Once upon a time a midlife man had an idea. He thought it was an original thought, Why not teach Mindful Photography? It wasn’t, but he did. The End. Or the beginning…..
Back in 2013 when I googled Mindful Photography, I discovered that only two other people were using the term. One to share a book of photos and relevant mindful quotes. The other to offer mindful photography walks in nature. That was it. A big opportunity, I thought.
I created a Mindful Photography email course and started creating a Mindful Photography book. Since that time I have developed and honed my concepts and ideas. Some of that has been informed by the giants who passed before me; Alfred Stieglitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Minor White, John Daido Loori and more recently David Ulrich and Guy Tal. These marvelous photographers have all influenced my development of the genre. And let’s face it in 2013 Mindful Photography didn’t really exist.
Except that photographers have been creating personal, imaginative, meaningful photos; by paying attention to what they see, what they think and what they feel since the beginning of photography. All I have done is to create an immersive, holistic approach that incorporates the skills of seeing, composition, technique and personal investigation, within Mindful Photography.
But what drove me to develop this genre? A personal midlife health crisis, which then precipitated a full blown crisis of identity.
What went wrong and then right?
In the early noughties I was a striving senior manager, with an obsession for long distance running. It wasn’t always like this. Back before Thatcher, when I was a young man, I was good at working hard, but I also didn’t take it too seriously, and did quite a lot of playing hard too. The performance culture that developed in the UK during the Thatcher years influenced the man I became. Of course, I can’t fully blame Thatcher, the drive to prove that I was good or even great also came from within, from my upbringing and the self developed critical, nagging voice.
That all said, I hold no blame for my behaviour or choices. But they led me to run, run, run; to not pay attention to the impact all the effort was having on my middle aged body. I was 43 when I completed 3 marathons in 4 months. Now maybe some bodies can do this, mine though was not so happy.
The early indications that all may not be well (tongue that looked like a map, torn calf, louder breathing) were ignored, or to be accurate did not even register that they were symptoms of my body’s struggles. In late 2005 I had 5 colds in a row, carried on training throughout. Then in early 2006, after the sixth cold virus, I was out on my lunchtime jog when, on a long steep hill, my breathing closed up.
I had to stop and sit. Every breath was an effort. Slowly, I calmed and inched my way back up the hill. I changed and went back to work. I stayed in work for 6 months, worried about impending inspection (I was a Senior Manager at a Further Education college) until during a routine investigation by a registrar nurse, my vocal chords got poked. They swelled up, my breathing got much worse and I never worked at the college again.
For the first 2 years I was in denial. I thought I would just get better if I rested. I left the college, used the lump sum to live and support the family for a while, and tried every possible approach to improve my breath and voice. Nothing worked. In fact many of my other body systems collapsed.
After some 3 years I began to stabilise, I returned to less stressful work and took up photography. It was during this undemanding job that I had my ‘Mindful Photography’ epiphany, and started working on the concept. If I am honest, I didn’t start to use my own approach to exploring my life and how I was living for a few more years. I had to live it, to fall over, get back up, do it again, a few times, before the penny began to drop.
It’s now more than 15 years since that midlife health crisis. Everything has changed. I have a very different life. A new relationship and a new way of living. I’m an artist, photographer, writer, tutor and mindful practitioner. Pretty much all aspects of my life are interdependent, holistic and support my well-being. In 2019 I had throat reconstruction to improve my breathing, and reduce the risk to life. This seems to have worked and I am looking forward to weaning off the drugs over the next year or so.
Mindful Photography wise, I have developed a lot and have now created my ultimate online course. Photography for Well-Being is open for enrolment now. If you enrol before 30th September you can get 50% of the listed price. It’s an 8 week course and you will all start on the same day – 11th October 2021. If you’re curious take a look. Got any questions? Just ask, either through the contact page or my inbox on the Online Courses page.
There will be much more information about Mindful Photography and the course during September. Keep an eye out for my FREE webinar next week! Hope to see you online soon (did I mention that the course also includes a Zoom Workshop, halfway through? It does.). More soon!