Archive for the 'creativity' Category

Don’t be co-dependent on your story.

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We all have our story.  Pages and pages of stuff we travel with.  Baggage we hold on to.   Each of us with our own piteous little pieces of our past.  Your father walked out when you were little or your boyfriend cheated on you once upon a time.  You never got that promotion you always thought you deserved or  your school marks didn’t reflect how hard you worked.  You were not chosen for the A team so gave up sport. That guy never asked you out and then dated your best friend.  He left you.  She left you.  Little traumas.  Notches in the bark of our souls that make us who we are. We are filled to the brim with them.  Overflowing with them.  You can’t get to adulthood without bags of the stuff.  We carry it around and blame our messy lives on it.

I am guilty.  A father who was indifferent to me at best and drunk a lot of the time.  A shabby english comprehensive that, were it not for the daily register, would not have noticed I was there.  My father’s job that made us move every few years resulting in no roots anywhere,  no sense of belonging, no real home.  These are just aspects of my childhood.  I would not dare to tread publicly into my teen years let alone all the diatribe that followed.  I would not dare to go on pulling out the relentless garbage of my life and laying it out and telling you ‘see….that’s why’. That’s why I can’t. That’s why I’m too scared. I couldn’t possibly because….

Here I am in my very adult years trying to lay down that heavy load of history.  The mountainous pile of the former me that I have dragged around year after year. The relentless hurt that the last few years delivered in breathtaking quantities.  I am trying, in tiny daily steps, to release any co-dependency on my past.  To believe that ‘I can’ despite a life of believing that ‘I can’t’.

It’s not easy.  We are comfortable in our co-dependency.  It’s a beautiful excuse.  It’s a beautiful excuse to stay in our sweet co-dependent state. It’s a reason to not.  A reason to not write that book or start that business or take up that sport.  It’s a reason to not be easy in that relationship.  It’s a reason to not open our hearts to all the incredible possibilities.

As safe and comfortable as this co-dependency is you are not all that has been.  It’s done. It happened but now is now. It’s not who you are in this moment.  Place all those bags of stuff gently down and move on. Let your heart gently open to all the promise and wonder of what life can offer.

You are not what happened to you.

There is so much to come.

On dishonesty….

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I had a friend who was really dishonest with me.  Decidedly and alarmingly dishonest. Monumentally dishonest.  Perhaps then I should accept that they were never a friend in the first place. There is no place for dishonesty in friendship.  Not in my world.

I will admit that when I found out I was stunned as I had always thought I was a really good judge of character.  I have always relied upon my intuition and this is the first time it had failed me.  My goodness I did not see it coming.  Not in the slightest. Despite the rather massive surprise I got by way of a phone call, I attempted to deal with it in a graceful and delicate way.  I hope a managed, but I have my doubts. Since then I have spent a rather inordinate amount of time beating myself up for not seeing the spaces in his stories.  I totally trusted him as I trusted myself.

I trusted him with my own stories and told those stories with all the soft open honesty I believe is beautiful and essential.  Honesty for me is crucial.  It’s fundamental to who I am as a person.  I don’t think we can connect as humans without good old fashioned open honesty.  I believe it is a huge part of being an evolved and conscious human.  Ultimately I think if you are not honest with others then you are not honest with yourself.  If you are not honest with yourself you are in serious trouble and best you start spending some time alone to sort out that mess.

If you google the word honesty you are more than likely to find this: ‘Honesty refers to a facet of moral character and connotes positive and virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, and straightforwardness, including straightforwardness of conduct, along with the absence of lying, cheating, theft, etc. Furthermore, honesty means being trustworthy, loyal, fair, and sincere’.

That is pretty much how I saw him.  I liked what seemed to be a straightforward way of talking.  I liked the pauses in his stories.  Those stories of his that appeared to be so full of integrity.  I listened to each and every one with an open mind and soft heart.  I liked what appeared to be a sincere interest in my own silly stores.  How could I have misjudged this one so badly!

