You may remember my first ‘Where’s the Brexit?’ photo (below) which I had exhibited as part of the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition 2019. I was also fortunate enough to sell it. All that experience and the continuing Brexit chaos has encouraged the creation of a follow up photo.

The first photo was all about the chaos and argument caused by political in-fighting both within the main political UK parties and throughout Parliament. The figures on the left represent the short term thinking and disagreement that has dogged the leaving process. I attributed the name of the Greek Goddess of strife and discord, Eris, to the daubed paintwork. However, I remained hopeful of a positive outcome – hence the blue sky in the top right corner.

Now, time has moved on. The Conservatives have a new leader who has brought a bullying, direct approach to the process. Central to this approach has been the proroguing of Parliament. Now, a month ago most of us had no idea what this meant. We soon found out though, as parliament was suspended for five weeks, just at a crucial time for Brexit debate in the House of Commons.

I had discovered the location for my photo a couple of weeks ago. Its chaos, and inaccessible exits immediately put me in mind of the Brexit process again. I like the idea that the empty seats could also represent the House of Commons. The seats in that institution are also green, and here in the photo are empty, decrepit and overgrown by weeds. Enough said! If you look really carefully you may find the Eris has left her mark again. There’s still a little hopeful blue sky. Ever the optimist. I can’t imagine that this process will be completed very soon, maybe there will be an opportunity for a third photo?

I would love to hear what you think as I am considering entering it for an exhibition soon. Please post your comments below. Thanks.

Finally, we made it to London to see this year’s fabulously diverse Summer Exhibition. This year it has been coordinated by Jock McFadyen, a Scottish painter of monumental urban landscapes – with life comment for good measure. Jock’s intention was to create an exhibition that reflected contemporary themes and boy has he achieved this.

We travelled up on the Friday and made it over to Piccadilly Saturday afternoon. Having experienced the overwhelming vastness of the Summer Exhibition last year, this year we were much more paced. However, the initial, excited focus was all about finding where my photograph, ‘Where’s the Brexit’ was hanging. A quick read of the catalogue revealed it was in Gallery III, but it was only after we passed through the circular first gallery we realised that this was the main gallery. Yep, my photo is in the main gallery that was curated by Jock McFadyen!

Where’s the Brexit

Of course this makes perfect sense. It’s an urban image with a social commentary about the state of the country. Something that was reflected by the art chosen for this gallery. If this is the first time you have seen it, consider for a moment what you see and what the message about Brexit maybe. You can read what this is and how the photograph was created here

The next task was to create some photos to mark the occasion. First up were images of the artist with his creation and some of his support/cheerleading team! Actually, one of the self portraits (not shown here) will be the ‘after’ photo to represent my sense of self now, several years after my life changing event. (You’ll be able to read more about my ‘Who Am I Now?’ project – WAIN to its friends – very soon in the Project section of this website)

The Artist and his work
The artist’s support/cheerleading team

After all that excitement we carried on around the exhibition. Each room has a different theme, some dealing with environmental issues, others imagined versions of our world. There is always something in the Summer Exhibition for everyone. Perhaps, this is the year you should go? It’s only £16 entrance fee and there over 1000 pieces of art. Some of it you will hate. Some of it you will love. Much of it may be in between and not fully engage you. That’s the joy of art, something for everyone, and in this exhibition you get to discover more about your own tastes. You could even end up buying some art, much of it is for sale. But if you fancy owning mine, the original is sold. However, I am doing a short print run of 25 if you would like a print. Just use the Contact page to let me know.

This whole experience has been a huge surprise and a joy. From the inspirational visit last year, through the creation and submission processes, to the delivery of the art (see below). All of this has been capped by seeing the work in the Royal Academy and getting to see it again next month when Dinah and I come with my kids. Inspiring the next generation, hopefully!

Delivery not hitching!

Elysium have recently opened their fabulous new gallery in Swansea High Street. This Tardis like space currently holds the best of their Espy Photography Award 2019 and ‘Reflections on Identity following Brain Injury’ – an exhibition I have been intimately involved with.

The Exhibition opened last Friday and runs until 22nd June. Not only is there some fabulous and moving photography, there’s also a great bar. It’s a win win. Don’t miss out!

