Social media and social photos aid the decoding of counterintuitive, unconscious social activity, the often masked hidden meanings, motives, languages and practices that expose material relations – the essential links between personal experience and society as a whole.
C. Wright Mills (1959) – Sociological Imagination’
Karl Marx (1976) – Lifting the ‘veil’ of capitalism
Jean Baudrillard (1998) – Consumer Society
Theodor Adorno (2001) – ‘The Culture Industry’
Explicit, surface level social ranking and social hierarchy is exposed through hearts, likes and follower metrics which would otherwise remain unspoken.
Social photos are ‘identity work’ – a story told to oneself to connect to who you were, are and will become – we reminisce who we will become in the future by what we take today. We decide, perform and memorialize what is quintessentially ‘us’.
The ‘selfie’ is identity construction – the ‘constructional’ element is what people generally find a little off putting (narcissistic, exhibitionism). There is a ‘mimicking in the making of the self’ in how app’s and software reverses/mirrors the image so what is seen by the audience is unfamiliar to how the self see’s the self when constructing the selfie (logo’s and hairlines are mirrored) and elude to the ‘back stage’ privacy of the creator. The selfie shares the mirror view held when contemplating oneself and preparing for the ‘front stage’ (the sharing of the performance).
“The back stage isn’t where we are more real because we aren’t performing; instead, it is where we learn to perform. For example, we might look into a mirror and practice our smile or try out different hairstyles, clothes or make up. All this will later be passed onto the front stage, often as seemingly cool and unrehearsed… Most photographs hide the photographer, who subjectivity is usually conspicuously missing from the resulting image. The selfie undoes this photographic fourth wall, because the observer is observed – ‘You all see me, the same me, the me that I see and choose to share’ “.Jurgenson (2019) p56
We know ourselves as selves in the third person perspective of ourselves. There is no self without an audience – no authenticity to own ourselves without the mirror reflection or camera reproduction.
“I am not what I think I am and I am not what you think I am; I am what I think you think I am”Charles Horton Cooley
“self-presentation – through all visual media, including non-screen interactions, is always a kind of self-portrait, a performance of the self, a self fashioning. The self is always a selfie.”Sharrona Pearl (2016)
“(the selfie) manufactures a self to present to the world as an artisanal product.”Rob Horning, in Jurgenson 2019, p58
because of social media’s proliferation, like anything with huge exposure, it is often derided and stigmatized. Women are heavily criticised for selfies and consensual ‘sexting’ could probably been viewed by researchers as an investigation into personal exploration or a critical reflection on gender and sexual representation in mass media.
Social photos, because of the mistakes and missteps taken along the path of trying to document oneself, lead to young people fearing less about their own history in photos, less so the older generation who seem to have subjected themselves to something of a quality control mindset. Social photos might lead us to a state where ‘digital dirt’ might not be so harmful, a celebration in who we are as a state of constantly ‘becoming’ as opposed to ‘we are who we are‘ – more realistic and accepting of who we are and that everyone has photos that do not reflect us their current self. (p61).
There has been a consensus that social media is part of a simulated ‘second life’ that uproots and disembodies the authentic self in favour of digital posturing, empty interaction and addictive connection (p62). Perhaps in the future we will look back and ‘laugh’ at this early time of worrying screen time, or at least find it strange that worried and tried to control how much time is spent on our screens, we live in a time where we congratulate ourselves for not being online and anytime we logged off is something more authentic than being logged on. Thoughts, locations, photos, identity, friendships, memories, politics and pretty much everything is part of social media – the logic of the platforms seep into consciousness, their source code becomes our own code. Young people are criticized for having ‘logged on and checked out‘, trading digital friends for human friends (that we meet in person) equaling a loss of connection to the offline real world. It is considered unhealthy and time spent without the device is considered an overwhelming existential opportunity.
Such is the ‘code’ now that we am more in a way of thinking about what not to document rather than what to document – each photo not taken is an opportunity lost (in relation to the idea of gaining ‘digital capital’ ie; likes, shares and followers (my term!). The documentary impulse might pathologically snowball to:
“a disease where the tail of documentation comes to wag the dog of lived experience.”Jurgenson (2019) p65
The hoarding element of documentation is something that photographers have always struggled with – when to and when not press the shutter. Steilglitz and Arbus both gave up photography, and Cartier Bresson turned to painting. Within social media, and probably with all prolific photographers, there comes a self-governing regulation, as opposed to forgetting the offline world, as we are obsessed with the online, never before has the appreciation of nature (strolls, face to face chats, camping trips etc..) be so highly though of – we even embrace, but then document, boredom!. (p66-67).
‘Digital Dualism’ is coined to explain the idea that we still think of either being online or offline and those two a distinct – in the matrix or not, in a state of trading off online for offline. However, the truth is that the web has everything to do with reality, with real people and real objects, histories, politics. We are deeply connected to both online and offline all of the time. To think there is some moralised reality without either is to fetish reality.
“We live in a mixed, augmented reality in which materiality and information, physicality and digitality, bodies and technology, atoms and bits, the offline and the online all intersect… the internet is real life”Jurgenson (2019) p68
The photo and it’s relationship with reality, what is online and offline, a copy or real, is and has always been both and neither. The photograph has always been simultaneously made of reality and technological simulation, it is blurred beyond tenability. Social media is not draining reality or essenses of truth, it is adding to it. Nature cannot be documented without it.
“The reality of an experience and it’s documentation are not in conflict, and neither precedes the other. Writers like William Cronon long ago showed that the idea, or ideal, of an “untouched” natural nature is only a myth. Our reality has always been already mediated, augmented, documented, and there’s no access to some state of unmediated purity. The mediation is inseparable from the thing itself.”Jurgenson (2019) p69
“Behind some of this fluidity of movement (in taking snapshot social photos) is the preoccupation, worry and fear of having the phone out, screen glowing, to be seen as distracted, self-serving, frivolous, thirsty. One’s orientation to digital connection can become a minor personal obsession. Digital austerity is an authority figure downloaded into our heads, making us always aware of our personal relationship to digital desire. This is the true source of our social-media narcissism, not overweening self-love.”Jurgenson (2019) p76
The ubiquity of socal photography gives concern to not being able to experience – to not be in the ‘moment’ and to not actually live the experience but rather document from the outside, through glass into documentation (think of tourist photography). Batille suggests that living in the moment without meta-awareness is the equivelant of death.
“Writing, thinking are never the opposite of work. To live without acrting is unthinkable”George Batille in Jurgenson (2019), p79
All photographs/documentation imposes distance between the audience and the world, between life and the record of it. Walter Benjamin said the photograph, like a souvenir, is like the corpse of an experience. (The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 1935) Barthes talked about going into a social game of posing when the photo is taken. There is a moment between when the photo is arranged, created, and then shared – in social media, this is called “friction” and the social media companies are constantly trying to shrink this time.
“Thinking of experience is to think of experience as experience ans is thus outside of experience. All writing, all documentation, is to appraoch life from the outside.”Jurgenson (2019), p79
Presence and Absence can only come into play with each other. There is distance between people in social media, and all photography but distance cannot be without both presence and absence – they depend on each other Siegfried Kracauer explained how photography created presence through absence and absence through presence:
“When the grandmother stood before the lens, she was for a second present in a space continuum that offered itself to the lens. But what was made eternal was just this aspect, not the grandmother. The viewer of the old photograph feels a shiver. For they make present not the knowledge of the original sitter but the spatial configuration of a moment; it is not the human being that emerges from the photograph but rather the sum of everything that can be subtracted from that being”Siegfried Kracauer in Jurgenson (2019) p83
Social photography shouldn’t be considered as something removed from ‘the moment’ but as something deeply immersed in social life. More than being a document, a moment to archive, it is an attempt to communicate ‘being’.
“consciouness of the self is the ‘gravity’ that burdens the spirit”Sontag (1986), p193 in Jurgenson (2019), p87
ADORNO, Theordor (2001) The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture. London: Routledge
BATILLE, George (2004) The Unfinsihed System of Noknowledge, trans. Stuart Kendall, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, p225
BAUDRILLARD, Jean (1998) The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures. Thousand Oaks, Sage Publishing
BENJAMIN, Walter (1935) The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, essay.
COOLEY, Charles H (1995) The Looking Glass Self, in Symbolic Interaction: An Introduction to Social Psychology, eds. N Herman and L Reynolds, New York: General Hall p196-99
CRONON, William ed. (1996) Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, New York: W.W. Norton.
JURGENSON, Nathan (2019) The Social Photo: On Photography and other Social Media. Verso
KRACAUER, Siegfried (1927) The Past’s Threshold: Essays on Photography, eds. Phillipe Despoix and Maria Zinfert, Zurich: Diaphenes p37.
MARX, Carl (1976) Capital, Vol.1, London: Penguin
PEARL, Sharonna (2016) Masked and Anonymous: Face Swapping is Fun, Funy and Phobic about Self-transformation. Real Life, July 18 2016
SONTAG, Susan (1986) Against Interpretation: And other essays, New York Anchor Books p193
WRIGHT MILLS, C (1959) The Sociological Imagination, Oxford: Oxford University Press
The ‘social photo’ (or perhaps ‘the snapshot’, personal, vernacular, banal photography) is to be distinguished from weightier traditionally considered photography – something ‘exceptional’. It is a fixture of modern life and the way people communicate – all contemporary study in social theory, is essentially entwined with social photography. It is an integral interface of contemporary non-verbal communication.
‘what fundamentally makes a photo a ‘social photo’ is the degree to which it’s existence as a stand alone media object is subordinate to it’s existence as a unit of communication… The center of conceptual gravity for describing how people communicate with images today should be less art historical and more social theoretical’Jurgenson (2019), p9.
The social photo is less considered as an object, more an experience. It is about social communication, over standing alone as a self-referential object, that is concerned with immediate transmission. The stream / feed of a social media account is more evocative that factually informative – it is some woven into the fabric of everyday consciousness.
It has become its own language of experiential story telling without speaking – it includes something more than something artistic but it involves artisanal self-presentation. It is more about expressive-ness, essence and mood for example than factual truths – but these have become the truths and realities of our lives. Once a social photo is thought of removed from facts of matter, it actually facilitates new truths. By capturing essence, the image through simplicity become efficient at amplifying a general meaning.
‘Amplification through simplification’McCloud in Jurgenson (2019), p19.
The act of making a social photo is the sum of more than how we traditionally take photos, it is a small sub-act of the whole delivery into a socially mediated dissemination – software assisted photography is taken with social camera’s, the same machine used in a different act/thought/consciousness. The image itself is part of the flow of making the image ‘social’. The hardware does something with the production of the media objects – it makes them socially relevant and gives them interactive value within new/different audiences.
The social photo and the social camera align with post-structuralist theories about the world being ephemeral, impermanent and not ‘fixed’. Jurgenson cites Zygmunt Bauman’s theories of modernity in which he refers to a ‘liquid society’ with ‘liquid economies’ where everything (production) is less ‘heavy’ (meant to last) and more ‘fluid, porous, agile and difficult to grasp’ (disposable). Our economies operate on disposable consumerism, nothing is made with any quality anymore for the simple fact that the ecomony would collapse if it was – something made heavy, with quality, to last does not facilitate a consumer driven society. This aligns back to the notion that social photos amplify simplicity by ‘melting down’ essences of information and experience into symbolic meaning.
‘Circulation is the content and experience is what is offered and shared. By diminishing the importance of the media object, by making it close to or literally disposable, social photos recenter communication itself. By removing some of the heavy conceptual baggage from the term ‘photography’, we can better think of images as speech, as gesture, as breathe. Better than thinking of social photography as something that involves photographers exchanging their work, we might instead describe it simply as talking or hanging out. The social photo’s central cultural importance is the degree to which the image’s frame is dissolved away, leaving behind the substance of life and experience’Jurgenson (2019), p24.
By adopting this stand point on social photography (removing conventions and understanding it as something other than ‘exceptional’ photography with factual fixed information and as a new communication which affords more than what simple words can offer, we can allow ourselves to understand and represent ourselves, communicate with others and find out about our modern world in ways we didn’t before. Photography is a aid to documentation, and with social photo’s we are documenting ourselves. The level of fixture that social media has become, shows how we are know looking at the world as everything is potentially something to document – whether we have a social camera at hand or not, it is something that is in the daily consciousness of everyone. We look at things with a predetermination of documenting it – this is inextricably linked with nostalgia – a spontaneous nostalgia which can categorised. We are thinking now about how we can determine how our documentation is perceived in the future, we know how it will be because of the technology that is facilitating the documenting. We are operating under a documentary consciousness, as we have throughout the history of photography:
‘photographs are not just representations of the movement of life; life itself becomes shaped by the logic of documentation… The social photo initiates a process of documenting life so that you know how to see life when away from the screen’Jurgenson (2019), p28
This documenting of the present moment captures details that is either imperceptible or would have otherwise gone unrecorded before now. The constant stream and ‘flow’ by far exceeds what we can conceivably explain. In connection to ‘speed’ and the ephemeral liquid nature of contemporary society, Jurgenson adds to the discussion on the relationship between technology and photography by referring to the rise of ‘railroad’ and how increased speeds of travel plays with distance and time. Space both smaller and bigger because of accessibility and apprehension. As passenger travel through landscape, the window framed views become a passing, disappearing intense blur, there is a detachment that comes with this being less able to absorb anything one fix thing. Jurgenson cites Georg Simmel’s reference to “intensification of nervous stimulation” in relation to the rise of cities in modernity. There is a visual and mental fatigue which comes the rapid intensification of imagery – lots of imagery all rolled into one constant panoramic feed, similar to the scrolling though a social media feed.
“Every moment not documented carried an opportunity cost, and the shutter button on your screen is the quickest way to mitigate this expense”Jurgenson (2019), p36
To document is be engaged and involved and not letting is go by unnoticed/documented. Documentary, be it written or visual, has, is and foresee-ably will be intrinsically linked to a potential audience. Through social photography, the documentation of endless possibilities, we become ‘tourists’ of our own experiences – a game of life with hearts and likes and followers as scores and results. The content plays second fiddle to the circulation possibilities and we are now living our lives through the logic of the social network, and any particular app’s metrics.
“Needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted”Sontag (1977) p24.
Producers and consumers of social networks are in an ephemeral state of understanding literacy as to how to document, and when, where and how it is best to share it, in real time, to maximise the potential popularity of the document. By Sontag’s assertion cited by Jurgenson, social media consumers, by way of adhering to ‘documentary vision’, are always ‘shopping’. With everyone shopping, all of the time, there comes an abundance of what would be seen in traditional thinking about photography, as unoriginal – the same photos of coffee, holiday photos etc.. There is what Roland Barthes called ‘certificates of presence’ and what Sontag called ‘photograph-trophies’ – the I was there, I did that declarative statement of document, which is more important than the actual photo itself by claiming an element of ownership of a lived experience by each individual.
“…the social photo is an important contemporary collusion of the human and the mechanical to create something bigger than both”Jurgenson (2019), p43
In each individual owned document, the the consumer documentary vision, the social photo and its network of ‘essence’ opens up photographic interpretation to myriad manipulation. Photography has always been capable to achieving perceived aesthetics that are not necessarily as ‘beautiful’ in real life. Jurgenson points to Umberto Eco who stated that ‘if photography is like perception, it isn’t because photography is a natural process; rather, perception itself is also coded’ (Eco, 1976).
“Social media is real life partly because real life is always mediated through the logics and technologies of human habit, interest, power, and resistance. ‘Machines are social before being technical’ as Giles Delueze famously put it, and the collusion of the human and the technical begins long before we direct our modern camera eye at reality”Jurgenson (2019), p41
The technology of photography has always been concerned with fixing moments, which brings us back to the idea of nostalgia. Documentation is inherently nostalgic; through it’s ‘permanence’ – but social photography does away with what is permanent, it is quite the opposite in being ephemeral and elusive. It embraces what is disposable, social photos proliferate as flowing conversations rather than museum like picture albums; permanence is unwanted, not needed and redundant in social networks. By creating and discarding social photos, now there feels more like something closer to actual living out a moment in our lives and less of something that is being collected. It is an interesting point that Jurgenson makes about how although photo paper for making archival prints now has a longer lifespan that it once did, because of technology, it is still finite and resembles something similar to the actual fading lifespan of the subject reproduced on it.
“Documenting the present as a future past, as conventional photographs do, acknowledges and foregrounds the facts of change, impermanence and immortality in the effort to defy them. In every permanent image is the looming context of loss and decay; each view of one’s past is to see death itself, each permanent photo of ourselves is an image from when we used to be alive”Jurgenson (2019), p49
As Jurgenson rightly points out, the is much meaning and importance in acknowledging ephemerality itself, and social media and social photos certainly take care of that for us – not as representational images but as a social process in their collective, an alternative means to recording and storing in databases – that is presuming servers do actually delete the information, but as said before, the information is so vast it is not comprehensible to look back on as a whole and digest. In this manner, as Jurgenson nicely puts it ‘social photos are a tiny protest against time’.
“digital photography and sites like Facebook have bought us to an age of memory abundance. The paradoxical consequence of this development will be the progressive devaluing of such memories and severing the past’s hold on the present. Gigabytes and terabytes of digital memories will not make us care more about those memories, they will make us care less”Sacasas (2013)
As social photos become quicker and easier to make and consume, the value of each image is lessened with such proliferation – ‘in their scarcity, photographs can age like wine, in their abundance they can spoil, curdle and rot’ (Jurgenson 2019, p50).
“In an age of digital abundance, photography desperately needs this introduction of intentional and assured mortality, so that some photos can become immortal again”Jurgenson (2019), p52
Ephemerality goes against photography’s history of making things permanent, and as Jurgenson states, is a rare counter-trend of photography’s history of making things faster and abundant but social photos, in their impermanence, may be something of a ‘photography population control’ and could be a way of making permanent / exceptional photographs important again – the photographs made in a more permanent approach become scare amongst the proliferation of social photos.
DURHAM PETERS, John (2001) Witnessing. Media Culture & Society 23:6
ECO, Umberto (1976) The Theory of Semiotics, Bloomington: Indiana University Press
JURGENSON, Nathan (2019) The Social Photo: On Photography and other Social Media. Verso
McCLOUD, Scott (1993) Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. Burbank: DC Comics. p30
SACASAS, Michael. From Memory to Scarcity Abundance, The Frailest Thing (blog) January 25th 2013.
SONTAG, Susan (1977) On Photography. Farrar, Straus and Giroux
DARK BLUE LIGHT – COLD WATER ACTIVITY IN CONNECTION TO MENTAL HEALTH AND PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING
WORK IN PROGRESS / Nic Shonfeld (Oct. 2020)
Individuals are using cold water immersion as a natural therapy for mental health and psychological challenges. ‘Blue Health’ is helping people with PTSD, depression, anxiety and loneliness whilst promoting bravery, resilience and confidence. Research suggests cold water immersion is good for our mental well-being, however awareness and scientific development is still in it’s infancy. Accounts of individuals and community groups, whilst anecdotal, are important to progression and can help lead to cold water activity becoming recognised as a proven natural, accessible and socially inclusive alternative to traditional pharmaceutical treatment.
How do I feel with this collection of work in progress? Well, I it is definitely a work in progress, I feel like I have accomplished a small step forward in realising that my images need to eliminate all landscape in the portraits except for the ocean in the background. Any element of ‘land’ in confusing the intention of the portraits – for the still life images this is a different matter as the rocks take on their own meaning in relation to time, transience and transformation. I think the images work when they are offset against the personal notes, objects and have accompanying text. However, I am not sure how I shot the portraits is really adding anything to photography.
