May 31, 2017
I have some new merchandise. I’ve put a selection of Organic Contrast images onto postcards which you can buy and send to people, pin to the wall, eat (please don’t eat them), or do whatever else seems appropriate.
For your money you get 5 postcards chosen at random (see the full set here) or you can choose which ones you want. here is some spiel which shows how terrible I am at writing about my art:
Organic Contrast came about from experiments with minimalist photographs of silhouettes (mostly trees) mixed with geometry and symmetry. They are mostly monochrome although some have a small amount of colour.
The images explore the beauty that can be found in the simplest of organic shapes contrasted against rigid geometric constraints.
The postcards are A6, matt printed card with a space on the reverse to write a lovely message, draw a picture of your own or scribble down random thoughts about the apocalypse.
December 10, 2016
Dreams of light bugs. Exploding into life, blur of electric blue. Fading quickly, haze of dissipating sparks.
Light painting with Alexander (and a bit of photoshop).
September 4, 2016
I’ve been kicking through the long grass, ferns and ant battalions of Burnham Beeches recently. Working in Bourne End has it’s positives but the same spaces every day begin to lose their interest and the hard walk up Hedsor Hill which on a good day is bracing becomes a chore when anxiety is tactlessly scratching at my nerves. Work became hectic and I needed an escape so I’ve started driving out to the beeches. It’s not such a trek, and I probably get more use of my time as traveling on foot I lose the first 15 minutes of any journey just getting off the industrial estate and into the countryside.
I had forgotten what a varied and beautiful environment it was and there’s so much of it I’ve never explored. In an hour’s walk I can find meadows, deep woods, beautiful swathes of foxgloves and inquisitive deer, although only the latter on days I forget my camera. My ankles have seen more insect bites over the last couple of months than in a long time but I’ve renewed my love of this tranquil seclusion which I live so near to but rarely visit. If I can keep my focus now that autumn is here I’ll try and spend a couple of hours with the camera and field recorder putting something a bit more involved together.
Here’s a selection of recent shots of the wildlife of Burnham Beeches. Full set is here.
April 23, 2016
I remembered I have a Society6 store – https://society6.com/anxioussilence so I’ve remembered to upload a design for print. I’ll add some more next weekend.
I’ve been primarily focusing on photography recently for a few reasons. Firstly, health. I really need to get a lot of exercise at the moment. I’m managing diabetes primarily through diet and exercise (with a little bit of drugs) and finding time and motivation to get any exercise after all the other responsibilities of being a theoretical adult can be a challenge. Photography is a good motivator to get out and walk someplace. Secondly, I’ve spent a lot of time over the years flitting from one interest to another, never giving enough time to anything to get any good at it, sticking to one medium for a while has been a great experience (and will be ongoing). Finally, it’s the only creative outlet I don’t need a run up to. For illustration, music and video I need a bit of warm up time which I just don’t have right now, for photography I can just pick up the camera and go.
Oddly, I never intended to get into photography as a medium in it’s own right. I picked it up again as an adult (having loved it as a child) primarily to collect source materials for illustration and digital collage, this has over time become secondary.
Anyway, I’ve added ‘Your Carriage Awaits‘ as the first item. I need to resurrect my Etsy store shortly as well. You can get a print or the image on a mug, a travel mug or a clock (because I am an awful merchandise whore).
March 28, 2016
I’ve driven past St. James the less in Stubbings (Maidenhead) repeatedly over the last couple of decades but never had the chance to stop and take a look around. I was on my way back from hiking in the Chilterns much earlier than expected and the low winter sun looked phenomenal so stopped to look around.
Unfortunately, because I had spent the day focusing so damn hard on not working one of my clients got to the point of being overwhelmingly trigger happy with the redial button on his phone and I spent about 40 minutes pacing around the car park while hoping to accidentally lose a leg or be struck by a falling tree. I missed the best of the light, I was also too mentally unfocused to try and go inside for fear of having to engage with other humans who may ask difficult questions such as “how are you today?”
Again, it’s been a couple of months since I took the photos so don’t have much recollection of the details aside from pacing round the car park while discussing websites. There was a man playing loud music in an Ocado van out the front but I don’t think he was a permanent fixture. The church is located just down the road from Maidenhead thicket so quite a peaceful surrounding (loud Ocado man notwithstanding). There were quite a few crows, but again I suspect these were not an intended feature.
The church dates back to 1849, and if their website is anything to go by has some decent stained glass windows. My aforementioned horror at possibly human contact prevented my experiencing these. I appreciate my reviews are getting patchy at this point, I’m working towards writing stuff up closer to the date, or just learning to write things down.