Perhaps in a another year I might have seen things differently but this came in a year when I been monumentally disappointed in a lot of people. People I trusted.  People I loved.  Perhaps they too are disappointed in me but at least I can say that I was never, ever dishonest.

In a year of big lessons this was just another one.

He does of course have options.  He could step up and email or message me and explain.  I will not email or message back.  I am not interested in having the last word, but it would be nice to know why.  He could call but that would take courage and I now doubt that he has that.  If he had any moral fibre at all he would sit down with me and share this particular story over a cup of tea.  He would tell me why and he would say he was sorry.  I promise to be compassionate and listen with a gentle heart.

Sadly I doubt that he will ever read this.  I doubt that he has the integrity to apologise and explain.  I doubt he has the courage to face me over that cup of tea.

Why do I want him to do this?  So that I can trust that I was not so totally wrong about him.  That I did not misjudge it all so badly.  That he really is the person I thought.  So that I am not so terribly disappointed.   So that I can start to believe again.

I don’t want to be disappointed in people.  I really really want to believe that we are all good and that we all understand that we are connected.  I just want people to be nice to one another.  To be truthful with one another.  To not disappoint when not having to is an option.  We are all struggling to get from one end to the other.  Please can we just do it with kindness and honesty.

As in the words of Gandhi: Be truthful, gentle, fearless.

My friend Jungle Jim

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I find it amazing how the universe finds a way to bring people together even if they are either sides of the world.  How your vibration matches up with that of another even when you are on different continents.  The universe just decides you need to be in each others lives and it makes a plan.

I have such a friend.  We studied photography together from opposite sides of the world.  He was incredibly supportive of my work and we would compare notes and essays and eventually finished the course together delighting in our equally good results.  I loved his engaging open manner and we developed a sweet friendship that moved from just fellow students to encompass our whole lives.  It seems we had far more in common that just photography.

One day he emailed me the first few chapters of his book and one day I bravely emailed him the first few chapters of mine.  He would write each day will travelling his wet and rainy commute into London and I would write from coffee shops on warm sunny african days. Worlds apart and yet the same.  He of course is ten steps ahead of me and was near to completing his book.

Then on one of those exquisite sunny days a parcel arrived.  His book in all its glory.  I held it in my hands and ran my fingers over the cover.  In the pages between those covers I could feel every tiny atom of energy he had poured into those words.  I could feel his pride and excitement.  This was a big moment.

That weekend I was going away with a friend and as if the universe knew how to play this game the skies darkened and the rains came.  I lay in my bed listening to the drops fall heavily onto the roof above and the sounds of the lion call far away.  I took that precious book in my hands and as I turned the pages I was transported into the world of Jungle Jim.  To his adventures deep in the jungle with the rain coming in equal measure there in those pages.  I devoured it.  I was there.  I was her.  I was young and full of adventure.  How sweet that the universe made sure my world matched those on the pages.

I don’ want to give away the story.  That is for you to enjoy and I promise you will not be disappointed.  Jungle Jim is an adventure that captured my heart and imagination. Every one of those pages is filled with James King’s adventurous spirit and massively soft heart.

I am so proud of you my friend.  I loved this book.  I loved it’s energy and excitement.  I loved that it captured me so and I loved that it is so much a part of you.

James you have inspired and encouraged me.  You have listened when I needed a friend and you have entertained me with your adventures.  This book is only the beginning and I am eternally grateful to the universe for bringing you into my life.

James King’s Jungle Jim is available from http://www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=3512, Amazon and Kindle.

 

 

Practicing non attachment

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A confidence crisis is not confined to an artist.  However, anyone who practices any kind of art will at some point or another face some sort of wobble in their confidence at some point during their creative life.  Probably several actually, and if they are anything like me then they will have them on a regular basis.  They will doubt their technical knowledge.  They will wonder if their creative pool has dried up and they might even want to sell all their kit convinced their last ever piece of create work has long since been produced.

Recently whilst standing before a class of eager and expectant faces I wondered what it is that gives us confidence.  What gives me the confidence to go before people and teach despite the fact that I still have so much to learn? What gives me the confidence to write these words that may will be shunned with hefty giggles and dismissive vocabulary? How do we take confidence into our hearts and lives.