Jon, with his fabulous reflection photo

‘Reflections on Identity following Brain Injury’ is the gallery’s community space, known as YOURSPACE. This is how they explain the purpose of the space, “This is the first exhibition of our YOURSPACE series of activities. YOURSPACE (in partnership with local community groups) will be a dedicated gallery for showing work, learning new skills and social development. With the support of elysium gallery, this space will be led by the Swansea community. Aimed at community groups who create artwork as a developmental resource, the space will be an outlet for artists and groups on the fringe and champion the creative and independent sectors of Swansea. The space will become a focal point for community creative growth and a place that encourages and celebrates artistic and skills achievement.”

Dan’s opening speech

The BIS exhibition was developed from photo created during three of my photography courses with their patients over the last two years, and is project managed by Emma Brunton, a brain injury survivor. Great job Emma!

The aim of the exhibition is to make visible some of the hidden challenges people experience following brain injury. Brain Injury can affect every aspect of a person’s life and fundamentally affect their sense of identity. Survivors typically struggle with the question ‘Who am I now?’ The exhibition attempts to convey conceptually difficult psychological constructs as people experience life post brain injury. The exhibition includes representations of the self before the injury, immediately after and several years down the line. The work displayed attempts to convey people’s experiences using photographs taken by survivors following brain injury, through our use of filters, colour and sizing of photographs.

It’s an interesting, challenging exhibition that goes beyond many national and international competitions and exhibitions. Do go see it!

Huw Alden Davies’ short speech of thanks

It’s taken me way to long to get around to curating this selection of my favourite photos from last year. A sure sign of a busy year. Here they are now, some of them are simply the visual feast that I love, others have feelings or memories attached that were significant last year. I’d be interested to hear what you think.

Over the last two years I have been working freelance and my working world has become entirely a project driven world. Creative learning projects with the Arts Council Wales, Mindful Photography Courses with the Brain Injury Service and my own photography projects. Each one has followed a similar pattern and I love it.

The advantage of project work as I see it, is that you have an idea which you develop (sometimes collaborating with others). This becomes a plan and includes a broad timescale, resource needs, tasks and activities to be done by myself and others, and a final outcome.

Of course I most love the bits I am good at! The ideas come easily. If I had a pound for every project idea I have had, I could stop work now. Many never see the light of day, but they are often signposts towards other work that arrives when the world is ready.

Some projects arrive unexpectedly, but most arrive from an idea or seed sown a little while before. For example, my 2019 Photography Project: ‘Who Am I Now?’, arose as an idea from my Mindful Photography Courses. In those courses I explore notions of self with people who have experienced a significant health event. I teach them how to create photos that illustrate how they feel and they then create photos that illuminate their world.

The project was a natural development, an opportunity to work more closely with individuals who have experienced a significant health event, to create two photos – one that represents who they were before the event and one that represents who they are now. I had to develop the project as a plan in order to apply for Arts Council funding. The funding and support of the ABMU Arts in Health Team and the Elysium Gallery, Swansea will enable the final diptych photos to be exhibited at Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

I am currently at the first stage: I am contacting and meeting up with volunteer subjects. We are then sharing a hot beverage or two whilst I hear their story and then we consider how we can illustrate their experiences as two photos. The photo shoots start next month. However, I thought that I had better do they same thing myself. After all I have had a similar experience and the best learning is by doing.

The Before Photo

The first photo is the one before my health event. This occured in January 2006 and many of the key parts of my world. Creating a photo that represents who I was 13 years ago is a challenge, but this is how I did it.

I had the idea for this photo a month or so ago, when I was stuck in traffic drving to my girlfriend’s house. As I sat there in the queue, I noticed a large wood of youngish oak trees off to my right. They were the type of oaks with twisted trunks and branches. An ideal venue I thought.

The photo with this post is my pre 2006 self. Rather than explain my thinking I thought I would leave you to draw your own conclusions. However, to help bring some clarity I will say that my position in the photo is of course deliberate and the place, its feel, the light, my placement and look all contribute to the story I am telling.

I would love to know what you think and would welcome your thoughts and comments here. Thanks!

PS the #WAIN is for the project ‘Who Am I Now?’