March 17, 2016
It’s been a long year already and bought some unexpected changes, some harsh but which have over time worked out for the better. I’ve been putting off writing this for a good few weeks and that’s probably a good thing as I now have a better aspect on everything. A little distance helps the focus.
At the beginning of the year I had a checkup that came with the unpleasant news that my diabetes had become far worse over the previous year. This was particularly shocking as prior to this it had been under control to the extent I had been given the official “sod off, you don’t need our help any more” from my doctor. At the time of the checkup it was worse than when I was first diagnosed and seemingly in decline. Since then I’ve made some severe changes to my lifestyle (which was hardly excessive to start with) which will hopefully have put me back on track, I won’t know for a few months until I next see the doctor.
More importantly (to me), I have been struggling with my mental health. This is not a recent thing, it fluctuates like a wonky LFO in a cheap synth. Over the last few months the lows were getting lower and the highs were not happening, I’m actually grateful for the doctors appointment for the diabetes because it enabled me to bring it up without needing to make a specific appointment, which I wouldn’t have done. In a hilariously understated middle class manner I mentioned I sometimes felt a bit sad (translation: spend a lot of my life crying in car parks) and was there anything he could do. I’ve been referred to a counselling service and am currently doing an initial course of CBT. This is really helping. I’m in no sense ‘fixed’, nor do I expect to be but I am dealing far better with things that I have been previously, I am incredibly relieved to have started this process. At this point I’ve been diagnosed with depression and generalised anxiety, I have problems with self esteem (or would do if I had any at all). I’m getting better.
I was initially wary of mentioning my mental health online, especially on this blog which is superficially about my art and photography but I feel it’s important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s had a massive impact on my life and has certainly influenced my creative output to a severe extent, predominantly by crushing it for a long time. Secondly, one of the reasons I finally spoke to my doctor was because I had seen other people publicly discussing their mental health problems and how they deal with them (among others Wil Wheaton, Rob Delaney and John Green). There is a stigma here, one I have felt deeply and they had helped give me the impetus to finally do something to try and fix my situation. While I am not quite at the level of those mentioned above I hope by openly and frankly discussing the subject I can in some small way help the discourse and possibly convince you to seek help if you need to. Seriously, feeling a bit sad on an all to regular basis? Go talk to someone. Always stressed, never sleep? Go talk to someone. Feel trapped in your own body and constantly screaming inside? Go talk to someone? Crying in your car five days a week? Go talk to someone.
It sounds so easy when you’re well “Go talk to someone” but I know it isn’t. If you are already struggling it can seem a massive scary challenge, especially if you are struggling with anxiety or social phobias. But please try, it can get easier. When I first spoke to my doctor I had all these fears about what was going to happen next. Would I be thrown out for wasting time? Would I be made to take terrifying drugs? Would I be laughed at and publicly ridiculed? None of these things happen, instead a very kind, patient and incredibly non-judgemental lady from the NHS talked to me for a while and helped me work out what would happen next. I’ve had nothing but kindness and care from the people who have been dealing with me.
I will talk more about this another time but for now I just want to say again, if you are struggling please talk to someone, it doesn’t have to be your doctor (although that’s a good starting point), just tell someone you can trust, it’s a starting point. It can get better.
There’s a lot of words there for something I was intending to get into one short paragraph, I should probably split this into two separate entries, but I’m not going to, this was intended to be an entry about photography and work/life balance and dammit it’s going to be.
Short break? Here’s a picture of a horse:
One of the biggest causes of woe (as has been chronicled here before) is my work/life balance and the anxiety that comes with it. As I’ve been discovering over the last few weeks this is a difficult and complex relationship which isn’t going to be fixed overnight. Back in January I had this plan (which I’ve since abandoned as bullshit) to work double shifts for a couple of weeks at a time then take an entire day off to go exploring and be alone with my thoughts. The idea being I would get a proper work free, responsibility free break. This was my first attempt.
I planned in advance where to go, Scott had told me about a bit of particularly beautiful forest in the Chilterns (near Turville) where he takes some amazing photographs. Scott even sorted me a map which I left at home because I’m a dick. Because I’m slightly less of a dick I had roughly memorised the route.
I set out at 8am at the starting point (outside St. Mary’s Church in Turville) then immediately panicked because I had my first telephone appointment with my mental health supporter at 9am and there was no phone signal. So I drove round for an hour and eventually made my way halfway home to a car park in Henley which had reasonable signal.