For me confidence simply comes from non attachment to the outcome.  When I first stood on my mat before my very first yoga class I had to overcome a moment of anxiety.  Could I teach? Would they like me? Would they come back?  I reminded myself that every person there that day would have a different opinion of me.  Some would like me and some would not.  Some would eagerly return for the next class and some would go on a search for another teacher who resonated more with them. I let go of the outcome.  I reminded myself that it did not matter what each of their individual opinions were and that it was more important to teach in a way that resonated fully with me.

I believe our education system has to take a great deal of the blame for the collective confidence of the human race.  Imagine, if you will, the young child who stands before her parents and siblings in full confidence singing out a tuneless nursery rhyme.  She has no attachment to the outcome and is glorious in her unadulterated joy.  Fast forward a few years and put her in front of her class where she now has to recite a poem or speak on some inane subject she has no interest in.  Now she is told very clearly there will be a rating attached to her performance.  She simply has to be attached to the outcome.  She is taught to be attached to the outcome.  Each and every day, in everything she does she is learning attachment to the outcome.  In the words of Buddha ‘the root of suffering is attachment’.  She spends twelve years in education being taught to be attached to the outcome of everything she does. She is doomed until she has spent an enormous amount of time working on herself and unlearning this very thing.

There are seven billion of us on this madly spinning planet.  Each and every one of us has a different perception and reality.  If you are creating something every single person that views that work will have a different reality of it and if you attach yourself to the outcome of each of those realities you will end up at the very root of suffering.  Create what resonates with you.  Detach yourself from the outcome.  Write the words that sit pretty on the page before you.  Take the photograph that is breathtaking in your eyes alone.  Paint on that canvas in the way that feels exquisitely beautiful to you.  Run the way that you want to run.  Move the way you want to move.  Sing the way you want to sing.  Detaching your self from the outcome allows you to do and say things that you otherwise might be reluctant to do or say. It frees you from your comfort zone and somewhere out of your comfort zone is where all the good stuff lies.

Try it for a day.  Detach yourself from the outcome of every single thing in your day and see how it feels.  Learning to detach yourself from the outcome is an incredibly liberating thing.  It frees you up to be your true self in all your magnificent glory.  It gives you incredible confidence.  It brings you back to yourself and in that place is all the joy and happiness you could ever want.

 

 

Letting go of your stuff

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Recently I had to ‘let go’ of something that was very close to my heart.  It had been in my life for a long time and loosing it was especially hard.  It took many deep breaths and quiet meditations to realise I would be OK without it.  That in reality, letting go of one thing allows space for another to come in.  It’s the letting go part that we sometimes find really really hard.

Life sometimes has a way of stripping you down.  Taking you back to the basics from where you start again.  During this process you may loose many things, or even many people but you will also find yourself.  It is a human trait to cling to stuff and people but loosing either pushes us out of our comfort zone, and it is out of our comfort zone that we truly realise what we are made of.  It’s where our creativity lies.

I want to put this into the context of art.  Lets imagine for a moment you are a photographer that loves equipment.  Has a passion for that extra stuff, reflectors and strobes, triggers and backdrops.  This is your comfort zone.  You are happy shooting your portraits surrounded by your expensive complicated gear.  Then one day your studio is broken into and all your extras are stolen.  You did however, have your camera at home with you.  Just your camera.  No tripod and trigger.  No tethering cable.  No flash.  Now the next day you have a portrait session booked.  It’s really important and you cannot cancel.  So you go back to basics.  You scramble in your mind for a location with great light.  You adjust your camera settings and start to play a bit.  You find yourself being less static without the tripod and shooting from new angles.  Stripped down you find a new seat of creativity.  You are so out of your comfort zone but that alone forces you to be creative.  The artist who finds himself with a blank canvas, a brush and three pots of paint will dig deep and get creative. He will mix those paints into every shade possible and create shadows and light out of nothing.

