How To Photograph Places That Do Not Exist

A Sense of Place. A walk I did 40 years ago. When I walk I cannot work out how one place links to the next. In my head I have photos of each place, my friend Louisa listens to my descriptions and works out each image, then links it to where we need to walk to. But, how easy is that when the photos are 40 years old and the landscape has changed? As a child I roamed the woods near home freely and navigated the lakes and could follow the paths to the stables. Until recently I could not go back, for my childhood was abusive and traumatic and returning to this landscape was too painful. I went back 2 years ago to photograph my childhood homes, the park, the woods, the school. It was very difficult but something shifted. Staring at the school, I attracted a worried teacher who reported me to the head, who came to ask me why I was watching the children. This man and I emailed and his kindness surprised me. That is all it takes to open a new doorway. He understood a traumatised woman, he may have seen many traumatised children. Today Louisa, my oldest friend whom I adore, walked through the woods with me. I wanted to re-trace old paths and find the stables that no longer exist. I felt as if my memory was an eight year olds as I described each bit of finding the stables, the path, the house hidden in the woods, the stream to cross, the track up the hill. It was a fun adventure. It all looks different now but as I described each picture in my head she worked out my route. She said we were the Famous Five (only two women in their 50s), it was an adventure. I’m fascinated by my postcards - this is the feeling of my memories - postcards to myself. When I go in Louisa’s house I pester to look through her photo albums and want to hear the stories. After my childhood of terror I met Louisa and she had this big Manchester Italian family and I had never witnessed familial love before like this. It went on to shape my life, her dad told me to learn Italian; I did. I wanted to belong somewhere. Something happened to one of her sisters that I have always carried. It shapes my work and under pins my new project deeply. When covid permits I want to travel through Louisa’s Italy with her and record it, capture her family story of immigration, find some joy and explore visual memory. To photograph things from the past that no longer exist, to show that immigration always impacts a sense of place and self. 

Do You Believe Domestic Abuse is a Crime?

“I AM…” New Photography Project Launch with SafeLives whose new patron is the Duchess of Cornwall.

So many people think that domestic abuse is not a crime, or that it is only physical violence. So let’s begin by defining it.

1. Physical abuse.

2. Sexual abuse.

3. Psychological or emotional abuse.

4. Financial or material abuse.

5. Modern slavery, Honour based crime and FGM

During Covid DA has become an EPIDEMIC.

We define domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer. It is very common. In the vast majority of cases it is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men. It does happen to men too though, same sex couples and trans people.Through photography we can explore new ways of being that allow creative expression. Working with an artist is an opportunity to say something beautiful, impactful, and inspiring. We can work together to provoke new thinking and engage people in a different conversation. Each week I will tell you about the topics we have been debating during lockdown, introduce you to the team and ask you to join in. Reach in, lean in, dive in!If you wish to know more drop me a message. 

My Steeplechase Approach to Work and The Lockdown

This photo is my story, how I approach life and work with energy and positive power! No jump is too high, gallop is my preferred pace. When I had my horse it was me, not her, who quivered with excitement as the fast track appeared and I would be consumed with the urge to fly. Addicted to letting go and trusting my Arab mare. I had to stop riding after she died because I could ride - but not fall off. Many suggested I borrow their horses and plod. I knew that the slow life was not possible. After my shoulder operation I was told to ride after 12 weeks. 11 weeks and 5 days later I hopped on for a walk. Bill Hamilton found me cantering over a field. In the weeks that followed a couple of physios on the yard had to bollock me. Thus, practising self acceptance (this is in my nature) I have not ridden since last summer when someone lent me a polo pony and a huge field to play on! 

Slowing down during the lockdown has been rather good so far. My father-in-law had such a public coronavirus death and the media were all over my house and phone for a few days. They were very polite, so I’m not going to complain. Darrell was the second death from the virus and now people are sadly merely a number each day. After loosing my dad at Christmas I let Olivia Fisher read my cards and she warned me of burn out. It took a national crisis to make me get up late in the mornings. My day begins with cappuccino and then yoga. Some days I can even sit to meditate. Going on a walk in the sun has become the highlight of my day, or a bike ride alone.

Like all of the creatives I know I have no work and no income now. Usually that would be alarming for a freelancer. There is so little I can do about it so letting go is now easier for me. I’m still on schedule for the book on transgender portraits and I think my team can cope with distance working. The publisher and designer are brilliant, why not trust a gifted man?

I’m not due to start shooting the domestic violence work until the summer. So  many women will be harmed in this lockdown. This issue will gain momentum and I feel that my research in domestic abuse is vital. I cannot photograph the women, I have more time to build a reflective practice. 

I’m working remotely with a human rights charity RAPAR. Asylum seekers and the homeless have no security or resources in a lockdown. I have an archive of powerful images to help them promote their work. Rhetta the CEO is a neighbour who I met on my neighbourhood social group. Here is a link to their work in The Guardian from Monday.

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