impressive intervention, I was a mere spectator. I just wish I could’ve also been stood a bit further back. Instead, it dragged me along too, out onto the high seas in a Force 9, breached above and below decks for close on 48 hours. It wasn’t pretty out there, but we finally made it back to the harbour, an arm draped around each other’s shoulder, feeling like we’ve learned something from the experience. We’ve really bonded, and forgiven ourselves, especially since all the leaking stopped.

The moral of this story? If ever I invite you around a for a chicken dinner… wear a disappointed expression and a hazmat suit bearing the logo Nil By Mouth.

 

Exhibitions

Altogether a more satisfying Show Of Myself. I was really delighted to have another image in the latest MA Doran Gallery exhibition Valentine’s Group Show 2013, deepening and/or broadening my metaphorical American footprint. And I can now also confirm my involvement in F-Number at The Grant Bradley Gallery, which opens with a Private View on Friday 8th March 6 – 9pm, then runs until the end of the month.

 

F-Number at The Grant Bradley Gallery
F-Number at The Grant Bradley Gallery

 

I will be showing 4 images from the Where The Land Meets The Sea series; as well as the [rather gorgeous] large landscape book produced for the joint show in Oklahoma with Michelle Firment Reid and a full set of the companion individual note/gift cards; the large framed version of The Falling Leaf; and a further 20 16″ x 10″ prints culled mostly from my street photography work.

 
 

“Accidents that never happened
Loves that never could have been
Falling from a rock onto a soft place
Fall somewhere in between”

– ‘Show Of Myself’ : Nick Kelly [The Fat Lady Sings]

 

The Foothills of 2013

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.

 

So, That Was 2012
So, That Was 2012

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 Trees

 

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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Blipoint

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.

Upwards and onwards…

Landscape

Following the recent success with my Where The Land Meets The Sea series and having an experimental landscape image curated for the prestigious Royal West of England Academy’s 160th Autumn Exhibition, I’ve decided to embrace the landscape genre as a whole and experiment further with bringing a new creative aspect to my work in this area.

“Cops are looking for JLo’s ex-husband…” And What Preceded It

It was a busy celebrity news morning at channel Good Day Tulsa. And not only were the cops looking for JLo’s ex-husband and the country’s super couple moving their family to Vegas, there was another, uh, celebrity showbiz item…

It’s been a long time coming – this piece never did appear online, and neither Michelle nor I could even get a response from Good Day Tulsa, never mind secure the clip itself – so this week Michelle, who couldn’t copy this from her recorder, propped her iPhone in front of the TV and recorded her When The Land Meets The Sea interview, which took place the day after I left Oklahoma. [So pleased to finally be able to see this! Hope some of you enjoy it, too. I think she did a great job. And was probably helped considerably by my absence: the ‘British photographer’ mumbling in the corner with his eyes caught in the studio headlights!]

 

 

This will probably be my last post relating to the work that culminated in this summer’s extraordinary adventure to America. So, I thought it would be nice to round off Where The Land Meets The Sea : Together Alone The Artist & The Photographer with these final words.

Much to my horror, I found that Michelle had committed us to an Artist Talk for our first night show opening. Rather like the mere thought of appearing on live television, the talk mostly had me waking up in the small hours in a cold sweat, as me and talking to a roomful of people largely go together like polar bears and babysitting: it could all too easily go horrifically wrong!

Finally, on the day of the show itself, just hours before the opening, fear and panic rising, I decided to write all those small hour snatches down. So, while a degree of spontaneity in my delivery was potentially lost at sea, at least I wasn’t knocked out of the boat by a freak wave and eaten by a shark! And… I still have it, here, in my little moleskin book. So, this is an insight into me, into where Where The Land Meets The Sea was born, before meeting Michelle, who took it to an entirely different level; to an entirely different audience:

My life was very different when all this began about 20 years ago. I was a Construction Project Surveyor and a committed amateur sportsman – an often hectic, yet happy life.

Then I made a strange decision, and this guy came into me and my wife’s life. Absolutely crazy. What made me do that?

Bracken

And then, about four months after Bracken came along, I was taken quite seriously ill. Suddenly, from being someone who was in possession of a full and active life, I was home, completely isolated; had Bracken not been there, I think I would’ve gone quietly insane. And that became our special bond.

So… How did I repay that bond? Well, about a year later, I put him in a kennel and disappeared to Canada for a month!

