I’m working hard on my new exhibition ‘The One I Love’ which explores the relationship people with long term invisible conditions have with their pets.
Where : Free Space Project, Kentish Town Health Centre, 2 Bartholomew Road NW5 2BX
When : October 23rd – December 14th
Private View : October 23rd at 6.30pm to 8.30pm
Hope to see you there !
Back in 2013 I did an online photography course with Vivienne McMaster. Vivienne’s work encourages her participants to “discover tools that will help you to cultivate a relationship of self-compassion both through the camera and in your every day life” (her words from the website), the premise being that self portraiture can help us look at ourselves with love and lessen the hold of self-criticism. It can be a radical act to show up in front of the lens and direct that gaze, that multi-facted honest gaze towards our most bullying critic – us. We can feel the earth shift when we direct a look of love towards ourselves instead.
A year before this I began using photography as a way to deal with living with chronic illness. After feeling trapped in my body I felt an enormous sense of relief capturing what was happening to me on camera. I was both the photographer and the subject and that allowed me to explore my feelings in depth without having them overwhelm me. The camera was a tool for both investigation and validating my experience. I began my self-portrait journey wanting to record the truth and the last thing I wanted was to ‘play nice’ for the camera. As I continued my work with Vivienne I learnt how to enjoy being in front of the lens. I found out that I was a worthy a subject as anyone I had turned my camera towards.
A few years have gone by and I’m still adapting to a life I did not choose, still looking for my own story in the midst of change. The past 6 months have been very tough and I’ve got puffy and swollen in my face. This shouldn’t matter, but it does. In an attempt to self-validate I forgot one thing – the constant passing of time. When I look at the photos above, all taken and processed on my phone, posing, pouting and beaming – I can also see someone trying hard to pretty herself for the lens. Looking at these pictures something is missing. Where is my body ? It’s no coincidence that I live with an invisible illness. I’ve managed to hide myself from myself.
Looking again I can see that even the most processed of them are a part of my story. Some days I let my vulnerability show, others I shine with joy and then there are the times when I feel the only choice I have is to ‘say cheese’, hold my gaze and face the world.
Photograph – Copyright Dan Wesker 2010
What a Dog Sees
in a puddle of water
is not just his reflection
but the barks of other dogs
their yelps falling
in new rain
splashing a dance
in pre-breakfast air
other paws muddy with joy
then tilts his wet nose
some have bad people in them
they do not feed his brothers
and steal the wag
from happy tails
what a dog sees
are the circles
by those on two legs
lack of courage
over cooked meals
so much water
and the memory of almost drowning
in his puppy paws
head cocked his ears
a net to capture
all this human chatter
and wonders what this world
with all this talking
Poem – Copyright Naomi Woddis 2010
A week ago my solid, kind and adored therapist finally retired. I’m still numb from the ending of what has become one of my most important relationships to date. Every therapeutic relationship is different and ours evolved in to something far away from text books and theories and in to something imaginative, philosophical, supportive and ultimately saved my life more than once. A few weeks before our final session we were talking about photography. I mentioned the work of Khalik Allah, whom I had only just discovered. I broke down in tears recalling the images of these New Yorkers – tough, broken and on the edge of survival. What struck me most is their vibrance. Yes, there’s suffering here, addiction and poverty but there’s also tenacity. That the photographs are in colour, deep saturated flourishing colour, spoke to me about the vitality of the human spirit. And that’s why I wept.
‘All photography captures life’ I said ‘Even if it’s no longer there, it’s the evidence that it has been. From the sky at night to a lamp on a table, to the people in the photographs, it’s all about life. And because it’s all about life it means that it’s about beauty.’ I thought about the photographic projects I’ve assigned myself since becoming ill – from taking pictures of the small and mundane, snapping the shutter at the same subject matter over days or weeks to my most recent project ‘The View From Here’ (taken entirely from my bed during this recent crash). ‘Even nothing is beautiful’ I said.
My therapist smiled and repeated ‘Nothing is beautiful’ and in that moment we acknowledged both meanings inherent in this statement. The way I had originally meant it – even nothing is beautiful – and also remembering the despair I had taken to many session where I would arrive joyless and sad believing that there was no beauty in myself, or the world that I had access to. Nothing is beautiful, not this moment or any moment to come. But now my wish is that by stumbling on these words I can find moments, however short, where both the hope and hopelessness can live side by side. And that there will always be colour even in the most brutal of times.
I decided it was time to interview some photographers and find out what drives them to take pictures, Supriya Sunneva Kolandavelu, who brings to her work such a fresh and generous eye, talks about her own photographic journey.
What or who got you in to taking photographs and did you ever study it ?
My wonderful friend Craig Thomas, who is himself a self taught photographer, is a big inspiration for me. I borrowed a camera from a friend and later met up with Craig after getting Skype counselling on how to work with a camera. Craig was fast and eager to get me on track. He shared with me his wisdom about photography as well as taking me on several ‘at home with Craig and on the road’ workshops where he taught me what he could get into my stubborn mind. From there I was able to practice photography on a professional level. I have always had the eye but perhaps lacked the instrument to practice it until the last two years.
What sparks your imagination and inspires you ?
I think influences are all around me. I do believe that not only do I detect happiness through my own happy heart, but also evoke situations around me in which mirror my present mode, being happy. The same goes for sadness. When I feel sad and uncomfortable, I will in the same way provoke situations around me, so that I can have the space to express that feeling. I think that in order to express sadness, and relate in that way to other people’s sadness, I have to allow the sadness to take me over. If I want to provoke happiness, I will have to provoke it within myself first.