And, lo and behold! My self-portrait where the light plays, taken during my residency at Hospitalfield in 2011, has been published as the main spread!
[Apologies for the terrible quality of the photograph of the spread in the magazine. The magazine is much better quality and you should subscribe to it for all the wonderful work they include each issue.]
Here we go again… It’s the time of year, in these last remaining hours of the current one before we turn over into the new one, where I take my annual look back on how quickly yet how slowly this year passed; what I did and didn’t get done; and how many steps forward and/or backward I took.
All in all, 2018 was the best year I’ve had for a while, though it inevitably had its ups and downs, like any other year.
I did manage to improve two things this year: regaining a better work-life balance and posting more to my blog thanks to my 100 Days Project (which is still in progress, so not quite following the 100 consecutive days element).
And I even managed to take some ‘proper’ self-portraits like the ones I described in last year’s wrap-up blog.
Inevitably the most consuming part of my year, though according to my Sleep Cycle stats, the most stress-free and relaxing part of my year (my sleep quality during that period increased to 80% from an average of 59%, and my time in bed increased to almost 7 hours from an average of 5 hours 48 minutes) was visiting the South Island of New Zealand for the first time to be a bridesmaid for my friends Erin and Nick; and returning to visit friends and family in the North Island of New Zealand, as well as Melbourne and Tasmania.
Apprehensive but excited about being a bridesmaid for the first time, I was lucky Erin and Nick were so organised and managed the whole intercity coordination of the bridal party so well. Apart from looking hilariously wobbly walking down the grass aisle in heels first ahead of the bride, I think I managed to carry out my duties fine and it was wonderful to see two of my friends tie the knot after so many years. It was also a chance to make good friends with the other two lovely bridesmaids, Liz and Kirsty, and get to know Erin and Nick’s families a little.
Though the schedule and long distances of travel required for the wedding (zipping between Christchurch, Timaru, Hanmer Springs and Windwhistle) didn’t allow for too much sightseeing in some respects, I did see quite a bit of countryside along the way. Enough to know I need to pop back to the South Island sometime for more exploration!
The few days I was able to stop over in Wellington were also a lovely chance to catch up with new and old friends and catch Wellington at its signature blustery best. It was wonderful to fleetingly catch up with Hugh and meet Kenno and Janno over a delicious dinner discussing robots and filling in blanks between cryptic Facebook updates.
Similarly, catching up with Debbie and her family was a nice relaxing interlude after the wedding, full of wine and late night nattering over old times. Waking up to my new, inquisitive friend Monty was also a joyful way to start the day. I seriously considered popping him in my suitcase…
Despite moving around so extensively during my life, the place I’ve lived longest so far has been Melbourne at a cumulative count of about 18 years. I’d not been back even for a visit since June 2010 but, suffice to say, if I were to feel homesick for Australia I figured Melbourne would be the place I would feel it.
But sorry, Melbourne, I didn’t. It was lovely to visit old haunts, discover new haunts, and more importantly, reconnect with many friends I hadn’t seen face-to-face in too many years, but I only felt a fond affection, no longing, for the city I spent so many years in. Once more my affection for London as ‘home’ was reinforced.
Having said that, Melbourne was, unsurprisingly, wall-to-wall with catch-ups, which was wonderful. I squeezed as many people into my time there as I could (and squeezed them, when I could), and managed to fit in a dance at an indie night; a couple of exhibitions including the NGV Triennial; a friend’s gig; and visits to old and new haunts.
Thanks to fellow photographer, Anthony Schroeder, I also managed a day trip out to the redwood forest in East Warburton with two lovely ladies (one heavily pregnant at the time), Jess and Preethi, and a stop-off for a pub lunch with Chris and his now-fiancée, Helen. The day out provided just the right level of calm amidst a frantic sea of brunches, lunches, cheeky pints, dinners and nightcaps.
After only a week in Melbourne I popped down to Tasmania to visit with my parents and catch up with my Uncle John and his partner, Verna, who timed their visit to coincide with mine.
My parents had sold their home in Redland Bay, on the outskirts of Brisbane, just as I was finishing my last visit to Australia in mid-January 2013, so it was my first time in their new home and only my second time in Tasmania, in a different part of the island to where I had visited in 2002, shortly after my return to Australia.
Though lengthy wandering was not on the cards with my Mum’s reduced mobility, my Dad and Uncle ensured I saw quite a lot of the countryside while I was there, and we were lucky to see quite a lot of wildlife.
My camera got quite an extensive workout while I was in New Zealand and Australia and I’m still working through the photos from my trip.
Thank you to everyone who managed to make time to meet up with me in both New Zealand and Australia, whether the odd one-to-one or the cluster of friends descending on a bar, pub or cafe in various parts of Melbourne. Thank you to Erin and Nick for inviting me to be part of their big day, and thank you most of all to my Uncle John for making my visit possible. I may no longer call Australia home, but it and my friends there still hold a special place in my heart.
As if a one-month trip to New Zealand and Australia weren’t enough for one year, I managed to sneak in day trips and weekend trips with friends and/or to visit friends in:
the New Forest,
Brighton (times two),
Margate for ‘Screamland’ at Dreamland,
I gladly took my camera along for most of those trips, so have plenty of photos to work through.
This year was not just one of meeting up with old friends, but of making new ones, and I also finally emerged from a bit of a stasis to entertain the idea of ‘a serious relationship’ again.
Enter Simon who has an uncanny sense of the sort of things I love that he can show me in and around London and beyond, including:
a ‘secret’ nuclear bunker in Essex;
a parkland walk following an old railway from my neighbourhood to Highgate;
a neon heaven in Walthamstow;
chalk caves in south London;
a 1930s mock Tudor council estate I somehow missed just nearby to Highgate Cemetery (which I became a Friend of earlier in the year); and an endless list of gorgeous pubs.
I’ve also spent far more time in the ‘great outdoors’ this year than previous years.
Wandering through woods and parks;
enjoying the lights at Lumiere London;
and finding or being introduced to new gasometers before they are inevitably removed from the London skyline.
So, here’s to 2018, and here’s hoping 2019 continues the upward trajectory I’ve been on the past couple of years.
Here’s hoping it’s also onward and upward for all of my family, friends and any lovely people reading this. I raise a toast to you all x
Oh, and I also took a load off my shoulders, finally.
As she flicked through the brightly coloured pages, the smell of the paper, the ink on paper, wafted into her nostrils in great waves. It drew her back. Back to the sunny front room of her family's home in Aspley. The sun falling on the pages of the book of fairy stories her grandparents had given her for her sixth birthday. She lay on her belly, propped up on her elbows on the green and black mattress of the stacked beds in her mother's sewing room. She was utterly engrossed by the tales of witches, evil stepmothers, princesses, princes, cats, wolves, frogs, soldiers, giants, pigs, bears, genies, elves, dwarves and birds of many varieties.