I think I will continue with the theme of this work – at the end of each module I feel slightly exhausted by the subject and want to move onto to something new. I need to look at this as I will be moving onto a new phase in this work, as opposed to changing the theme entirely. I am really not sure how I feel about the work. I am confused with my own relationship to the work. This has been a new way of shooting for me, in colour, and I am yet to feel an emotional attachment to it.
I think there are elements of the images which I find successful. The first image of the solitary man facing the ocean, whilst maybe a little cliche, i think it is telling a story of the great expanse of nature and our tiny almost insignifant place as humans within it – there is something that is addressing bravery and confrontation here. The image of the gentleman with the head balaclava on is interesting to me as he is posed in an awkward manner, there is awkwardness in mental health issues, he has a St Christopher pendant on him (the patron saint of travel) – the subjects are traveling their own journey with mental well-being. The image of the lady with the bunny rabbit hot water bottle in her coat and the lady holding the hot water bottle speak about the need to keep warm against the cold elements of water, there is a stark coldness to depression and mental health challenges, there are keeping themselves warm from those elements. There is the hint of inclusion and community in the image of three people entering the water – one person is already there as two head towards her. The lady with the deflated tow-float, I am not sure what this is saying but there is something relating to the idea of deflation (in relation to mental health).
I am dissapointed in my inability to balance the images. They have been scanned by different scanner at different resolutions. The digitising of the images has void the consistency of intentionally using the same camera, lens and film stock. I need to spend more time in Lightroom to try and balance the tones and colouration.
There is no ‘otherness’ to the images. I have been caught between trying to show the faces and realness of the people, but at the same time I want to make something that shows ‘expanse’ – people that are simply small in a large, confusing, stressful and complex world. As I have written before, these images were to try and find my way with a new way of working, and with these images, whilst they have become the final edit of this module, they are very much test shots of a new project. Moving forward, I feel like I am ready to start making something more ‘constructed’ – more in keeping with the first image of the man facing the ocean. It is a huge challenge of time, as the subjects are only available for a maximum of 5 minutes after they leave the water before they need to put on clothes before they get too cold.
Marketing is commonly challenging for photographers, it is probably the aspect of which I most inefficient. I think most creatively minded people are not so inclined to think in a business way. A marketing plan is basically a plan for the success of a business of which two main points are imperative to address: Objectives and Strategy. For this week’s activity, I have been asked to create a marketing plan for my practice which covers the next 10 weeks. Thinking about what I want to achieve with my photography during that time, and how I will make it happen. My plan should include your objectives and weekly actions. Below are a few points you might want to think about.
During the course of the next 10 weeks, I will be submitting my assessments for the Sustainable Prospects module, having the usual 4 week break (from coursework) and then starting the last module (Informing Contexts) before entering the FMP module for the remainder of the course, which obviously coincides with the remainder of the project. What do I want to achieve in the next 10 weeks? The four week break between modules is the time I will be most active in a marketing capacity and can use this time to get ahead of myself with finishing old projects, research others artists marketing strategies and prepare content for my own marketing strategy.
I am working on a slow but steady approach. Essentially I am using this completion of this MA course as something of a re-launch for my career with the roll out of the final major project. I am not expecting, nor planning, to try and gain commissions during the next year. I just want to inflate my online presence and get myself as prepared as possible over the next year.
FUTHER INITIATE & DESIGN BRAND IDENTITY.
- I already have preferred styles and colour schemes I have used throughout my career. I am comfortable with them and will continue to use them. However, I want to make more use of these and as such will design some templates which I can use for different platforms. I also need to address the avatars I use. To date, I have always used a sold burnt pink coloured avatar, I need to personalise this more by incorporate my initials or a symbol of some description. I will spend time thining about this over the 4 week module break.
- I will read through the Marketing and Promotion chapter in Setting up a successful photography business Chapter by Lisa Pritchard. I think, whilst this is a little old now, it is full of solid fundamental advice
RE-EVALUATE AND MAINTAIN WEBSITE – INCORPORATE BRANDING
- I will think about how I want to use my website – I have a lot of content, do I want to keep this much up content online? Do I want to streamline it and what is the best design for the new approach.
CREATE PROJECT BRANDING
- I need to start thinking a little more about the designed identity of my work in progress project. The website is using a colour scheme which I am almost happy with but I need to finalise this and think about a logo. – darkbluelight.co.uk
INCREASE WEBSITE AND SOCIAL MEDIA TRAFFIC
- I will prepare a selection of work to post on social media for the next few months.
- I will post every other day routinely so that I maintain consistency.
- I will Learn about how to use the ‘Stories’ sections of Instagram (I do not know how to do this as yet). I will look at Youtube and ask my teenage nephews for help.
FUNDING, GRANTS & BURSARIES
- I am not seeking commissions at this time. I don’t want anything to interfere with my MA project. During Covid, for me, the idea of working has all but become a non-existent idea. If I am approached about work, I will assess this as it happens but in the meantime I am primarily concerned with funding, grants and bursary applications for this project. I have identified a fair amount of options of which to apply for and will be using the 4 week break as a key time for this.
- I will go through the list of links I have accumulated and work out what is appropriate for me at this moment in time, and what I can consider in the future.
DEVELOP SKILLS & KNOWLEDGE
- Learn how to create newsletters (see Add Contacts To Database section).
- Research and learn how to use all the functions on Instagram (stories/reels etc).
- Continue to watch and listen to as many interesting and appropriate podcasts and talks with industry people that I identify with.
ARRANGE MEET UP’S
- At this time, I am not looking to meet with clients, but I do want to start making arrangements to meet with more appropriate individuals and groups relevant to my project – scientists, researchers and academics. I will identify the people I am wish to communicate with and start to make approaches to them.
- I will also use this time to start identifying and preparing to approach writers about collaboration for my proposed publication. I need to think about what it is that I require and make a proposal.
ADD CONTACTS TO DATABASE
Aside from increasing my social media presence, I am concerned with generating an audience database for the launch of my project. I have already set up a dedicated website with a subscription/registration box which I am directing interested contacts to. I am using MailChimp and whilst I have learnt how to set the up the primary subscription function. I now need to learn how to create effective newsletters for project news and updates to send out to the list I am generating.
I will continue to hand out project information sheets to people I meet in the mornings during my shooting times, which I identify as relevant and interested parties. This information sheet asks people specifically to register on the project website.
- Buy portfolio cases & folders.
- Collate the work which I want to start getting printed.
- Make digital portfolios.
See – PRITCHARD, Lisa. (2011) Setting up a successful photography business. A. & C. Black p74-77
REFERENCES & RESOURCES:
LECTURE IN PROGRESS – Lecture in Progress – Social Media & Self-Promotion / Article on lectureinprogress.com / Accessed 01.12.20
IT’S NICE THAT (2017) ‘Portfolio tips from top studios: do’s and definite don’ts’, It’s Nice That, 4 May 2017
PRITCHARD, Lisa. (2011) Setting up a successful photography business. A. & C. Black
SWAID, Ahmed. (2017) Advice on Social Media & Self-Promotion. Article on lectureinprogress.com / Accessed 01.12.20
Renike Dijkstra’s full body compositions dominate the frame – I have left more space around my subjects, on the negatives, in trying to add a sense of vulnerability as a lone human in vast expanse of nature. I’m not sure how successful that’s coming across and I need to address whether I should be shooting in a more uniform manner, always from the same height, would this add more consideration to my images as a collection.
I’ve cropped them uniformly and by doing so have created something of a typology. I feel there is a dehumanising aspect of this even though they are offset against the individual objects and handwritten notes I’ve also photographed.
The images need accompanying text, which calls into question how I title the images, do I use their names, should they be anonymous? as per the handwritten account, should they be titled by the time they were taken, similar to Renike Dijstra’s strategy? Or a simple caption of their reasons for taking to the ocean?
I have set up a new landing page on my project website with the project details and a subscription/registration form. I am not showing any of the work in progress yet as it is at such an early stage but I need be able to direct people, that I am communicating with for the project, to somewhere with official project info, contact info, and also a means for keeping people updated on the project as it starts to unfold. It is easier for me to direct people here and ask them to ‘sign up’ for news and updates, rather than me be able to remember everyone I am meeting. This will generate a list of relevant and interested parties that will form part of my audience when I am ready to start sharing the work. The work will not be ready share with participants and other audiences for roughly another year so I need to be able to keep contact with people – it’s not always possible to take peoples contact details when I am out and about photographing.
I am not showing any of the project or any other pages to the website yet but I have hidden password pages so I can constantly review the development of the work as I progress and see how it is looking in preparation for when it is launched. It allows me time to come back to work and website design at intervals and make changes as I see fit with fresh eyes, so to speak. Since the last update, I have changed the original black text for a calm blue which I feel is more appropriate and will most likely become a colour theme that I will use throughout the site. It is dark enough that it is legible and soft enough to invoke calm.
I received the scans of some new negatives I had developed for my work in progress portfolio. I have considerable happier with the natural colouration and quality of these, over the Hasselblad Flextight X1 that I used for the last batch. Maybe it was my lack of professional training in getting the most out of the Hasselblad scanner but I am very particular about scan consistency and moving forward I will use the same lab and confirm they will use the same scanner.
As far as the images are concerned, I am quite happy with these as they are the first images I have shot where I feel I am starting to find a voice to the project, albeit a rather infantile voice at this early stage. I do however feel that I shuld to start shooting with a lower horizon line and most certainly make sure there is no land in the background at all, even if it is out of focus, the land is entirely removing the concept of water which is so central to the work – in that respect I am feeling a little disappointed in myself as I knew this would be the case but felt rushed to take the images as the participants were so cold at the time. I need to be less forgiving in this if I can to create the work which I am intending to.
- Do I need to fill the frame more with the subject? – I am trying to keep an element of space to accentuate vulnerability.
- Do these images convey the cold? – I am not sure they all do…
- Is there a sense of positivity wrestling with the underlying theme of mental health challenges? – With background info and context I think they can but I am not sure if that is enough.
- Should the images be more uniform? – the horizon lines should probably be more uniform.
The first image is probably the strongest image I have taken so far – it has an element of ‘awkwardness’ tin his posture and is a little peculiar in so far the gentleman’s head protection and gloves, of which I purposefully approached him because of. I feel the image successfully conveys the cold and vulnerability. The background is working much better than the others which position the subjects more on land than in water.
Following on from my last post, I want to think about the subject pose in more details. I made notes about the Rineke Dijkstra’s use of the ‘Contrapposto’ pose in some of her Beach Portraits (1992-2002). I have always known this stance as the ‘S-Curve’, or ‘The Line of Beauty’ as coined by William Hogarth in his ‘The Analysis of Beauty’ (1753), which I learnt about many years ago when I was researching William Mortensen’s approach to making pictures. Whilst visually very different, the link between Dijkstra’s work and Mortensen’s work, has made me realise there is a strong contextual connection between Mortensen’s theoretical strategy to his picture making, and the biological theory behind the benefits of cold water immersion; both operating on a reaction to primal, ancestral fear and shock responses. Mortensen’s strategies are deeply concerned with universal appeal.
It is important to note that much of Mortensen’s work contains female objectivity, the ‘male gaze’ and some of the terminology he used is very outmoded – He practiced his art roughly a century ago when cultural values where different from what they are now. They have their place in history but I am not concerned with the actual content, as opposed to the placement of the subject matter and content. Mortensen developed a technique for commanding an audience to look at his photographs, born out of curiosity as to why he was not gaining more work and print sales.
“To us, Mortensen was the anti-christ”Ansell Adams.
The subject of Mortensen’s arresting bromoil pictorials were usually biblical, mythical, of legend and folklore. Aside from famously (at the time) being called ‘the antichrist’ by Ansell Adams, he is probably best know for the posthumous title: ‘American Grotesque’ (2014). Mortensen also wrote theoretical and practical books on photographic technique, most notably ‘The Command To Look – A masters photographer methods for controlling the human gaze’ (2014), ‘Monsters & Madonnas – A book of Methods’ (1936), Pictorial Lighting (1936) and How To Pose The Model (1956).
Mortensen developed strategies to theories about what made pictorial photos successful in obtaining, holding and staying with the viewer – generating what he called ‘Ancestral and Primal Universal Sources of Emotional Appeal‘, which he puts into three categories of sources of pictorial interest: Sex, Sentiment and Wonder. Mortensen’s approach to generating as much Impact as possible in his pictures, comes from the understanding that Fear is the strongest human arousal (rather than what I would’ve personally thought would have been the topic of ‘sex’). He arrives at ‘Four Picture Patterns‘ (‘The Diagonal’, ‘The S-Curve’, ‘Triangles ‘and ‘Dominant Mass’) which invoke the Fear Response, which is central to creating the Ancestral and Primal Universal Sources of Emotional Appeal.
UNIVERSAL SOURCES OF ANCESTRAL AND PRIMAL EMOTIONAL APPEAL
To generate what he called ‘Ancestral and Primal Universal Sources of Emotional Appeal‘, Mortensen identified three categories of sources of pictorial interest: Sex, Sentiment and Wonder.
THEME OF SEX
Sex is the most primitive and direct of the three categories. The nude is most commonly associated with the theme of sex, in art. However, the fact of nudity is secondary – A picture might be sexual but contain no nudity, and also might contain nudity but with sex not being the primary interest – Sentiment and Wonder taking the primary role.
“A picture may be sexual in its import without including the nude. On the other hand, sex is not always the primary interest when the nude is used… It is probably no longer necessary (port-war) to explain and justify the use of sex motive in art. Psychologists have recognised sex as a great energising influence in life. As such, it is bound to play a large part in all forms of art “.Mortensen, The Command To Look, p55
THEME OF SENTIMENT
Sentiment is concerned with the ‘soft’ and ‘tender’ things in life. Humble and lofty emotions, that which is familiar, that which is touched by grandeur. The ordinary objects which are made interesting by personal touch, for example – laughter and tears. That which is romantic can be read by the audience by certain lighting, shadows, shapes and texture. Most importantly, the concept of nature and what is natural evokes sentiment.
Mortensen devised a list of sentimental ‘things’ which are always readily recognisable and appreciated by the audience:
- Hardships of humble life
- National pride
- Domestic life
- Soft aspects of sex
- Glamour of the past.
THEME OF WONDER (unknown, uncertain, mysterious)
Despite modern understanding, we still have many mysteries remaining to us today. We are still conscious of the nightly shadows, unknown forces, creatures of the twilight… and more that anything, the mystery of what happen to us after death.
“The wonder theme appears in many mutations…It is ingenuous and childlike in the form of fairy stories. It may turn morbid in the mal-forms of life….It may draw near in the fringes of fear in the supernatural, witchcraft and demonology. And the final manifestation of the wonder theme is the that silent Mystery of Mysteries, Death, before which we all pause appalled and fascinated”.Mortensen, The Command To Look, p57
GENERATING ‘IMPACT’ VIA ‘THE FEAR RESPONSE’
To create what Mortensen’s manifesto refers to as ‘Impact‘, an image must ‘make you look at it’. We, as humans, give our primary attention to sense impressions that represent things that we once, far back in history, feared. The image must strike universal fear into the audience.
“The picture that claims attention the most immediately and completely is the one that in its first visual impression, relates itself to ancestral fear”.Mortensen, The Command To Look, p46
William Mortensen identified four types of stimulus which call forth what he refers to as the Fear Response’.
1 – Something that moves swiftly across our field of vision – we may not know what it is but we know it moves and with swiftness and determination.
2 – Something that approaches in a slithering furtive manner.
3 – Something threatening with sharpness – be that with tooth or blade.
4 – A huge stationary object that blocks our path – man, beast or inanimate object – it is solid/compact and formidable, and awaits us.
These four basic fears express themselves in four basic picture patterns…
‘THE 4 PICTURE PATTERNS‘
The ‘Four Picture Patterns’ which represent the Fear Response consist of ‘The Diagonal’, ‘The S-Curve’, ‘Triangles ‘and ‘Dominant Mass’. Mortensen uses the four picture patterns in every one of his pictorial images to invoke the fear response in the audience. The picture patterns are not exclusive and often interrelate.
Dominant mass is the most frequent of all the picture patterns which invoke the Fear Response. It is the obstacle of out path/movement – the ‘huge stationary object that blocks our path – man, beast or inanimate object – it is solid/compact and formidable, and awaits us‘.
The Dominant Mass must dominate, and this can be contributed to by:
- UNITY – Several individuals gain strength by being linked together
- COHESION – The mass is more dominant if it is compact – like a clenched fist as opposed to an open hand.
- ISOLATION – Mass gains strength if it is separated from surroundings or background.
- CONTRAST – Light against dark and vice-versa.
- SIZE – The mass is more threatening if it is larger.
- STABILITY – The mass is more formidable if it is planted or immovable – for example, Pyramid forms.
There is so much of relevance here to my own work, in the question of dominance of the subjects in my portraits, particularly in relation to ‘isolation’.
The S-Curve is what we also know as ‘Contrapposto’, as discussed in the last post about Renike Djikstra’s Beach Portraits. The S-Curve is ‘The Line of Beauty’ as coined by William Hogarth in his ‘The Analysis of Beauty‘ (1753) – which was actually the real basis of William Mortensen’s fascination.
The S-Curve is secret and furtive. It is snakelike and approaches in a slithering manner. There is ancestral fear, hidden danger in the enemy of serpent or the tiger.
It is fascinating to think how what has become traditionally seen as a ‘sexualised’ stance or pose, something that is essentially seen as best showing the curves of a female is inextricably linked to danger and fear. In relation to Djikstra’s Beach Portraits, this pose is used in a not so curious manner –
“The series represents adolescents: figures in the midst of a stage of life at which the passage of time is felt deeply as physical change, when the passage of time itself renders one aware of the “physical, erotic body.” Sandra Phillips writes of one of Dijkstra’s youthful subjects, “the boy’s arms are too long: he has not yet grown into his body”Elizebeth Keto, (2016)
Triangles carry the threat of sharpness – be that with tooth or blade, and they are solid, planted and pyramid-like, and by being so are formidable in their solidity.
Whilst these images above fall within the Triangle theme, they also fall into the theme of Dominant Mass.
The diagonal is a symbol of swift and menacing movement. A primitive source of terror being ‘lightning’. A diagonal form is something that moves swiftly across our field of vision – we may not know what it is but we know it moves and with swiftness and determination.
‘IS’ NOT ‘DOES’ / REMOVING THE DATELINE FOR UNIVERSAL APPEAL
Mortensen’s strategies are deeply concerned with universal appeal. In his book ‘The Command To Look’, he talks about universal appeal frequently in connection to making images that have impact on the wider audience. He spends time instructing the reader to ‘remove the dateline’ of the images, that is to say that by removing elements which can put the image in a certain time and place will help the images appeal and longevity. Mortensen is of course predating a time where documentary photography is a wide a subject as it is now, but moreover, he is referring to pictorial image making.
It has made me think about the dateline of my photographs and what do I want to say by adding and removing datelines. I also naturally thought back to my last post and Rineke Dijkstra’s intentional subversion of ‘digital time’ by naming her images by location and date, quite the opposite of Mortensen. I think the clothing and hairstyles are of my subjects are absolutely retaining the dateline, but I am interested in the universal appeal that Mortensen refers to. I agree that by removing as many date-recognisable elements to an image, it may have a longer appeal to a wider audience. But saying that… I am also concerned with the notion of ‘real time’ and ‘changing time’ in my images – referring to the changing passage of time in each of the participants lives as they continually strive for a better sense of psychological well-being.
