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Music in the Woods

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I have a little theory, that sometimes when things are really, really supposed to happen, they come together beautifully and in a way that meets every expectation and even exceeds your hopes.  Creative inspiration can be a tricky, fleeting and sometimes troublesome thing.  I’ve had times in my life when I’ve worried that I won’t ever feel another creative spark, and it’s a scary feeling.  As I get older though, I realise that the everyday stresses and struggles of life can inhibit our creative impulses, and that this isn’t something we should feel bad about.  Rather we should accept it, and realise that we simply have to make more of an effort to be inspired.  To take opportunities and try things, even when they don’t come easily.

The photography shoot I have shared here is an example of both something that came from a flash of creative inspiration, and something that took effort to achieve.

This is Jay, who I have known via Facebook and photography for a little over a year now, but who until this shoot, I hadn’t met in person.  She is a talented photographer and musician, and a beautiful person inside and out.  When Jay posted on Facebook that she wanted to have some photographs taken on film, with her cello, I was instantly inspired, and begun to have a sense of the mood that I could create through my photography.  This was so exciting.  Although I have worked professionally as a photographer for a number of years now, for some reason I have struggled to truly ‘see’ myself as a photographer. This was the first time that an idea for a purely creative shoot had entered my mind so freely and so happily: not a professional job; not a ‘styled shoot’ designed to showcase the work of wedding industry suppliers; just a creative experience that would hopefully result in beautiful and meaningful images.

The effort involved was in actually making it happen:  translating it from “wouldn’t it be cool if…” to actually going out there and doing it.  Not that the practical arrangements were difficult in any way.  Jay and I don’t live that far apart, and she really wanted it to happen too, so we honed the date and location pretty quickly.  But I was nervous and doubting myself, and I had so much work to do.  Taking time out to do this seemed so indulgent!

But to cut a long story short, we did make it happen, and I’m so very glad we did.  Jay is a wonderful person.  I’m so happy to have met her in person and to have had this experience with her.  This is what she has to say about her relationship with her cello:

“The cello has been a part of my life since I was barely 6 years old; many kids had an ‘invisible best friend’.  Me? I had my cello. We went everywhere, and did everything together. Heck, we even travelled the world together. After 26 years, I realised I had fallen out with what I THOUGHT my cello represented. I didn’t know who or what she was to me anymore, and I was really sad. Truthfully, I was heartbroken. I thought it was her, but it was me. Turned out, I just needed to find myself, and not be confined to the “shackles” of classical music. I needed to stop seeking validation from others, and enjoy the amazing gift I already had. It’s getting easier. Day by day. And it’s still just as cool and lovely as before.”

I’m truly thrilled with the photographs.  The whole experience of the shoot with Jay, of seeing the images unfold in front of my eyes and then seeing them appear from the negatives that I developed, was even more wonderful than I imagined.  I hoped to create a set of images that evoke many of the feelings I associate with my experience of creativity:  a varying mixture of fear and joy; introspection and openness; but ultimately a deeply personal and important refuge.

Images shot on the Contax 645 on Fuji 400H, Ilford Delta 3200 & Portra 800 film. Developed and scanned by UK Film Lab.

 

Isabelle - May 7, 2014 - 3:44 pm

Oh gosh girl you are soooo amazing! Love this shoot and all the frames in this post!!

Jay Emme - May 7, 2014 - 4:10 pm

Erica, you have no idea how many times I’ve looked at this post today (and how often I will come back to look again). You did an amazing job, and considering I get so twitchy in front of the camera, it felt so natural for a change! Your images are gorgeous, and I pretty much NEVER say that when it’s me in the photo. Thank you SO MUCH for helping our tiny idea grow into something beautiful. xx

Andrea E - May 7, 2014 - 4:31 pm

these are flipping gorgeous !

Molly Matcham - May 7, 2014 - 5:16 pm

Wonderful that you made this happen Erica, truly beautiful and very meaningful photographs. X

Luc - May 7, 2014 - 5:39 pm

Well done, this is very poetic, loved every single frame.

Belinda McCarthy - May 7, 2014 - 5:49 pm

Lovely images – I think the last one is my favourite, I love the way the winding path leads to the cello.