Since learning to read she had devoured books. She completely lost herself in the worlds they created. Even when there were no pictures to accompany the words she could see the imaginary worlds in her mind's eye. The faces of the characters, the houses they resided in, the cities they inhabited.
At six years of age, of course the concept of princes and princesses was alluring. She asked her mother how you became a princess. Her mother told her you had to have blue blood. She pressed her fingertips against the veins in her arms and swore the rivers that flowed below the skin were blue, but whenever she grazed her knee in the yard or the doctor took blood it was always, disappointingly, a deep crimson colour. Not blue at all. She had not been born to be a princess.
As she grew older she learned more about fairy stories. Their origins as warnings to children about the dangers of nature, of predatory adults, of greed, sin, pride and such. She learned the stories she grew up with were sanitised, censored, made palatable for consumption before bed without driving small children to nightmares, though originally they were intended to strike fear to the very heart of children to keep them close to home and out of danger. The darkness that inhabited the original fairy stories was muted to a dark grey, instead of a deep, deep black. Gruesome endings became happy. Good conquered evil, always.
As she grew older she grew to prefer the darkness of the original stories. There was more reality in the original stories, though they were often heartbreaking. The darkness of the stories drew her in much more than the saccharine, over-bright palate of the stories she read as a child.
She wanted less and less to be saved by a handsome prince, and more and more to save herself. Or be an intelligent woman and avoid any of the traps that befell those princesses in the first place.
She grew up to learn the reality of princes and princesses was one of decisions made for them by others. Everything was strategy and allegiances; not love. For all the romantic stories she grew up on, history told her those were just stories. The realities were about diplomacy, alliances, war, peace, and cold, hard cash. Most princes and princesses were puppets without the free will to choose their love, to choose their lovers.
And yet, the myth of the perfect, all-encompassing love continued to endure in her mind. It pervaded everything, blinding her to the realities of this imperfect world she inhabited. A world that shared more in common with the original brutal fairy tales of the Grimm Brothers and their compatriots. A world not easily drawn into the whims of a ceaseless romantic who truly should have outgrown this fantasy world well before now.
And yet. And yet she grasped onto this ideal with white knuckles.
She built a castle around herself. She secured the moat, drew up the drawbridge, surrounded herself with soldiers to keep this ideal safe away from the bruising realities of life. Perched on a mountain top, she surveyed the lands around and wondered from which direction this one true love would emerge. She gazed across the lands around her, wondering when it would emerge. She waited. And waited.
And still, somehow, the cynicism that drew her away from dreams of princes and princesses and fortunes and kingdoms and all of that pomp and circumstance didn't seem to dim her belief in something she had still yet to see or to have known to even be sure that it existed. Her belief in logic, in fact, in truth; that all took a back seat to her undying belief in something more when it came to love. Despite her better judgement.
She stumbled toward the edge of the forest. Broken, bewildered, disoriented. She wasn't sure quite how she got here or quite how she was going to get home. She wasn't really certain of anything, of anyone. Of herself.
As she entered the forest, the birds gathering on branches above her called to one another. An insect hum provided a white noise bass line to their melody. The snap and crack of branches underfoot as she walked further into the forest created a syncopated, faltering percussion.
As she walked by one of the redwoods, she stumbled, her bare foot catching on a fern frond curling across the forest floor. She reached for the strong, thick old trunk of the tree; grasping it to catch her fall. Though the bark of the tree scraped skin from her forearms as she embraced it to stop from falling, she held it tighter as she regained her footing, as though her life depended upon it (and maybe it did).
She turned and leaned her back against the tree’s trunk, listening to the sounds above her. She closed her eyes and let the sounds - primarily the birdsong - wash over her. She became vaguely aware of the sap from the redwood’s trunk dripping at a seemingly glacial speed onto her shoulder as she stood, mesmerised by nature.
She shook her head, brushed her wild mane of hair back from her face, opened her eyes and looked around her. Eyes lingering on the eternity of trees stretching out in front of her, then the glimpses of sky through the canopy overhead, then falling on a cluster of mushrooms at the base of the trunk of the next ancient, towering tree.
She wove her way through the forest like a somnambulist. Dazed, her eyes unfocused. She felt like she'd somehow ended up being the last person on earth. She felt isolated, yet liberated. Free from other people, the crowds, the harsh sounds of the city. Surrounded by creatures possessed with the gift of flight, of music; self-sufficient in nature, without any need of humans.
She watched as a squirrel scurried across the forest floor and ascended to a branch to hoard its findings. She watched ants moving in armies up and down the length of a tree trunk, carrying morsels from the undergrowth into a knot in the wood. She envied them the simplicity of their lives. The ordered way in which the ants collaborated and cooperated. The home the squirrel had made overhead.
As she walked, she stooped from time to time to gather up some of the larger fallen branches until her arms were full. She moved toward a nearby clearing and carefully arranged the branches on the ground. She gathered more branches, not really thinking closely about what she was doing, just following some sort of instinct; a calming instruction sent directly from her mind to her limbs. She moved back and forth between the trees; selecting, collecting, depositing, nesting.
After a time the branches took on a form; a circular, welcoming shape that drew her in, made her feel more calm, more settled. At home. She continued adding to her construction, not thinking, just doing. Like the ants, but alone. The placement of the branches methodical, precise, yet appearing haphazard. The curve of the branches raised on one side and lower on the other; like some sort of pottery dish moulded by an amateur not yet skilled in the art of ceramics.
She paused as she approached her construction. Surveying it to assess whether it needed anything further, or was it complete? A gentle smile touched her lips as she decided it would do perfectly.
Her bare feet raw and stinging from walking back and forth across the forest floor; across twigs and branches and the odd soft cluster of fallen leaves and scattered fern fronds. Her shoulders and back warm with a satisfying ache from bending, lifting and carrying. She stepped into the circle of branches, bent her knees and gently placed her arse, thighs and lower back against the curve of the side of her construction, and leaning to one side, moulded her spine along the wall of the nest. Her hair tumbled over her face, obscuring her vision as she closed her eyes and the sound of the birdsong seemed to lift in her ears. She wrapped her arms around herself, embracing her aching body.
As she lay there in the forest, the thick smells from the undergrowth seeped into her nostrils. The smell of the wood, the soil, the musty smell of the mushrooms growing nearby. In her ears the continuing call and answer of the birds overhead, the hum of insects echoing across the space.
As she curled into herself further, one sentence gently circled in her mind: I am home.
"So when the glitt'ring Queen of Night,
with black Eclipse is shadow'd o'er,
the Globe that Swells with Sullen Pride,
her Dazzling Beams to hide;
does but a little time abide,
and then each Ray is brighter than before."