10am tried again. Annoyingly I’d missed the best sunlight and the beautiful frost which had covered the hills had mostly melted away. I did not give up. I followed my route saw some amazing scenery and the first proper moments of calm in a long time. I saw few people but those I happened upon were without fail friendly and welcoming.
After a while it became clear I had got lost. Mostly because I had been walking the circumference of the same field for 30 minutes and had no clue which way I should be going. After explaining this to a disinterested horse (see above) I had a bit of a panic. Initial feeling was to give up, find a car park to cry in then go home. Instead I opted to follow footpaths at random to see where they took me. This was infinitely better than crying in car parks, I strongly recommend it as a course of action.
It was a good day. I checked my email more than is sensible, I checked my voicemail more than is necessary, I thought about work more than I wanted, but I didn’t give in, I didn’t go back to work halfway through the day, I didn’t take any work calls, I took some reasonable photos and I found some personal space. I need to make this part of my regular existence but that’s a battle I still need to fight.
Things I learned:
Here’s some of my favourites:
January 10, 2016
It has a funny name, the promise of naval shenanigans, it’s in the New Forest and we were on holiday. What could go wrong? My child. My child could go wrong. Deciding he HATED it from the moment we got to the car park purely because he wanted to go to Lymington to watch the trains and he had to wait until later in the day.
He hated turning up 10 minutes before it was open, he hated it opening, he hated the museum, he freaked out at the harbour (which I’ll let him off because that was more a bit of fear of water than being an arse), he hated that I refused to buy him a toy boat because he had been an arse all day and he hated having to sit in a field with me to calm down for half an hour.
So my opinion of Buckler’s Hard? Don’t take my child there, he will be a shithead and you’ll leave after 20 minutes having paid for three of you to spend the best part of the day there. It all looked very nice and interesting but lacked any facility in which to deposit a five year old who would do nothing other than shout “I want to goooooooooo”. So we eventually went. We might try again next year. I took a handful of photos in between being whinged at.
They have a website and a facebook page should you wish for more info as there’s very little else I can tell you.
December 29, 2015
We went on holiday in October because I need to be away from computers for a while and because we’re weird and prefer to go away in Autumn. We spent a week in the New Forest which is beautiful and nicely lacking in other people at that time of year, or at least the bits we visited were. I didn’t get too much time to take photos as I had a very excitable five year old with me, and I’d rather spend time with him anyway, I failed to draw anything.
Every time we stay in the New Forest we visit Liberty’s Owl Raptor & Reptile Centre, usually on the first day we are there. It’s a lovely place to spend a couple of hours, although I don’t think we’ve ever managed to make the most of it as while Alexander does love the owls he doesn’t have the attention span to spent more than an hour or so there. You could rush round it in 40 minutes or so but conversely you could take your time and really get the most out of it. There’s a fantastic selection of wildlife with a good amount of information should you wish to learn something rather than having a confusing one sided conversation with a couple of owls. The reptile house is excellent.
It’s not a big budget theme park, it’s an independent animal centre run by people who clearly put a lot of love and care into it. I state this as I have witnessed some crass stupidity in online reviews by people who were clearly expecting to find Legoland with Owls. It is not Legoland with Owls, it’s better than that.
BONUS TINY OWL ACTION….
These little fellows were very excited to see us.
October 17, 2015
Due to a whole bunch of unnecessary nonsense I’m no longer working in Maidenhead but have relocated to Bourne End, which is not so bad. One of the great positives is it’s much closer to assorted agreeable outdoors places including Burnham Beeches. I escaped work a little early the other day to have a wander round and take some photos. I really struggle with photographing forests and am utterly in awe of Scott’s photos of the forest around Stonor so it was good to get in some practice. I was happy with a couple of the landscape shots but overall more satisfied with the forest floor/fungi shots.
I wanted to try some self portraits in the forest, but struggled a little to get the settings right. I’ve not uploaded the results yet, will see how I feel once I’ve gone through them again. The attempts did make me realise I need a decent tripod or some way to easily carry around my ancient and horribly bulky existing tripod.
Complete set is on Flickr here (although mixed in with a bunch of photos from a couple of years ago, new ones are nearer the bottom).
August 6, 2015
I like churches. Historically and architecturally I find them fascinating, as an environment I find them calming. They are one of the few places I can be where no-one is yelling at me. Being somewhere no-one yells at me makes me feel better about myself. Going back a few years I would spend a fair amount of spare time pottering around religious edifices with a camera. I had a plan that I was going to start a project to photograph all the churches in Berkshire, then I found out how many churches there are in Berkshire and decided it was a really stupid idea.