Mortensen also coins the phrase ‘is, not does’ in The Command To Look. The phrase is as it says – try to make the subject express itself for what it is, not what it does. The thought behind this is that an audience would grow tired quickly of looking at a person doing something, rather than looking at who someone is.
“Pictures in which the subject does something are apt to fly off on tangents of action and episode and casual accidents of time and place. But pictures in which the subject matter express itself solely in terms of ‘being’ draw inward to an ever more unified conception.”Mortensen, The Command To Look, p61
IN RELATION TO MY WORK
There is an interesting correlation between the ancestral fear used by Mortensen and in the ancestral ‘fight or flight response’ which invokes the ‘shock response’ bought on by cold water immersion. I think it is important that I consider these notes in the approach and strategy for my project. I am not anticipating using the Diagonals pattern, but certainly Dominant Mass and the ‘S’-Curve are features of my images. Triangles are not necessarily something I will employ but are a consideration when I think about rock faces and craggy shorelines which may become unavoidable in some scenario’s and more likely with the positioning of contextual objects on rocks.
HOGARTH, William. (1753) The Analysis of Beauty (London: Printed by John Reeves for the Author, 1753)
KETO, Elizebeth (2016) Rineke Dijkstra’s Portraits: The Aesthetics and Ethics of Digital Time. Originally published in Journal of Art Criticism, Spring 2016 edition.
MORTENSEN, William. (1956) How To Pose The Model. Mercury Press
MORTENSEN, William. (1936) Monsters & Madonnas – A book of Methods. Camera Craft Publishing Company.; First Edition (1 Jan. 1936)
MORTENSEN, William & DUNHAM, George. (2014) ‘The Command to Look: A Master Photographers Method for Controlling the Human Gaze’, Paperback – re-issue October 21, 2014
PHILLIPS, Sandra S. “Twenty Years of Looking at People.” In Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective. New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2012.
In my last 1-2-1 tutorial with Cemre, she asked me if I knew of Rineke Dijkstra – I did by photographs but not by name having seen then many years ago in photography magazines. In fact, I had thought about these images a while back as a reference for this project, but through one thing or another, largely because I didn’t know the artists name and probably got caught up in everything I was doing for the project, I overlooked finding them. I realise now that they are probably the single most important reference I will make for my project work.
The impetus for Rineke Dijkstra’s seminal works ‘Beach Portraits’ (1992-2002) came from a self-portrait (above) that she took whilst in recovery from a major bicycle accident which included a rehabilitative swimming routine. The image does not conform to the conventions of photography at the time (late 80s-early 90s) when the digital image was entirely engaged with something more artificial and superficial. The lighting and location is cold, the skin tones are honest and not glamourous, but more to the point, she was trying to capture the exhaustion she felt post-swim – a passage in a pivotal passing of time.
THE ELEMENT OF TIME (in connection to my work)
In ‘Beach Portraits’, Dijkstra depicts almost exclusively adolescents and subjects under the age of 25. Her images are loaded with psychological intensity – the subjects appear vulnerable and their awkward postures and scrutinizing gazes dominate the audience. The portraits assert the reality of time in many manners, not least because she titles each image by location and date, not with the name of the subject as is usually the case. Through the awkwardness in the way the youngsters’ undeveloped changing bodies ‘pose’, a passing/passage of time and reality is experienced, in the human body and mind – this is added to by the use of a 4×5 camera which keeps the subject hanging around whilst the artist arranges the focus and composition, which compliments the notion of being at a strange and awkward time as a teenager or young adult.
“Dijkstra addresses and critiques this objectification of time in her work. Her photographic portraits reinvest time with a bodily dimension: she captures her subjects at those moments when the passage of time is known by the body as well as the mind, such as adolescence or a recovery from a traumatic physical event”Keto (2016).
Dijkstra uses fill-flash to illuminate the subjects which, not only adds a stark coldness but also adds to a ‘realness’ – again, the skin tones are uneven as opposed to the artifice found in the modern digital image, which is poignant because she made the images in the early 90s when the digital image really started to establish itself and it is worth considering that the most likely demographic of internet users coincides with the age group that Dijkstra photographed for this work. Further intentionally subverting ‘digital time’, the photographs are also identifiable by the hairstyles, bathing suits and arguably the film stock – her work is intentionally subverting digital time.
In relation to my own work, ‘time’ is also emerging as a key aspect of the work – this is not necessarily in connection to a global shift in perception of time as Dijkstra addressed but more about time in connection to the individuals’ lives (that I am photographing). As Dijkstra is referring to adolescence, I am relating to a changing time in peoples lives where they are addressing personal issues by using cold water immersion to help with mental health challenges and maintaining psychological well-being. In my last post reflecting on the 1-2-1 tutorial with Cemre, I wrote about metaphorical meaning behind the photograph of the bundle of clothes left by the rocks (swimmers typically leave their belongings by the rocks on the beach whilst they head out to swim in the ocean). There is perhaps more meaning in the element of ‘absence’ but the rocks take on their own meaning – not only is a rock is solid (a noun being something that is used metaphorically for a stable person), but on coastlines, are in a perpetual state of change and reformation by the ocean (the ocean being the thing that is accounting for change in the individuals mental well-being). Time also becomes important when we think about the comments typically made by swimmers about how ‘time stands still‘ when they temporarily leave their daily lives behind to go swimming. The ocean in itself is often considered metaphorically transient and associated with journeys and passages of time.
AWKWARDNESS (IN CONNECTION TO MY WORK)
My work is not with a 5×4 view camera, I made a conscious decision not to use this format after one attempted shoot with my own large format camera – when dealing with cold water swimmers, it is important for me to photograph my participants post-swim, when they are wet, however it would be dangerous to keep them standing around for too long after they have be exposed to the cold of the ocean. Neither am I shooting exclusively young people, however, the awkward discomfort mentioned above in connection to age, can be transferred when thinking about elder people being photographed primarily in swimsuits because of mental health challenges.
The participants I am approaching do not usually conform to the body-beautiful artifice that the digital image has encouraged and it’s platforms facilitate, and nor am I interested in trying to, or willing to let them, be portrayed in an artificial manner – I try to wait until they stop breathing in or they come out of the acted role they want, or think I want, to portray. This is of course is a fine balancing act (between waiting as long as possible as I can before pressing the shutter release and them not getting too cold) that I have not yet mastered.
“I don’t want a pose in which people comply with a certain image [that] they try to control and that reveals only the intention of how they want to be perceived…I wait for a moment in which they display a certain introversion.”Rineke Dijkstra, Interview by Jan van Adrichem. In Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective. (New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications), 2012. p47
Roland Barthes talks about the transformation he feels himself going through when the lens is pointed at him in Camera Lucida (Barthes, 1980, p10). In the section ‘He Who Is Photographed’, Barthes talks about who he lends himself to ‘a social game’ of posing – it is this that I refer to above when I am trying to wait long enough for the individual to lose their ‘acted role’
“Now, once I feel myself observed by the lens, everything changes: I constitute myself in a process of ‘posing’, I instantaneously make another body for myself, I transform myself in advance into an image. This transformation is an active one: I feel that the Photograph creates my body, or mortifies it, according to it’s caprice’.Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, 1980.
COMPOSITION & STRENGTH V’S VULNERABILITY (IN MY WORK)
Similar to Dijkstra, I am predominantly photographing individuals (I have some plans for small groups), centered against the relatively neutral background of the shore. I have chosen to do this for reasons two fold; for context and for neutrality. I am purposefully seeking out locations devoid of boats, intrusive rock faces, or other distractions because I am trying to isolate the participant, which I believe elevates their importance.
Dijkstra’s backgrounds take on an abstract nature, similar to a studio backdrop. This an aesthetic achieved not just with a wide aperture, but is a characteristic of large format camera’s which is achievable with a medium format as I am using.
“The three-part division of sand, sea, and sky…makes a nearly abstract background that isolates the models.”Rineke Dijkstra, interview by Jan van Adrichem, in Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective, (New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2012), 51.
Dijkstra positions her subjects almost always on the edge of the sea, they are very nearly in the ocean. I think this is something I should pay more attention to, it is the ocean I am referencing and the subjects should be close and if not touching the waterline, for the benefit of ‘connection’.
Dijkstra composes her images so that the subject subtly dominates the frame – they are full body compositions, which adheres to a more subtle domination as opposed to tightly cropped head and shoulder framing and allows for contextual space. Perhaps I am not going in close enough with my portraits, they are not yet dominating the frame as I intend them too, however I feel like I have been leaving more space around my images to add to a sense of vulnerability. Maybe this is also partially because of social distancing but more likely through feeling slightly uncomfortable myself having not approached strangers for portraits in such a long time, especially ladies who are in swimsuits.
Dijkstra’s images almost always have a very low horizon line. I always seem to forget that I am tall and should shoot from lower down than my eye sight, which renders a much more statuesque composition rather than looking down on the subjects. Maybe I don’t want to go too low though as it this will void an element of vulnerability I wish to retain.
CONTRAPPOSTO / WILLIAM HOGARTH’S ‘LINE OF BEAUTY‘ & WILLIAM MORTENSEN’S ‘S-CURVE’ (IN MY WORK)
Many of Dijkstra’s images employ the ‘Contrapposto’ pose – Contrapposto is an Italian term that means “counterpoise”, used in the visual arts to describe a human figure standing with most of its weight on one foot, so that its shoulders and arms twist off-axis from the hips and legs in the axial plane.
Ted Forbes made a YouTube video specifically on the below center Dijkstra image and among many points, he references contrapposto with Avedon’s famous ‘Dovima with Elephants‘ image (below left) and The Birth of Venus by past masters Amaury Duval (below right) and Sandro Botticelli. In reference to the Avedon photograph, Forbes notes what the pose can state through body language; the foot is stretched out indicating confidence and possibly power, and the same time grace and elegance is shown through the shoulders being tilted back and the head tilted to the side. This is, of course, remarkably different to the similar pose and body language in the Dijkstra image and serves to illustrate how powerful and statement can be made through the human figure – as humans we react to such evocation as it conjures up messages and meaning in our minds. There are other images in the Beach Portraits collection which also demonstrate the contrapposto pose, for example the image above of the young male. The Cézanne ‘Male Bather’ reference is more masculine but when Dijkstra is using this the young lad still to takes on something less masculine and leans more towards something organically beautiful.
I have always known this stance as the ‘S-Curve’, or ‘The Line of Beauty’ as coined by William Hogarth in his ‘The Analysis of Beauty’ (1753), which I learnt about many years ago when I was researching William Mortensen’s approach to posing subjects for my last major ‘pre-MA course’ body of work Black Eyes, Broken Rose. I never really employed the ‘S’ Curve strategy for that project, but somehow many years later find myself returning to those notes.
Mortensen developed a technique for commanding an audience to look at his photographs, born out of curiosity as to why he was not gaining more work and print sales. He developed theories about what made pictorial photos successful in obtaining, holding and staying with the viewer – generating what he called ‘impact’. The subject of the ‘pose’ in my work is an entirely new subject of consideration and I will make a post about this reference to William Mortensen is a separate post.
BARTHES, Roland. (1980) Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Hill & Wang. p10
DIJKSTRA, Rineke. Interview by Jan van Adrichem. In Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective. New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2012.
FORBES, Ted, THE ART OF PHOTOGRAPHY – One Photo Deep Dive : Rineke Dijkstra, YouTube, Dec 2, 2014.
HOGARTH, William. (1753) The Analysis of Beauty (London: Printed by John Reeves for the Author, 1753)
KETO, Elizebeth (2016) Rineke Dijkstra’s Portraits: The Aesthetics and Ethics of Digital Time. Originally published in Journal of Art Criticism, Spring 2016 edition.
MORTENSEN, William. How To Pose The Model. Mercury Press (1956)
MORTENSEN, William. Monsters & Madonnas – A book of Methods. Camera Craft Publishing Company.; First Edition (1 Jan. 1936)
MORTENSEN, William & DUNHAM, George. ‘The Command to Look: A Master Photographers Method for Controlling the Human Gaze’, Paperback – re-issue October 21, 2014
PUBLICDELIVERY.ORG – Do Rineke Dijkstra’s Beach Portraits stand the test of time?. February 22, 2019.
Today’s 1-2-1 was successful and I got pretty much everything out of it that I wanted to – positive feedback and useful advice for moving forward. I was encouraged by Cemre’s reaction to the work I showed her (see video above) which she confirmed was moving in the right direction. We mostly discussed contextualisation and how the objects and comment sheets worked in connection to the portraits.
The image of the rock (below left), is an object used by an individual I met who goes underwater-rock-running. Unfortunately, I have not been able to contact him since our first meeting but I did bring home the rock he used and photographed this instead. In this, there is a comment to be made about the sense of absence which lead us to talk about the image of the clothing by the rocks (see below right) – there is something metaphoric about the clothes and belongings, indicative of the individuals’ daily life, being left behind whilst the individual ventures into the sea for their daily therapeutic swim. There is also something to be said for rocks themselves in connection to the ocean – a rock is solid, the noun being something that is used metaphorically for a stable person, but on coastlines, is changed and reformed over time by the ocean (the thing that is accounting for change in the individuals mental well-being). The ocean is often considered metaphorically transient and associated with journeys and passages of time.
In relation to the objects, I explained how it is a difficult task to get the people I am meeting to just simply start sharing deeply personal and sensitive accounts of themselves. It is not always the case that they are thinking in the same way as a photographer does in so far as what makes a good representational object to photograph. It was agreed that this will take time and more conversations to get people thinking in the same way as I am and over the course of the next year, I am sure some really intimate objects will present themselves. I just need to keep approaching the subject in the most sensitive manner. How the relationship between the objects and the portraits connect or are to be displayed, is something that can be addressed in the coming modules.
With regard to actually photographing the objects and comment sheets, I explained that I wasn’t sure that the studio styled approach wasn’t necessarily working for me. I am going to experiment with photographing them on location, using rocks and sand as the backdrop. This is being done to contextualise, whereas before I was thinking that maybe this would be a little too obvious, I think I was overlooking that whilst it might be obvious, it is most likely the most appropriate approach.
Lastly, Cemre asked me if I knew the work of Rineke Dijkstra. I was so happy she mentioned Dijkstra because whilst I didn’t know her name, I am familiar with her work ‘Beach Portraits’ but hadn’t referenced this work because I had no idea it was called Beach Portraits – I have seen this work in articles for many years but never absorbed the artists or projects name and title and thus hadn’t known where to begin trying to find it online. I should’ve been less assuming that searching for Beach Portraits wouldn’t have yielded the result! Regardless, it is a really poignant reference and I will make a dedicated artistic reference post on Dijkstra’s work.
I received a batch of developed negatives back from the lab and took them over the Falmouth University to use the Hasselblad Flextight X1 CCD scanners. Purely on a financial tip I thought scanning the negs myself would be the most economical strategy. Whilst they are certainly leaps and bounds better than any flatbed I have used, I am a little concerned that they are still not up to the standard of a Noritsu CCD and definitely not up to drum scan quality. The quality is ok now for the purposes of this modules presentation and for my reference but I will pay to have these images re-scanned if they make it to my final edit further down the line of the project. The natural colouration which is coming out these scans is a little disappointing too.
As far as the images are concerned, these are four of the stronger images out of the batch. I am not sure I quite captured the expression I was after with the image of Lydia (bottom left), but this was very much a shoot which I had planned to re-shoot considering how bright it was. I am reasonably happy with the images of Ross (top left) and Ashley (bottom right). In reflection maybe I should have shot from a lower perspective and lowered the horizon line which might have isolated them more and given them more statuesque importance. The top left image has probably me most to think about – I wanted to address the notion of people ‘leaving their lives behind’ whilst they go in to the cold water and I feel like this has been successful. How many more of this type of image I could include in the portfolio is something to reflect on.
Tom Merillion’s portrait of Nina was shortlisted for the Mental health category in the 2020 Wellcome Photography Prize. This was published as single image by comparison to the larger collection Merillion produced of a swimmer called Colin. I’m not sure anything added by multiple images of Colin that the single images of Nina doesn’t tell alone with it’s brief accompanying text with regard to putting a message across about the psychological benefits of cold water.
This is why I chose to make single portraits, my thought being that a quantity of race, gender and age inclusive portraits can best promote cold activity to a universal audience. This obviously raises the question of how many images I would need to cover this. This isn’t supposed to a social anthropological study
Having recently completed submission to the Carmencita grant with Kodak Europe, I thought it was a good time for me to look back and expand upon my original research project outline / statement of intent I posted way back fairly near the beginning of the module. I had made long-term and short-term plans and though it good to have a look at them and write up an expanded and updated version. The majority of this has already been done in the last week through the process of the grant application.
Dark Blue Light – Cold water activity in connection to mental health and psychological well-being.
The project is a reaction to the limited yet increasing evidence suggesting that cold water immersion is particularly good for our psychological well-being and helps to combat myriad mental health conditions and challenges. Awareness and scientific development in connection to the psychological benefits of cold water immersion is still in its infancy. Documenting the experiential accounts of individuals and community groups, whilst anecdotal, are important to progression, which can help lead to cold water activity ultimately becoming better recognised as a proven, natural, accessible and alternative therapy to traditional pharmaceutical treatment for mental health and psychological well-being.
During early morning walks, I started to notice an increase in people entering the cold ocean every morning – some taking quick ‘dips’, others swimming longer distances. I inquisitively started to engage with people and conversations led to my understanding that individuals and groups are using cold water immersion as a natural therapy for a multitude of mental health and psychological challenges such as: PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance and alcohol abuses, family stresses, work pressure and loneliness. Cold water immersion promotes mindfulness and transferable skills such as bravery, resilience and confidence.
I have met individuals which have ceased taking anti-depressants since immersing in cold water, which reinforces a recent UK study (Van Tulleken et al, 2018) documenting the cessation of anti-depressant medication by a 24yr old lady who was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and anxiety since she was 17yrs old after being prescribed cold water swimming – she remains medication free until this day. The biological theory behind this is that entering cold water invokes the ‘shock response’, which is the same response to the well known notion of ‘fight or flight’ – by learning how to deal with the shock response, ‘cross adaptation’ teaches humans how to adapt and combat mental stress.
My project is a participant based portrait of cold water swimmers, and other cold water immersion activity. The portraits are accompanied by contextual reportage and still life photographs of objects and hand-written accounts which are representative of the individuals’ reasons for cold water activity as a therapy. The scale of the work will comprehensively represent all different ages, race, gender and social background groups to highlight the universal inclusion and accessibility of cold water activity.
The project inadvertently addresses interrelating themes such as body-consciousness (through the subversion of digital artifice) and the disproportion between male and females seeking therapy for mental health issues. Both of these aspects will be critically explored over the course of my next module.
My work has an underlying theme which reflects on the notion of ‘real time’ – I am relating to a ‘changing’ passage of time in peoples lives (in connection to their challenges of maintaining psychological well-being) juxtaposed with time being represented metaphorically by the ocean (traditionally associated with transience and passing of time) and rocks as a backdrop to the representational still life objects (which individual engages in cold water swimming). The rocks take on their own meaning – not only is a rock is solid form (commonly used metaphorically for a strong and stable person), but rocks on coastlines are in a perpetual state of change and reformation by the ocean (the ocean accounting for change in the individuals mental well-being). Time also becomes important when we think of comments made by swimmers about how “time stands still” when they temporarily leave their daily lives behind to go swimming – this can be seen in the sample image showing a bundle of clothes by the rock face.
