Loneliness ....

I wrote a post, over on Facebook, about Loneliness ... 

But things have a habit of disappearing there.  It's the nature of FB.  Life scrolls on.  Perhaps it reappears at a memory in a year, or two but I wanted to keep this post because it seemed to really strike a cord in people.  

I wrote from the heart, and people responded from that place too.

It was this:

I have mostly been part of a tribe...
1 of 4 children, twice a wife, a mother, a stepmother, and a nonna too. And then I have had lovely circles of friends where ever I have lived. 
'T
ribes', made up of family & friends, are things that I appreciate so much, simply because I know I should never take them forgranted.

Out here, sometimes, the loneliness makes me leave the house, with my camera, and walk these ancient city streets. It has always been my way, since I was small, in New Zealand I sought out the beaches and rivers.  In Istanbul, I would cross the city on foot.  And anyway, out walking opens me up to seeing things I wouldn't see if I wasn't alone. It's double-edged sword perhaps.

But if I'm honest, I believe that even being part of a tribe can still leave a person feeling lonely sometimes.  Loneliness is interesting. I've been trying to just let it be ... knowing there are so many lonely people in the world. In or out of relationships, surrounded by family or completely alone. 

It makes me kinder. It makes me admire the older people I see, with their walking sticks and their slow shuffles, out shopping alone. I admire their courage. It makes me offer to help because I know I would appreciate it. And sometimes, like this morning, this lovely older woman and I ended up chatting ... about her sciatica.

But in Italy, in Genova, the people who perhaps understand most of all, are the barista's. I adore the ones I adore. Sometimes they save my day, after a night of bad dreams, when I wake alone in this life I am pursuing. Today, a lovely man gifted me a free espresso and gave me back my courage. It's that simple sometimes. It's that simple to be kind.

We don't talk of our loneliness. But we should. I'm sure I'm not the only one who is familiar with it. 

I dislike being this honest :-) but I suspect it is needed in this world where we all prefer to seem like we're doing okay. And we are ... we are.
Buona giornata.

a stairway, lit.jpg

Alex...

I was talking with a wise woman the other night.  Her wisdom quietly blew my mind, as she's only 18 however she's way ahead of where I was at that age.  Ahead of so many, of any age, I suspect.

Her history of achievement is quietly spectacular too, both outdoors and academically.  She's waiting now ... to see which university is for her, based on her results.  Physics and maths are her thing.  But so are days out with friends, laughter, and Pokemon Go.  She's startlingly well-balanced and confident. 

I hesitate to write this but this combination seems like a rare gift in these days.  Her parents, her family ... they played a huge role, I'm sure but nothing is ever guaranteed when it comes to how we show up in the world.

Alex and I sat up talking after everyone else had gone to their beds and, much to my surprise, I was gently taken to task for under-valuing my photography.

Although she never said these words, I came away with the idea I should simply get over any doubts that I had then get on with it.  Get on with pursuing my passion for photography, as opposed to pacing up and down on the edge of the pier, wanting to swim but trying to make everything perfect before I leap in. 

Just sell what I do, and talk of what I believe photography is meant to be.  And ohmygoodness, had I heard the story of my life so far??!

But for me, here on the inside of my life, I know all the other stuff.  There's always the pre-leap phase.  And there have been so many times in my life, so far, where I've felt myself back on that pier that heads out into the lake ... pacing.  Wanting to, needing to, jump but so very nervous.

Can I swim well enough?  Sure, but should I wear a life jacket just in case I get into difficulties in the water?  But wait, why not have a small boat in the water, ready to pull me out?  A small boat ... why not a bigger boat, or a cruise ship.  Why not wait, save up and buy a cruise ship and then simply dive into the ship's pool then? 100% success guaranteed ... once I have enough money to buy that big old cruise ship.  

And on it goes, while I remain there on the pier, ready but not committing.

So, to Alex, I write a huge and heartfelt thank you.  You gifted me your idea of me, in that beautifully direct and intelligent way that you have.  Never lose it, never apologise for it.  You're just kind of perfect as you are.

Wishing every success in the years ahead!!  I'm so looking forward to seeing what you do with your life.

Lewis of Lewis ...

I met this man last week and it turned into this delicious story that I just have to tell ...

I was at The Victoria, in Oxshott, and this guy wandered in with his suitcase.  He'd just come up from the train station and was meeting his friend.

Our conversation began simply enough, and then he mentioned he was a Scot, he had been to New Zealand.  And I mentioned ... half laughing, that 'my people' came from Scotland.  From the Isle of Lewis, 6 generations before me.

And that's when it all got a bit odd.  I learned his nickname was Lewis of Lewis, and he was born there on the island I had mentioned.  We stayed on, after his friend arrived, and it was a lovely evening.  But the 'odd' doesn't end there.