I have just submitted this photo for the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition. The theme this year is our contemporary world and what can be more contemporary than the Brexit chaos we find ourselves in? Though what things will be like come the summer is anyone’s guess.

In creating the photo I went out for a walk with my camera, with the intention of finding a scene that could represent how I feel about Brexit. There was an old closed down pub on my route that I wandered over to have a closer look at. It’s called The Cricketers and stands facing the St Helen’s Cricket and Rugby Ground in Swansea. The pub is famous for being in shot when Garry Sobers hit 6 sixes in an over on the ground, at least one of the huge strikes sailed down the road next to the pub.

Nowadays, it is a symptom of our changing drinking habits and the impact of austerity. It’s been closed for a few months, but I was unprepared for the chaos inside that greeted me when I looked through the only ground level window not boarded up. The floors were all gone, the low winter light that poured through the upper windows lit a scene of havoc.

The main wall facing me was daubed with some art graffiti that looked like two warring penises created in blood. It reminded me of the in-fighting, personal battles and arguments of the Brexit debate. Then I noticed that if a leant back a little I could capture some of the reflected clouds in the window, hinting at the possibility of the currently hidden hope of a resolution.

The final version has had a change of artist’s name. The graffiti tag being replaced by the name Eris – the Greek goddess of strife and dischord – a fine maker of the mess we find ourselves in. I would be interested to hear what you think. Please post your comments in response to this post and have a Happy Brexit!

I hope that you are soon going to be taking a break from your busy schedule. You deserve some rest and recuperation. Don’t we all? I am going to be taking a two week break from my many projects, at least that’s what I’m promising. So, this is the last post from me till next year.

Next year I will be starting with a bang, with some very exciting project/exhibition news that might involve you (if you live in Swansea!) In the meantime have a lovely time with your loved ones and I will see you the other side of the festivities.

Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

After a two week break we were back to Mindful Photography this week. Building upon the compositional guidelines we explored last time, I introduced the seven elements of visual design that can be used to consider how a photo can be arranged.

The seven elements are: Shape, Form, Colour, Line, Pattern Texture and Space. We explored some ideas around each one and then I set this week’s task. Every student was assigned one of the seven elements with the invitation to practice using it as their mindful anchor. Not only to create photos that represented the idea, but to come back to the element when they noticed how busy their mind was or how they were striving to create a ‘good’ photo that illustrated the concept. A zen like challenge!

The two favourite photos from each student are below. Can you identify each element they were using?

I have a Mindful Photography Practice that invites you to create a set number of photos in a small space – something less than 20 metres square – in a set period of time. During the practice you turn off your review screen to encourage an attention to what you are seeing in the moment. No deleting and no review of the photos until the completion of the practice is an additional creative limitation.

I like creative limitations that encourage your attention to the moment. That’s probably no surprise to regular readers. Limitations to your practice inspire your imagination. When this is coupled with guidelines that develop your ability to truly see what is in front of you there is an inevitable consequence. Intriguing photographs.

Proof is in the pudding huh? Here are a few of my favourite creations from just such a practice last week. My creative limitations, including no deletion or review, included 20 photos in 45 minutes in a 10 metre square area. If I am honest I lost the count, immersed in the photo creation is my excuse! From those 20 I have a selection of 7 to share here. Do you like them?

 

A couple of weeks ago I visited the 250th Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts with friends. If you have never been – and I hadn’t – then this is the year to make the effort. You won’t be disappointed.

The Summer Exhibition is a unique institution. Held without interruption since 1769, The Summer Exhibition is a heady mix of art produced by established artists and amateurs. Yes, you can have your art hanging next to a Hockney or a Gormley.

Every year a member of the Royal Academy (and there are ever only 80 of them) is invited to coordinate the Exhibition. This year the fabulous Grayson Perry has done the job, and of course he has done it exactly as you would imagine; with openness, uproariousness, a great sense of the absurd and yet a respect for the great institution.

Over 20,000 works were submitted for the consideration of Grayson’s panel. Somehow they whittled this down to over 1,400 which are then exhibited over several themed rooms throughout the Royal Academy. The impression left is one of overwhelming variety, talent, colour, vibrancy, brilliance and crassness. Yes, there will be art you just don’t like or get. But I guarantee there will also be pieces that seduce, bewitch and brand themselves onto your consciousness. Unfortunately, all the ones that did the latter to me were over £40,000. It appears that I have expensive taste.

