I didn’t make it out the house this time. Not in my head. I’ve been waiting for 5 weeks to get out, desperate for quiet places and a chance to rest my mind. To be creative. I knew these few weeks without a trip out due to a series of weekend commitments were going to be hard, the noise in my head, the tightness in my body, the negative energy in my chest getting more and more overpowering. One day, I nearly lost myself again. Whilst I am getting better at managing my thoughts and feelings, this was a long period without the wild reset and escape that I need to find calm and positive energy.
My rucsac packed, I set out having tortured myself for days if I was going or not. First, a day in the office, then on the train to the north for a snowy walk across Rannoch Moor. But somewhere between the house and the train station, I lost my nerve. I felt like such an idiot as I arrived at work with my rucsac on, with no intention to go anywhere, other than home again. The weather, I said, when people asked. And the forecast had deteriorated, it would have been a cold and seriously challenging weekend with little to see and maximum effort, as always in winter to do anything. But I can deal with that. What I still can’t deal with is long periods by myself, the spiral of negativity that I knew would overtake me with many miles to cover with a heavy pack and nothing to look at but the snowy ground as the snow swirled around.
I’ve learned I need to be kind to myself, to take things slowly, otherwise I just psyche myself out. Once I just ran at stuff, now I can run at some things, but others just are beyond me, my mind just rebels, scared to commit itself to something that it knows will hurt or break me again.
I needed to be creative, so on Saturday morning I got up early and went in to Edinburgh. Drizzly and sleeting, Edinburgh looked at it’s worst. I have a difficult relationship with Edinburgh. I like cities, I love London and Moscow, but even as a kid growing up down the road from Edinburgh, there was always something brutal and heartless about this city that I felt from a young age. And it physically manifested itself in me this morning. My negativity, the hard city, the weather. Camera in hand and I felt grim.
One of the keys for managing my mental health and feelings has always been meditation. It’s been critical for me to move myself forward this year. The Waking Up course by Sam Harris which I was initially sceptical about has transformed me. I have meditated nearly daily for the last 12 months. I’ve learned to visualise my feelings and how they manifest in my body. To be able to see and feel whether I am looking inwards or outwards. To be able to catch it when outward bound thoughts goes to inwards. And I caught it this morning. The tight swirl in my chest. I took it and focussed it in to the viewfinder. And it worked.
The dingy twisted Old Town giving shape to my thoughts.
I worked with compositions I had never used before. Discordant. Unresolved. Things at the edge of the frame. Blank ends and closed spaces. Shadow, so much shadow. Looking down, often only a hint of sky, if any, at the top of the frame. Shallow focus to limit the eye. Dark and dank, my mind flowed to the frame. I worked handheld for about two hours, I don’t think I have ever been so productive on a personal shoot in such a short time.
The Hasselblad X1D was everything I expect and want in a camera. It just got out of the way. Even when it doesn’t quite work technically, like hunting for focus in low light, that was ok, it never distracted. The left placed viewfinder allowing me to switch eyes from viewfinder to reality and back again. This camera is an amazing tool to create with, and I felt every year of the brand’s provenance as I worked my inner turmoil into images.
And it felt good, like a meditation, the act of looking at the thoughts allowed them to burn off.
Working the prints over the weekend on my iPad allowed new revelations in tone, I’ve never used curves like this before. Concentrating on stretching and smoothing the darkness, deepening corners, flattening life and light whilst preserving a full tonal range. Prints on Epson Fine Art Cotton Textured Natural, make the darkness velvety and brooding.
I had a lot of fun in the end, and made some work that I hope transcends my own thoughts and impressions of place. So maybe, I did leave the house after all.