A crumbling mansion, multi-coloured smoke bombs, many green screens and a bunch of kids dressed up as beings from other galaxies – a recipe for the brilliant film school run by Four of Swords Theatre in Devon this summer. My role was as a camera assistant, and it was like being on a real film set, filming scripted scenes, setting up lights and green screens, helping with costumes and a bit of directing. Really looking forward to seeing the final cut! The photos below were taken by the very talented Rhodri Cooper.
I was invited to be one of the official camera people at Off grid Festival in North Devon, set in the gorgeous grounds of Tapeley Park near Bideford. The festival is a celebration of alternative technology, environmental education, music, workshops, talks and food. I made eight short videos to promote the event while it was happening, recorded some talks for their website, and I will be putting together a video of highlights to promote next year's festival.
At the north end of Kootenay Lake in British Columbia, fields of nourishing organic vegetables and salad greens are lovingly planted, tended and grown, then supplied and delivered to local outlets as far as Nelson. I made a series of promotional videos to show the behind-the-scenes dedication and hard work that goes into producing such luscious crops, and I interviewed some of the satisfied businesses that feed and sell Earth Temple Gardens' produce to happy customers in the Kootenay region. I'm currently uploading these videos and a series of photographs to @earthtemplegardens Instagram page.
I made a series of twelve videos to support the campaign for the inclusion of the Argenta-Johnsons Landing face in the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy. The residents of Argenta and Johnsons Landing live on the north-east side of Kootenay Lake in BC, Canada, surrounded on three sides by the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy. The mountain face above these two communities is not included in the park, which leaves them vulnerable to the impacts of the logging which is due to start this September. There has already been one catastrophic landslide in 2012 that wiped out houses and killed four people; removing the trees from this fragile landscape will directly affect the stability of the slopes and also change the watershed, meaning that the people who reply on water for drinking, washing, hydro-power, growing food, running business and other daily water requirements will likely be affected by the landscape changes above their homes. Aside from the human impact of logging these slopes, the ecological effects will be drastic for wildlife living in these forests. This is a key wildlife corridor to the shores of Kootenay Lake, particularly for mountain ungulates like the woodland caribou who are already on the endangered species list. Is it really worth the short-term cost of timber to change the landscape and put all these lives at risk? If you think not and would like to help, visit www.willetwildernessforever.ca to find out more.
I've been away for a while... and I made lots of videos! Here's one of a community event I was asked to film in Winlaw, BC.
On the bookshelves of refined countryside admirers, you will often find a copy of The Concise British Flora, an illustrated guide to wildflowers written and illustrated by the Reverend William Keble Martin. This gentle chap was a resident of Woodbury Salterton back in the 1960s, and today's residents are getting together to celebrate his book and the beauty of the surrounding East Devon countryside. There is to be a memorial exhibition and a series of events next summer, 2019, reflecting on how the landscape has changed and how we are still inspired to go out and enjoy our natural heritage.
The book is more than just a guide – it was his life's work, a dedicated labour of love for which he travelled around the UK studying the fields and hedgerows, making incredibly detailed sketches that are artworks in themselves, and then working them up into watercolored illustrations. Due to the expense of producing coloured plates, it was several years before Keble Martin found a publisher who would agree to take it on.
There are various activities and plans in progress, including art exhibitions, workshops, talks, a website, and a series of interviews to be filmed and made into a short documentary. We have decided to call the project Woodbury Wide Awake, as it is the title of a cover of the Woodbury News that Keble Martin illustrated when he lived in the village. If you would like to find out more and perhaps take part, keep an eye out for the website coming soon.
The flower above is a trial logo I designed for the project, followed by a snap of a reconnaissance shoot at St Swithun's churchyard in Woodbury, featuring our esteemed professional interviewer – he used to work for the BBC, you know!
The Greek tragedy, Medea, is being performed this week in Beer Quarry Caves by Four of Swords Theatre. It's a viscerally intense experience as the audience is lead underground by a troupe of masked actors, into dripping, candlelit caverns where this aching tale of heartbreak and betrayal plays out in eerie darkness. I took my camera for the challenge; here are some of the highlights... Definitely recommend going to see it if you can!
The Pianodrome crowdfunding campaign is underway, with people signing up, pledging and supporting in all directions to make this extraordinary project reach its potential. There are plenty of live events, performances and open door opportunities to see the first two wedges and meet the team. To find out more and pledge your support, head to www.crowdfunder.co.uk/pianodrome. Before you go, here's another little video that I made to help spread the word.
I'm working with artist, writer and life coach Samantha Jenkins to develop her business. I initially went to photograph her paintings to make into prints and take some studio shots for her website, and when she discovered that I have a knack for making maps that help plan a course of action, as well as some web design skills and proofreading training, we put our heads together to plot a course through the vibrant jungle of her ideas! So first I'm helping to redesign her website and internet presence with photos that express her personality, using specific colours and techniques to create her particular sense of feminine energy.
Then we'll continue mapping out the course, to include podcasts, written downloads, online classes and more. This is a fantastic opportunity for me to bring together various skills and experience in one package.
I was recently given a Lens Baby, which is a moveable lens that tilts on camera to create unusual points of focus and blur. I think it works particularly well to create a sense of memory, a moment on the edge of forgetting: atmospheric, dreamlike and hazy round the edges as though viewed through the mists of time. I coloured the image to be reminiscent of Victorian photography. Thanks to my model and possible protege, who wishes to remain anonymous until she becomes famous in her own right...
If you'd like a portrait in this style or any other, please do get in touch.