'so when the glitt'ring queen of night' from
'the yorkshire-feast song' - henry purcell
They walked together in the cold dusk air in silence. Holding hands, gazing up at the clouds moving across the sky. The clouds transforming, breaking apart and reforming, moulded by the wind before their eyes. The blue hour came and went as they walked along the beach; a layer of sand clinging to their damp feet, the excess falling from their toes as they walked. The clouds, at first plump and white before sunset, became thin and wispy and moved at the whim of the salty night air. As the sky darkened and the sun disappeared below the horizon the clouds became less and less distinct from the sky. But as the moon rose in the sky and the clouds moved between them and it, the moon’s glow picked out the frayed edges of the clouds. They watched as the shapes of the clouds morphed, reminding each of them of one thing then another.
As they moved through the club, the music so loud they felt it in their bellies, the lights moved through their cycle of colours. Pink, red and yellow, then green, violet and blue. The strobe pulsed with the bass. Lighting up the dancefloor like a camera flash; capturing still moments while dancers moved in time with the music. She led him by the hand as they walked through the crowded club. They made a bee-line toward the dancefloor sticky with spilt drinks and humid from the sweat of so many bodies in such a small space. The smoke machine by the DJ's booth belched out coconut-scented smoke, masking the odour of so many sweaty bodies and the scent of sex. They danced for a while; favourite songs pouring out of the speakers. Their bodies in rhythm with each other from so many nights spent together on dancefloors around town. When they'd had enough they collapsed into each other on a stained and worn velour couch that's original colour was now hard to discern even when the house lights went up at 5 am. They sank blissfully into the couch and each other's arms.
They sat on the sand, the headlights from his car providing light for them to see each other by. Rugged up in coats and blankets, mittens and beanies, they curled up close to draw heat from each other. They couldn't light a fire on the beach, so they shivered in the spotlight of the low beams, watching the fog drift in from the sea and their warm breath billow against the cold night air. They giggled together as they attempted to blow smoke rings into the sky. The car radio, picking up the only station nearby, played a mixture of golden oldies, and love songs and dedications. They pressed their faces, blushed pink from the cold, together in an attempt to bring feeling back to flesh. Their warm breath mingled and rose into the cold night air as though from one person. They lay back to stare up at the cloudless sky and the stars overhead as the classic hits continued to pour from the tinny speakers in the car’s dashboard.
Their clothes were strewn behind them, discarded on the sand like breadcrumbs in fairytales, as they ran through the rain toward the waves. The beach was deserted this time of night, especially in this inclement weather. There was no one around to see their antics or their naked bodies as they ran into the water. The water still warm from the heat of the sun earlier in the day, but cooling on their skin. They waded together and splashed each other with the salty, foamy water as they moved into the shallows. As they sauntered further in they savoured the lapping tide moving against their bodies and the rain falling on their bare skin. The water now up to their waists, they clasped hands again and moved out until the water was almost up to their shoulders. They leaned their heads back in the water, lifting their feet off the seabed, floating with eyes up toward the sky. After allowing their bodies to float for a while, they swam together, heads under the water. They rolled over in the water from time to time and opened their eyes to look up at the night sky through the waves. Watching the ripples of moonlight and the lights along the boardwalk refracting through the water's surface. Marvelling at the patterns and shapes of light drifting through the water. Lost together in the beauty of the moment and submerged in their muted underwater world.
I watched you as you talked. My eyes read your lips as you spoke, though I could hear every word. When you paused my eyes rested on yours; watched your eyelashes as you blinked and squinted in the sunlight. In the longer pauses, I let my eyes leave your face and follow your gaze out to sea.
We'd found a quiet spot above the rocks by the water, nestled away from joggers, dog-walkers and cyclists. The sandy patch where we sat was too small for strangers to feel comfortable joining us. Couples peered down from the path from time to time but moved on to find their own secluded space along the waterfront when they saw us.
We hadn't sought out somewhere private, isolated. We happened upon this spot, and from the path above noticed some interesting rocks. Gun-metal grey pebbles worn smooth by the high tide. The sun-bleached bones of a bird. The latter drew us down here for a closer look. After balancing on rocks inspecting the skeleton we gravitated to the sandy patch of earth behind to continue our conversation.
It was one of those slow, lazy, relaxed conversations old friends have. The ones that nestle on comfortable silences. The kind that comes easy, flows smoothly but drifts off into natural silences from time to time. This is how we talked most times we caught up. Especially on long summer days when we didn't have to be anywhere in particular. Though from time to time we'd meet at a bar and talk over each other in excited bursts. Especially when we hadn't caught up in a while and there was a lot to tell.
On a day like today where we both found ourselves on a break from work, we would meander along the coastline. Enjoying the sea breezes. Seeking out creatures, living or dead, amongst the rocks. And talking like this.
But today felt different. From the first moment we met and hugged, as we did each time we met. Something unspoken seemed to be between us and this time it didn't feel like it was only from me. As soon as I thought that, though, I brushed the thought aside. Wrote it off as my imagination. An overactive mind. Dismissed it completely. Or so I thought.
Then, as we sat by the water talking about everything and nothing, skimming grey pebbles across the soft, low waves, the feeling came back. As the sun became stronger at the peak of the afternoon we felt lazier and both lay down. Our knees bent, our forearms resting across our eyes to shield them from the sun. Without thinking, we'd ended up laying down side-by-side. But that was never a big deal before so, again, I brushed the thought aside. We were comfortable together. And it made conversation easier as the sound of the waves grew louder in our ears.
But then, laying next to you, a little more relaxed from our time in the sun and the sneaky pint of cider I'd had over lunch, every movement felt magnified. More significant. As we spoke about memories from years ago, your hand gently slapped my thigh as you broke into peals of laughter. As your palm connected with my skin, it felt like a jolt of electricity. I tried not to flinch or show any outward sign of how it made me feel. But the feeling coursed through my body to other places, out of my control. I laughed with you, distracted. I wondered if you'd noticed. But then a plane flying overhead changed the course of our conversation. And the moment passed.
As we talked, I snuck furtive, sidelong glances at you. Trying to figure out if my senses were right or if it is was the sun addling my thoughts. You continued to talk to me as you always did. And again I brushed aside the sense that anything was different. I listened to the sound of your voice; so familiar, calming, warm.
The tone of your voice leapt as you remembered a night we'd gone out together many years ago. Your voice was full of laughter as you rolled over onto one elbow to face me; to observe my expression as you reminded me of it. I removed my right forearm from one eye to watch your animated face as you spoke, whilst still shielding my gaze from the sun's harsh light.
Before I had time to think, my left hand sought out yours resting on the sand next to me. My hand curved around yours. Clasping it gently, but at the same time conveying everything I was feeling. I pulled my right arm away from both eyes now, gazing straight into your eyes. I held my breath for what seemed like an eternity.