The project, and its authenticity, comes as a reaction my own history of mental health – I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety in my early 20’s which never subsided for following 20 years (I have been prescribed many ineffective traditional medicines with some even making my condition worse over a prolonged amount of time). Coinciding with my project, I have since started to swim in the ocean daily and after a few months I am now far less anxious and I am yet to have a ‘dark day’.
The primary objective of this project is to generate more awareness and recognition around cold water immersion as a natural, accessible, inclusive, alternative therapy to mental health challenges and psychological well-being. The goal is to create a comprehensive body of work suitable for publication, exhibition and meaningful academic and social discourse which adds significant weight to the limited existing visual work centred around cold water activity. This goal will be supported in ways I discuss in the Projection & Scope section.
The works aims address the interrelating aspects, which have inadvertently arisen within the work, such as ‘body consciousness’ – by presenting ‘ordinary’ people, often in swimsuits, using un-manipulated film scans, I am intentionally subverting the ‘digital image’. Whilst the digital element is unavoidable through the scanning of negatives, I am purposefully not manipulating the images – the only exception being the removal of inconsequential elements intrusive to the minimal aesthetic, for example – an occasional piece of rubbish or an unavoidable distant bystander.
The project also aims to address observations that cold water immersion (as a therapy) is predominantly a female activity, which correlates with the statistics that males are less likely to address mental health issues. Primary research with online cold water swimming communities, such as wildswimmingcornwall.co.uk, have informed me there is approximately 70% female to 30% male subscription rates and interaction on their website and instagram account – this is in line with UK National Health Service statistics which report men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women: only 36% of referrals to NHS therapies are for men. – https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/m/men-and-mental-health
EXHIBITING THE WORK
The project will culminate with a postgraduate exhibition in December 2021. Falmouth University being an esteemed institute of photography, the exhibition will be heavily promoted in print and online media platforms, and attended and reviewed by industry media with global audiences. It is my intention to mobilise an independent traveling exhibition by taking it to different areas of the UK to create further awareness – for example, non-coastal towns and cities which have local cold water lakes and rivers accessible by city and town dwellers.
I will actively promote my work with a social media campaign and seek features and articles in online and print publications with national and international media outlets. I will enter the work into appropriate national and international awards and prizes. I will approach relevant mental health charities and organisations in hope of project alignment and support in dissemination. I have developed a project website (darkbluelight.co.uk) which is currently generating an initial audience list by collecting email registrations from interested parties. The website will serve to offer project updates in the lead up to the live launch.
PRINTED PUBLICATION / E-PUBLICATION
I wish to create a printed publication of the works to solidify its addition to the limited visual work concerned with the subject matter. The publication will comprise of the visual material accompanied by academic texts and personal accounts of participants. E-publication will further assist accessible.
Thinking about the idea of a small publication, I’ve made mockups to see how that could work. A printed publication would solidify a permanent addition to the limited visual work concerned with cold water activity, as opposed to a temporary exhibition. A publication would comprise of visual material accompanied by participants accounts and academic text. It would pend funding and successful grant application, although I intention to launch a Kickstarter campaign to assist with production. An E-publication would assist audience accessible.
The publication will pend funding and grant application, although it is my intention to launch a Kickstarter or Go Fund Me campaign to assist with production. The content is to be universally recognisable and accessible without alienation of any audience through geography or demographics. The content is gender, race, social background and age unspecific. Profits from the book publication and fine-art print sales (available online and at exhibitions) will be proportionally donated (after the deduction of costs) to appropriate mental health charities such Mind UK.
PRESENTATIONS / COLLABORATIVE TALKS
Due to the physical, sporting, general health & well-being, mindfulness, social and psychological nature of the work, the project can be disseminated further afield than the immediate domains of art and photography. I would like to arrange talks and presentations in collaboration with relevant researchers, scientists, academics and cold water participants which can be presented in a physical capacity and through online media platforms (podcasts and Instagram Live). There is scope to visit educational institutions and this can coincide geographically with my traveling exhibition.
The most significant challenge I face is financing the practical application. It is imperative to the work that I make a comprehensively inclusive representation of all gender, race, age and social background. The scale of the project is determined by this factor and as such, I need assistance in financing the film stock, development and scanning costs. I believe a realistic maximum pre-edit quantity would be approximately 50 portraits of individuals accompanied by approximately 50 still life images (of personal representative objects and handwritten accounts) and a further 40 contextual reportage photographs, which will still allow for a comprehensive final edit.
November 2020 – April 2021:
- Continued research and development of work in progress.Continued practical application of work in progress portfolio.
- Publication planning – Identify realistic print options. Experiment with initial design layouts.
- Identify and approach collaborative writers for publication.
- Identify and approach appropriate charities and mental health organisations for possible project alignment.
- Apply for funding, bursaries and grants to assist the print, exhibition and publication costs.
May 2021 – August 2021:
- Final practical application of work in progress portfolio
- Planning Book Publication – design initial layouts /
- Design and start initial promotional campaign / project awareness samples
- Launch sample work on website
- Launch kickstarter/Go Fund Me project for publication funding.
- Initial approach to Publishers.
- Exhibition planning – identifying and approaching spaces
- Identify and approach media for features, articles, interviews and other dissemination
September 2021 – December 2021
- Final edits for exhibition and print publication
- Printing exhibition prints.
- Publication production
- Print and online media interviews, reviews and other media dissemination
It has always been my intention to start applying for funding and grants to assist my project but, like always with everything, I had been putting it off because I didn’t feel like I was quite ready to do so. What is stopping me from doing this now? Well, nothing really, I have a good theoretical background to my work and I have now a confirming portfolio which is starting to take shape so now I need to start making solid plans for the upcoming months.
A friend of mine sent me a link to a grant which was currently taking submissions and having read the information on the grant, it is pretty much perfect for my needs. The grant is by a Spanish analogue lab and in conjunction with Kodak Europe who are offering up to 50 rolls of Kodak film plus the developing and scanning. The single biggest challenge I have with my project is financing the film, developing and scanning costs so I felt compelled to submit an application.
The application process was a really worthwhile exercise regardless of whether I am successful. Entrants are required to submit a short (500-700 words) synopsis, 300 words of the ‘goals’ of the project, 500-700 words on the projection and project scope, a technical data sheet and film requirements from the grant, in addition to referrals and references to previous projects. It was such a beneficial task and I now feel like I have pretty much also written out the basis for my oral presentation which I need to submit in a few week for the end of module assignment.
Now that I have a good outline of my work in writing and have a little experience in funding/grant application, I do not feel so daunted by the task of doing this in the future. Similar to a CV, I now have a good outline which can be adapted to any future applications with other organisations. I will use the 4 week break between this module and the next to prepare applications to as many grants and funds I can. I’ve made a list of funding, grants and awards bodies of which I can look to apply to.
Alexia Foundation – https://www.alexiafoundation.org/grants
British Journal of Photography Breakthrough Awards – http://www.bjpbreakthrough.com/
D&AD Awards – https://www.dandad.org/en/d-ad-awards/
Foam Talent Call – https://talentcall.foam.org/
Grant Proposal – http://www.capturemag.com.au/advice/to-grant-a-wish-how-to-compile-a-winning-grant
Impact Film Funding – https://www.impactpartnersfilm.com/about-us
International Photography Awards – https://www.photoawards.com/
Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2020 – https://www.leica-oskar-barnack-award.com/en/
Lens Culture Competitions – https://www.lensculture.com/competitions
Life Framer Competitions – https://www.life-framer.com/
PDN (Photo District News) Annual – https://www.pdnphotoannual.com/
Photographic Museum of Humanity – https://phmuseum.com/grants/2020-photography-grant
Pulitzer – https://pulitzercenter.org/
Sony World Photography Awards – https://www.worldphoto.org/sony-world-photography-awards
Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize – https://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/taylor-wessing-photographic-portrait-prize-2019/exhibition/
The Independent Photographer Competitions – https://independent-photo.com/competition/
The Huge List of International Photography Grants, Funds and Fellowships – https://fotoroom.co/2014-photography-grants-funds-and-fellowships/
Wellcome Funding for Health – https://wellcome.ac.uk/grant-funding
World Press Photo – https://www.worldpressphoto.org/programs/contests/our-contests/28561
I have written in a previous post about how I have been asking the individuals I meet if they have any objects or keepsakes which represent the reasons for their connection to cold water immersion. It has been a hard task so far largely due to the feeling of intrusion I get when I approach people about this. It takes time to build up relationships enough to get people to trust me and open up and share with me in that respect. I have a long time to work on this project and will continue to approach people about this – not everyone has an object of why they identify as representative, I don’t think I am flogging a dead horse so to speak, it is a worthwhile venture but I need to be mindful that this will happen in varying degrees and will not happen immediately with each individual. My intention is to juxtapose the portraits I am taking with photographs of the associated objects. I have been photographing these object, so far, in a studio setting with the intention of trying to isolate the objects to give them status and importance. In hindsight, I am starting to think the images should be photographed in the context of the location I meet people. I had wanted to try and avoid this before now largely due to me thinking it was just an extremely obvious thing to do, I am not sure the studio based images are working and probably do need to be photographed on location – maybe not always, and I am not sure I will have too many to work with but I will rephotograph the objects that I have access to again and see how that is working out.
I have also started to ask people to write a few comments on scraps of paper in relation to this, this will help me with my research too, it is confirming the reason for the project. I have made up some envelopes containing a description of my project and a separate sheet which explains what I would like the participants to do (make comment on their reasons for cold water swimming) and makes a point that the comments can be made anonymously. I have been handing these envelopes out to people I meet in the morning. I have included a stamped addressed envelope to myself so the participants can send it back to me anonymously. By doing this I am hoping people will be more inclined to open up and talk candidly about themselves.
I naturally though about Gillian Wearing’s seminal work ‘Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say‘, where made a series of portraits by approaching strangers she encountered on the street and asked them to write what they are thinking about on a white sheet of paper. I didn’t want to replicate her work but I do think it is of note and something of a reference point.
I am starting to think of these comment sheets as being something that might work as a separate collection to run alongside the portraits. I have to also consider that many people that will write about their connections to the ocean may not want their portrait taken and vice versa, some people are happy to have their images taken but not want to share their personal thoughts.
I guess one of the most well known uses of handwriting in recent times is Alec Soth’s inclusion of love letters most notably in his book Niagara (2006). I used love-letters in my last project ‘Fools Gold’ which depicted many of my keepsakes positioned in and around gold in a reference to the ancient art of Kintsukuroi/Kintsugi. I am obviously not dealing with love-letters with this project, not unless a participant gives me a love-letter as a representation of why they immerse in cold water, but I am still very much interested in the element of hand written communication – There is something so intimate and personal about an individuals hand writing and it is grammatical mistakes and it’s imperfectness which gives something so uniquely recognisable and in connection to human emotion.
SOTH, Alec, Niagara, Mack, 2006.
WEARING, Gillian. ‘Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say’ (1992–1993)
Nadav Kander’s work around quietude resonates with me. Being slightly misanthropic and preferring solitude, my own reasons for swimming are to escape the cacophony and constant input of modern life.
In his recent series “Solitude – Quietude – Contemplation” Nadav Kander explores the solitude in the times of lockdown.
‘This series of work I hope brings up feelings of isolation, distance and contemplation in a viewer as well as a realisation that this time in history is bigger than just this virus. That it holds potential in its invitation to consider that this event is willing us human beings collectively to move towards balancing our indiscriminate use of nature’s resources. This is not a warped reality, it is just reality, and it comes out of man being out of balance with nature’.Nadav Kander
“I think of a quote by Rilke: “Love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you.” So many feelings are at play and I was aware that in this quiet time there was a much bigger picture playing out, and it will continue to play out in our future.”Nadav Kander
SELF PORTRAITS / SELF-DOCUMENTATION
I have been thinking about how to add different dynamics and dimensions to my work. Consciously trying to find new layers to this project, I have been thinking about myself and my own attachment/connection to cold water. Whilst I was thinking about objects/keepsakes and reasons that are representative of why I swim in cold water, I naturally reflected on my last module body of work ‘Fools Gold’, which was essentially a book of keepsakes that I held with varying degrees of emotional attachment. There is no one single object I would want to choose, so I started to think more about my current mindset, who I am now, what I am doing, why I am doing it. I came to a rather stiff conclusion that I am now at a new chapter in my life, having apparently put to bed many psychological challenges, and that as it stands, I am not sure what my future holds, or where I am going, life is so transient for me in that respect, but there are two main constants to my life – an affinity to water (solace in baths, water, lakes, swimming and unhappy whilst living away from water) and photography, which I attribute to giving me goals and focus throughout the time I have been challenged by depression and anxiety.
The above sketch is an idea for a self portrait. A universally recognisable symbol of photography, is a studio back drop, they primarily belong in a studio, although they are most certainly used by photographers on location too – Peter Lindbergh being of note. However, it is quite uncommon for a backdrop to be positioned in water and in that respect alone, I feel it makes an interesting photograph, not to mention positioning myself directly in connection to the two main constants in my life. The inclusion of a long cable release also tells the viewer that this is a self portrait. I was reminded of this during the presentation by Silvia Rosi in week 5, when she shared her work about inverting the classic West African studio portrait to retell her family’s history.
I have started to think about if this might be a good idea to use with other people for my project. Aside from the reasons I would use this approach for my own portrait, I have been reflecting on the isolating qualities that the backdrop brings to table. Maybe this is a good way to give the individuals more important in my portraits, as opposed to the images I have been taking so far which are essentially simple portraits in front of the place the individual swims. I don’t think this is actually a particularly difficult thing to execute and I think after I take this picture of myself, I will have a better idea of how it is working and whether to proceed in this manner.
Quietude/ˈkwʌɪɪtjuːd/ – a state of stillness, calmness, and quiet in a person or place.”it highlights her quietude and wise passivity” (Source: Oxford Languages)
As a competition swimmer in my youth, I have long felt an affinity with water – some people feel like their back is up against the wall when they are near a vast expanse of water, some people take an un-pinpointable calm and comfort from it. Since my late teens, I have been challenged by clinical depression and anxiety, it seemingly came out of nowhere and never subsided. That onslaught arrived a few years after I gave up swimming but I am not suggesting any direct correlation to it. Moving forward 30 years, I spent 6 years living in Hanoi, which is equally as beautiful and enchanting as it is manic and often lonely. I would take solace by the lakes in the city and more so in the mountains. Returning to London was a culture shock and my anxiety went to the next level. After decades as a city dweller, I have long yearned for the emotional well-being I remembered from being close to water. I recently moved to Cornwall where my house is a stones throw from the sea. I decided to get a wetsuit and start swimming in the ocean every morning. After a month of being here, I am less anxious and I am yet to have a dark day – swimming allows me to get away from the cacophony of modern life which I am sensitive to.
I am drawn to the solitude found in images like this by Silvia Gil-Roldán.
Coinciding with this project and moving to the coast, I’ve started to swim in the ocean and consequently my depression and anxiety is much lower. I am also part of the disproportional male ratio of cold water swimmers and I have suffered with body-consciousness. Maybe there is more authenticity by photographing myself and my own journey with cold water therapy.
TAKING SPACIAL SELF-PORTRAITS IN THE WATER
Photographing ‘quietude’ is something that is best done with wide open spaces. Practically speaking, taking these types of images are quite challenging for the following reasons:
- the only personal who I have available to assist me is my mother – I am not sure I trust her eyesight enough to ensure the images are in focus.
- I need to have a reference point for me to able to compose the frame of the image – my mum cannot swim and is reluctant to enter the water.
- I use old analogue cameras and therefore the use of technology (remote shutter triggers / remote apps) is not at my disposal.
- My cable-release is only 10metres so whatever I shoot has be within this distance, if I am to use the cable-release.
I will use a 90mm lens on my medium format camera – (this equates to 45mm in a conventional 35mm lens) which is quite wide, so at a distance of 10m I should be able to convey enough of a sense of space to deliver an image which can give an essence of quietude.
This week we were asked to post a link to our website as ‘In our present time, your online presence is as important as your physical portfolio. A good website is crucial and will often be the one thing, a gallery director or a client will see even before they see your physical portfolio or meet you’.
Ive posted screen grabs of the pages in my website relevant to the feedback I have received. The feedback is complimentary and I am encouraged by what my cohorts have written. I do however think in these discussion forums, people are not inclined to tell you what they don’t like, as opposed to what they do, and people will generally only comment on the sites they like – I would much prefer to hear what people don’t like as opposed to what they do!
Laurence made a very valid point that I didn’t have a landing page. I have played with many ideas but at the time of posting I had overlooked this. I put up a landing page, explaining who I am and what I do in the most simplest of terms.
I try to keep a website that defines myself and the aesthetics I like, rather than putting up what I think other people will want to see. Saying that, I do currently have a few bits up on the commissions page which are there purely to show that I can work in a commercial capacity. I guess I see my website as a little playground gallery for putting up stuff which I feel like sharing as and when – I might well take some of it down the following week and put something else up, I feel free to do that and no pressure to keep posting new stuff all the time, which Instagram requires you to do in order to gain likes and followers by which, regardless of what people say, is absolutely how people are judged on that platform – i’m sure this has something to do with highly followed accounts and the advertising facebook sells by levels of algorithms linked to those pages, if that makes any sense!
All that said, in 17 years of working as a photographer, every single job I have ever had came through word of mouth (having spent a lot of time and effort making myself known to people when I first started out). Nowadays, if new clients I haven’t worked for want to see some work, I will find out what they are up to and send them a PDF of relevant bits in addition to my website link – but that has usually come about through someone I know and they wouldn’t have asked me if they didn’t think I would be right for the job in the first place. In this respect I don’t expect my site to get me cold commissions.
Amy’s presentation last week pointed out how agencies are much more interested in personal work than jobs done for other people but, at the same time, need to see that you are capable of working for a client. I have found that to be very true in London and not just recently – this is not so much the case in other territories – the US and Asia, in my experience, are much more inclined to veer towards agency represented photographers or those with very client friendly looking websites.
In addition to posting this link, I was also asked to post links to three photographer’s websites I particularly like, that I think work extremely well and would resonate well with clients.
I think Nadav’s site is a great example of how to get decades of work into a site without it becoming a visual overload. His site has informed sections of my site where I have needed multiple projects onto one page.
I included Chadwick Tyler’s website because it has informed mine to a large extent – I would say my site is a mix of Tyler’s and Nadav Kander’s. I like the full screen images because quite simply, this is what a photographer website is all about – the images.!
The third artists site I chose was Chris Anderson. He is a Magnun photographer I admire and feel a certain affinity with being of a similar age and coming from a youth spent obsessed with punk culture. He has gone from being a ‘war’ photographer into portrait and social documentation with his work. I like his site because it is so simple, he has an overview of his work and a page of his publications. It highlights to me how editing down to just a small collection of images which tell you all about him quickly.
Whist I am waiting on my negatives to be returned, I am concentrating on building a dedicated online platform for my work. I have bought a domain for the project and built the basis of the website. It will very much change as when I get my negatives back and at present the design is nowhere near finalised. I will keep working on it but for the time I have been busy filling it with relevant content.