His friend arrived and he introduced her.  I said, I feel like I know you ... like we've had conversations

She felt the same.  We talked over where we might have met in this tiny village but agreed we'd never met while wandering out in the Oxshott woods.  And she didn't work, nor did she volunteer at any of the charity shops in Cobham, and so we gave up with the guessing and decided it was simply our imagination.

Later, I was talking of having lived in Belgium and suddenly ... Liz asked me if I had photographed Simon and Deirdre's wedding in Brugge, and I said, no but I did photograph their son's confirmation celebration.  Their daughter's too ... back in Brussels.

And that's where we'd met.  I had both talked with her and photographed her. I was the photographer and Simon is her godson.  We were so confused by meeting in the bar in that tiny village in England, that Belgium simply hadn't occurred to us.

A couple of days later, I wandered into the pub, with Marcelle... and there they were, just finishing their lunch with a friend.  I wandered over to say hi again.  They said pull up a chair, so we did. 

Marcelle couldn't stay long but I stayed a couple of hours.  It turned out their friend was another child of Lewis.  He had been a school friend of Lewis, and now has more than a passing interest in genealogy and the history of the Isle of Lewis. 

He invited me to write to him with the details I have of my family, and the two brothers who left for New Zealand, all those years ago.   As soon as life settles a little, I'll do it. 

I knew Lewis was leaving 10am Monday and I asked if I might photograph him.  He said it would be fine, although he was a little reluctant about posing.  And so there I was, to the amusement of both him and Liz, at the station on Monday.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed meeting that man from Lewis, and Liz too ... then again, it's probably quite clear :-)

I Met This Man While At The Wedding In Norway ... this poet, this writer

We met after the wedding, as he photographed a particular gate there at the church.  He told me the story of the place where he and his wife were married, and how the gate reminded him of it.

I mentioned that he reminded me of someone. 

He suggested James Joyce. 

I said, 'Maybe', as I rummaged round in my memory for images of Joyce.

It turns out, everyone else said he was Elton John ... 20 years ago.  I didn't really look at Elton then but perhaps.  There is a story about a carriage full of people on the Tube, or a train, thinking precisely that about him.

You can decide.

But perhaps he is simply one of those people who allow you to feel like you've known him a long time, and you respond to that.

On the day after the wedding, I wandered over to his website, and found this poem.  I love it.

An extract, from Out of Shape Sonnet:

This is one of those tuneless songs of hope
A father scatters out into the universe
Because he wants the best for his child;
Independence,
Success of the non-material kind,
And, above all, happiness,
Happiness of the forever kind
.

And then, Ren had a copy of his book, Bee Bones.  You can buy a signed copy over here.

I read enough, between processing the wedding photographs, to know I'll find my own copy now that I'm back in the UK.  I reached that point where the father and son have just begun their journey ...

His book, Dead Men, was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award.  It's another to hunt down, sooner or later.

A review:
Washington Independent Review of Books, 18 June 2012
Who said literary works tend to be boring? This debut novel by Richard Pierce proves a poetically written narrative can also be riveting and engrossing.
This is not a lengthy novel and the author uses every word, sentence and verbal image to craft and layer his themes. This is a love story, a historical novel, a polar expedition and a ghostly tale. From an initial improbability, page after page draws the reader in.  As the author’s first effort at full-length fiction, it is a notable success. I highly recommend this novel.

Arthur Kerns.

You can read more on his website.

I met this man, and his wife, at the wedding and they are, so very kindly, allowing me to use the photographs I took of them.  

Richard Pierce was born in Doncaster in 1960.
 
He was educated in Germany, and at the University of Cambridge.

He now lives in Suffolk with Marianne and their four children.

Richard is a novelist, poet and painter, and administers two charities

He has a Youtube channel, and an Amazon author's page too, if you would like to know more.

I Believe ...

I will have to make myself step outside today. Perhaps I'll walk down to the lake, putting aside my strong desire to process all of the wedding photographs before leaving on Wednesday. 

I have no problems with choosing to work through while in Norway.  I already know that, rather than explore the cultural institutions of each new country I visit, I prefer the experience of life lived on the inside ... lived with the people who invited me there.

I'll curl up on a couch, I'm happy to cook, clean or arrange flowers but I love ... absolutely love, being there, close to the heart of each story.

It turns out I'm not really a museums and art gallery kind of woman.

I loved Sagrada Familia but was so sad to know no one in Barcelona.  It was the first time that ever happened during these years when I wander the world a little.

I flew in to photograph a wedding in Madrid ... saw nothing of the city but lived an incredibly intense few days with the friends and family who had flown in from all over to celebrate with Kathleen and Manuel.  Opera singers and scientists, all kinds of larger than life, wonderful people.  I cried as I photographed the ceremony.

But I cried when I photographed that wedding in England.  Tears poured quietly down my face as I captured the pride and the love on Clare's Dad's face, as he walked his beautiful daughter down the aisle ... his goal, after a massive stroke turned life upside down, back home in Australia.