It started slowly at first. Shoes, of course, were a given. Socks were par for the course, though she always ensured they were as close to the original pairing as possible. Being the same colour and style wasn't enough. They needed to be of a pretty exact equal length, equally worn. At least bought at the same time, even if it wasn't possible to ensure they were a 100% matching pair from those bought.
She rarely owned matching knicker sets. Apart from the few sets of His Pants for Her pastel no-underwire bras and panties she had in early high school. Most days she could only match her blacks and her whites when it came to her bra and knickers.
So she settled for matching her tops, knickers and socks instead, where she could. If she wore a red top, you could be certain her underpants and socks were also red. If she wore a blue, black or white top, her socks and jocks would match. If she couldn't match them, she at least tried to work with complementary colours. In those days, her wardrobe consisted of blue denim and corduroy jeans, black trousers, black skirts (often worn over the trousers), a scuffed-up pair of 8-up Docs, and a navy blue pair of scuffed-up Converse One Stars. Variety in terms of colours was restricted to her tops, underpants and socks.
The colour-matching of socks, jocks and tops became a bit of an obsession. Sort of like a lucky charm wrapped around her to get her through the day; keep her safe. And it stretched on for many years until finally, she settled on a favourite skirt style and her mother offered to make her skirts for work based on that.
Standing in the fabric store with her mother she picked out various shades of blues and purples, and a burgundy. Her mother matched the material with lining and disappeared into her sewing room to make the skirts for her. Voila! A full week's worth of skirts and a variety of tops to match with them. At that point, her colour coordination obsession really started to amp up. She still had plain black or white shirts. But now whenever she went looking for more tops for work she would ensure they complemented the selection of colours from her collection of skirts.
Pretty soon she had her top and skirt combos down pat. A bit of switching between tops depending on the weather, the season, or her mood, but she had a colour-driven uniform. Her opaque tights and her shoes were still black, but from neck to knee she wore one colour, sometimes just one tone.
When she wore dresses they were vibrant and colourful vintage dresses or pastel 'granny' dresses found in charity shops. In the warm Melbourne summers she rarely wore tights, but in winter she would pair dresses with black opaque tights.
Until she discovered a treasure trove of vibrant and colourful opaque tights in a local mall and fell in love. By this point, the arse had literally fallen out of her last pair of secondhand men's Levi 501s. That gave her the perfect excuse to buy a pair of opaque tights in every colour (except yellow or orange, because ugh!) She even managed to overlook the misspelling of the brand of tights as 'Tention'.
In high school and college, she favoured black and white film for her photography. She found colour distracting from form and composition, and felt her colour work was always weaker. More likely to be 'record' shots than anything creative. In the moment, all she could see would be the colours. But when she got the prints back, all she would see was the bad composition and lacklustre images. Her wardrobe had always been pretty colourful, but that sense of colour hadn't managed to translate into her photography.
Now she started visualising photographic ideas with colour as the starting point. Her self-portraits and portraits were often inspired by an outfit or a setting, and without fail, that usually came with a particular colour. The colour of the material; the colour of the interior of a space; the colours of the landscape. She learnt to work with the colours first so they were integral to the image, but didn't distract from it. Remembering the colour theory she'd studied at college, she could now create a palette for a shoot before raising the viewfinder to her eye or setting up her tripod.
By the end of her self-portrait project, she'd fallen in love with green with red, green with pink, and pink with red. And blue with orange, blue with pink, and blue with red. And blue and green, though others told her they should never be seen without a colour in between (for what it’s worth, the sky and trees beg to differ).
As soon as she thought about a new-old dress she'd bought at a charity shop she could think of exactly where she wanted to set her next self-portrait. The ideas would bleed into her mind in full colour.
And then she moved back to London. And rediscovered Hush Puppies. And fell in love with colour even more than she already had been. Her work days were head-to-toe colour. Solid blues, reds or purples. Vibrant colour combinations. Or a single eye-catching accent colour to brighten up a black dress and shoes.
That obsessive colour-coordination may also have seeped into her home with linen matched to wallpaper, paint or photographs hung on the walls.
She surrounds herself with colour.
Another restless night. She doesn't know any other sort of sleep. She doesn't always wake from sleep during the night, but often the act of sleeping is more tiring than not sleeping.
Her dreams are, by turns: disturbing, hilarious, heartbreaking, nostalgic, violent, melancholy, full of love, full of anger and frustration, sad, arousing. Sometimes they are all that at once. They are always vivid and full of passion, whatever the overarching sense is.
Sometimes she wishes she didn’t feel things so intensely, even in sleep. But when friends or family tell her they don't dream — or at least they don't remember their dreams — it makes her feel sad for them. She would never want to stop dreaming, or to stop remembering most of her dreams. Despite all the ways her body physically ties in knots during the night. Despite all the ways her mind mangles itself as her eyes flicker under their lids in the dark. She would never will that other world away; want it gone.
The tension in her muscles. The ache in her bones. The tangle of nerves under her pale skin as her body physically responds to what is happening in her dream (or is the storyline in her dream dictated by the sensations in her resting body as it recovers from the previous day, week, months?)
She feels the emotional and mental sensations of her dreams through her body as she sleeps and wonders that it remains mostly prone while she’s unconscious. She wonders that she doesn't wake up physically entangled by her bedsheets, imprisoned in them, given the way her mind and heart often feel when she wakes from dreams in tears or in anger, her throat dry and hoarse as though she’s been screaming or yelling in reality as well her imagination.
From time to time she’s awoken by her own voice, albeit trapped in the back of her throat. She wakes to uncontrollable tears. To shaking; to breathlessness or ragged breathing; to unutterable fear and a racing heart. That one time she woke to laughter, her own, opening her eyes to find her partner staring at her through the morning light, incredulous at the sight of someone laughing in her sleep.
She dreams of sleepy, but impassioned, entanglements as her body lies beside another. So vivid that when she wakes to find them breathing deeply, sleeping soundly, she’s startled it was just a dream. The pleasurable ache between her legs lingers for long moments after waking, making her question everything around her.
Most nights her body temperature rises. She sleeps lightly clothed, aware that too much material close to her skin will cause her to overheat. Will cause her to wake in the night, her hair a damp mass encircling her neck, strangling her.
Other nights she shivers, feverishly, though the night be mild. Conscious of the need to add layers, she nevertheless dreads uncurling herself and unwrapping herself from her bedclothes to venture into the fresh night air to find more clothing. She curls into herself, knees drawn up to belly, elbows and wrists aligned, cupped hands clasped together and nestled between neck and pillow.
She dreams of houses she's lived in and those she can only dream of living in. She revisits houses she's never physically stepped foot in, but that she remembers from other dreams. Houses of many rooms, and many corridors twisting and turning. Lavish in parts; derelict in others. She makes her home in them or moves from them. Oftentimes they unexpectedly fall apart, become derelict, or she simply finds herself evicted.