As mentioned above, the design of this site is all provisional at present. I have a used a digital sketch image all a full screen background with the project title and description over-layed – this is also a link to the main site. I think it is important for the landing page to be clear and universally recognisable at immediate engagement by the audience. I shouldn’t alienate anyone in terms of being too abstract, this is after all a project for everyone.
I have used dummy images at the moment until I get my negatives back. The tiles grid layout runs with decent sized thumbnails which can seen without necessarily needing to click on them to enlarge but are clickable so the viewer can see a full screen version. As you click in to the full screen version, this then becomes a slide gallery of which the viewer can click through each image one at a time.
About The Project Page
The about page, is just that – The information is formal, it serves the audience to explain what the project is about. At present, I am directing people I meet and have invited, to become part of the project, to this page to confirm what I am doing and explain in detail what the intentions and objectives of the project are. The page contains all the core information about the project – Introduction, Background info, What the project is, Why I am doing it, How I am doing and When and Where I am doing it.
Resources & References Page
I think it is really important to have link and direction to all the resources and references I have and am using for this project. Hopefully this page can act as a portal for any audience that is interested to learn more about the science and academia behind the work I am doing.
CHARITY FUNDRAISING / DONATIONS / JUST GIVING CAMPAIGN
After I have produced something of a ‘confirming portfolio’, which is what I am largely using this module for, I will think about setting up an ongoing donations/fundraising section to my project – this will of course be detailed on the website. I am primarily thinking about the mental health charity MIND UK as the beneficiary of this, although I would like to research more into local charities which might directly contribute something worthwhile to individuals that I have been photographing.
In respect of universal appeal it is also vital to get the colour scheme correct. It is an obvious choice to use different hues of blue, but I also want to offset this with my ‘trademark’ magenta/burnt pink that I use throughout my online presence. I find people comment on this colour to me and seems to resonate as a colour of warmth, comfort and invitation. This may well all change in the future but for now this is where I am.
To date, I have been shooting portraits of various individuals I have become acquainted by taking early morning walks to local bays and harbours that I have identified as popular with open water swimmers. With a subject as sensitive and personal as mental health and psychological challenges, it is important that I build up trustful relationships with people. I cannot just simply charge up to strangers and ask them deeply personal and sensitive questions about the meaning as to why each they are connecting with the ocean. I am also very mindful that as a male photographer, I cannot simply just take photographs of females (the vast majority of the early morning swimmers I meet are female) in swimming costumes – it is worth stating however that I have found most people to not really care about this but I do not feel comfortable to do so without permission.
In this respect, I feel like this module is very much about laying down foundations and feeling my way into this project, which I consider my FMP and will now work on for at least the next year until the course completion.
I am currently waiting on all of the films I have shot to come back from the lab. Upon receiving those, I will make my way over the Falmouth University to use the Hasselblad Flextight scanners. I have found that getting my negs processed and scanned by the labs is just too expensive at this time – by paying for a day pass at my university I can scan what I need at with really great scanning equipment as opposed to being part of a conveyor belt that unless I pay exorbitant prices will be scanned with individual attention.
WORK IN PROGRESS PORTFOLIO
In addition to the people that I meet on early morning walks around the harbours and bays, I have also been contacting people I have found online who I have since met and also taken portraits of. I have been concentrating on portraits to begin with as it is a good way to engage with people up close and personal and start to develop relationships with individuals, strangers that is, who I feel an affinity with.
I have also been asking individuals if they have any objects/keepsakes that are representative of their reasons for taking to the cold water as a reaction to psychological challenges. This is again something that cannot just be conjured up immediately and I have found most people asking for some time to think about this, with a view to meeting again so I could photograph the said objects. It is my intention to photograph these objects in a more studio based aesthetic and the juxtapose these images with a portrait of the individual in the form of a diptych. The reason behind choosing to shoot in this manner is to isolate the object and give it importance. I do not want to end up with lots of pictures of objects positioned in sand by the ocean – firstly, this could be damaging to the object, secondly, in light of a proposed publication, I am mindful of having every page with a generic background of the beach or ocean. I would like to find a method of placing the objects in water but I fear as a matter of pragmatism and risk, this is something I will not be able to do for many objects.
To date, I have three people that have come back to me with answers to this proposal and have so managed to photograph one object. Below is a digital back-up of a film version I am waiting to get back from the lab.
Katie is the local (Newquay) representative of the Mental Health Swims community and also the BlueTits Chill Swimmers community. She attributes cold water swimming to helping her successfully deal with a tragic set of events which happened in a short space of time. She has also found herself free of conventional medicine, which she has been taking for over a decade – this is not dissimilar to the case study of Sarah by Dr Van Tulleken which I have written about here (Van Tulleken, et al. 2018). The lipstick was her late grandmother’s and, since her passing, Katie has always worn this shade of red, and does so everyday when she swims.
“I started swimming following a particularly acrimonious divorce, the death of both my grandmothers and my great aunt, losing our family home and a catalogue of other events that all happened in an 18 month period. Having been on some form of anti depressant or medication for my mental health since the age of 19 I have been medication free for the last 9 months and I attribute that in no small part to cold water swimming and not just the water but the power of swimming with others.”Katie.
VAN TULLEKEN, Christoffer, et al. Open water swimming as a treatment for major depressive disorder. BMJ case reports, 2018-08-21, Vol.2018, p.bcr-2018-225007 (Falmouth University Library, accessed 14/10/20)
I now have a working title/s for my work – ‘Dark Blue Light – A visual reaction to the psychological benefits of cold water activity‘ or more simply ‘The Dark Blue Light Project‘. I will ask opinion on this but for now I have found that this working-title has afforded me development into new ideas and direction in my work – I have generally not found myself working to titles in the past, more vice-versa. I have been at odds trying to think of something that is not too generic, cliched, or close to something already used it terms of mental health and water. The title needs to be informative and not too abstract so that it is universally understood.
When we think about mental health challenges, work like ‘dark’ and ‘darkness’ are often used, I often refer to my ‘dark days’. And in contrast, ‘light’ has many associative connotations too. ‘Blue’ is an obvious reference to the ocean and water, but also one of the most typically used terms for not feeling good is – ‘feeling blue’. The title puts the ocean in between feeling dark and the light in which we travel towards via the ocean. The ocean itself is a symbol of the transient and as such evokes thought relating to a journey. The most common time for cold water activity is in the morning, when the light is blue and light the arrives – as opposed the red/orange/yellow at sun down.
Maybe the title doesn’t need a sub-title, but it will need a description so even if it doesn’t remain, it does serve as a condensed description. I had originally intended to use the words – ‘A visual reaction to the psychological benefits of cold water activity in specific connection to mental health challenges’ however, I decided against this for a couple of reason… 1, it is too long winded. 2, mental health falls within the greater umbrella of ‘psychology’ so it is almost repeating itself.
GEM FLETCHER PRESENTATION
I have been following Gem Fetcher on Instagram and listening to her Messy Truth podcast for the last year or so. It was interesting to watch this presentation on a personal level because, whilst it is slightly besides the point, not only has she worked with the only photographer that I have ever assisted, Nick Ballon, but also I realised that we have a few mutual friends and I had actually met her at one of our friends’ wedding.
What I most took from the presentation was how driven, ethical and collaboratively minded Gemma is. The key aspect of this presentation was about put yourself out there, finding the right people and fit for yourself – I liked her term ‘chemistry check’ in reference to meetings with art directors and the like. It is important to think about the ‘repeat’ element of working relationships, we should be looking to forge ongoing relationships and maybe this will take more time than one wants it to but this is a long game approach and strategy.
Gemma’s incessant approach is infectious. She has a lot of energy and is clearly dedicated to what she is doing. Her involvement is the LBGT community is evident in her work, which highlights the how important autheniticy is – if you are trying to do something that your heart is not 1000% commited to, you will undoubtedly lose interest at some point and this will come across in the work.
“Experimentation is central to my practice…It’s very simple really. I would bring a few elements together and experiment. It’s all just trial and error. I’m always looking for that little bit of magic…I like to free-flow. Now that I’m older and more experienced, I know I will make it work. I approach a shoot as a blank slate; I might have a few vague ideas, or a specific person to photograph, but that’s it. From there, the experiments start, and it can go many different ways – that’s the exciting thing about it. You need to photograph every day, make stuff every day and not be precious about it”Viviane Sassen interview with Gem Fletcher, 2018
Fletcher referenced an article on Viviane Sassen in connection to the notion that photography is a tool of discovery. This is something I have always been aware of. Primarily because every single time I have ever planned to do something, it has changed direction by the time I have got anywhere close to finishing! In this respect, I really relate to Sassen’s comments. There is of course also wider connotations than that, in as far as social and cultural issues are concerned. Gemma makes the point that we should always be questioning our own assumptions and what we have been informed by – in this way photography is a constantly questioning the world at large and how we go about our practices.
AMY SIMMONS PRESENTATION – COMMERCIAL COMMISSIONS
I found a lot of what Amy spoke of was a solid reiteration to what I already had a good understanding of, either through my own practice as a freelance photographer or through what I have learnt from friends who work in advertising and creative agencies. That is not to say I didn’t learn anything new, and what was mentioned that I did already know has served as a decent timely reminder as it now feels like a long time since I was in an arena to be trying to gain commercial commissions. I think it is one thing to watch a presentation and think ‘oh yes, I knew that’, but another to remember all these aspects when it come to approaching a commission. I do very much intend to try and gain commissions with advertising and creative agencies, as opposed to taking work through word of mouth, in the near future, so I have ultimately found all this information quite valuable at this time.
Firstly, I have not worked on many big enough jobs for there to be a Producer in addition to an Art Director involved – I have found in my experience that these jobs can often interrelate with the Art Director doing both, or when I have not been introduced to the Producer only being bought into play when by the Art-Director who acts as a go-between. It was interesting to learn more about the role of the producer although I did already have a good grasp on this. A step within the production process of which I am not particularly experience in is that of creating a ‘treatment’. To date, most of this initially planning stage I have done has been in the form of a meeting, where everyone sits together and discusses ideas.
A treatment basically is a document that you would create as the photographer, to present your approach.
- Should be payed for as it’s not usual for the process and it takes quite a lot of time to create.
- Not always asked for – (usually if the brief is quite open) – maybe the art director wants the photographer to get more involved in developing the idea and have some more creative input into it. If there’s a multiple bid project, a treatment is really important to present your take on the brief essentially, and selling yourself to the client and to the art director.
- What should be included in a treatment? – Take every element of the brief (from your art director and your producer) and go into a huge detail – A page just about lighting (how you would light, would you light from the left or would it be up lighting?). Composition – go through formats, how you see them cropped what would the content be? Would you shoot different shots for different formats or would you try and capture it all in one shot and then crop it? Also should include cast, location, styling which can be illustrated by using mood boards – (include as much of your own work as possible as reference).
- Be thorough with your written explanations and make sure everything is clearly labelled. Not often get that opportunity to talk through treatment, so has to be completely self- explanatory and really clear what it is that you are selling in and your approach.
- Speak to your producer about before you start creating your treatment: Does client use specific language when talking about themselves or the campaign? Having a logo of the client on your presentation or on your treatment is really helpful and those details that take it above and beyond maybe what the other photographers might be doing.
- Keep it professional, but don’t use jargon. Easy to forget maybe the client has no idea how photography works, or any of the technical capabilities or concerns or limitations of what it is that we are doing – make user friendly.
I have honestly never really needed or been asked for a portfolio, largely due to how little I am asked to actually physically go and meet someone in person. I find nowadays that people generally ask for a link to website or a pdf of relevant work. However, as I progress into trying to gain work with bigger agencies, I will most certainly need to have a least a few different portfolios. It is also worth thinking about how face to face meetings allow for one’s personality to come across as opposed to online platforms. Furthermore, there is nothing quite like a printed collection of your work as opposed to how things look backlit on a screen. I have had a few agencies explain to me that they want to see how work prints onto a surface, as essentially anything can look good online, at a smallish size and backlit. The down side of printed portfolios are that they are expensive to produce, however once you get up to speed, it is merely a case of maintaining them as you develop new work.
RETAINING WORK FOR EXCLUSIVITY
Something I have been aware of for a long time is not putting work out just for the sake of it. I hadn’t thought about how this fares in relation to putting on a website. It’s a tricky balance to get good project work up online for your ‘presence’ but also not giving away the work you could potentially license to an agency. I have thought about this alot in relation to the work I produced in my private time in Vietnam (working title – Highlanders). I have thought about how this work might not necessarily be as important/interesting now as it could be years to come.
FLETCHER, Gemma. (2020) – Guest Lecture with Gemma Fletcher, Falmouth Flexible Photography Hub. (Accessed 4 Nov 2020). Sustainable Prospects, Week 7, October 2020.
FLETCHER, Gemma, (2018) Viviane Sassen on creativity and experimentation, British Journal of Photography.
HILTON, Jane – Jane Hilton on Ben Smith’s A Small Voice podcast
PANG, Lydia. (2019) – The Messy Truth: Lydia Pang – On Commissioning on Apple Podcasts Recorded on 6/27/2019, Accessed 4 Nov 2020.
SIMMONS, A. (2017) Commercial Commissions with Amy Simmons. Sustainable Prospects Module, Week 7, Falmouth University.
SIMMONS, Amy. (2020) ‘Week 7: Presentation – Commercial Commissions with Amy Simmons’. Falmouth Flexible Photography Hub. Accessed 4 Nov 2020.
I’ve been thinking hard about the direction my career wants take and what want to get out this project on a personal level in respect of positioning myself back into photography industry. My natural enthusiasm has always gravitated towards people and I enjoy, probably more than anything, to make what I would refer to as ‘stories with stylised portraits’ – so, mixing portraiture with appropriate abstract and still life images, as to fall into the realms of documentary photography. I feel confident in my ability and experience in this and whilst I have tried many other avenues on this course by way of experimentation, this is how I will proceed – it certainly fills the criteria of crossing over between art and commerce and this vitally important to me. Having stepped away from photography for a time whilst in Vietnam, I feel my portfolio is not really representative of the manner in which I want to proceed, being mostly in black and white. I am not shunning black and white but, as I have mentioned before in other posts, I want/need to embrace colour (for commercial reasons) and more to the point, I feel like I need colour back in my life! I tend to make my black and white images that are dark, eery and brooding, and that is not reflective of my mind set now.
In her own words, Michelle Sank’s practice is “concerned with the notion of encountering, collecting, and re-telling. I am interested in creating sociological landscapes, interplays of human form and location that are significant in their visual, sociological and psychological nuances”, I have started to feel a certain affinity with this statement. Some of Michelle’s earlier projects seemed to have titles referencing the ocean – ‘The Submerged’ and ‘Tidal’ being a couple of them. The idea of talking walks in coastal area’s and finding people to photograph in a relatively no frills and simple manner is what I have found myself doing – in connection to ‘sociological and psychological nuances‘.
The images from Sank’s ‘Tidal’ collection, were taken during daily walks in which she would walk up and down the short promenade by the water becoming fascinated and intrigued by the cross-section of young people she encountered and their attachment to the sea. This shaped their social interaction and gave rise to a particular sub-culture in relation to their recreational activities and future aspirations.
She states that the portraits were produced against the background of the sea, itself a symbol of the passage of time, of change, of journeys into and discoveries of pastures new – this in itself is very poignant to the work I am embarking now. The idea of using the ocean as metaphoric in connection to the journey’s that individuals are taking by their use of cold water immersion in connection to a maintenance of psychological well being is at the very core of my project.
Sank also states another layer to her Tidal project – “In addition this small town serves as a microcosm for what is happening in many parts of Western Europe where young people from Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia etc all come in search of work and security breaking down ethnic and cultural isolation and precipitating a new evolution in societies”. Whilst this is not relevant in to my own work, the idea of a second layer to my work is currently alluding me and is very much important for me to find. I have been hoping something will present itself over time, it may well still do, but I think I need to start actively seeking this out. I am not sure where to start, I feel quite tunnel minded at this time with getting up to speed with portraits and am feeling challenged by this. I think I need to keep reading and looking outside the proverbial box.
EDDIE WREY & A FASHION APPROACH
For the purposes of illustration, these image by a young photographer I admire, Eddie Wrey, are a great example of the colour palette I am attracted to. The above images were put together as a small mood board which I used to explain the colour palette and spacial design of compositions that I am trying to put across. They are indeed fashion images, but they are not overt, and if it is possible to imagine these images with open/cold water swimmers and appropriate detail images instead of models and fashion clothing, I feel the over-riding mood is positive, serious, beautiful and dignified – all words I want to be associated with. I really don’t want to create generic and cliche images, often found on Instagram, of the my subject matter. I want my approach to be clean and fresh, thinking outside of what is typically associated with mental health (typical emotional appeal images) and what is found on instagram sites relating to cold water therapy – not that there is anything wrong with those images at all.
I am visually attracted to Eddie Wrey’s travel and fashion photos and also at the beginning of the module I made a small mood board of his work as I was originally considering how I could approach my work in the context of fashion. I discarded this notion because I didn’t want to confuse the subject matter with something else. These are obviously stylised images but if I imagine myself and my environment as opposed to models and fashion garments as a subject, maybe there is something go on here.
By mixing self portraits with contextual landscape and still life I could document my own cold water engagement. It wouldn’t really change my audience, or it’s dissemination as the culmination of my FMP. It could still work as a publication, exhibition and serve a meaningful social discourse.
But would it add more weight in its message than a collection of portraits of individuals each with different positive experiential messages to tell about the same subject?
These are all considerations to reflect as I move into my next module. Regardless of the direction my work takes, it is fundamentally concerned with the key themes of mental health and the restorative qualities of open water. I have a desire to solidify a body of permanent work, and promote a reflection on the psychological wellbeing that can be taken from our primal connection to restorative blue space.
I am behind where I would prefer to be at this stage in the module (half way in), but I am not so worried – I some good solid shoots booked in over the next few weeks, more to the point, this module is very much the start of where I going with my FMP, so I am not setting out to produce a finish collection of work come the end of this module. This project is very much about making appropriate connections, which considering the delicate nature of the subject, is not something I can just go charging into. It takes time and patience although once I start to build my ‘confirming portfolio’, it will be easier to show people what I am about with project. I see this module as a foundation laying process. I have been busy making contacts and arranging shoots. Next week I have three shoots with four different individuals, in addition to myself, making five.
LYDIA PALESCHI & BETHANY ALLEN (Wild Swimming Cornwall) – I spoke at great length with Lydia this week about both the topic in general and my proposal to photography the Wild Swimming Cornwall team. One of the founding team is away at this time however, Lydia has been interested and receptive to my idea and is going to come back to me soon with a view to shooting next week. It was fascinating to talk to her, and something that came out of the conversation was that the response/traffic/interaction on their website and social media was approximately 70% female and 30% male. I had noticed that the majority of what I have found online is usually female. Lydia told me that she felt men are more inclined not to necessarily post in social media, talk less about mental health and are more inclined to share endeavours more at competition levels of open water swimming that casual posting. I think this highlights the need for my project to be entirely gender inclusive.
KATIE RICHARDS (Mental Health Swims) – Katie is the local representative of the national Mental Health Swims community. She has been wholeheartedly welsoming and enthusiastic of my project. I will be meeting her next (she has obligations this week) to photographer. She is also going to introduce me to some people that might also be receptive to what I am doing.
MARK (Under-water rock-runner) – I have already met Mark on something more of a reccy-ing meeting, I wanted to see how he goes about his activity so I could make plans for how to photograph him. I did take a couple of 5×4 images when we met (still waiting for them to come back from the lab) but I intend to shoot a lot more of Mark, of which he is being really open and helpful with. I will meet him either this week or next.