It’s the same with life.  Have you ever noticed those people who are hoarders.  How they are so often the same people who are stuck in their routines.  How they never move forward and expand.  They stay in the same house for most of their lives.  Shop at the same shop and eat the same food.  Hoard their stuff and die never having gone out of their diminutive comfort zone.  Then there are the people who have no fixed location and few belongings, that live from experience to experience and adventure to adventure.  Always seeking and probably always finding.

It is very easy to get stuck in our space.  Both our physical space and the space in our heads.  It feels safe and we as humans like to feel safe.  We like to feel like we can control our environment and we do this by knowing our comfort zone and staying there.  We don’t always choose to move out of our space.  Sometimes we are forced to.  Life comes along and gives a big kick and we are blasted out of our comfort zone into a new space that is unfamiliar and, to be honest, quite frightening.  We take a moment to catch our breath.  Thats okay.  Then we pick ourselves up and take a look around.  This is the point where we start to get creative.  Forced to expand we start to move forward.  Here’s the good part.  Here is where we find our creativity like the guy who looses his job and is forced to go it alone and work for himself.  When we loose something we make space for something new.  We open ourselves up to possibility.   We move out of our comfort zone and somewhere in that space we find ourselves.

When we are stripped down in life and we lose a lot all at once, this is when we have the greatest expansion.  This is when we have our greatest growth and become open to the most possibilities.  The more space we make the more ‘new’ can come in.

It is not easy.  No it is definitely not easy, but it is when we are laid bare, totally out of our comfort zone with nothing but space before us that we truly find ourselves. This is where we find ourselves being deeply creative.  Where we find the greatest expansion of our mind and our spirit.  If you never leave your comfort zone you will not grow.  In fact the opposite will happen.  If you do not let go of something there will be no space for the new.

Take a deep breath today and let go of something.  It does not have to be something physical.  It can just be an idea, a belief, something you have clung on to.  Send it away with an exhale.  Now there is space for something new and it feels so good just to have that space for a while.  Feel yourself expand as you wait for the new to arrive. When it does enjoy the growth.  It will often come in unexpected ways but it will come and you will grow.  The bigger the exhale the bigger the inhale.  The more you let go of the more space you create and the more room for growth.

Let go of something and you will come closer to finding yourself.

 

 

Moving with the universe

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We all tend to resist stuff that comes up in our lives. Human resistors to whatever the universe wants.  We are great thinkers and planners and we set out in our minds how our days will go.  How events will pan out. We make a movie in our minds of what it will all look like right down to the finest detail.  We like control.  It makes us feel safe in our place on this earth.  We like to compartmentalise and box things, putting them in order for our own emotional security.  We plan our photographic shoots.  We imagine how the weather will be.  How gently the breeze will blow, what colour the sky will be and what our final image will look like.  I have done this so many times only to find that the sky is not how I imagined.  That the wind is blowing the wrong way and I realise I have to surrender to how it is at that moment.

We resist when things do not go according to our own mind movie script.  We resist when things do not fit into the boxes we have created….but guess what…sometimes you have to go with the flow.  You have to surrender to what is and stop trying to control everything.  This resistance is what causes our stress.  You really have no idea what might happen in your life in the next hour, or day, or year.

Life is like swimming in the ocean.  If you resist the wave it knocks you over and sends you tumbling not knowing which way is up.  You are dumped on the sand trying to catch your breath and retain your dignity.  Recently in my life I have had to learn to go with the flow in many ways.  I have been tested enormously and when I have resisted what has come my way I have found myself reeling and tumbling.  A good, but small example is that I have needed to change my car.  I have driven a Land Cruiser for the last ten years but I no longer need such a big car.  I like white.  It’s my colour choice for cars.  It’s one of my boxes.  So I make arrangements with a friend who owns a dealership to trade in my big old car and get myself a new small run around.  He arrives with a car to show me and it is red!  Now this is way out of my comfort zone.  Way way out of it.  However this car has extras that I will get without any cost to me.  Big extras….but my comfort zone!!!!

Do I wait another few months for a white one so that life can fit into my box or do I go with what the universe has offered me?  Do I surrender to what is or do I resist. The universe has offered me an a beautiful car with more than I asked for but in order to benefit I have to let go of my preconceived ideas.