For months before and after travel she dreams of planes and missed flights; of being far from home; of uprooting her life yet again to other shores.
She dreams of family long gone as though they weren't. Those dreams are often the hardest, as it's like saying goodbye all over again as she wakes.
She learned years ago that if you force yourself to wake from a bad dream to escape it, you need to fully wake, rouse yourself completely from the dream, or you will fall back into the same dream. But if you are woken prematurely from a beautiful, pleasurable dream, you can never just fall back into it, no matter how you let your mind run over the memory of the dream as you fall back into slumber.
Her mind is a tapestry to be woven then picked apart. An embroidery to be carefully created with fine needlework only to be tattered with sharp blades. It creates its own reality, then breaks it up into a million pieces. All within a matter of hours. Every night.
As children, we spent regular weekend visits climbing the trees by North Pine River. I didn't know the name of the river then, and it didn't really matter. My brothers and I were more interested in the trees and the pine cones that fell from them. We would throw fallen pine cones at each other as we ran around the sprawling thick roots of the trees by the house. Roots so thick and sprawling that young children could hide between them. Nestle into the dirt between the roots as though nestling between the craggy, spindly fingers of an ageing giant. Which they kind of were.
My childhood memories are full of trees like the ones by our great-uncles' homestead.
The ones on the front perimeter of the Headmaster's house where our uncle lived in Jimboomba. We climbed them and collected fallen pine cones from them as well.
The paperbark tree on the front lawn of our grandparents' house on Northbourne Avenue. An end-point of my infinity-symbol-like cycle circuit as I listened to Madonna's 'True Blue' album on repeat (the other end-point being their Hill's Hoist).
The mulberry tree on our front lawn in Aspley. I regularly raided it for ripe fruit, causing my mother to sternly caution me 'Don't. Touch. Anything!' as I walked into the house, my hands and mouth stained a dark purple.
The beautiful, white-flowered frangipani tree on the footpath near our home in Darwin. Another tree I climbed; another sanctuary. Though briefly a possible threat to our home when Cyclone Gretel swept through town.
The visits to the homestead in Petrie were ones we kids enjoyed, though I never ventured into the house. The closest I remember being able to get to the interior was standing on one of the entry staircases, a few steps behind my parents. The stairs led up the exterior of the house which stood on stilts. I remember Dad talking with Jack and Bob, and the piles and piles of newspapers they hoarded in the house and on the verandah.
To a girl of five or six, the house smelled of old men and stale cigarette smoke. It was intriguing and mysterious, but seemingly out of bounds. I'm still not sure if we were kept out of the house because of my parents' concerns about us seeing the state of the place. Or if it was because of my great-uncles' discomfort with young children visiting. Or because my parents considered it unsafe for us to venture into an old rickety Queenslander overwhelmed by the hoardings of two war veterans.
So we played outside together while the adults talked. Our great-uncles ventured down to the lawn sometimes. Other times they stayed up on the verandah, and my dad and uncle would climb up to catch them up on family news.
I didn't know or understand then why my great-uncles lived the way they did. I knew Bob was deaf and had been 'in the wars'. Not just figuratively speaking. I remember hearing the words 'shell shock', but not understanding what that meant until many years later.
I spent a lot of my childhood loitering around ancestors' homes without going inside; especially when it came to my great-uncles. Visits to another great-uncle's home involved us kids sitting in the back of our rust-coloured Honda Accord while my parents talked with them at the gate at the end of the drive.
My childhood memories are littered with visions of adults squinting at each other in the sun. The lines on their faces etched into their skin by hours of this interaction. My parents, uncle and grandmother standing with other family elders. Each shielding their eyes from the glare of the Queensland sun as they caught up on each other's lives. It was nothing to do with our great-uncles' lack of etiquette or hospitality or their pleasure (or displeasure) in seeing our family. It was just how it was; some with reasons explained to us children many years later, some not.
One day we visited the old homestead in Petrie to find the house was a blackened and charred shell. One of my strongest memories is of the bathtub fallen through to the ground below. A stray cigarette not fully extinguished, a house littered with piles of old newspapers: textbook conditions for a house fire. It was shocking to see, but thankfully Bob and Jack were unharmed by the blaze.
As were the trees we circled around and around as children and which still stand to this day.
As children, they crossed the overpass every day. They congregated near the 'tin tabernacle' as each of them arrived. They swung their schoolbags, pulled up their white knee-high socks, and lingered as long as they could by the entrance to the overpass.
They talked about antics in the schoolyard the previous day. They gossiped about the boys they liked and the girls they didn't. They compared their bruises and blisters from swinging and twirling on the monkey bars the day before.
Sarah would always have some sweets to share, but she doled them out like party favours to each girl in turn. You knew whether you were Sarah's 'favourite' today by the order in which you received your chocolate drop or musk stick. Or if you got stuck with a black jelly-baby. No one else liked the liquorice-flavoured jelly-babies, but she did. So she didn't mind if she was last in line for sweets from time to time.
They didn't have to catch the train to school. In truth, they didn't actually have to pass the station at all to get there. But they detoured by the station to watch the trains pass by, thinking of where it might take them away from here. They thought the men and women in their suits were so sophisticated and stylish. They wondered at what they might find at the other end of the line, in the city. A destination that seemed so magical and far away from their suburban homes.
They stood on tiptoe trying to see the train as it pulled in to the station and then pulled away. The shorter girls warped the plastic sides of their lunchboxes as they stood on them to see. The steel barriers were set so high they could barely see the train until it was almost gone.
They talked non-stop about how different their lives would be if they lived in the city. How much more exciting and glamorous their lives would be then. Because, of course, one day they would live in the city. One day they would meet nice boys, get married, and be swept away from the dull part of town in which they now lived. But not the boys from their school. None of them were nice. Well, except that one boy.
They skipped across the overpass, realising they'd lingered and chattered too long. They had mere minutes before the school bell would ring out across the train tracks to tell them they were late again. Their teachers would give them stern looks, knowing they'd dawdled, not been attentive. Too distracted by other things to arrive on time and avoid disruption to the class, again. Their skipping accelerated to a run as they imagined the stern words they'd hear as they found their seats in class.
As she stood at the end of the overpass, her mind ran over those memories. In her mind's eye she watched the girls laugh and wave their arms as they ran down the other side of the overpass. Girls full of hopeful dreams of moving on. Girls too caught up in the small things to mind too much about the big things. Yet always wanting the big things. Not the small-mindedness of the neighbourhood they'd grown up in.
The laughter of a group of children approaching brought her back to the moment. She realised her mind had wandered. Waiting for the train, she'd let her mind slip back into the past, not for the first time, and no doubt not for the last.
She caught sight of her reflection in the convex mirror at the end of the overpass, in front of the 'tin tabernacle'. Once again the sight was a little unnerving. She was still becoming accustomed to the change of tone in her hair as she'd let the last of the dye grow out. As her hair colour faded from red to brown then to a light silver, she found herself fascinated by its new colour when she caught sight of it in mirrors. She knew it was her reflected in the mirrored surface, but it seemed like someone else altogether.