I visited the studio of artist Dimitri Tsouris to document his work in progress – big, vibrant, expressive colour explosions across the canvas! The whole room was filled with electric energy as he worked on several paintings all at once, turning them upside down and working intuitively with large brushes and tiny cotton buds as the mood commanded...
Welcome to the construction of the prototype Pianodrome seating wedge, the first of five which will become a brilliantly unique interactive sculpture destined for the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. It's a 100-seater amphitheatre made entirely out of old pianos that will be a performance space, meeting place, creative hub, music venue and more. Every single part of the Pianodrome is a piece of history, dismantled and reformed – and I've been piecing together the documentation of the build process with my photos and videos, as well as writing blog posts for www.pianodrome.org.
The whole concept, process and intention of the Pianodrome is to redefine what is broken, reclaim the unwanted, see and celebrate the beauty in craftsmanship and to create from disparate parts a new unity that can be shared by everyone... It could be a mirror of societal, psychological and cultural up-cycling: dismantled, examined, selected, arranged and put back together in a new and dynamic way.
We found that not only did many of the pianos tell stories through various mementos left inside – old coins, address labels, torn up postcards – but each visitor to the Pianodrome build seemed to have a piano story of their own. Everyone is welcome to play the playable pianos, regardless of ability, and we are now open as a performance space! Already, there have been music events and open days, and throughout January, the Pianodrome will be hosting a series of life drawing workshops, dance and musical performances.
For updates, videos, blog posts and more, visit www.pianodrome.org and follow #pianodrome!
Together with a group of artists and musicians, I took part in the dissection of a piano. We went on a journey between twanging strings, rusty knobs and dusty hammers, finding mysterious keepsakes hidden inside, on our way to examine the anatomy of a piano and read the future in its guts... This is in preparation for the building of the Pianodrome – an amphitheatre made entirely out of old pianos, to be situated in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, in the summer of 2018...
I was invited to record a performance by Vivienne Tsouris, a classically trained professional ballet dancer and choreographer. Vivienne hadn't danced for ten years – which, at the age of 71, is fair enough – but recently she was moved to create a dance based on the plight of Syrian mothers originally from Palestine. The dance is an expression of the grief and pain of war, of being displaced and traumatised, twice-over refugees, separated from children, loved ones and home by armed conflict, death and geographical upheaval.
I took some stills of Vivienne and manipulated the photographs with fire and burning wire to express the agonising pain of loss after loss and the nerve-scorching dread and helplessness of being a refugee. We in the West can only try to imagine how it feels to be entangled in such horrific ongoing circumstances. Human beings do have an incredible capacity for pain in their own lives, yet the after effects continue for generations. I wish we could put our arms around all the hurting souls and make the pain go away. These pictures are in honour of the suffering and the strength of women in war zones.
The Numinous: the phrase itself is mysterious, suggesting a depth and breadth that cannot be measured in normal terms. It’s a word that commands your individual response to the experience it describes.
Contact with the Numinous: the spectacular and unforgettable experience of being in direct contact with the forces of both creation and destruction. A privately powerful experience, one that confirms mortality while at the same time pointing towards the infinite. Time is big and small at once; individual and collective exist within each other.
The word originates from the Latin for “divine presence”, numen, with the verb nuene, “to beckon”. The Divine beckons. It is also a word well suited to the sense of pure wonder that can be experienced by people of any culture, background and religious tradition. It describes an overwhelming sense of awe at an incoming power; it comes over and through us. Some numinous experiences can be terrifying, like sensing the enormity of the abyss, while others are ecstatic, as though the whole world is dripping with gold and light.
So I have been looking for it.
And I find it in landscapes. Not always, and definitely not reliably. But I keep on looking, specifically for a way to translate, interpret and record this ineffable, wordless experience. I find the Numinous most accessible when alone in a vast, open, natural space, with the scars of time shaping the ground and the eyeless sky glaring down upon me in my smallness. This faceless, unknowable power; it scares and thrills me so I want nothing else; it threatens to obliterate or offers to heal. It gives meaning and it takes it away.
I use strong contrasts of black and white to emphasize the extremes of the experience. Extreme because it’s so different to everyday waking life, like a light bursting through the dark, and also because of the potential for apparently opposite emotions to arise: fear or love, hope or despair.
So the exhibition at RAMM is a record of an ongoing journey, glimpses into moments that represent the fullness and the emptiness between the spaces that join us all together. Life, its wildness, and our beautiful, fragile planet Earth.
Thanks to: Carmen Marin, RAMM, Mark Carter, Margaret Dawkins, Calmar Framing, Sylvan La, Louise Page, and all the people whose contributions to the journey made it possible.
There is a small island called Soay off the southwest coast of Skye in the Inner Hebrides, Scotland, with a community of three. Two of those residents are my dad and his wife, Anne, and she has written a book about life on Soay, called Island on the Edge, published this year. If you would like to find out about the history of Soay and what it's like to live on a remote Scottish island, you can find out more about it here, and buy the book here. Oh look, there's even a little video about it...
I'm having an exhibition of photos, paintings and mixed media pieces at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, October 2016 until January 2017. It's called The Numinous, and is a series of journeys through wild landscapes both psychological and worldwide. I'd like you to come and see it! This is a behind-the-scenes timelapse video of me preparing for the exhibition.
As I get ready for The Numinous at RAMM, I'm listening to a marathon of TED talks: art, psychology, human nature, science – and most encouragingly, the beauty of being a misfit... What are your favourite TED talks?