LIVE LECTURE WITH ANNA-MARIA PFAB (COMMERCIAL STRATEGIES – DIFFERENT MARKET PLACES)
Through the experiences of my freelance career to date, much of what Anna spoke of was not necessarily new to me, although there where aspects which were and, regardless, the presentation was a good solid reminder of the industry terminology, workings and it’s different markets. The following notes are more of a condensed written reference of the overall presentation.
EDITORIAL V’S ADVERTISING
Editorial images run alongside text to tell a story, with fashion editorial perhaps being the most obvious and consistent exception. So, newspaper, magazine articles, editorial features and essays being home to editorial images, and this might be just a single commissioned or licensed image, or a body of work.
COMMISSIONS V’s LICENSING
Commissions from publications are generally set over a period of time for the exclusive rights and after that the photographer is free to syndicate the work with other publications. Licensed images are time, media and territory specific, and also sometimes size as per the contract. It is vital to have a clear and precise contract (including terms and conditions) so there is no confusion as to who can do what, when, where and how with the imagery and to protect your own interests as the author.
Advertising campaigns, product packaging, entertainment promotions, film, television and commercial websites are all arenas in which commercial photographs operates. The main differences as between editorial and commercial photography are usually:
- Budgets – editorial is usually low to no pay (can be used as a personal marketing tool) whereas commercial work will generally having bigger budgets.
- Objective/goal – Editorial is telling a story whereas commercial is speaking of a brand or product’s story.
- Client – The clients differ as in publication platforms V’s brands
- Ownership – Editorial is commissioned/licensed whereas commerical clients will usually buy out the imagery
- Outcome/Result – The outcome of the work is different as a result of the above.
GAINING EDITORIAL WORK / CONNECTING WITH EDITORIAL CLIENTS
- Introductory emails (cold calling) – The worst that can happen is it get ignored. You are making yourself known but you need to be appropriate and to the point as to why you are of use to them and why you would like to work with them. It goes without saying that you need to gives links or pdfs to specific work.
- Pitches – photos and/or text to complete package
- Other Editorial – Exclusivity doesn’t mean other territories can be approach (licence specific).
- Social Media – Maintenance of platform
- Competitions –
- – market and promote photographers, generate commissions, negotiate fees, help with production, advise and support, suggest new working ideas and test shoots, have good network (20-25-% commission)
- Networking – The most important aspect. It is all about putting yourself about, this is easier said than done if you do not live in a major city, however, there is no excuse giving social platforms and video conferencing facilities these days.
I think you need to make your own luck and the more you put into something the more you will get back out of it. Work comes out of other work. I don’t think anything should be overlooked, and all should be employed. All of my jobs have come through word of mouth.
GAINING COMMERCIAL WORK / CONNECTING WITH COMMERCIAL CLIENTS
- Agencies – not easy, need established body of consistent work. Should look for agencies that are like-minded, but also for gaps in their rosters.
Market and promote photographers, generate commissions, negotiate fees, help with production, advise and support, suggest new working ideas and test shoots, have good network (20-25-% commission).
- Editorial Work – Infiltrate the network
- ‘Request for Proposal’ (pitch) – calls for photographers
- Website and Social Platforms – It is good to have but the images will speak more than this. It is a secondary necessity, so to speak.
INSTAGRAM / SOCIAL MEDIA
“There is no money in all the traditional channels and who wants another vanity published photo book?!. Personal branding and Instagram likes is where the money is. 900,000 likes on Instagram has more earning potential than wall space in a famous gallery.”Unknown source
Artistry London – https://www.artistrylondon.com/
Cartel & Co – http://www.cartelandco.com/latest
Clock – https://clocklab.design/en
East – https://east.co/
Kayte Ellis – https://kayteellisagency.com/
Industry Art – http://www.industryart.com/
Institute – https://www.instituteartist.com/
Lisa Pritchard – https://www.lisapritchard.com/
Making Pictures – https://making-pictures.com/
MAP – https://www.mapltd.com/news/london/
Mini Title – https://www.minititle.com/
Panos Pictures – https://www.panos.co.uk/
Swerve – https://swerverepresents.com/news/
Together Associates – https://togetherassociates.com/
Visual Artists – https://www.visualartists.com/
Webber Represents – https://www.webberrepresents.com/
WeFolk – https://www.wefolk.com/
Wyatt Clarke & Jones – https://wyattclarkejones.com/
LEGAL & INDUSTRY BUSINESS STUFF
Resource for legal information – http://www.photoagentslondon.co.uk/
Industry T&C’s – http://www.photoagentslondon.co.uk/#industry-terms-conditions
Usage Calculator – https://www.the-aop.org/information/usage-calculator
Copyright For Clients – https://www.the-aop.org/information/copyright-4-clients
Useful Downloads – https://www.the-aop.org/information/downloads
Protection and legal help in disputes – theaop.org
Legal Representation – swanturton.com
FILM – HOW CREATIVE TECHNOLOGY TRANSFORMED A TRILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY
‘From the heyday of TV advertising, to the dawn of the Internet, to the rise of the digital experience, makeSHIFTexplores the art and science behind the advertising industry’s 20+ year evolution. See how creative technologies drove a shift from pushing messages through TV, radio, print and outdoor ads to delivering increasingly engaging, immersive and valuable digital experiences to consumers. While some advertisers struggled to evolve, a brave new generation grasped the possibilities—both creative and strategic—and harnessed these fast-changing technologies to enhance their creativity, test new business models and press ahead. ‘makeSHIFT’ is a story about the agencies and makers behind the brands. Our team interviewed a range of leaders from developers to designers to creative directors to founders at some of the most innovative agencies in the world, both small and large, digital and traditional. The film takes an inside look at how these makers and agencies have shifted and re-shifted their skillsets, creativity and businesses, as new creative technologies emerged, declined, and were replaced by the next technology in an endless cycle of change. makeSHIFT shines light on this beautifully frustrating pattern, and celebrates the makers that have embraced the shift and thrived.’
PRITCHARD, Lisa (2011) Setting up a successful photography business. A. & C. Black. pp136-138-1
RYAN, Kathy. Interview with Kathy Ryan in HotShoe international 187, Spring 2014, Creative Magazines Ltd
THOMAS, Gwen & TURTON, Swan (2014) Contract Law, Legislation and Legal Remedies in Beyond the lens. Association of Photographers. p61-77
I didn’t have a lot to show today in the way of photos (see my last post here) but I did present my project intent to my tutor. She was particularly interested in the underwater rock-running aspect of my proposal and immediately found the same metaphor that I had of carrying rocks and carrying the burdens of mental health. It was discussed how it might be an idea to zoom in and solely focus on this activity, which was suggested because possibly my project will become too broad. I agree that the work needs to be concentrated but I am not sure that this is enough for an FMP project alone. I am interested in people that use cold water activity as a therapy specifically in connection to mental health, most people are not using rock-running to alleviate or subside mental health issues as opposed to strength and conditioning training, and also for learning how to relax and not panic underwater. It happens that Mark (the guy I have been photographing doing this) uses this activity as a different form of cold water therapy (to alleviate depression and anxiety), but he also surfs too. I need to think more about this and certainly I want to continue to photograph Mark, and his friend Elenor. It might well be that I need to start thinking in chapters so to speak. I feel a little confused as I always do coming out of a 1-2-1. I need to keep shooting how I had originally planned because believe other things will present themselves as they always do.
Something else that was mentioned was that of the ‘hydrotherapy‘ techniques used in the 1940s set fictional drama ‘Ratched‘ where extreme hot and cold temperature baths are used to ‘cure’ lesbianism. During Victorian times, depression and anxiety were considered a form of madness. It’s an interesting reference and I thought about how what was essentially torture in psychiatric wards might be related to people almost torturing themselves by entering freezing cold water – inducing the ‘stress response’ (see my post here), but this isn’t really appropriate, a torture does not usually occur voluntarily and serve a primary function of wellbeing and feeling good, more likely in the modern world used to extract information.
In reflection, I don’t really feel like I got a huge amount out of todays 1-2-1, that said, without any images to show at the moment there was not a lot for my tutor to go on. The main point to take away was reiteration for me to not go too broad with my line of enquiry and make sure that what I am photographing is connected.
TELL A STORY TASK
The Hoa Trên Đá (trans. ‘Flowers on the Stone’) volunteer group identifies under-equipped schools in remote areas of Northern Vietnam attended by children from ethnic minority groups. The group rejuvenate dilapidated school buildings and create play areas (by sourcing materials from donors) with the sole mission of providing a better standard of learning facilities for children born into difficult lives. Vietnam, February 2019.
Having been lucky enough to have a friend lend me his RB67 so I can set about this project with medium format, as opposed to my little Fuji X100T, I shot some rolls of film and sadly there are only a few salvageable images due to a faulty film back. On a personal note, it’s put me back a little but it’s not a huge problem as I now have my own personal kit finally coming back to me from Vietnam, so as soon as that arrives I will be back in the mix and cracking on. With regard to the above images, the sun was out and I did what I could to try and put over the coldness of the water, sunlight does not help with that but now we are entering the real UK winter I am sure I will not have much trouble in that respect moving forward.
I also met up with Mark, the chap I met who goes ‘Rock-Running’ (see my post here), and his friend Elennor this morning. I took the last 4 sheets of 5×4 film I had and am waiting for them to be processed. I took a few documentation images with my phone camera (see below), nothing special but not really intended as anything other than quick snapshots. I will be meeting them again as soon as I have my full kit back from Vietnam to take more images. I will be bringing home one the rocks they use to shoot in a still life studio capacity. Whilst I was down at the beach, I met some more people that swim in the ocean (no wetsuits) every morning who are also happy for me to photograph them. This is ok in a contextual sense, but I am really after people who are using the cold water as a means of therapy specifically in relation to mental health issues. It is not really the sort of thing people immediately open up about and is why I am scouring the internet for people that are openly talking about this. The search continues…
During January, Gilly McArthur undertook a challenge to swim in the local Cumbrian lakes and tarns every day to raise money and awareness for the health charity, Mind. Through Floe State of Mind, filmmaker Ben Gerrish wanted to capture and present an inspiring presence of mind and calmness within what may seem like a hostile and unforgiving environment to many.
“I absolutely love the mental clarity that entering ice takes. The whole experience demands focus and awareness at a very deep level, overcoming a deep rooted primeval drive telling you this isn’t right. It’s hugely powerful to overcome this, to know your own body and mind and be certain it’s fine. This is why I love the cold.”Gilly McArthur
JOHANNA NORDBLAD – WORLD RECORD FREEDIVER
Finnish freediver Johanna Nordblad holds the world record for a 50-meter dive under ice. She discovered her love for the sport through cold-water treatment while recovering from a downhill biking accident that almost took her leg. British director and photographer Ian Derry captures her taking a plunge under the Arctic ice. Shot in the wilderness of Finland at temperatures of minus 14 degrees.
KARI FURRE & KATE REW – (OPEN WATER SWIMMING SOCIETY)
Chasing the Sublime is a mesmeric look at why adventurers adventure, and swimmers swim. Shot in Loch Hourn, Scotland, in 2018, the film documents the swimming adventures of Kate Rew and Kari Furre of the Outdoor Swimming Society.
Kari Furre is a Devon based artist and director at the Outdoor Swimming Society, there with Kate Rew in 2005 when the idea was born. Kari was also one of the early gold Duke of Edinburgh Award girls, back when women did not do things like this on an equal footing with the boys. In May 2016 she swam the 10.5 mile Lake Windermere in celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the DofE and continues to be inspired by her natural surroundings.
VIVIENNE RICKMAN (ARTIST / COLD WATER SWIMMER)
Vivienne Rickman is a cold water swimmer and photographic artist – she takes ‘self-portraits’ whilst in the near freezing lakes of the UK. The word Afterglow comes from the rush of blood you get when you come out of extremely cold water. This short documentary follows artist, photographer and outdoor swimmer Vivienne Rickman Poole as she swims in some of the most beautiful lakes in the Snowdonia National Park. Following Vivienne in her outdoor swimming endeavours we looked for an understanding of why swimming in cold water lakes is not just about testing yourself with extreme temperatures but its more about your relationship with nature and the mental growth you gain from it. The film was and is still being shown internationally in festivals such as : Kendal Mountain Film Festival, LLAMF and the Cervino Cinemountain Film Festival. It also won Best Women in Adventure Film at SHAFF and the Best Short Film Award at the Four Seasons Film Festival.
NATASHA BROOKS (ARTIST / COLD WATER SWIMMER)
Natasha Brooks is an award winning film maker, visual artist and underwater camera operator based in both N.wales and the Peak District. She is also a general water enthusiast who swims, surfs and free dives all year round. Her experience of these activities feeds into her art work and beyond and within her practice she is currently exploring the meditative states induced by breath control, particularly through free diving. She can hold her breath under water for over 5 minutes, finding this the most direct, primal and pure form of meditation. She is currently creating a body of work linked to this. This site is dedicated to her direct documentation of these watery adventures. (Statement taken Nastasha Brooks’ website).
KATE DRUCQUER (Film Maker)
This film is particularly interesting as it directly relates to depression in connection to cold water swimming, the subject of the film (I cannot find her name) also talks about her body and the ridicule she experienced as a child – this is something I would like to address in my work. I am wondering how many people would like to embark on OWS/CWT but are lacking in confidence to uncover themselves in public.
There is an abundance of scientific research and awareness accounting for the physical benefits of cold water immersion, however, in relation to the psychological benefits, this subject is still in it’s infancy. Research already undertaken does suggest cold water immersion is good for our mental well-being – indeed, one recent study documents a young lady giving up antidepressants after being prescribed cold water swimming once a week¹. The experiential accounts of individuals and community groups, whilst anecdotal, are important to the progression of research and awareness – which, ultimately, could lead to cold water activity, as a therapy, becoming better recognised as a proven alternative to traditional pharmaceutical treatment for mental health challenges. The core of my project aims to create more awareness by adding the already existing work centred around cold water therapy, ‘Blue Mind Theory‘² and all open cold-water based activity in direct and specific relation to mental health challenges.
¹ Whilst not entirely conclusive, Christoffer Van Tulleken et al’s 2018 research study ‘Open water swimming as a treatment for major depressive disorder’ details the impact of prescribing open water swimming once a week had on a 24-year-old woman with symptoms of major depressive disorder and anxiety and had been treated for the condition since the age of 17 with antidepressants. Symptoms were resistant to fluoxetine and then citalopram. Following the birth of her daughter, she wanted to be medication-free and symptom-free. A programme of weekly open (cold) water swimming was trialled. This led to an immediate improvement in mood following each swim and a sustained and gradual reduction in symptoms of depression, and consequently a reduction in, and then cessation of, medication. On follow-up a year later, she remains medication-free.
² ‘Blue Mind Theory‘ was first coined by Wallace J Nichols in his book ‘Blue Mind: How Water Makes You Happier, More Connected and Better at What You Do‘. Nichols refers to the term “blue mind” to describe “the mildly meditative state we fall into when near, in, on or under water. It’s the antidote to the “red mind”, which is the anxious, over-connected and over-stimulated state that defines the new normal of modern life”.
PROJECT OUTLINE / STATEMENT OF INTENT
- A collaborative and participant based artistic reaction to ‘Blue Mind Theory’.
- Documentation of my personal journey with cold water activity in relation to my mental health challenges.
- Add the visual quantity of artistic work related to the psychological benefits of cold water activity (in connection to mental health).
- Raise awareness and promote the psychological benefits of cold water activity in connection to mental health challenges.
- Collaborative contextual photographs of/with participatory advocates. (portraiture, reportage, still life)
- Dedicated project website + social media.
- Printed publication (funded by Kickstarter campaign) – Profits to be donated to MIND UK.
- Traveling Exhibition (bring together communities, raise awareness, donations and print/publication sale profits for MIND UK).
- Further dissemination to be decided as project evolves.
- Open water swimmers, surfers, underwater rock-runners and other individuals using cold-water activities (as a coping mechanism and treatment for depression, anxiety and other mental health issues).
- Researchers, scientists, doctors, psychologists and academics.
- Age and gender unspecific (not limited by demographics for the project to be as far reaching as possible).
- The work started in October and will run up to, and beyond, my FMP (final major project) which is due January 2022.
- Primarily in Newquay, Cornwall. With finances permitting (grants, bursaries and other funding), I will work further afield.
SHORT-TERM PLANS (THIS MODULE)
PORTRAITS OF COLD WATER SWIMMERS & INDIVIDUALS ENGAGING IN OTHER COLD WATER ACTIVITY
It it my opinion, and doubtless innumerable others, that portraiture connects the photographer, the participating subject and the audience on the most emotional level possible that photography affords. To start this longterm project, I will begin by making as many face-to-face connections as possible, within my local vicinity, with cold water swimmers. This will allow me to gain knowledge of local activity and why people are using cold water in connection to well-being. I plan to take portraits of various individuals I engage with during early morning walks to local bays and harbours, that I have identified as popular with open water swimmers.
With a subject as sensitive and personal as mental health and psychological challenges, it is important that I build up trustful relationships with people. I cannot just simply charge up to strangers and ask them deeply personal and sensitive questions about the meaning as to why each they are connecting with the ocean. I am also very mindful that as a male photographer, I cannot simply just take photographs of females (the vast majority of the early morning swimmers I meet are female) in swimming costumes. In this respect, I feel like this module is very much about laying down foundations and feeling my way into this project, which I consider my FMP and will now work on for at least the next year until the course completion.
REPRESENTATIONAL OBJECTS OF PARTICIPANTS CONNECTION TO OPEN WATER IMMERSION
To add depth to my work in progress, I will ask the individuals that I photograph if they have any objects and keepsakes which are representative of the reasons that they regularly immerse themselves in cold water. I will then photograph these objects in studio environment to isolate the object and give it importance. I feel that if I was to photograph the objects on location, where I meet the individuals (mostly on beaches and in harbours), it could be mistaken as something that has washed up as pollution. I think by juxtaposing the portraits and the objects together as diptychs this could work well to address the topic of my inquiry.
This might well turn out to be a challenging proposition and I fear that I could be met with problems simply because people might not have any objects or keepsakes they associate with their cold water activity. I will see how this idea pans out and if I am not having too much success, I will rethink the manner in which I can personalise the project, or add contextual layers.
LONG TERM PLANS (FINAL MAJOR PROJECT)
In the long-term, I would like, as it stands now, to create a publication of my work. The reasons being that 1, I believe there is a large enough global community of cold water swimmers to generate enough interest in such a publication, 2, as mentioned in previous contextual research posts the subject of cold water immersion in relation to psychological well-being is in it’s infancy, 3, there is very little artistic reaction to the subject. These three reasons should be enough to generate book sales of which proportional profits (once costs are covered) can be donated to mental health related charity MIND Uk.
To create an in depth body of work, this, as I see it, would need to cover all aspects of cold water immersion in connection to psychological well-being. I would need to cover more than just take a collection of portraits of swimmers and objects that are representative of their connection to the water. Other aspects I would like to include would be the sense of community, bravery, resilience, body-confidence and mindfulness. I would like to experiment with self-portraits and possibly underwater photography.