Her mind brought back into the moment by her reflection, her ear caught the sound of the bells at the level crossing announcing the arrival of the train from the city. She straightened her sweater; ran a hand through her hair to smooth it. She walked along the overpass. She was still not tall enough to see the train over the barrier as it pulled in. Nevertheless, she raised herself onto tiptoes in the attempt before walking along the overpass to wait for passengers to alight at the end of their journey from the city.
every morning and every night she stood in front of the mirror practising her poker face. hoping one day she might master the art of hiding her true feelings when she most needed to. she stared deep into her own eyes, willing herself to lose all expression; keep her eyes fixed upon her own eyes; let no betraying tic or flicker of lashes reveal what she was really feeling inside. what she really thought. of herself. of them. of this whole situation.
just when she thought she might have finally managed it. managed to hide everything away, even from herself, the mask would slip. just a little. a flash of anger; a glimpse of sorrow; a wave of confusion; or a flicker of frustration. it would slide across her face, like a ripple on the surface of a pool of water as a droplet disturbs it. she would flinch as she realised the mask had slipped. curse herself and her inability to keep her mask in place.
it was often the smallest thing. a slight tic in her eyelid; a soft turn-up or down of her mouth. but enough to reveal the thoughts she tried so studiously to keep close to her heart. away from prying eyes. the emotions she tried to keep out of reach of others. of herself.
as she gazed into the mirror she tried to withdraw everything back into herself. back in on itself. coil it up, bury it.
she might manage to hold the mask in place for an hour; sometimes she could only hold it for a minute. she tried to summon up complete emptiness; apathy; vacancy; a vacant stare; a distant stare; a wall between herself and her reflection.
she hoped by mastering her poker face she could shut out all feelings. get above and out of everything around her. isolate herself from them, this, even herself. she felt perhaps it would be like a higher level of freedom. a cocoon. a haven away from all of this.
she had to at least try. she returned her own gaze. she held it longer this time. she felt strong. she felt safe. she felt separate from everything. connected, but disconnected, from herself. here but somewhere else; nowhere. she felt full and empty at the same time, but pushed the feeling of fullness down until emptiness filled the space inside her.
she watched herself closely. barely able to breath. afraid that at any moment this feeling of empty tranquility would be shattered. that it would be lost. that the mask would slip again. she kept time listening to her own heartbeat in her ears. it was regular and slow, loud; she felt it pulsing beneath her skin. the pulse was reassuring, soothing, calming. she focussed on her heartbeat. focussed on her breathing. focussed on her eyes gazing back at her from the mirror. tried not to let the mask slip. tried to let it all fall away except the mask.
she watched the mask as she breathed, as her heart beat in her ears. she watched the stillness of the mask. the blank, smooth surface. for a moment she imagined it slipping, but she drove the thought from her mind and it stayed in place. or did it? was she absolutely sure it hadn't slipped? her heartbeat quickened, her breath caught ever so slightly, she tried to withdraw back into the emptiness to slow her heart, steady her breathing. but it was too late. the mask had definitely slipped. her poker face had dropped away in an instant. again. despite all her attempts to keep it in place.
she watched as it crumbled; melted; melded; mutated. it all slipped away, out of her hands, out of her control. her face went ashen; her mouth betrayed her with the tremble of a lip. she watched as the mask slid from her face, to the floor again. she couldn't look herself in the eye any longer. she shook, she gasped, she tried not to sob.
she didn't know if she could pick up the mask again, but she had to try. she had to bring it back up to cover up all she felt inside. they couldn't know, they couldn't see. she had to try again. and again. and again. until she got it right. until she had perfected it. her poker face. the wall between her and the rest of the world. the safe cushioned surface to protect her from them, you, us. but mostly from herself.
Feeling optimistic about what this year has to offer, and wanting something to help drive my creativity, at least initially, I've decided to give it a go.
I can't guarantee I'll finish the project — I'm allowing for the possibility it might not fit into my lifestyle/timetable and/or won't suit my creative needs — or, that if I do finish the project, it will be completed over 100 consecutive days. However, I'm willing to at least commit to potentially completing 100 days of creativity based on the below guidelines, albeit those guidelines being quite ambitious and my intentions possibly a little foolhardy!
The project I've set for myself is based on an idea I had for last year's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), the title of which is 'Postcards from another's life: a one woman collaboration'.
- Take a new photograph OR edit a photograph I've not previously edited and published OR re-edit a photograph I've previously edited and published in a completely new way.
- Write 750 words inspired by that photograph. The writing can be fiction, prose, autobiographical, stream of conscious, poetry. It may or may not be edited beyond a first draft depending on time constraints, but it needs to be written from scratch on the day of the project.
- All photographs will be cropped square if the original was not taken in square format.
- Photographs can be black & white or colour. No restrictions on subject matter, the date the photo was taken, or the camera it was taken with. Though for the sake of image quality I'm likely to stick to photographs taken with a dSLR, rather than my iPhone.
- Where possible, the photograph and writing are to be published to my Instagram account on the day of editing and writing.
- All posts will be included on my blog here as and when I have time to add them, date-stamped per the date and time they were published to Instagram.
One of my new year's resolutions is coming along well so far: work fewer hours in my day job.
Aside from being ill yesterday, the two days I've worked so far this year I've stuck to the required number of working hours (or thereabouts).
So, to celebrate I revisited a self-portrait taken on this day 11 years ago and gave it a fresh edit for Throwback Thursday.
One of the many times my string of bathrooms became a studio for my self-portraiture (as well as providing a cool respite from sweltering Australian summers).
So, it's been another year since my last blog post. This seems to be becoming a habit. I'd make a bunch of promises about updating more regularly, but let's just see how things go in 2018. As my sales colleagues would say, 'under-promise and over-deliver'. Maybe if I make no promises I can exceed all expectations?
This year has been another step back up and toward the track, but with far too much emphasis on my day job to the detriment of my photography. With recruitment happening currently to split my role, I'm aiming to take back control of my working hours and work-life balance in 2018 so I can focus more on my photography and my own life, and less on the aims and goals of the company I work for.
With so many hours consumed by my day job, it feels like I didn't achieve much with my photography or do much generally this year, but I did take an awful lot of photos with my iPhone, posting 511 photos to Instagram. And despite feeling like I didn't get much editing done, especially in the last few months of the year, I did manage to work through quite a lot of photos from my travels in 2012.
I turned 40 in April, which felt quite surreal. Well... it still feels quite surreal. I'm completely at peace with my age - a stark contrast to 10 years ago when I was on the cusp of 30 and suffering from anxiety and depression, diagnosed with anhedonia - but there's a large part of me that feels about 23, not 40. It's probably not helped by the fact I work in a junior role during the day; I don't own a home, have any kids or a significant other; my finances are a mess; and people regularly mistake me for being late 20s or, at most, 30.