So I am pushing my boundaries and leaving my comfort zone, after all, life happens beyond our comfort zone.

 

 

 

 

 

The value of us

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My youngest daughter was recently doing a university assignment about the value of photographers in society. So often photography is viewed as a sort of ‘pretend’ profession. As if what we doing is just play play and we are not serious people doing serious work. Perhaps because for so many it is a hobby and they cannot comprehend that what they do in their spare time is what we do each day. That we don’t share their relentless rat race grind and actually get to spend our days doing stuff that is fun and creative and rewarding.

Lets think for a moment though. To take inspiration from Michael A Singer, we are just tiny specks on a planet that is spinning wildly through space in a vast galaxy that is just a tiny speck in an ever expanding universe so vast we cannot begin to comprehend its size. Why are we taking anything seriously?

Really, just think about that. Think about what is really happening here. People cling to the idea that they are important, that what they do is important and yet if they were to pull back and look at the bigger picture….the really big picture, the huge ever expanding universe picture, they would realize that they are not. We are made up of atoms that were around in the big bang. Some made you and some made me. We will die and those atoms will recycle and the space we left will be filled with another. You are not that important and neither am I.

In my humble opinion we should live our lives with some sort of humility. No one is that important. Loose the ego and enjoy the ride. What ever it is you do it puts food on the table and a roof over your head, but if you look at the big picture, the ever expanding universe picture, you will realize how totally insignificant it really is. I get to share in peoples moments and give them back to them in the form of memories that they can hold in their hands.   I get to have fun on my journey. I get to be creative and see the beauty in everything and that is so awesome but it is not less or more than whatever it is that the man on the other side of the café with the large ego and self important attitude does to fill his days.

Take a moment today to step back and think about this whole big picture. Make a point to let go of your ego and have fun on your journey for that is all it is. You are atoms clinging to a planet that is spinning wildly though space and so am I. It’s like a giant fairground ride so go ahead, relax and enjoy it.

Stop judging…just stop!

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I got inspiration for this post from a photography friend the other side of the world and my daughter.  On that note isn’t it amazing how technology has allowed us to connect with like minded people around the globe…but more on that another day.  So Matty and Ellen thanks for this idea  It is obviously something that is vibrating around the ether at the moment because you both posted about it at the same time from different parts of the world.

Judging others…why do we do it?  What on earth makes us think that we have the right to judge another person.  We are all guilty of it.  I have done it for sure and I have tried to make myself consciously aware of when I am doing it and stop myself.  I am prone to doing it particularly with other photographer’s work…and seriously who am I to judge another photographer?  Do I really think that I am that good that I have the right to mentally tear apart their work?  If you do something subconsciously it is one thing.  The minute you become aware that you are doing it then it is a choice. Then you get to decide if you want to do it or not.

So lets take a scenario. I see another portrait photographer’s work and I think to myself ‘his work is always the same…corny and over processed..or always the same poses and location…boring’.  Straight out judgement.  What do I know about this person?  Nothing probably.  I don’t know that perhaps he is a single dad and working crazy hours around trying to be there for his kid and earn a living.  Perhaps he has suffered astonishing heartbreak in the loss of a wife he loved deeply and for him just getting out of bed each day is the hardest thing to do.  Perhaps this is not the work that feeds his soul but it feeds his children and so he does it over and over because for him it is a formula that puts money in his bank account and food on his table.  Perhaps when he does get a moment to shoot the way he wants I would find that those photographs are the ones that would make me lean in and linger.  The point is I do not know his story and even if I did know part of his story I am sure there would be spaces left to fill.  So I will not judge him or his work.

Why someone writes the way they do, or paints the way they do is not my business and yes I can decide whether or not I like it but I have no right to judge them or their work.  We will never know someones full story and what drives them to make the choices they make or do the things they do.  If it is working for them then let it be.  They too do not know your story.  They do not know how your journey has been to get to this point.  They do not know the roads you have travelled and how you have stumbled along the way.  They do know of what feeds your soul and makes your eyes dance.  You too would not want to be judged so do not do it to others.