I spent a lot of time in this neck of the woods (literally!) as my grandmother lived on the Lickey Hills – it’s somewhere still very special to me and I love to see images of it :)

Erica - May 7, 2014 - 6:37 pm

Thanks Belinda! Isn’t it a beautiful place :-) So glad you enjoyed the photographs.

Erica - May 7, 2014 - 6:38 pm

Thank you so much Luc, I really appreciate it!

Erica - May 7, 2014 - 6:39 pm

Thanks so much Molly…it was such a wonderful experience and I’m really pleased you like the photographs xx

Erica - May 7, 2014 - 6:40 pm

Thank you everyone, your comments are so lovely and much appreciated :-)

Sonia Jansson - May 8, 2014 - 8:13 pm

This blog is a keeper!
Amazing session, Erica!

Jane Haglund - May 12, 2014 - 7:25 pm

This is lovely Erica!!

A Spring Time Stroll in Warwick

I’ve always enjoyed taking photographs, but my love for it has grown much deeper since I fell (back) in love with film photography.  My first camera as a child was film:  a fairly straightforward point and shoot bought for me by my granny.  I loved it and would be filled with anticipation as I waited to see whether the images I had in my head had translated as intended to the photographic print.  My professional photography career started around 5 years ago and has always been digital, until the past couple of years, which has seen me return to film.  This change has rekindled my love for and excitement about photography in a very strong way.

For Christmas my husband bought me a Rolleiflex TLR 2.8F…it’s a gorgeous camera and produces beautiful results.  It was the square format of the images that attracted me to this type of camera, and I have quickly grown very fond of composing square shots!  All of these were taken on a lovely stroll round Warwick with my husband and parents, after the family had met up for a belated celebration of mother’s day and my birthday the previous week.

There is so much to see in Warwick…I love the sheltered atmosphere and the mix of old and new architecture and design around the town.

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Film: TRI-X 400, dev/scan UK Film Lab

My Beacons

Deciding what to write in my very first Blog post was never going to be easy.  Contrary as it is to the concept of publishing a Blog, I am in many ways a private person.  The idea of publishing online the type of thoughts that I wouldn’t drop into conversation with strangers or even acquaintances, scares me a little.  On the other hand I love to find connections with people, and I don’t keep my thoughts to myself for any other reason than my inherent introversion and my self-doubt.  With all of that in mind, I figured I might as well start things off with a biggie.

As I get older I find that in many ways, life gets easier.  Or if not easier, certainly better.  Whilst I’m never going to be sing-from-the-rooftops-about-how-great-I-am confident, I’m definitely more self-assured than I used to be.  I’d love to take some of this self assurance back in time and give it to my 13 year old self, or my 20 year old self, or even my 25 year old self, but there’s a time and a place for everything and I guess it’s taking this long to start getting comfortable with myself for a good reason.  But despite this very definite change for the better, many things in my life are now more complicated.  I have more decisions to make, and the risks if I make the wrong decision seem greater.

My husband and I have recently made some big changes in our life.  One after the other we have left long-term and stable jobs to work for ourselves, and we’ve started and made a success of not one but two businesses together, with nothing in the way of a fall back position.  During these and other periods of decision making and change, I have really wrestled with how on earth to know if I’m making the right decision.

At the time we decided to begin these changes, I was pretty much treading water in my job.  I think I am naturally quite a drifter.   I daydream a lot and little things make me happy.  I’m pretty upbeat and although change often makes me uncomfortable, in the end I’m fairly adaptable.  Most of the time, if I really don’t like a situation but feel there’s nothing I can do about it, I’ll go into my own little world and escape it in that way.  On top of all that I’m pretty afraid of failure and I suppose I haven’t tried to do new things that I might want to do, because I don’t want to fail.  My husband on the other hand, seems to know when something is fundamentally wrong in his life, and he’s prepared to do whatever it takes to change it.  His unhappiness in his then job is ultimately what has led us to where we are today in terms of how we make our living.  Throughout the various stages of these changes, this problem of how I could know if I was making the right decision for me, has been a real struggle.  I suppose it started off as simply wanting to support my husband when we were trying to decide if we could risk investing the small amount of money we had to start a business in a field in which we had no professional experience.  He was very unhappy in his job and I completely believed he could make the business work, so of course I supported him.  This pattern pretty much continued, but until recently it was still more about supporting him and not about working out what I really wanted.  I was just hoping that things would turn out for the best, and that I would continue to be happy on a day to day basis.