2017 marked the first time in over 12 years that I've not taken any 'proper' self-portraits. You know, the kind that involve my dSLR, potentially a tripod, and more than five minutes of premeditation. While in a way that feels kind of sad and disappointing, in some ways it's been a relief not to be in front of my own lens for a bit. I'm sure 2018 will bring more self-portraiture, but sometimes it's good to look outward, not inward all the time (or maybe it's just another side effect of being a workaholic...)
Speaking of self-portraiture, I finally had a chance to catch Paranoid, the television series some of my images were licensed for, thanks to my friend, Aer. The range of images licensed was pretty broad, so I wasn't sure whether I would see my work as wall art in the homes or offices of the characters, or what, if anything, might be used. So I was more than a little amused to find a selection of my self-portraiture appear in the hands of major characters as evidence toward the end of the series!
Amongst the many days I spent gallery-hopping with friends this year - seeing more exhibitions than films for once - Phil and I managed to get out and about in May to explore part of London with our pinhole cameras.
My Flickr friend, kegangd, gifted me with one of his homemade pinhole cameras which arrived just before my birthday. The negative size is 6x9, so the lab I took the films to could process the film but not scan them correctly, so Phil will be scanning them for me in the new year so I can finally share them in the proper format. The above is a quick edit of one of the cropped scans from the lab.
This year brought more changes on a personal and professional level: Kyle moved out in May and my current flatmate moved in at the end of June; and our company moved offices in June from London Bridge to a co-working office right by St Dunstan in the East church garden.
With Hornsey Gas Holder No. 3 being dismantled in late February and invisible above ground by the end of March, my attention was drawn even closer to home, with my local kit of pigeons drawing my eye and my iPhone lens throughout the year.
This year included a fleeting visit to Manchester for work, but the highlight of my travels was spending a week travelling up and down the country with Mum and Dad during their visit in June and July. We visited some places I'd been to before, and a number of places I hadn't.
I was pleased to have my parents visit me and to spend the time with them during their stay, though it was a stark reminder that while I don't feel 40, time is marching on. It was quickly evident my Dad's itinerary was a little over ambitious for them in the time allotted, but we managed to see quite a lot and cover a lot of ground even then.
I'm looking forward to being able to spend time with Mum and Dad again in 2018 on their home turf. I'll finally have the chance to visit them at their home in Tasmania in March, where they moved just after my last visit to Australia in December 2012/January 2013.
The visit will also give me the chance to catch up with my Uncle John and his partner for the first time since 2013; and visit friends and family in Melbourne - many I've not seen 'in the flesh' since leaving Melbourne in September 2009.
Conveniently, a number of my friends from Brisbane have moved south, so I feel less guilty restricting my time in Australia to just Melbourne and Tasmania.
I'm also looking forward to being a bridesmaid for the first time! It's more than a little daunting and a little bit of a logistical nightmare, but I'll be one of three bridesmaids for Erin and Nick's wedding near Christchurch, New Zealand, in March. It will be wonderful to see them both so many years after they left London and to be there for their special day. It'll also give me a chance to pop into Wellington to see some old and new friends.
While this year feels like it passed in a heartbeat, it has mostly been a good one, spent with good friends, and I'm hopeful for 2018. I just need to re-channel the energy and commitment I had this year for my day job toward my photography.
However you're spending the turn of this year into the next, I hope 2018 holds good things for you.
Another year has passed. And what have we learned?
2016 was a better year for me personally than 2015 (that wouldn't have been hard), but it didn't always feel like a good year for the world in general.
I wrote in my last post (I know, a year between posts is ridiculous... sorry!) that 2015 was my year of living uncertainly. So many things were hanging in the balance during 2015, and the general feel of the year was quite negative. This year had a more positive feel, though it still felt a little like treading water at times.
Moving forward felt slow last year, as so many moving parts were dependent upon each other. This year brought various chapters to a close.
In May, I moved for the third time in three years. For ten months after our break-up, Kyle and I had remained roommates. When we moved, I finally had my own space again, albeit with Kyle now filling the role of housemate. Many friends expressed concerns about this decision. For now it is working, as we (mostly) know about and can deal with each others’ quirks, and for the most part we live completely separate lives. Sometimes it almost feels like living alone, which is a good thing for me.
In August I was effectively made redundant from my day job, though that specific word was never used. The decision was quite out of the blue but I was happy enough to move on as I felt ready for the next opportunity. During my last week, The Sundays’ lyrics, ‘it’s the little souvenir of a terrible year’, were my recurring earworm. It felt like the last remnants of 2015 falling away. Like shedding the last layers of the chrysalis so I could finally see my way clear. It felt like closure.
In the meantime, my dSLR didn’t get a heavy workout in 2016, but there were ample opportunities for me to point it at myself and at other subjects.
In April I finally had the chance to catch up with Aer after close to ten years, visiting her in Manchester. It didn’t turn out to be the best timing for her due to unexpected work and family complications, but we had a good catch-up.
Aer encouraged me to shoot in her three-storey house while she went off to work. This included the cold, creepy basement where I took the self-portrait above. I think it was the only ‘proper’ self-portrait shoot I did during 2016.
I think it was my first visit to Manchester since 2000. My stay also gave me a chance to revisit the city, wandering its streets and the John Rylands Library with my camera.
In June I finally made good on a long-postponed trip to Kent and East Sussex with Phil Ivens, with Kyle tagging along. At least once a year Phil stays at a B&B in East Sussex, using that as a base to visit Dungeness and other places in the area. For at least five summers I had been hoping to visit, but timing and money always seemed to be an issue.
This year I committed to the break. I enjoyed tramping over the shingle to explore the derelict boats and fishermen’s shacks, despite the horrendous sunburn I got in the process. It was also nice to finally visit Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage. The only real dampener to the holiday was finding out the results of the Brexit referendum on our second last day.
Other travels during the year included:
- a day trip to Camberley to visit my friend, Floriana, though I didn’t take any photos;
- a day trip to Oxford with Stuart;
- an overnight visit to Birmingham for a night out with the girls, though I only took photos with my iPhone; and
- a day trip to Margate, Botany Bay and Broadstairs in Kent with Chris and Paulina.
I posted various iPhone photos from the day trips to Oxford and Kent, and my weeks in Manchester and East Sussex and Kent, to my Instagram account. I hope to post more photos from those travels here later this year. Thank you to all those who made my travels possible and wandered with me this year.
When not traipsing around the country, I made a point of capturing familiar haunts and new locales in this city I love, even if only with my iPhone. You can find many of these images on my Instagram account as well.