Let them dance their individual dance in their own way.  Let them be and hope that the world lets you be in return. Make a conscious decision this year to stop judging…if we all stop doing it that way we will all be free to be ourselves without fear.  Wouldn’t that one simple thing make the world a better place?

 

Making space in art and life

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Space is one of my favourite words.  I love all that it implies and how it relates to our lives and our art.  Do you carve out space for yourself during your day?  A few moments of silence.  It might be with your early morning cup of coffee when you take time to smell the scent of the morning breeze and all that the day has to offer.  Or perhaps when you go to the gym or for a run or maybe even just when you drive to work.  Or in the last few moments before you go to sleep when you utter the last few sighs of your day.  It does not matter how you find your space – just that you do.

In yoga we talk of making space in our bodies.  Before I go into a pose I think about where in my body I need to make space.  If I am doing a backbend I need to make space in my spine and perhaps my shoulders.  If I am doing a forward bend I might need to make space in my hips and between my ribs, and I always, always need to make space in my mind.  I carve out space for myself everyday on my mat or when I go for a run.  With each inhale and exhale I release the old, the cramped and the clutter from my mind and body and make space for the new.  Old thoughts, old patterns and old habits are let go and then there is all that beautiful space for creativity to unfold.  Space allows room for dreaming.  It is when the stirrings of new ideas begin and images already dreamt can evolve towards reality.

I like space in art.  It allows the viewer to linger and imagine.  It allows the viewer to dream.  What they dream of does not matter.  It only matters that they do.  Allow space in your photographs for a sigh from the viewer.  Space for their gaze to wander and wonder.  Make space in your stories so that the reader has room to imagine.  Space for those inhales and exhales to happen.  Even if you are shooting stock, as I do, allow space for words in your photographs.

Space, is to me, one of the most underrated of modern day concepts.  Parents and schools fill their children’s lives and give them no space to breathe.  Children need space to dream.  They need to lie under a tree and look up at all that beautiful space in the sky and imagine.  They need to be allowed to make space in their bodies with movement.   They too need spaces in their stories.

Space is not necessarily meant to be filled.  It can be just space.  Let it be that.

 

 

 

Who do you want to be?

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I ask you this. Who do you want to be? What sort of person do you aspire to be? What delightful traits do you see in others that you wish for yourself? Do you admire a person’s tenacity or their dedication to worthy causes? Or the extraordinary effort they put in to maintaining good health or perhaps just their desire to learn and grow. So what is stopping you from being all these things? You can be anything you want to be.

When it comes to being an artist I want you to question what sort of artist do you want to be. Now by this I do not mean do you want to be a landscape photographer or a sculptor. I mean how do you want to move people with your art. Do you want to merely take photographs that will be placed on a mantelpiece? Simply reminders of a moment captured with a camera and lens. Or paint a painting that is bought simply to occupy a space somewhere in a home because it matches the colour coded décor.

Would you not rather produce a piece of work that stops people in their tracks? That makes them loose their breath and linger a while. That makes them wonder what your thoughts were when your brush touched the canvas, or what sorrows your soul has suffered to be able to put words together so sweetly that they tumble off the pages and find spaces to settle in their hearts. Do you want to take portrait photographs that make the viewer pause and wonder about the life of the person they see there. Portraits that make the viewer question what it is that draws them in and what beauty they see there in those eyes.

Do you want to travel and take photographs of children in far off places who’s lives are so tragically sad they make the viewer weep at the very thought of it all? Or carve a sculpture that the makes a stranger want to reach out run their hands over it, finding every tiny crevice and think with tenderness of the passion with which you carved it.

Or perhaps you want to photograph landscapes that make people linger and dream of standing there beside you, or capture the movement of an athlete that inspires awe and envy.

Whatever it is….do not be ordinary. Seek to be the artist you want to be. Search out others to inspire you, look at their work and discover what it is that makes you lean in and then find a way to put that quality into your own art. Find a way to make your viewer lean in and linger. It is surely worth it.



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