I do cry sometimes but my camera, my work ... they take me so close to the heart of everything.  Even this wedding, when the love is so strong, and so powerfully present ...  photographing the groom's speech, the bride's response, the son's speech too.  There were quiet tears, that I'm sure nobody saw as they worked with their own tears.

Photography, and the intensity of it, takes me beyond the every day.  I remember that time I spent in a local neighbourhood for the few days I was in Cairo, working with my client, as she sought out pieces for her Berlin exhibition.  It was only as my plane soared into the sky that I saw the pyramids and remembered ... 'oh, the pyramids'.

And even better, so many friendships from those journeys continue to this day.

And that's how I prefer it.  I love to step inside that bubble of family and friends, of locals.  It's the greatest privilege, the richest experience ...  and then to be allowed to attempt to capture the intimacy between people who really know one another, or who are living their everyday lives. There is nothing better.

This time, to stand here, on the edge of the love that Ren and Egil have for one another, to witness them making that public commitment, and to attempt to capture the love that flows out from them and over their family and friends ... who all give it back to them.  That has been almost overwhelming.

It has felt something like warming myself on a fire after time spent out in the cold.

And to be caught up in the hum and bustle of their home ... full of friends and strangers living together ... for me, that is always the best of travel.

As for my goal ... if I really think about it, it has always been about making an attempt to capture the reality of the emotion and the intimacy between family and friends when they come together to celebrate.

But it leaps over into public events too.  Strangers viewing art, unaware of my camera.  There is often a rawness when someone is unaware of the camera.  They are truly themselves, and perhaps that is the best a person can hope for.

I guess it's becoming clear that I have this idea that there is so much beauty to be found in capturing what is real.  I laugh when I tell people ... oh, I just want to capture something of your soul when I photograph you

People, when they show a little of their soul, are beautiful.  I strongly believe that Photoshop is no more than a tool, to be used in much the same way the darkroom was used.  It's not for improving someone .. not for ironing out wrinkles, softening their features, making them slimmer ... it's for cropping, when you didn't quite get close enough.  For adding light when there wasn't enough.  For straightening ... or that's my idea of it.

I believe ... mmm, I believe that these few days in Norway have been some of the best days.

As always

From theWomen I Know and Admire Series - Diny Naus

This beautiful series of images popped up on my Facebook wall this morning and I wrote to the photographer, asking if I might share them.  To put them together in this small montage, some cropping was involved.  Apologies to Diny but the story is more about her than about them.  I want it to be about her way of seeing and being, out there in the world ...

Diny and I met when she attended a photography workshop of mine.  She flew in from Hong Kong.  I arrived from Belgium.  Two New Zealanders, together in Genova.  We wandered and became friends.  It turned out there was so very much to admire about her.

Seeing her series from Beijing this morning made me realise, again, just how lucky I am to have women like her come into my life.  The photographs reminded me of the extraordinary privilege in meeting curious courageous wandering women like her.  There have been so many now.  With their permission, I would like to start sharing their stories, and photographs. 

But Diny ... Introducing her series, she wrote, 'Yesterday snapped this guy who'd managed to find his little piece of peace and quiet in this city of 20 million. I showed him the photo and he insisted I get in the hammock so he could shoot me. I love these interactions. Beijing people are very friendly!

And I thought yes, the people are friendly but you have that sparkle, that curiousity, that courage too!  And her eye ... in a city of 20 million she found this oasis of peace :-)

My client base seems to be made up of women living in countries not their own - but not always, I remember that small group of beautiful Genovese women I once spent the day working with in their city.

Women who are over 40 - but sometimes they're not.  They all have this delightful spark though.  Wise women, old souls who share deeply in the atmosphere that forms when women work together.

Women who are single, or have no dependent children, or women whose children are grown - but then again, sometimes none of this is true either.

My clients are women who are quite fearless and full of curiousity.   They are usually intelligent, wise, and laughter is usually a feature of our time spent together.  As is confusion, frustration and delight.

But sometimes it's all about feeling the fear and doing it anyway ... because they don't want to be fearful anymore.  Fearful of traveling alone, fearful of photographing strangers, of asking permission to photograph those strangers, and most of all, fearful of the techno-speak that has confused so many of us when kind men explain things very very technically.

I have to confess that t took me years to break through and learn the simple equation that is how your camera works.  That's what I share during these workshops, the simple equation via a series of exercises.

And so you can see, the workshops always end up being about more than photography.  With Diny, and so many others, I also get to experience the benefits of their wisdom, knowledge and courage. I meet new heroes and role models. 

I came away from my time with her, admiring so much about her and being able to keep up with her stories of life out here in the world ... it's simply inspirational. 

I have this idea that we need more women like her to write of their lives, share the magic while being honest about the struggles too.  Diny does that for me ... and sometimes, on a sunny Monday she gives me permission to share something of the beauty she found in a Chinese city of 20 million.

Grazie mille, Diny.  For both the use of your photographs, and for your friendship.