Don’t delay. You only have until the 19th August; then it will close and they will distribute the sold pieces, return those unsold and breathe. A couple of months later next year’s coordinator will be appointed and the call will go out for submissions. I for one will be keeping an eye on the appointment and the possibility of a submission. Will you?

Over the last couple of months I have been supporting ‘A Mental Picture’ an ABMU Health Board Heritage Project in Partnership with Swansea University & Swansea Museum. My role has been to provide photography guidance and support to the people who come on our tours of Cefn Coed Hospital in Swansea.

Cefn Coed Hospital building work began in 1928, utilising Unemployment Relief schemes. The hospital was opened in December 1932 by the Princess Royal (the daughter of King George V). At its peak it provided care for up to 600 patients with mental health issues and was almost self sufficient.

The hospital is due to close and its role in the Swansea Community is being curated and celebrated in an exhibition at Swansea Museum in 2019. The photography tours I have been involved in have been provided to enable interested members of the public the opportunity to create photographs that capture something of the hospital’s history and place.

My Photographs

When I have been on site and had the opportunity to create photos I have taken a particular approach. My intention has been to create a representation of a living, working building. This challenge in an empty closed building has been to integrate the passage of those exploring the site, but to throw their detail into distortion. This represents an echo of the buildings’ previous occupants, in an ethereal light.

The three photos that accompany this post represent my most successful outcomes of this intention to date. I would be interested to hear what you think.

 

 

It seems like it has been some time since we experienced a full on summer in the UK. Maybe that is just my experience, living in Wales – as the west of the UK does get more rain – or maybe it’s just age wreaking havoc with my short term memory!

However, the truth is that the weather has been fabulous for two weeks and we had a warm dry Spring. If you know anything about the UK then you will know that it will only take a couple of more weeks of this lovely sunshine and we will experiencing a drought, or at least that is how it will be reported.

In the meantime the sun shines, the average daily temperature is in the 20s and I have only needed a sheet to cover myself at night for 10 days or more. Added to that the sea is actually quite warm, warm enough for even me to go swimming twice this last week. I say ‘swimming’, bobbing about would be more accurate. But I am in and it is gorgeous.

I thought I would share a few of my favourite photos of this last two weeks as a precursor to more summer and more photography to come. I do love all this brilliant sunshine. It is great for shadows, depth, vibrancy, reflections and silhouettes. Do get out there and create. Here they are.

As I type this I am sat in a cafe drinking tea (of course) waiting for a garage to phone me back and tell me that my car’s brakes are not a problem, or more likely that certain costs are due. The waiting, any waiting, is an exercise in patience and perhaps one that in our fast paced modern life we resent. How does a mindful photographer occupy his time when he has to wait?

Fortunately, this morning the sun is shining and the sky is dazzling bolt blue. Bright low light abounds, shadows are out to play and the world appears vibrant. The garage I dropped the car at is on the edge of town, so I have wandered into the centre for a cuppa.

I like the town centre when it’s quiet and shiny. It imbues a sense of ownership when at any other hectic dreary time I want to be far away. I walked up from the garage just noticing the interplay of light, shade and colour. When something caught my eye I stopped, pulled out my glasses (the trials of using my second camera without a viewfinder) and created a photo.

I only stopped three times before reaching my destination and each photo here both represents those pauses and captures what attracts me on a bold sunlit morning. Waiting is easier with a positive way to spend my time. Using the time to take in my place and reflect it in a photo or two not only makes use of the time, in roots me in the moment and allows the morning to further brighten my day. Then I can write about it and share it with you!

I recently took part in a great mindfulness in the woods workshop with Woodland Classroom led by Lea and James Kendall. We were based in Penllergare Valley Woods in Swansea and spent 3 hours following a variety of mindful activities.

We met in the car park at the re-imagined Penllergare Woods. From there Lea encouraged us to be present with the feeling of our feet on the floor and our movement of weight through our walk to the woodland base. Here we met James and sat in a circle around an open fire, acclimatising to the world around us.

