Last year’s words belong to last year’s language

Lone walker, Wye Valley

*For last year’s words belong to last year’s language, and next year’s words await another voice.

T.S. Eliot

I’ve lost my way, I really have, but I’m finding it again, and discovering that it isn’t the same way after all, but a new one. The path I’ve been on till now was never wrong or badly chosen – it was taking me where I thought I wanted to go and it ended up teaching me a lot about what I really did and didn’t want. Now I’ve changed my mind about where I want to go and how I want to get there. The path I’ve been on has become a little rocky and uneven lately and I’ve nearly turned an ankle on it more than once. Sometimes I’ve even sat down on one of its rocks and not felt much like moving again. I’ve noticed another path, a lush green grassy one, that’s been running alongside this one but is now beginning to veer off in another direction. That’s the one I’m choosing. I’m just picking my way over the rough and boggy ground that lies between me and it right now, and when I get there I’ll get going again. No doubt there will be obstacles on this one in places, too, but I like the look of where it’s headed.

For those who’re not into metaphor, let me talk to you about what’s been happening. You may have noticed that I haven’t been here for quite some time – this is the longest I’ve ever gone without writing a blog post since I started this blog. I’ve been doing much thinking and pondering. A lot has happened and I don’t know where to start or how to tell it, so I’m going to take the easy way out and bullet point it – in no particular order.  Some things are events and some things are feelings, thoughts, or things I’ve learned about myself (which I suppose are a kind of event in themselves):
• We’ve bought a house and hope to move into it in February
• I’ve decided not to continue studying photography in any formal kind of way, although I still want to learn and grow
• I want to expand on the photography classes I usually teach and do something a little different and more creative with them, which will involve finding out where the market for that lies
• This blog has become stale and tired and I want to make some big changes
• I yearn to write about a lot of other things as well as photography
• I’ve been asked to write another blog for a local magazine which will involve a lot of work for no pay but I’m going to do it anyway because it will be interesting
• I’ve realised how much I dislike writing articles about the technical aspects of photography, and although it’s my only paid work at the moment, something needs to change here
• I want to learn to make books
• I have little motivation to write, do photography, or anything else unless I can share what I do with other people and have some kind of interaction with them

Let me start with the first big change. We’ve bought a house – it’s an old Victorian townhouse with three floors (four if you count the cellar) and four big bedrooms and two reception rooms. For the first time ever, we’ll have space to spread out and expand. Space has been an issue for us since I first moved in with Geoff and we had to combine the contents of two small houses into one small house. We’ve got rid of a lot of things, cleared the clutter, done all that. The fact remains that we still have a lot of stuff that’s related to our interests and activities, which in turn add to our quality of life, and we’d both like to follow up on even more interests that will involve even more stuff.

I think this is important. There are things I’ve given up doing due to lack of space – I used to paint but I needed space to leave work in progress in situ, and space to store materials. It wasn’t the only reason I stopped, but it was a contributing factor. There are other interests I’d like to take up, but the problem of having to find room to store equipment and materials has always been enough to put them on hold – I’ve got an awful lot of things squashed into a small space as it is. Fortunately, neither photography nor writing take up huge amounts of room and that’s one reason why these have become central in my life. With this new house both of us will have more freedom and space to explore new things.

Even more importantly, we expect to gain the kind of stability that we haven’t had for over two years now. While I’ve done it all quite willingly, I do feel as if I’ve spent the last couple of years following Geoff round the country from job to job and trying to give him the kind of support he’s needed, often at the expense of fulfilling my own needs. Lately I’ve felt that I no longer know what I want or who I am. I’ve lost my identity to some extent because I feel I’ve been living Geoff’s life – or more accurately, our life as a couple – more than I have my own. I’ve lost track of what I want as a separate person – to have, achieve, give, be. With the knowledge that we’ll now be staying in the same place for an extended period of time, I’ve had room to think about all these things for the first time in ages.

One thing I’ve given a huge amount of thought to is whether or not to continue studying photography formally. In many ways this dilemma has been solved by circumstances, because I simply can’t afford to pay for another course with OCA. Oddly enough, I find this doesn’t bother me nearly as much as I thought it would. In terms of academic photography, or photography that situates itself in the conceptual art world, I think I’ve gone as far as I’m likely to go. I could say a lot more about this, and I probably will at some point, but I know that world is not for me although I’ll always have an interest in it.

This doesn’t mean I’m in any sense giving up – just searching for a different direction to move in. Looking back over my life, I see that a constant driving force for me has been to create beautiful things or in some other way add beauty to the world. (Sounds embarrassingly pretentious put like that, but it could be something as small as planting flowers or re-arranging the furniture). It’s not fashionable, this feeling, but it’s real and it’s important to me. I want to continue to take photographs and to do something with them that satisfies this urge in me. I want to find a way to avoid the saccharine pretty-prettiness this often leads to, and create something with more depth and more feeling that still celebrates the dark beauty of our world. I don’t know how I’ll do this, or even if I can, but I want to try.

Which leads to my next thing: I want to learn how to make books. Books have been a passion all my life. Not just reading them, although this is vital, but also the tangible aspects of books. I love the way they look, the feel of them in my hand, the weight, the varying textures of the covers and pages, the smell of a new book, the history of an old one. I love them whether they’re blank inside like a journal, or full of the promise of their contents. I do have a Kindle, and it’s great for when I travel, but there just isn’t anything to compare with holding a real book. Combining my passion for books with my passion for photography seems like the way to go.

I’d like to make two kinds of books: artist’s books that contain my own work and are likely to be one-off pieces, and blank books for people to buy and fill with their own creativity and thoughts. So far I haven’t been successful at finding any kind of instructional course locally, but I do have a project in hand that will force me to get started on my own, with the aid of Youtube videos. It’s going to be a little book of photographs and other bits and pieces for my landlady, Maria, who has now become a friend. After we leave, she’ll sell this house. I know she dearly loved this little cottage when she lived in it – as do we – and I want to make a memento of it for her. I’ll write more about this in due course.

I can’t write about everything I bulleted above without this post reaching (even more) epic proportions, but there is one last thing that I need to say. I feel my blog has become tired and stale and I want to make changes. Photography has been – and is – a huge part of my life but there are other things I long to write about. I’m going to do things differently, and I know I’ll lose some of you because of it and that makes me sad, but perhaps I’ll gain others. At the moment I’m not quite sure how this will all pan out, but I think I’ll probably give the blog a different name to reflect the different content. I will still be writing about photography and it will play a big part, but I’d like the blog to reflect the whole of my life and not just one part of it. There are times when photography blends into the background of my life and at these times I find it very hard to write anything. There are other times when I’m enthused about or fascinated by other things and I’d like to feel free to write about those too. It’s going against everything they tell you about blogs – to concentrate on one small niche, to make it clear what people will find there, etc – but sometimes you have to ignore the advice and do what you feel the need to do. To quote Walt Whitman, ‘I contain multitudes’ – and I’d like to write about them.

I’m going now, but I hope to be back very soon. Please forgive me for this very long and rather self-indulgent post, but since I haven’t been around for a while I wanted to explain. And although these may sound a lot like new year resolutions, it’s just coincidence that the changes are happening now. I’ve always thought that if things need changing, then you don’t need to wait till there’s a new year to do it.

Finally, and very importantly, I want to wish everyone who’s made it this far the happiest of times in 2014 – last year was a difficult year for so many people and I hope that 2014 will bring a smoother ride for all of us.

As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point in the wrong direction!

Oh I do love an Irish blessing…….