I was discussing it with my friend Neil (Neildixon.com) the other day, and he suggested I should just do it anyway. Doing ALL of the churches would be unmanageable so I’m going to set some qualifiers, I’m not sure what they are yet, I will probably base it on buildings over a certain age or possibly just the ones I like the look of (scientific!).
I have a specific motivation behind starting now. I’ve been struggling far more than usual with anxiety levels and need a creative, non-work project to focus on. This helps remove me from the stresses of life both in a mental and a physical manner if only for an hour or so at a time. I really do find churches incredibly calming places, they remind me of a simpler time (predominantly my childhood rather than the historical implication which is really anything but calming).
I chose All Saints’ Church in Binfield for the first location primarily because it was somewhere I had wanted to visit for a long time. I had last been there at my my brothers christening when I was four years old and to the best of my knowledge never returned. We had lived in a little cottage down the road in the middle of the countryside (now an industrial estate). Having nothing but positive, peaceful memories of the place made it a good destination for escape when work was really starting to bring me down.
Taking a couple of hours off on a Friday afternoon I stopped first at the Jack of Newbury for lunch (just round the corner, very pleasant, quiet and friendly) then wandered over. The barman at the pub had informed me of the not so obvious entrance to the church car-park which was helpful as it’s positioned on a bit of a terrifying corner, it’s not a busy road but it is one that people come down at excessive speeds.
Walking into the churchyard through a side gate gave me a strange sense of nostalgia, I hadn’t expected to remember anything about the place, having not been there for 35 years, but the sight of it felt familiar. While half of the churchyard has been immaculately tended the other half has been left to nature and there’s a lovely winding path through high grass and wildflowers up to the end of the church. As I walked around I spotted little bunches of flowers wrapped in foil and ribbons left carefully on the benches, giving the deserted rural location a slightly curious atmosphere. As I approached the church a woman was locking up, she told me she had been clearing up after the church flower festival which explained the floral offerings on the benches. She also let me know that unfortunately the church was only accessible during service hours, which is a shame as I’d really love to have a look around inside and it’s unlikely I’ll get the opportunity to go over to Binfield on a Sunday in the near future. She did kindly leave me her number and suggest I call sometime, if I can fight through phone anxiety enough to do so I will at some point.
All Saints Church dates back to 1350, a wooden church previously existed but was built upon/replaced (the history I’ve found is unclear). Additions and upgrades have been carried out over the centuries with a large portion of work being carried out in the 19th century.
Although my plan initially was to just photograph the buildings, I’d now quite like to find out a bit more about them, ideally I could be interviewing people involved for more information but that does involve a degree of human interaction I’m not entirely comfortable with which somewhat defeats the object of a solitary, calming project. Also I’ve interviewed people before, I’m terrible at it (there are audio recordings to prove this, I’m not telling you where they are).
The building is lovely to look at, a properly traditional grey stone, red tile roof country church. The path meanders through a well kept churchyard up to a wood and stone porch area. The focal point is very much the tower (which I’d love a chance to go up, my father mentioned he has been up there in the past). The windows look fascinating from the outside but it’s hard to get a good view of stained glass from the outside. There’s a couple of stone heads adorning the doorway round the back but aside from those it’s subtle affair, not drenched in ornament.
A chance to explore the tower, but more so the inside would be welcome, when I can engineer some more spare time I’ll have another try. In the interim here are the pictures I took outside, you can view the full set on flickr – All Saints’ Church photoset on Flickr.
On a slightly strange side story, on the way home I was passing the house I lived in later in life which is again in the countryside and three doors down from a church. I stopped off there to take some photos as well. I parked up in the tiny shaded space for visitor parking and made my way through the church gate into a graveyard devoid of church. It would appear there was never a church there. There is a small copse in the middle of the graveyard that my memory had morphed into a building.
In writing this I have realised I have absolutely no knowledge of the history of architecture of churches and very little awareness of the correct terminology for the various parts of church buildings,in an effort to stop referring to ‘the pointy bit at the end’ and the ‘decoratey bit down the middle’ I’ve picked up a copy of Rice’s Church Primer (taking this seriously now), which I’ll review once I’ve finished.
Do you know of any particularly interesting churches in the Maidenhead/Berkshire area? Let me know and I’ll make an effort to put together a list to work through.
I am Bob. This is my blog. It is an outlet and a substitute for real life. It contains my art, photography, illustration and thoughts on mental health (I deal with anxiety on a pretty much constant basis).
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