Lea and James led us through a series of mindful activities that celebrated the woods and our presence in them. I found the session invigorating and grounding, feeling refreshed and breathing deeply and well. It is easy to forget how re-balancing nature is, Mindfulness in the Woods Workshop reminded me of its power.

Lea and James will be running another Swansea based Mindfulness in the Woods workshop at Penllergare Woods 2nd June. Book early to avoid disappointment, the last one sold out!

 

This photo is for you. I had in my mind that I would try and create a photo to make you smile. So when I released the day into my bedroom and saw the dazzling blue sky an idea burst into existence.

I thought how could you not fail to smile at the sight of my sparkling white English legs, loose for the first time this year on a bracing Welsh beach? There were other factors I hoped would also help: memories of time spent at the beach, the sight of consistently sunny Swansea (joke) and of course, my smiling face.

Then if all that failed to turn up the corners, perhaps the tale of what happened directly after this photo was created would amuse you. There I was, my lovely new Fuji XT2 on a little tripod – only a foot off the sand, blithely imagining that the sea was in retreat. The shutter fired and I looked over my left shoulder to see a wave racing towards me. I dashed forward, scooped up the camera and tripod and sprung up the sloped sea wall.

Unfortunately, the angle and surface combined to make clinging there until the tide had once again retreated a trial. Watched by a mother and her two kids, who had also raced out of the way – although they were next to the steps – I slowly slid back towards the water. Inexorably I neared its pooled edge.  Visions of soggy socks and frozen toes swam past.

Then with a single bound I was free!

 

I couldn’t let this opportunity pass without sharing a Rise/Set photo I created at a mindful photography workshop a few years ago.

I had booked the space, date and time in Llanmadoc on the Gower Peninsula in late September in the hope that we would be blessed with a great sunset. The reality exceeded my expectations providing one of those sunsets where the afterglow colours remind you of the unforgetable artistry that nature can provide.

Llanmadoc Beach faces west and America so the sunset was directly behind the retreating tide. This low tide also provided the opportunities for reflections of the swooning colours in the water sitting on the smooth slick sand. I decided to create something a little different, using a tripod, a low ISO and a slow shutter speed I slowly swept the camera through the horizon and back, creating the finished blurred effect. The colours are as close to the reality as my ability, recollection and software allows. I’m sure that nature’s reality was even more spectacular.

As a footnote it is interesting to reflect how this photo has come to symbolise my work in mindful photography, being used throughout this website, my business card and course promotion material. I even have a spectacular large print framed in my lounge. It has grown to represent this adventure in mindful photography I am currently living.

The photo above was my one of my first thoughts for an image that represented a Favorite Place. It suggests that I have been out with my camera, creating photos and have now settled to review the photos whilst consuming a quality cup of tea and possibly the best Apple Cake in the world!

Firstly, you want to know about the cake, I know. It’s provided at Brynmill Coffee House, my local café. A little stop on the way home after a stroll around the park. Secondly, the photos – they follow at the bottom of this post, or a favourite few do. They’re from this morning’s practice, actually in a park in Porth – nowhere near the café. That’s artistic licence for you!

My second thought, after some reflection about what made a favourite place was a connection with mindfulness. It was the moment of creating this blog post that provided the inspiration. For whilst I do have special places that I love, and people that I love to be with that turn any place into a favourite place (you know who you are), the present moment is my favourite place of all.

If I am totally present in this moment then I am really here. Completely inhabiting my mind, body and place. I am completely immersed in the one thing that I am doing. I am aware of the sights, sounds and smells. I am tuned into the thoughts whizzing through my mind and occasionally when I notice this I remember to connect back to what I can see, or the ground under my feet.

Sometimes I am present enough to be aware of how I feel. As an English middle aged man this ability is a work in progress! But supported by my photographic practices, meditation and mindfulness practices it is developing.

This morning I went out to practice mindful photography originally with the intention of creating photos whilst I was experiencing feelings of uncertainty. However as soon as I got outside in the sharp morning air and brilliant sunshine those feelings dissolved and I was there, present with the day, my camera and my dog. Another favourite place.