One day it occurred to me that perhaps – in the continuing absence of any thunderbolt from the blue telling me what I should be doing with my life – I should think about what I might look back and regret at the end of my life.  A slightly downbeat way of looking at it I know, but I’m a big one for guilt and beating myself up if I don’t get things ‘right’, so this seemed to fit with my way of thinking.  I wanted to strip it all back and know really, when all is said and done, what would I think ‘gosh, I wish I’d…’

First of all, I needed to brush away the layers of longstanding ideas I had about myself.  I’ll talk about this more sometime, but one of these was that I should be a Writer, and that I should Write And Publish A Novel.  This has been on my ‘list’ for almost 30 years so it sounds like it’s important.  But, when I get to the end of my life, will I really be fretting if I haven’t done it?  The answer I gave myself was ‘No’.  Yes, it would be a great achievement and it might mean my name hangs around for longer than it otherwise would do.  But so what?  As a child I wrote because I utterly and thoroughly loved it, and because I was constantly inspired and had a million little ideas.  Most of those ideas weren’t really novel worthy, and I would start my latest book and then stop writing when the next idea came along.  Somewhere along the way, this starting but not finishing became ‘failure’.  Even though I loved doing it.  So actually, I’ll be kind of sad at the end of my life if I haven’t found a way to enjoy creative writing again, but I won’t be sad if I haven’t Written and Published a Novel.  And so on.  I stripped away the layers of should dos, and tried really hard to get to the crux of it all.  I was trying to make them as simple as possible, because I wanted to be able to use them as guiding principles behind many of my decisions.  (Note I say many of my decisions, not all  of them, because it could be counter-productive to tie myself to these things at all times…sometimes I think we have to go off on the odd tangent, or focus on mundane day to day tasks, appealing as the idea is of only ever doing the things we love.  Sometimes I might even have to do less of these things for a while, in order to hopefully have more of them in the long run, although that is a whole other conundrum).

So, here are the things that – at the moment – are most important to me.  I make no claim that these are earth shattering notions and I’m sure lots of people would have the same or similar thoughts, but they are the things I want to do as much of in my life as I can.  They are the things that I will use as guidance and as warning beacons, so if I appear to be on a path which is ultimately leading me away from them, I will try to change my path.

(1) Spending time (in whatever form that may take) with loved ones

(2) Being outdoors

I came up with these over 2 years ago and I’ve since used them many times when I’ve felt indecisive and lacking direction.  Sometimes they have given me reassurance, sometimes they have made me challenge what I’m thinking or doing, and over time they seem to be helping me have more faith in my own decisions.

Camera: Rolleiflex 2.8TLR, Film: Portra 800

Camera: Rolleiflex 2.8TLR, Film: Portra 800, Image Copyright Pretty Phil 2013

 

 

Dawn - May 7, 2014 - 6:39 pm

Lovely insight Erica :) enjoyed reading something so well written! You could write a novel! xxx

Sonia Jansson - May 8, 2014 - 8:29 pm

Erica, I look back, and wish very often that we had gotten to know each other better in Norfolk. I was not really in a good shape, and barely survived the workshop with my sanity intact, so maybe it’s a god thing we didn’t socialized more then. Well, what I mean to say is that I really feel we speak the same language, when it comes to look at life and what is precious in it.
Also, there is something really obvious standing out of this beautiful monolog of yours. It might come through a novel, a blog, photography or something new you might find yourself passionate about, but you will end up saying something to this world. You do have something to say, and when the right form and medium will give it voice, I am sure you will make an impact. It’s just growing and evolving. You will shortly notice what ever it is. I am sure of it.
I suspect you won’t have many regrets, when you ‘ve grown old. You are to mindful, to let that happen.

Erica - May 9, 2014 - 5:26 pm

Thank you so much Sonia and Dawn :-)