After the MA

I’m very conscious that once my MA is completed there is a chance that my connections to the photographic world may diminish a little down here in Cornwall.

That’s not to say I can’t travel to see exhibitions, meet other photographers etc. but I am aware that my life after my MA will not instantly be one of complete immersion into the photography world’s bubble.

That’s why I am working on creating a new business Photopocene that specifically works towards bringing photography to Cornwall, delivering inclusive pop-up photographic shows, talks and workshops across the county in new and unusual ways and places.

I have had a period of subdued health recently. Not physical but mental – this is something I have never talked about publicly before but it permeates my creativity and energy and zaps me of both. It stems from issues relating to workplace problems that took place two years ago, which resulted in me having to initiate a grievance procedure and which was upheld in my favour. It was horrible to have to do this and has had a major impact on my self-confidence and self-belief. It did however initiate my application to the MA; I wanted to feel good about myself again in relation to my skills and reconnect with my creative side, which I felt had been eroded over time.

Most people think I’m pretty confident and out-going, with a great strength of character; in fact, during some some difficulties while at my very first college I can still recall my tutor saying, “no matter life throws at you Josie, I know no one will ever break your spirit.” And that comment has always stuck with me. I have always felt that no matter what, I can dig deep and bounce back.

Yet, on this occasion, the situation led me to dissect my personality to the point where I really didn’t care for myself anymore and I started to withdraw from people, becoming over-sensitive and finding it hard to decipher if people were being mean or not.

It has had a huge influence on how I see the world, and how I interact with people I don’t know. Whereas before I felt I was more open, now perhaps I am more cautious.

Without going into the in and outs of ego, cognitive behaviour etc. and without the need for counselling/therapy (nothing wrong with using either), I do feel that, despite the occasional wobble of self-doubt, I’m pretty much back to my old self. The one where no one could break my spirit.

And that’s why with any new photographic project I aim to create (as with ShutterPod) it is ultimately about being inclusive. It won’t matter if you have PhD or no qualifications, what will matter is that those getting involved will do so for the love of sharing photography and myriad stories it can tell.

But most of all, even though I absolutely aim to succeed and get this project off the ground, if it does not fly then I will still be glad that I tried.

This post was inspired by the recording by photographer Jim Mortram for the Falmouth Flexible MA in Photography course.

He spoke about how his mother’s health and how it moulded his life, influencing how he saw the world and interacted with it to the point that he stopped talking for about a year.

But a chance visit from an old friend who lent him a camera was the change for him. Mortram began walking the countryside late at night after his caring duties had been finished. He spoke about a man, WH, who he would see on these nocturnal wanderings and that for a year or so they would simply raise a hand in acknowledgement.

Then he explained: “But I was going out for a walk and I was walking past WH and he saw me and he waved to me as though to see him. I still have a very vivid memory of this kind of magnetic pull that happened between us. It was almost beyond my control: I find myself walking up the drive without even thinking about it which, when you have a protracted period being incredibly introspective it’s unbelievably damaging. You overthink things too much, it’s like quicksand of the mind. I find myself walking up the drive and I find myself walking into his little porch and sitting down at his feet with the camera, and he literally just began pouring his entire life out to me.”

Mortram learnt that WH had moved into his porch following his wife’s death; he couldn’t bear to be in the house surrounded by all her memories. WH shared his stories with the then mute Mortram, who listened and then began to take pictures of WH.

There is much more to Mortram’s story of how photography helped him change his life around, the people he has connected with and the life he has now, but for me his words “…The whole process for me is about making not taking. For me the notion of taking is, it has a malicious overtone for me. The whole thing about a photograph is it is a made thing. You make it”, and his honesty and humility in speaking about his work and life stand head and shoulders above more convoluted means of explaining work.

Find out more at: smalltowninertia.co.uk

I sometimes wonder if my experience prior to starting the MA had an influence on me – I have after all chosen to work with camera-less techniques in a very solitary fashion. It probably did. But after my MA, I hope to utilise this recent experience to begin a new project that will be much more documentary in nature and will aim to visualise how women are supportive/non-supportive in the workplace. And by hearing Mortram talk so openly about his life, I feel, that although I am a private person and not one for publicly divulging too much of myself, that it’s okay to be open if you wish to.

References

Falmouth Flexible. Guest Lecture (Publication) – Jim Mortram. Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/86/pages/guest-lecture-publication-jim-mortram?module_item_id=8352 [accessed May 8, 2018]

Small Town Inertia. Available at: https://smalltowninertia.co.uk/ [accessed May 8, 2018]