I thought about him a lot, during that time. We both did. And when we eventually returned home we both felt so guilty we booked a cottage in the middle of nowhere amidst some gloriously deserted coastline. I still recall the blissful isolation of that holiday – out of season, in an English October. And we never left these shores again. For the past 20 years, first Bracken, then Willow, it’s been out of season deserted coastlines all the way. In fact, this is the first time I’ve even been on a plane in those 20 years. And, through all this time, I wasn’t actually taking many photographs at all; just simple holiday memories.

 

Willow

I’m essentially more known for my street photography work. I saw an Elliott Erwitt retrospective exhibition in London in 1994. It proved to be a gateway drug to the likes of Robert Frank, Alfred Stieglitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson and ‘The Decisive Moment’. And that’s what I did. I took pictures of people. There aren’t any people along the gloriously deserted coastline, so I didn’t take any photos.

Then, something else strange happened. Some time in the late 90’s, I completely fell out of love with the medium – and barely took a photograph for more than a decade. I increasingly found myself talking about my photography in the past tense.

Through most of my life I’ve written diaries and journals – the latter quite extensively from the mid-80’s and throughout the following decade or so. I very occasionally read back through some of them and, about three years ago – coinciding with my embracing of the photographic medium again following my switch to digital – I read the line: I find a piece of my soul every time I visit the sea. And I set myself the challenge, to capture that feeling. But how?

I’ve always been a great admirer of a few contemporary, classical British landscape photographers: David Noton, Paul Wakefield and Ed Collacott. Who, much in the same way that Ansel Adams once did in Yosemite National Park, would lug their large format cameras and tripods through the landscape. But I didn’t want to do that. And, more importantly, as beautiful as their work is, I didn’t want to make purely pictorial images. I wanted to try and capture that mood, that emotion.

So, I travelled light: Nikon D300 and 18-200mm zoom lens. I would generally only take images at a certain time: the golden hour [or overcast days]. I couldn’t be too choosy, as this would usually only happen one week/year! But I still wasn’t happy with what I had. I wasn’t feeling the work.

The epiphany moment came one day when I began adding some textures to my work – desaturating colours and pushing the contrast. Again, working relatively quickly using skills associated with more traditional darkroom skills in the new digital processing medium, I began to innately feel when I’d got it right, both in my head, and my heart: the soul I was attempting to capture.

Somewhat ironically, with many people drawn to my street photography, the majority of this work, when posted online, has been largely ignored. At least, that was until one day, about 18 months ago, when Michelle suddenly dropped a beautiful comment on my Flickr stream. She seemed to immediately pick up on that emotional resonance. She really got it. [And I know Michelle is going to tell you a little bit about that – some of which she restates in the above TV interview.]

And now, for me, to have been able to have witnessed the evolution of this work through her eyes has been a truly humbling experience. And has added so many layers to this expression of feeling. And although it’s been a relatively short time for Michelle, what you’re seeing is something that has been gestating, seemingly almost waiting for this moment, for some 20 years. And if someone had told me, even a couple of years ago, that this journey, this adventure, would wind up with me standing here…

And it all began because of a cocker spaniel called Bracken.

 

Please click on image to View the book

 

Invisible Ink And Other Vanishing Stories

People used to my waffle will be excused for thinking this has mostly been written in invisible ink or, to use 21st Century parlance, invisible electrons. But I’ve just tumbled in here emerging from an inverted canopy of autumn leaf fall to enthusiastically say…

“Bringing to a close a fantastic year of exhibitions at the Royal West of England Academy [RWA], the 160th Autumn Exhibition showcases the cream of painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, sculpture and architecture, selected and curated by an expert panel from thousands of submitted works.”

I submitted three pieces of work – all of which made pre-selection. [There were also two images from The Anatomy Of A Stroke series.] I dared to dream, but was more than delighted when hearing my first attempt at entering such a prestigious mixed media exhibition – at what the The Spectator magazine labels ‘a jewel in the crown of England’s exhibiting venues’ – was rewarded by the encouraging inclusion of this image: a potential new direction for my landscape work, incorporating movement into an otherwise static scene to evoke thoughts beyond the confines of the frame, tapping in to the void between the real and the imagined.

 

The Falling Leaf

Varnishing Day lunch for all exhibiting artists this Friday and the Private View on Saturday evening, the exhibition then runs 21 October – 30 December 2012. [I did initially read that as a Vanishing Day lunch. Which sounded particularly intriguing!]

RWA Website

Note: Apparently includes a piece of work by Honorary RWA member, HRH The Prince of Wales. I wonder if he’ll be at the Varnishing Lunch or the Private View? And, if he his, will he recognise me?! : )