After a three day visit to Barcelona with my sister I am in recovery! Overdid it a bit and my breathing is a little shabby. The trip itself was great fun (mainly – more later) and we got to see lots.

Cheap flights and Airbnb all make travel to European cities easy and accessible. We stayed in the El Ravel area about a 5 minute walk from La Rambla. The accommodation was a great find clean, comfortable and well located.

First morning we had a late breakfast, a little mooch around the big market, Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria and then met up with a local for a guided walking tour. That was a great start, got our bearings (well, I got mine, not one of Kim’s strengths!) and gave us some great ideas of where to visit, eat and drink. This was all organised through With Locals.

We then headed for a little culture at MACBA (contemporary art) to get confused. Though I do believe that the art inspired my abstract images around the building, seen below.

Later on that day we stopped for a cuppa, after walking 8 miles! I placed my camera next to me, under my coat. The nearest person was a table away, somehow he still stole it. After the shock, anger and frustration of the fruitless police reporting I resigned myself to the loss, hoping that my camera insurance covered it.

The highlights of the trip all happened on the second day. Sagrada Familia is astounding, even though it is still 8 years from completion. A ‘Wow’ escaped my lips as we first walked in. The photos here barely do it justice, taken as all these photos are on my smartphone and edited using Snapseed.

Later we walked down to the marina and sat in the warm winter sun with a comforting bottle of Cava and tapas. Nice. Later in the evening more bars and the 4 Gats (cats to you – an old haunt of Picasso) for more lovely tapas. We finished off in a cocktail bar, Dr Stravinsky’s, as suggested by our guide.

It’s a fabulous city, but keep your valuables very close.

 

I don’t know why I haven’t thought to do this before. Thanks to WordPress photo challenge for suggesting 2017 Favorites: an invitation to share a favourite or a gallery of the best of 2017. So here they are.

Start the year with a selfie

Contemplative moment

Brynmill Park looking exotic in February

Taylor busting some birthday moves

Simon and I get surreal

Calm

India’s Final Exhibition (it’s behind us)

A much needed Spring break in Turkey

What do you think?

Simply held

Just

Rain shower

Retreat

Rippled

Perfect Pwlldu

Got my eye on you

Gower sunset (Lundy on horizon)

Double twilight

December dawn

Misty Winter’s morning

Ascend is the WordPress photo challenge of the week. These word challenges resonate when I can relate them to my living practice of paying attention to the world and responding skillfully to events and challenges, rather than simply following old habitual thoughts or actions.

To ascend simply means to climb up, or to rise. It is in the latter interpretation that I find an echo of my practice. To rise or soar, to my highest potential is ultimately my intention. I chose the word intention, rather than goal because I want to indicate that this is an ongoing practice, a daily paying attention, rather than a goal to aspire to. I am not certain that there is an end point, that would be the the purpose of using it as a goal. It is more a regular tuning in to how I am living. What I am doing, the choices I am making. The way I am through each day. Living a mindful life is regularly reminding yourself that you are intending to live a mindful life!

So to soar to my highest potential is a journey of small increments. Not of steps forward and retreats back, but more of flowing with the current of life’s river, my head above the water paying attention to my travels. It is about noticing when I fight against the general flow, or cling to the banks to avoid being torn away by the way life is heading, particularly when I am uncomfortable with the direction or speed.

I am fortunate, at least I call it good fortune today, I didn’t a couple of days ago. I get reminders if I cling to hard, or try swimming against the flow. My body reminds me that I am trying too hard. My breathing condition manifests as a physical change. I literally have to slow or stop, for my limited breathing will not allow anything else. After the initial anger, and the necessary medication, the breathing usually re-balances. And in that space, where I am right now I reflect upon my choices that led to the physical change.

Each time I get a little wiser. Only a little! Each time I learn a little more about how I am and how I could be. Soaring in your life is not a one time event, those ascensions are just happenings that bring us joy and make us feel alive. They are the opposite of the crashes. Both are to be treated with the same equanimity. They both pass, and by paying attention to how we are in them, we get a little wiser and more attuned to who we are and how we are. Living a mindful live is an intention not a goal.

The Photo

The photo is simple metaphor for keeping your feet on the ground when you are looking at the heavens. It was created all in camera, using a double exposure and playing with the white balance.