‘Sense of Community’
One key aspect coming out of my qualitative research is the sense of community of which people use the cold water swimming groups for in respect of psychological well-being. I am keen to visualise this in the coming months as it is an important aspect. I have been thinking about how the collection of portraits I am taking of individuals will essentially become a community of images when shown together but in a more literal sense I will endeavor to show groups of cold water users together. This could be shown through something more abstract, for example, an image of the cakes and drinks people bring each other in the mornings for post-swim sustenance.
Technical: Mamiya RB67 medium format 6×7, Kodak Portra.
REFERENCES / RESOURCES
NICHOLS, Wallace J. ‘Blue Mind: How Water Makes You Happier, More Connected and Better at What You Do’, Abacus (5 July 2018).
VAN TULLEKEN, Christoffer, et al. Open water swimming as a treatment for major depressive disorder. BMJ case reports, 2018-08-21, Vol.2018, p.bcr-2018-225007 (Falmouth University Library, accessed 14/10/20)
Whilst out shooting some contextual images this week, one of the people that stopped to talk (large analogue camera’s always seem to generate interest) was a gentleman named Mark who was interested in why I was photographing a tidal pool. I explained the intended nature of my work and after a long conversation it transpired that he was involved in an activity that I had never heard of before called ‘Rock-Running’; running along the sea-bed with a 20-30kg rock. After I told him my project was induced by mental health he opened up enough to explain that he started rock-running as a water based therapy to a bout of depression he had experienced. I think this is something that will incorporate into work well and I have since contacted him about photographing him and his friend whilst they are rock-running one morning and taking his portrait, to which he duly obliged. I will meet him this coming week to take some photos.
I enjoyed Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz’s webinar this week – I was impressed and inspired by the scale of her work ‘Green Ribbon’. It was enlightening to hear how she went about her work and served to highlight the importance of research.
On a technical note and in relation to my own work, I recognised her images as being taken with a Mamiya RB67, which is what I am using again now. I have always loved to use this camera and will get over the reasons I have not used mine so much in the past; aside from financial costs of film and scanning, the weight is a nuisance. I liked her comments, when so many people seemed to be asking why she shot medium format, that simply she was advised to find a camera system she liked, stick with it and get good at using it. I thought this was rather diplomatic when I kind of got the feeling she really just wanted to say “because it’s still better than digital”!, or that’s what I wanted her to say to all that were querying why she didn’t use digital.
When I first used the RB and RZ, I found the rack and pinion focussing system suited me. The lenses are widely available on the second hand market and the work horse kit in general is built to last. The idea of slowing down my shooting is something I feel is necessary. Sometimes, it is a pain to miss shots by not having burst functions on the camera but hey ho, whatever, this is only relative and more to the point, if you construct and plan an image well enough you will not need to compensate with lots of images – I am referring to possibly needed to work quickly with swimmers but I think I not have too much trouble getting around that.
Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz – http://www.hannakatrina.co.uk/
Since 2006, prescriptions of antidepressants have more than doubled and, in the real world, patients often end up taking these drugs for many years yet their effectiveness is open to debate. New methods and approaches are needed to combat the multitude of reasons and causes for the depression and anxiety. There is an abundance of scientific research and awareness accounting for the physical benefits of cold water immersion, however, this subject is still in it’s infancy with regard to the psychological benefits – although research already undertaken does suggest cold water immersion is good for our mental well-being. You can see all my posts relating to ‘Blue Health’ here for more information.
Further to the notions first suggested by Dr Roger Ulrich (Ulrich et al, 1991) (see my post here) regarding Psychophysiological Stress Recovery Theory (PSRT) in connection to Acute Stress Response (aka ‘fight or flight’), a British based team of scientists and researchers have begun to try and prove the biological theory that by adapting to the cold water (of which immersion triggers the same stress response as found in ‘fight or flight’) humans can learn to better respond to psychological and mental health challenges.
Whilst not entirely conclusive, Dr Christoffer Van Tulleken et al’s 2018 research study ‘Open water swimming as a treatment for major depressive disorder’ details the impact of prescribing open water swimming once a week had on a 24-year-old woman with symptoms of major depressive disorder and anxiety and had been treated for the condition since the age of 17 with antidepressants. Symptoms were resistant to fluoxetine and then citalopram. Following the birth of her daughter, she wanted to be medication-free and symptom-free. A programme of weekly open (cold) water swimming was trialled. This led to an immediate improvement in mood following each swim and a sustained and gradual reduction in symptoms of depression, and consequently a reduction in, and then cessation of, medication. On follow-up a year later, she remains medication-free.
“One theory is that if you adapt to cold water, you also blunt your stress response to other daily stresses such as road rage, exams or getting fired at work,”Dr Chris Van Tulleken,
In Dr Van Tulleken’s article for the BBC News, he points out that outdoor exercise and the companionship found within a community of fellow swimmers can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety, however the research team he lead in this study believe that there is a biologically plausible theory behind the idea that the effect of cold water immersion in itself may be a solution.
“We understand very little about it… Depression has genetic influences but we haven’t specifically identified them; it’s probably not one disease but many; there are environmental and lifestyle factors, and these may be physical or psycho-social. Factors like deprivation, local social hierarchy and level of autonomy in life all play a role. If cold water swimming is effective it may help us understand how depression works.”Dr Chris Van Tulleken
Cold water immersion evokes a stress response (a set of physiological and hormonal reactions that evolved millions of years ago to cope with a wide range of potential threats – in the modern world animal attacks, jumping in cold water and sitting an exam all elicit a similar response). Heart rates, blood pressure and breathing rates all increase and stress hormones are released, however, if the body is immersed into cold water, of 15C or less, even only a few times this stress response is reduced.
This response is called ‘cross-adaptation‘, and it is where one form of stress adapts the body for another. There is increasing evidence linking depression and anxiety with the inflammation that accompanies a chronic stress response to the physical and psychological problems of modern life. Through cross-adaptation, cold water swimming may be able to reduce this chronic stress response together with the inflammation and mental health problems that affect so many of us. Furthermore, it is not only the stress response to cold water that reduces with repeated immersions, Prof Tipton and Dr Massey have shown this to also diminish when exercising at high altitude.
Humans have evolved a range of automatic physiological responses to a perceived threat that prepare us for immediate self-preserving action: these underpin the well-known ‘Fight or Flight’ response… cold immersion strongly triggers this same system. On receiving a distress signal about a threat (such as a stalking tiger, or a dunking in cold water), the hypothalamus triggers the sympathetic nervous system by causing a burst of epinephrine (aka adrenaline) to be released from the adrenal glands. Epinephrine increases the heart rate, pushing blood to the muscles; widens airways allowing more oxygen to be sent to the brain, and mobilizes blood sugars as an energy supply. The release of cortisol keeps the system revved up until the threat is perceived to have passed and action is no longer required, and then the para-sympathetic nervous system takes over and returns the body to a resting state.Sarah Gingell Ph.D. Psychologytoday.com, Jan 15, 2019
The theory is sound, but the evidence it works is all anecdotal, apart from this case report. Cold water swimmers describe many benefits: they never get colds and never turn the heating on in winter. Many have stories of how they were drawn to outdoor swimming in times of grief or bereavement and found comfort, even joy, in the water. The team are starting to test these stories. A preliminary study supports the claims made about colds and further reports are being prepared about patients with a range of conditions.
In a Guardian review of the same study, Shirley Reynolds, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Reading who was not involved with the work, stated that there is evidence that meaningful activity and physical exercise is helpful in itself and that “a single case can’t tell us anything” about the effectiveness of the intervention into Sarah’s life, which “could be a natural recovery or response to placebo”.
UK RESEARCH TEAM
Proffessor Mark Tipton (Portsmouth University) – Michael.Tipton@port.ac.uk / https://www.port.ac.uk/about-us/structure-and-governance/our-people/our-staff/mike-tipton
Dr Christoffer Van Tulleken – twitter.com/DoctorChrisVT
Dr Mark Harper – firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Heather Massey (University of Portsmouth) – email@example.com
The team’s questionnaire ‘Treating medical conditions with open water swimming’ – https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSet_tdVP5o3BOKrJtFiWXHjaPMs_8V_yPMqla2d6rxzv8cg1A/viewform
GINGELL, Sarah, ‘How Cold Water Swimming Improves Stress Management – Mental Health, ‘Loony Dookers’ and Polar Bears’, Online article in Pyschologytoday.com, Jan 15, 2019
GLENY, Helen. ‘Cold water swimming: Why an icy dip is good for your mental and physical health’, Online article in Sciencefocus.com, 24th July, 2020.
LIVERPOOL, Layal. ‘Could cold water swimming help treat depression?’. Online article in The Guardian, Thu 13 Sep 2018.
MOLE, Tom B, MACKEITH, P. ‘Cold forced open-water swimming: a natural intervention to improve postoperative pain and mobilisation outcomes?’, BMJ Case Reports, 2018.
PEARSON, Beth. ‘Cold Water As A Medical Treatment’ online article in Outdoor Swimming Society. Accessed 14.10.20
TIPTON, M. et al, ‘Cold water immersion: kill or cure?’,’ Experimental Physiology, 102.11, 2017.
VAN TULLEKEN, Christoffer, et al. Open water swimming as a treatment for major depressive disorder. BMJ case reports, 2018-08-21, Vol.2018, p.bcr-2018-225007 (Falmouth University Library, accessed 14/10/20)
VAN TULLEKEN, Christoffer. ‘Can cold water swimming treat depression?’ BBC News online article, 13 September 2018
Wim Hoff, aka The Ice Man or The Ice Shamen, has been widely publicised and the release of the ‘Wim Hof Method’ has been followed and used with success used by a global audience. Whilst Hof is primarily concerned with the immune system through three key elements (Breathing exercises, training of mindset/concentration and gradual exposure to the cold), cold water immersion is a part of the Wim Hof Method, and it be remiss of me not consider his ‘work’ contextually.
I think it is important to consider the work from a scientific perspective, but moreover, he provides methods of cold water immersion that make the activity absolutely accessible to all, providing you have a bath or shower unit. Granted, the activity and community or cold water swimming and other activity bring different benefits with them, the core notion of boosting well-being is central to both. I don’t think it is necessary to write a whole post explaining the method just yet, as it is hugely complex, and there is nothing I can add to what is already provided in the official PDF released by The Wim Hof Method, however, I will explore more of the technique over time, specifically in relation to the ‘shock response’ bought on by exposure to extreme cold, which is central to the science behind cold water immersion.
HOF, Wim. (2016) The Wim Hof Method Explained
Another key contextual critical research I have been following and am informed by is the work of marine biologist Wallace J Nichols and his publication ‘Blue Mind: How Water Makes You Happier, More Connected and Better at What You Do’, Abacus (2018). The book is extensive and I have not read it all yet but it appears to cover, with scientific research and analysis, the myriad aspects of the human connection to water and the psychological benefits of it. The book appears to be the most scientifically comprehensive of all the publications available on the subject and as this research project continues throughout the remainder of the MA course, I will make updates on the findings of this book as I read them.
The first finding to point out is that Nichols coins the term – ‘Blue Mind Theory‘ – a notion that is inextricably linked to ‘Blue Health’, ‘Eco-Therapy’ and the other critical theory and research I have been researching – you can see all my posts relating to ‘Blue Health’ here. Notably, Nichols explains the term ‘Blue Mind Theory’ as:
“the mildly meditative state we fall into when near, in, on or under water…the antidote to what we refer to as ‘red mind,’ which is the anxious, over-connected and over-stimulated state that defines the new normal of modern life. Research has proven that spending time near the water is essential to achieving elevated and sustained happiness.”Wallace J Nichols, ‘Blue Mind’ (2018).
NEUROPLASTICITY – BLUE MIND VS RED MIND
The brain, in it physical and functional structure is ‘plastic‘ – Neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity, refers to the brain’s adaptability and changeability (throughout life) and ability to reorganize itself. The brain has evolved over millennia, as too our brains are constantly evolving and changing throughout our own individual lifespans – they change depending on our requirements, be that needs, attention, input, emotions, reinforcement and due to myriad other aspects and factors.
The brains’ neuroplasticity is what, essentially, affords us learn, gather and process memories, recover functionality (after trauma or physical loss of sight or hearing for example, and it allows us to overcome habitual negativity’s (smoking, substance abuse etc…) which all inadvertently help us become and maintain being a better and more informed version of ourselves. This is possible because the brain has the ability to create new, reshape and strengthen neural networks and pathways, and eliminate networks that are surplus to requirements by reacting to to certain factors, like behavior, environment, or neural processes. In other words, our environment, emotions, perceptions, culture and biology can change out brain, for good or for bad.
“The cerebral cortex is actually selectively refining it’s processing capabilities to fit each task at hand”Michael Merzenich
To a large degree, the changeability of the brain is down to trial and error – the computation of action is perpetually revised and remodeled based on outcome. Throughout our lifespans, the creation of neuron networks (billions of neurons in the human brain each connect with tens of thousands of others, making trillions of connections) accomplish what is needed to function efficiently (Doige, 2007).
“… neuroplasticity is activated by attention itself, not only by sensory input. Emotional arousal may also be a factor… the same factor be involved in activating neuroplasticity when we participate in an activity that is important or meaniful to us.”Barbara Bradley Hagerty, Fingerprints of God
The brains’ neuroplasticity, through its remodeling, allows us to learn and embrace new experiences (art, sporting activity etc..) and do away with (forget) negative experiences which we learn as failures or accidents. In this very respect, we can learn to transition into a positive mindset and, subsequently, happiness; this is what Nichols refers to when he is coining the term ‘blue mind’ and the shift from the ‘red mind’. This is obviously incredible complex however, it comes as no surprise to consider that in order to maintain the blue mind, it needs constant environmental (restorative – see my post here) and emotional reinforcement. For Nichols, and the many people that swim, immerse or otherwise connect and surround themselves with water.
PUTTING THE BLUE MIND TO WORK
The practical employment of the properties of neuroplasticity to mitigate PTSD and other stress related illness is advanced and Nichols addresses this in connection to water (Nichols, 2018 p162-170). Nichols makes reference to case studies in connection to people with autism, quadriplegia, amputee’s and many other psychological and psycho-social symptoms such as PTSD, depression and addiction – the case studies are numerous.
In particular reference to PTSD, extreme stress has remodeled the brain into a “red state” (The parts of the brain most directly affected are the amygdala which is concerned with emotions and fear, hippocampus which form and retrieve everyday memories, and the medial prefrontal cortex which store beliefs and routine memories). Among many different examples, Nichols refers to the Rivers of Recovery (ROR) organisation which exposes war veterans to water based activity and relaxation techniques by taking them on trips to rivers in the wilderness. After one month, veterans reported a significant reduction in PTSD symptoms, and expressed serene and positive emotions about life. As Adrian Roberts states in his blog post – ‘Nichols’ book contains many such examples of the power of water on the “PTSD modified brain”, remodeling it towards the blue mind state. The brain model that is emerging is providing a number of treatment options for stress related injuries’.
AGEING NEUROPLASTICITY / COLD WATER & DEMENTIA
The people the studies that Nichols refers to are in general young and it makes sense that at the ageing adults’ brain are less ‘plastic’ (Smith, 2013). However, some neuroplasticity must exist because ‘cognitive function can be facilitated through cognitive training or engagement in demanding tasks that provide a sustained cognitive challenge’ (Roberts, 2020). In his blog, Roberts states that a study of neuroplasticity in response to cognitive training of ageing adults (Park & Bischof, 2013), found that only limited evidence was apparent to claims of greatly improved intellectual capacity or prevention Alzheimer’s disease through ‘brain training’.
On a brighter and slightly contradictory note, a team of researchers lead by Prof Giovanna Mallucci (UK Dementia Research Institute Center at the University of Cambridge) have discovered that cold water swimming may protect the brain from degenerative diseases like dementia; a “cold-shock” protein has been found in the blood of regular winter swimmers (at London’s Parliament Hill Lido) which shows signs of slowing dementia and even repair to the damage it causes in mice – the discovery could direct new medicine which may help subside dementia
Whilst it is known that in certain circumstances, cooling people down can protect their brains (babies, head injury and cardiac operation patients are often cooled during surgery), it is not understood why the cold has a protective effect. The early research already undertaken is concerned with the hibernation ability (prompted by exposure to cold) that all mammals retain. Animals that hibernate (bats, bears, hedgehogs) cull about 20-30% of their brain synapses in order to preserve reserves and resources during winter, yet come the springtime those connections are reformed. The same brain connections are lost in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and other neuro-degenerative diseases
Full article here – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-54531075
BBC NEWS – Could cold water hold a Octoberclue to a dementia cure?, October 2020.
DOIGE, Norman (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself – Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science. New York, Penguin.
MERZENICH, Michael. (2013). Soft Wired. San Francisco, Parnassus.
NICHOLS, Wallace J. (2018) ‘Blue Mind: How Water Makes You Happier, More Connected and Better at What You Do’, Abacus (5 July 2018) p162-170.
PARK, D. & BISCHOF, G. (2013) The Aging Mind: Neuroplasticity in response to cognitive training. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience Mar; 15(1): 109–119, 2013
ROBERTS, Adrian. (2020) Neuroplasticity And Blue Mind. Article on Science & Technology Point of View website.
SMITH, G. S. (2013) Aging and Neuroplasticity, Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 2013 Mar; 15(1): p. 3–5.
“Why do we love the sea? It is because it has some potent power to make us think things we like to think.”Robert Henri, Artist (1865 – 1929)
The World Health Organisation defines ‘health’ as a ‘state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely in the absence of disease or infirmity’. In other words, ‘stable well-being occurs when a person has the physical, mental and social resources to meet the physical, mental and social challenges.
As much history provides us with much anecdotal evidence of the connection between nature and well-being, scientific research in the topic has only recently come about in the last few decades (Hartig et al 2014). A seminal study by Dr Roger Ulrich (Ulrich, 1984) found shorter stay in hospitals by patients after surgery who had windows with tree views from their beds opposed to those with a view of a brick wall – they also required less pain medication and received more favourable evaluative notes by nurses. Since the early studies such as Ulrich’s, there has been an abundance of research into how people respond to different environments – most of the studies are concerned with the emotional reaction (stress responses) to certain landscapes and how psychologically (moods) and physiologically (blood pressure) ‘restorative’ they are found to be (Ulrich, 1983) and (Ulrich, 1984).
It is interesting, yet not surprising, to learn that a lot of human behaviour suggests preferences for ‘blue spaces’ – preferring views with water over those that do not when we think about how much of a premium people will pay for houses, hotel rooms with waterside sea/lake/river/stream views. There has been very little research into human response to ‘aquatic environments’, however, in order to further understand this, a team of British researchers used photographs to compare responses to green, blue and urban settings. Using 120 photographs of natural and urban areas, each with standardized proportions of aquatic, green and blue elements (eg: 1/3 green and 2/3 aquatic), participants were asked questions in relation to emotions (rating from very sad to very happy), attractiveness and how ‘restorative’ they considered the environments to be – the finding rated natural environments more positive than urban and noted that urban settings including water rated higher than those without (White et al, 2010 in Cracknell, 2019).
RESTORATIVE ENVIRONMENT RESEARCH
Restoration can be defined as “the process of renewing physical, psychological and social capabilities diminished in ongoing efforts to meet adaptive demands” (Hartig, 2004 in Cracknell, 2019) – these could include physical and mental revovery from stressful situations or alleviation from mental fatigue (Ulrich et al, 1991 in Cracknell, 2019). Research into ‘restoration’ and ‘restorative environments’ has surfaced through notions that nature facilitates relief from stress and increases ‘well-being’.