I also licensed a selection of my images to a television series that ran a couple of months ago on ITV. I'm not sure how many images, if any, actually made it onto the screen as set dressing. I'll let you know if they did once I've had a chance to watch the series!
In October my Mum had a health scare and it was hard to be so far away from family during that time. Thankfully open-heart surgery seems to have resolved the issue. I’m looking forward to catching up with her and Dad in June/July 2017 when they visit the UK and Ireland.
Unfortunately it was curtains for my favourite neighbourhood gasometer, Hornsey Gas Holder No. 1, which was finally dismantled in August. Above-ground work started in earnest as I was finishing up at my job, so I was able to capture workers dismantling it section by section. Hornsey Gas Holder No. 3 appears to have survived 2016, but I don’t believe it will still be in place by this time next year. I’ve since redirected my obsession toward other gasometers around town. Most recently those at Gas Holder Park along the Regent Canal in King’s Cross; and the listed gas holders by The Oval cricket ground in Kennington.
Other lowlights of the year included:
- regaining the rest of the weight I’d lost in 2010-2012 plus some;
- having far less alcohol-free days than I’d intended; and
- watching BBC coverage of the US presidential election into the wee hours of the morning.
At least I can reverse the first, and improve on the second in 2017. Unfortunately there isn’t much I can do to change the third. I’m more than a little trepidatious about how 2017 will unfold due to the outcome of that election and the Brexit referendum.
But there were quite a few highlights.
For instance, I love my new home. My blue-walled bedroom is my sanctuary. It has a quaint white mantelpiece, space for a king size bed and my workstation, and more than enough room to swing a cat (if you’re into that sort of thing). There's a proper lounge room with comfy couches and Netflix, and my prints hanging on the walls. I’m also more than a little pleased with the blue-tiled bathroom. No doubt others would call it kitsch, but I love it. Here’s hoping this stays my home for a few years.
I wrote more this year. I got into the habit of writing 750 words most days in the latter part of the year, albeit usually journal-type prose as a form of mental clearing. It's a habit I need to get back into from tomorrow. I also managed to write over 12,000 words for NaNoWriMo. Though I didn’t complete the 50,000 word challenge in November, I will come back to my novel soon.
Friends have been good to me again this year, even though I’m notorious for hiding away in my ‘bubble’, valuing my alone time.
So, all in all, 2016 didn’t completely suck for me, though it wasn’t my best year on record.
There were plenty of sad things happening in the world around me. This includes the deaths of musicians, writers and actors I’d grown up with and enjoyed the work of. This year felt particularly bad on that score, as many have pointed out. But I guess I have to brace myself for the possibility every coming year will strike a blow as hard as this one. It's just a fact that many of my favourites are getting to that age.
Speaking of age, 2017 marks another milestone birthday for me, which feels more than a little surreal. I had a brief glimmer of hope that I might visit Australia for a few weeks in April to mark the occasion. Unfortunately it’s looking unlikely given my current finances. I’m hoping to apply for British citizenship sometime in the coming year. I will also need to buy a new computer soon as, to quote Apple support, my laptop is ‘vintage’ now. It's definitely showing its age. So it’s looking like Melbourne and Tasmania will have to wait until 2018.
In some ways I feel I’ve gone backward with my photography since then, but sometimes other things have to come first. My intention for 2017 is to regain the focus and energy I had in 2007 and 2008. To get back to the things I love about photography.
I’m feeling positive about 2017. It feels like a reawakening, and well past time to get back in the saddle. My long-time new year’s resolution comes back around: make this year count.
If you’re reading this, I hope your 2017 is all you hope for, and thanks for stopping by.
So, once again, it's that time: the closing of one year, the eve of the beginning of another.
And, to be honest, it couldn't come soon enough. For me, 2015 was most certainly 'the year of living uncertainly'.
Though there were options for me to continue my day job where I was at the end of 2014, I felt it was time for the next adventure, and really needed some time out to not only work out exactly what that would be, but to breathe, as the last year of that job really took its toll on me.
In the end, despite not really being able to afford it, I took about two months out from employment, during which time I tried to give myself space to just be for a bit, as well as looking at jobs, and working on photos.
After probably the longest interview process I'd ever undergone, and ultimately three and a half months of being unemployed, I landed a permanent job. I think only my third ever. So things were looking up...
Then 2015 turned into a bit of a shit storm:
- Myriad stresses over Kyle's visa application to stay with me in the UK as my unmarried partner when his youth mobility visa ran out;
- Kyle and I subsequently ending up breaking up after all of that stress (not just because of the visa stress);
- 'Teething problems' at work;
- Not knowing if I'd have to find a new place to live on top of all that;
- A medical condition that's been quite quiet the past five years or more came back with a vengeance in the last month, a timely reminder that I need to look after myself better; and simultaneously
- The stress of applying for indefinite leave to remain in the UK, after being here for the past five years.
In the midst of all that, Kyle was having his own year of uncertainty, trying to decide whether to try to stay in the UK or go back to Australia. Then once the decision was made, going through his own 'dance' with his employer and the immigration authorities, resulting in him taking a much-needed break in Australia for Christmas and New Year's Eve in order to obtain a visa to return to the UK with sponsorship from his employer.
There were some good things in 2015, I know there were, but it's kind of hard to think of them through all of the other stuff this year. These good things kept me going: good friends, new friends, and my photography (though I didn't take or edit anywhere near enough photos this year for my liking).
And I made it to the end of the year to finish on a high note, being granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK on 29 December. So I can feel, once again, that I'm home.
Hopefully 2016 will prove to be less tumultuous than 2015, and even 2014 (when we moved home twice), though a potential move is still on the horizon for the new year.
Despite all of the above, I'm feeling positive for the new year, just a little exhausted. I promise my next update will be more upbeat and focussed on my photography, not feeling sorry for myself. It will be a new year, after all.
I'm also pleased to finally (officially) unveil the new version of my website. It does look awfully like the old version, but you should find it much easier to navigate, and you'll find my work at lusciously large sizes when you click on images to view them in 'lightbox' mode.
I'm still bringing across older blog posts, as unfortunately I'm unable to do that automagically from my old host (and will also, unfortunately, not be able to bring across your lovely comments), but otherwise the site is ready.
I haven't set up my store yet, so if there's anything particular you'd like to see available, please do let me know.
So, rather than an obligatory self-portrait, I close 2015 with an image of my beloved Hornsey gas holders, the one constant for me in 2015, and something of an obsession (if you follow me on Instagram you'll know what I mean). They have also experienced a year of uncertainty, as they were scheduled to be dismantled in summer, but as with all development plans, things have (thankfully) been running behind, allowing me more time to savour them and photograph them. Unfortunately their time is fast running out though, as 'demolition in progress' signs went up early in December, the land around is being cleared, and I fear it will be less than a month before they disappear from my local skyline.
So long, 2015. Don't let the door hit your arse on the way out...