Whilst restorative environments can be virtually anywhere, be it ‘urban’ or ‘natural’, that help us ‘get away’ and recover from stress and fatigue, these spaces tend to be natural settings. Natural environments tend to make us feel less stressed and less anxious. We tend to take exercise, better social interaction in places that provide us with less air and water pollution (Hartig et al 2014 in Cracknell 2019). It is fair to say that we feel less stressed, more relaxed and in a better mood when we spend time in and around nature.
“If the ocean can calm itself, so can you. We are both salt water mixed with air.”Nayyirah Waheed
ATTENTION RESTORATION THEORY (ART)
ART, initially suggested by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989), is concerned with the restoration of ‘directed attention’. Directed attention, or intense concentration, for lengthy periods of time are mentally draining – as we began to struggle with concentration we can become irritable and distracted bringing on a desire for respite and by spending time in restorative spaces mental fatigue can reduced. The suggestion behind this is that humans find nature intrinsically interesting and little or no effort to remain attentive to it, and thus our brains rest and recover. They suggest that this proposal contain 4 main components:
1 – Soft Fascination: aspects of the environment must hold our attention effortlessly. Soft fascination could include waves breaking on a shoreline.
2 – Being Away: the element of ‘getting away from it all’
3 – Extent: There must be enough content for us to become immersed and feel like where are in another world to which we have just come from.
4 – Compatibility: The environment, it must be engaging.
Source: (Cracknell 2019).
PSYCHOPHYSIOLOGICAL STRESS RECOVERY THEORY (PSRT)
PSRT, proposed by Dr Roger Ulrich, suggests that during evolution and through natural selection, humans developed immediate and involuntary responses to aspects of natural environments – when a human is faced with stressful situations, the sympathetic nervous system triggers a ‘fight or flight’ response which through hormone release mobilizes the body ready for action in which to deal with the evolving situation. The heart beats faster, breathing increases, digestion decreases and energy is released via glucose from the liver – the action requires energy and is therefore physically exhausting (Ulrich et al, 1991 in Cracknell 2019).
FIGHT OR FLIGHT (ACUTE STRESS RESPONSE)
The fight or flight response is an evolutionary survival construct, in humans and mammals, designed to quickly deal with the threat of harm or attack. In modern life, stressful situations (work, exams, commuting, family issues etc…) can trigger the same response, which overtime through repeated triggering can become extremely detrimental to our mental health. As the sympathetic nervous system mobilizes the stress response, the parasympathetic nervous system restores our bodies in to the state of calm (breathing and heart rate slows, digestion increases and energy supplies are maintained. As we reactive to negative, harmful and threatening stimuli, we also react to positive stimuli, such as water and vegetation, to aid survival and wellbeing. Studies have found that seeing and by being surrounded by nature enhances the parasympathetic nervous system and thus aids recovery from stress (Ulrich et al, 1991 in Cracknell 2019).
CRACKNELL, Dr Deborah. (2019) ‘By the Sea: The therapeutic benefits of being in, on and by the water’, Aster; 01 Edition.
HARTIG Terry (2004) Toward Understanding the Restorative Environment as a Health Resource. Accessed on researchgate.net – 14.10.20
HARTIG Terry, MITCHELL Richard, DE VRIES, Sjerp, FRUMKIN, Howard (2014) Nature and Health. In Annual Review of Public Health 2014 35:1, p207-228
KAPLAN, R & KAPLAN, S. (1989) The experience of nature: A psychological perspective. Cambridge University Press.
ULRICH, R,S (1983) Aesthetic and Affective Response to Natural Environment. Behavior and the Natural Environment, Springer, pp 85-125
ULRICH, R,S (1984) View Through a Window May Influence Recovery from Surgery. Science, 224, p420-421.
ULRICH, R.S, SIMONS, R.F, LOSITO, B,D, FIORITO, E, MILES, M,A & ZELSON, M. (1991) Stress Recovery During Exposure to Natural and Urban Environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 11: p201-230
WHITE, M.P., SMITH, A., HUMPHREYS, K., PAHL, S., SNELLING, D. and DEPLEDGE, M.H. (2010) Blue space: The importance of water for preference, affect, and restorativeness ratings of natural and built scenes. Journal of Environmental Psychology 30: p482–493.
My initial research into cold/open/wild swimming, cold water therapy and cold water immersion has first and foremost revealed many Instagram pages and posts by individuals and communities sharing their images of mostly early morning swim/dip sessions. Outdoor Swimmer is an established magazine with an comprehensive online presence and indeed has informative individual articles covering all aspects of outdoor swimming – The Outdoor Swimming Society is similar in this respect. However, I have found that there is not a huge amount of factual based documentation of scientific research behind the psychological benefits of cold water immersion. There are indeed research case studies being undertaken but I found, initially, the concept of cold water immersion in connection to it’s benefits has so far been mostly centered around the physical as opposed to the psychological.
I found the following information on the physical and mental health benefits on a new website which is run by a small community of like-minded individuals promoting and documenting wild swimming in Cornwall – wildswimmingcornwall.co.uk. The website is a great portal to a condensed background into the qualitative and quantitative research that has been and is currently being undertaken in relation to the positive and well-being effects of cold water swimming. Whilst there is a wealth of research on the physical benefits, there is less so on the mental aspects. I plan to contact the people that run this site with a view to the possibility of meeting them and potentially photographing them for my project.
Whilst mainstream treatments (prescription medication, cognitive therapies, or a combination of both), there is a momentum in research suggestive of the positive benefits of cold water immersion – swimming alone is established as good for us, however there appears to be a group of core benefits of cold water immersion having been identified so far…
PHYSICAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF COLD WATER IMMERSION
The NHS website gives information (here) regarding swimming as a general exercise and states it can help alleviate chronic illnesses including type 2 diabetes. This is something I took particular note of considering the history of diabetes in my family – I have been monitored annually for diabetes and have been told consistently that I am on the periphery, however, to date I am still not diabetic.
BLOOD FLOW AND CIRCULATION – blood rushes to surround vital organs which encourages the heart to pump faster and capillaries and veins to constrict – this speeds up blood flow and circulation thus strengthening circulatory system.
IMPROVED SLEEP AND RECOVERY – Exposing the body to acute cold conditions, such as cold water swimming, increases stimulation of the vagus nerve (Wim Hof Method, 2016). The deep breathing experienced from cold water exposure increases vagal stimulation. While the body adjusts to the cold and breath deepens, vagal nerve stimulation means that sympathetic activity in the body declines, whilst parasympathetic activity increases. The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is responsible for repairing the body – it conserves energy as it slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes the gastrointestinal tract. This relaxation should lead to both better sleep and improved recovery time from physical exercise.
IMMUNITY – Immersing the body in cold water rapidly increasing the body’s immune system by releasing more white blood cells and antioxidants (Siems et al, 1994) – this reduces blood pressure, cholesterol, blood clotting and increases fertility and libido in both men and women. It is also believed that the release of stress hormones readies the body to deal with injury or infection (Dhabhar 2004).
INFLAMMATION – the inflammatory response of regular cold water swimmers is lower than that of those who aren’t acclimatised to the cold (Tipton et al 2004).
METABOLISM – The body’s metabolism enables the break down of energy from food, respond to immune breaches and regulate the body’s temperature. Research shows cold water swimming activates the brown fat cells in our bodies (Laws et al, 2019) (which our hunter/gatherer ancestors had in typically higher concentrations than humans today). Brown fat cells play a key role in temperature and metabolic regulation – activation increases metabolic rates and thus keep core body temperatures stable and burning up more calories. This train of thought leads us to consider cold water swimming as preventative to obesity and diabetes.
IMPROVED SKIN COMPLEXION – Improved blood circulation & exfoliation from salt water.
MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF COLD WATER IMMERSION
STRESS RESPONSE – Van Tulleken et al’s 2018 study ‘Open water swimming as a treatment for major depressive disorder’ documents a young woman in her twenties who stops taking antidepressants as a result being presecribed weekly cold water swimming over a sustained period of time. The biological theory is that immersion in cold water triggers the body’s natural stress response. This stress response, which includes increased heart rate, blood pressure and the release of stress hormones, is an evolutionary development (formed over millions of years) to help us to deal with threat. Immersion in cold water facilitates a reduction in the body’s stress response (not only to cold water but to other anxiety provoking situations such as sitting exams or attending job interviews) which makes humans better prepared for everyday challenges and can seriously alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Whilst this research is not conclusive, there are many experiential accounts which lay claim to a significantly increased ability to deal with stress in conjunction with the undertaking of regular cold water swimming.
INCREASED DOPAMINE RESPONSE – A case study (Srámek et al, 2000) showed that cold water immersion can boost dopamine levels (a hormone and neurotransmitter that helps us experience pleasure) by 530 per cent, whilst further studies have shown that it also increases the release of endorphins.
SENSE OF (LIKE-MINDED) COMMUNITY – Humans need social interaction and a sense of belonging. Loneliness is one of the largest health concerns we face (Holt-Lunstad et al, 2015) – both symptomatic and causal of mental health challenges. Participatory activity, such as wild swimming, builds strong relationships with like-minded communities those around you.
CONFIDENCE / RESILIENCE / BRAVERY – Cold water immersion can strengthen both body and mind in connection to mental resilience; by pushing comfort zones it helps to grow stronger, braver and more confident which can be applied to other aspects/challenges of daily life.
MINDFULLNESS & BEING PRESENT – The shock of entering cold water, the element of risk and the response to immersing oneself in nature providing us with the ability to become ‘present’. Focus on breathing, adrenaline and buoyancy enables the connection between body and mind, when working synonymously brings about the ‘present’. Dissociation between the body and mind, leading to panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares etc… are inextricably linked to anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), severe depression and other mental health conditions. Cold water swimming offers a reprieve from dissociation, enabling us a reset and return to focus in the elements of life which we can control.
Humans depend on natural ecosystems to survive. Interaction with nature enhances health and wellbeing, whilst a lack of interaction can lead to reduced wellbeing and slower recovery times. Modern life leaves sensory systems exposed to artificial stimuli rather than the natural stimuli that we’ve evolved over thousands of years to receive. We stare at phones, read books, drive cars, mask natural smells and consume foods that taste nothing like their natural ingredients. These artificial influences distract us from interacting with nature, an environment that our minds and bodies instinctively crave.
ECO-THERAPY – There are a growing number of studies into ‘eco-therapy’ such as the journal ‘Ecotherapy – A Forgotten Ecosystem Service: A Review’ (Summers and Vivian, 2018) and the positive impact it has on both physical and psychological wellbeing. It is becoming more frequent for health professionals to ‘prescribe’ spending time outdoors as a means to combating mild to moderate depression and other mental health conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Cold water swimming facilitates a connect with nature, both through the act of swimming and as we travel to wild swimming locations. Taking the time to immerse ourselves in nature is an act of self-care, enabling a reconnection to natural surroundings and experiencing a reprieve from modern world pressures by removing ourselves from the space in which we experience everyday stresses.
“the mildly meditative state we fall into when near, in, on or under water…the antidote to what we refer to as ‘red mind,’ which is the anxious, over-connected and over-stimulated state that defines the new normal of modern life”Wallace J. Nicholls, Blue Mind.
BLUE MIND THEORY – Blue Mind Theory is a new branch of scientific inquiry concerned with the positive psychological and neurological responses that being near water enables. Defined by Wallace J. Nicholls in his book Blue Minds as “the mildly meditative state we fall into when near, in, on or under water”, blue mind has been identified as “the antidote to what we refer to as ‘red mind,’ which is the anxious, over-connected and over-stimulated state that defines the new normal of modern life.” Nicholls’ research explains how spending time near the water is essential to achieving an elevated and sustained happiness. Accessing our blue mind is a form of eco-therapy.
I have recently bought three books relating to the topic of the benefits and positive nature of being close to and in contact with water. It is a lot to read but will endeavour to plough through in the next few weeks.
BLEAKLEY, Sam. ‘Mindfulness and Surfing: Reflections for Saltwater Souls’, Leaping Hare Press; 01 Edition (5 May 2016)
CRACKNELL, Dr Deborah. ‘By the Sea: The therapeutic benefits of being in, on and by the water’, Aster; 01 Edition (21 Mar. 2019)
DHABHAR FS, ‘Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful’. Immunol Res. 2014 May;58(2-3):193-210. doi: 10.1007/s12026-014-8517-0. PMID: 24798553.
HOLT-LUNSTAD J, et al (2015) Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: a meta-analytic review. Perspect Psychol Sci. 2015 Mar;10(2):227-37.
MOLE, Tom B, MACKEITH, P. ‘Cold forced open-water swimming: a natural intervention to improve postoperative pain and mobilisation outcomes?’, BMJ Case Reports, 2018.
NICHOLS, Wallace J. ‘Blue Mind: How Water Makes You Happier, More Connected and Better at What You Do’, Abacus (5 July 2018).
PALESCHI, Lydia. Wellbeing and Blue Health Blog – https://www.lydiapaleschi.com/blog, 2020.
SIEMS, Werner G, et al, ‘Uric acid and glutathione levels during short-term whole body cold exposure‘, Free Radical Biology and Medicine, Volume 16, Issue 3, March 1994, Pages 299-305
SRAMEK P, et al. ‘Human physiological responses to immersion into water of different temperatures‘, European Journal of Applied Physiology volume 81, pages436–442 (2000)
SUMMERS, James k, and VIVIAN, Deborah N. ‘Ecotherapy – A Forgotten Ecosystem Service: A Review’), 2018.
TIPTON, M. et al, ‘Cold water immersion: kill or cure?’,’ Experimental Physiology, 102.11, 2017.
VAN TULLEKEN, Christoffer. ‘Can cold water swimming treat depression?’ BBC News online article, 13 September 2018
BLUETITS CHILL SWIMMERS – https://thebluetits.co/can-we-help/
MENTAL HEALTH SWIMS – https://www.instagram.com/mentalhealthswims/
OUTDOOR SWIMMER – https://outdoorswimmer.com/
THE OUTDOOR SWIMMING SOCIETY – https://www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/
WE SWIM WILD – https://www.instagram.com/weswimwild/
WILD SWIMMING CORNWALL – https://www.wildswimmingcornwall.co.uk/
Further to my post stating cursory and initial thoughts about my current status and moving forward with a view to my FMP, I have decided to proceed with a research project largely centered around the notions of cold water swimming/immersion in connection to mental health and psychological challenges. At present, my personal thoughts are concerned with the quietude and solitude I take from swimming in the ocean. I would like to explore the science well-being and mindfulness in connection to the open water. I am aware of a lot of the physical benefits of cold water, for example ice baths for athletes which increase recovery times, and I am loosely acquainted with the notions of ‘Iceman’ Wim Hof and his methods of using cold water as a means of preservation and well-being. However, short of understanding that doctors have started to prescribe ‘surf therapy’ as a treatment for PTSD and other psychological challenges (as opposed to traditional pharmaceutical therapies) – I am keen to explore this notion further a field.
PROPOSALS FOR RESEARCH:
- Investigate the notions of cold water immersion in connection to psychological and mental well-being.
- Cold water activity in conneciton to ‘mindfullness’.
- My relationship with water and moreover, swimming, in connection to my own mental health challenges and physical fitness.
- Investigate cold water activity communities.
- Investigate existing scientific research and development in connection to cold water immersion.
As a competition swimmer in my youth, I have long felt an affinity with water – some people feel like their back is up against the wall when they are near a vast expanse of water, some people take an un-pinpointable calm and comfort from it. Since my late teens, I have been challenged by clinical depression and anxiety, it seemingly came out of nowhere and never subsided. That onslaught arrived a few years after I gave up swimming but I am not suggesting any direct correlation to it. Moving forward 30 years, I spent 6 years living in Hanoi, which is equally as beautiful and enchanting as it is manic and often lonely. I would take solace by the lakes in the city and more so in the mountains. Returning to London was a culture shock and my anxiety went to the next level. After decades as a city dweller, I have long yearned for the emotional wellbeing I remembered from being close to water. I recently moved to Cornwall where my house is a stones throw from the sea. I decided to get a wetsuit and start swimming in the ocean every morning. After a month of being here, I am less anxious and I am yet to have a dark day – swimming allows me to get away from the cacophony of modern life which I am sensitive to.
MY MARKET AND MY AUDIENCE, ARE THEY THE SAME?
As I have written about before in a previous post here, I more or less took some time out of photography for the past five years, so at present it is hard to talk about current market places and audiences at present. However, I can say that up until 2015 my market and audience where pretty much the same, in so far as who I am making the work for and who is seeing it. I was working predominantly in historical clothing, fashion, music and portraiture and feel that the audience was directed by the commercial work I was doing.
Moving forward, I would like my market to continue in that way, but with some added genre’s – fine art and documentary. My proposed research project is documentary based (mixing reportage with portraiture) of which the audience will be those concerned with mental health challenges. As I shall explain further in the post, I also wish to move into fine-art sales of which my audience will be varied but essentially unified by those who want to buy my work and hang it on their walls!
WHAT IS MY NEW VISION AND VISUAL LANGUAGE? / HOW DO I INTEND TO INCORPORATE THIS INTO BOTH WORLD OF ART AND COMMERCE?
This is such a tricky question to answer. I am a firm believer in having a style, sticking to that and on the strength of it, commissions will come by appropriate entities. I think I have been photographing too long now to entirely change my ideas and visions but not naive enough to think adaptability is not required. I feel the biggest change, and challenge, for me is moving into the colour photography arena. I have always struggled to find my voice with colour, and largely finding editing digital photography problematic. I believe there is still very much a market for using analogue medium format photography, again not naive enough to all jobs can be undertaken in this format – some need to be digital, but I do think I can overcome my challenges by allowing film stock to take care of the tones and colouration as opposed to having a RAW/DNG file of which an infinite amount of choices are available in post-production. I can seem to help myself deviating from what I set out with in mind, once I have slid a slider one way a little too much and I like what I see, which changes what I had planned to do in the first and subsequently becomes confusing and furthermore leads to an inconsistent visual style.
WHO WOULD BE MY PREFERRED CLIENTS IN 5 YEARS TIME?
I find myself confused with trying to nail a specific thing I would like to find myself doing in 5 years time, the simple answer would be pretty much what I was doing before I left for Vietnam but at a higher standard and consistency – Portraiture, Fashion, Album covers, reportage but also more documentary work. When I think of what the future has to offer and what the futuer of photography is and what place it has in commercial markets, these genre’s I am sure will remain for the foreseeable future. My plan in this respect to built up new portfolio’s of work in each category (obviosusly a lot interrealate) but using the same camera, the same film stock and not deviating from that.
With all this said, there is one endeavor within commercial photography I would like to enter into – that being fine art print sales. This is something I have never really done and certainly not with any dedication or dedicated platform on which to do this. Working on fine-art prints is something I am really excited to explore. There are many reasons for wanting to embark on this venture:
1 – It it is ‘second-income’.
2 – It becomes residual income.
3 – It allows to go out and work alone, in a slow, peaceful manner (as opposed to the pressure and circus of people involved in a lot of commercial work).
The content I propose to start making is essentially concerned with nature (minimalist land depictions, ocean-scapes and horses). Existing artists I am long been visually inspired by and that are successful in this arena are – Michael Kenna, Michael Levin, Jonathon Critchley and Rachael Talibart. Drew Doggett and YouTuber Thomas Heaton and both interesting to me in a business approach, more so than their visual aesthetics, both incorporating video into their presentation, albeit in different manners.