Glasgow Zine Fest, a new laptop (which is somehow relevant) & a financial pep-talk

Ok so I have to admit - I started writing this last week and didn’t finish it and then went away and got distracted and when I came back to finish it today it didn’t seem like my thought-stream anymore so I deleted all of it and I’m going to write something new. A lesson learned in leaving things for ‘a few days’. And for being persistent and just getting something done.

Lots has been happening since I last posted: I visited Glasgow Zine Fest and Glasgow Open House Arts Festival, I watched my flatmate perform in the insane Beltane fire festival on Calton Hill, we had a mini exhibition at Fieldwork with the Napier Collective, lots of white wine has been consumed, I left my phone on a bus and got it back the very next day (thank you world), I put pictures from sunny Palma up online, I bought a laptop AND reduced my overdraft from £2000 to £500 for the first time since starting university. Obviously these things will be of varying relevance or interest to anybody reading so feel free to skip bits that you don’t feel are interesting in any way.

Firstly - Glasgow! Turn away now if you don’t care at all about small publications people make with their own thoughts and hands and materials. I’ve been to GZF every year for the past three years and it never fails to clear my wallet and enthuse my ambition. This year I was very lucky to assist Sarah Amy Fishlock’s Zine Workshop at CCA and even have a few photographs in the newest edition of Goose Flesh, which was released the same weekend. I have been a fan of Goose Flesh since I first picked up issue 2 (just managed to grab the last copy of issue 1 too!)  and so seeing my own images in its pages alongside some very talented people was a massive privilege. It was also an inspiration to have a go at getting my act together - a reminder that I can be where I want to be, perhaps, one day, and that it might not be so far away after all. I have included a snap of a spread from the most recent issue and seeing as it seems to a bit of a trend on Instagram I felt I should include my cat… Thank you so much to Sarah for getting in touch, and for letting me hang out on Sunday. I even got to have a go with a digital label-maker - the mind boggles. Assisting in the workshop I was blown away by how quickly all the work-shoppers got stuck in and began producing some quality stuff! No ‘which colour paper should I use here’ and no ‘what method of binding best represents what I am trying to say’ it was just cracking on straight away with getting stuff done. Having attended four years of a creative degree I am only slightly uncomfortable in admitting that this was diligence and decisiveness of a kind I am not at all used to. Aren’t we supposed to second-guess every decision we make because things have to have more meaning than that? I guess not. I LOVE that this was the case. I am trying to apply that to my own practice and trust my gut a bit more because as someone who struggles to be certain about anything a tiny thing like texture of paper or hesitation to commit to a title can stop me actually finally finishing something at all. (Ahem - the last year of my life - ahem)

 So what did I buy when I got the chance to browse? It was just before lunch (pre-pizza me is not the most efficient me) plus the room was full to the brim with bodies so I didn’t manage to give every stall my undivided attention - but that being said I am over the moon with what I came away with. A couple of copies of Goose Flesh (my collection is complete!), a badge featuring a skipping  cartoon stomach/haggis/pink fleshy ball and the text ‘LOOK AFTER YOURSELF’ in nostalgic uppercase lettering, and a couple of treasures I hadn’t heard of before and shall detail below. If you’re not interested in zines or cats, continue skipping.

Two issues of the incredible GRUB zine (which you can buy here and here) - if you are at all interested in food or the intense nostalgia food can inspire or wondering thoughts or emotions or glimpses into other people’s lives (surely one of these things is appealing to you) then I whole-heartedly urge you to buy these, it’s food writing at its most earnest and refreshing. The rigid formula of INGREDIENTS, BUY THESE PRODUCTS, METHOD, PICTURE falls away and the very real connection we all have with what we eat instead makes its way to centre stage. I have thought for a long time that its funny the immense amount of time and money we pour into eating, regardless of whether we actually cook or not, and yet it is still the kind of subject that rarely emerges in emotional, contemplative and creative environments. So I seized the chance, took a risk and committed to TWO issues (risk worth it 100%). 

(Aside - have come to the brink of distraction as thinking about GRUB seems to have awoken a huge and unstoppable hunger - learning from past mistakes and powering through with the aid of STACKERS, Aldi’s take on Pringles)

I also decided on an absolutely beautiful publication called Bodies in Space by Gillian Stewart, which considers our idea of self within the ‘global network’ of cyberspace. We exist now dually as ourselves and as our ‘virtual selves’. To quote: ‘The hive mind of cyberspace emphasises the crowd, by extension deemphasizing the individual. The bigger the crowd, the more negligible the individual. This mass mind grows at the expense of individuality.’ It is thoughtful and contemplative of our current environment without being pessimistic or dismissive of change. As a physical entity it is also beautifully hand-bound, using tender imagery to represent the internet: something so often visualised with lines of code and sharp digital hardness. And I found the points about individuality interesting - especially seeing as ‘punk’ notions of rebellion, self-determined ‘cool’, self-expression and ‘alternative’ culture are at the moment marketed by high street brands and social media so relentlessly that they themselves have become the ‘mainstream’ - it leaves you wondering whether or not individuality is possible to express in the traditional sense in such an immediately connected community. Whatever you do or buy or wear or listen to to feel like yourself, there is a forum or a tshirt or a username that’s already taken. This proximity of algorithmically linked interests can actually isolate - what’s meaningful to you is meaningful to everybody presented to you on the web. We are constantly being sold (and sold is a key word here) the idea of ‘loving yourself’ and ‘being an individual’ and ‘being a leader’ but the images attached to all of these advertisements are images of other people. So we buy these clothes and these accessories and they help us look like these people, that we don’t know, and all the time someone else is making money and we are still left feeling self-conscious and confused. Perhaps the real way to rebel against the mainstream right now is to not pay any attention whatsoever.

(Second aside - formatted a picture into my chunks of text and whilst doing so finished the entire tube of STACKERS so that’s just great oh wow)

So that was a couple of weeks ago now and a little has happened since then. I bought a new laptop (a 2-in-1 laptop/tablet hybrid) which was pretty much the biggest decision I have made this year bar maybe shaving my head. As I have expressed in previous posts, getting out of the debt incurred studying a creative degree is difficult before you even start to think about actually paying off any student loans. It is difficult because to make any progress you need to work A  LOT of hours and you also need to spend VERY LITTLE and put your immediate ambitions to one side - which makes the perpetuated idea of the ‘normal working week’ (work five days and then treat yourself/relax/pursue hobbies at the weekend) difficult for a number of reasons. Not only is that conventional workweek rare in low-wage work but to really save anything you can’t afford to treat yourself, or pursue hobbies that cost any kind of money, or really even relax because your entire schedule is orientated about making money and spending none, and your bank balance is continually below 0. I could go on. But let’s try some positivity.

Finally the last couple of years of hard work are starting to reveal themselves and not only am I getting more frequent time off and longer breaks between work, but I starting to emerge from the familiar world of the overdraft and make my way slowly into actually having a bit of money. Not a lot, but enough to address some workflow issues - such as actually having a working laptop! Which I am hoping is going to increase my productivity and connectivity and solve a lot of problems that I have learned to live with. But further than this, it also means that today for the first time since starting my degree I have reduced my overdraft from £2000 to £500. It evaporates completely in September so this is a step in the right direction, and fingers crossed without any financial pitfalls in the next six months I should be A-OK to exist on my own as of then. Which is all a bit crazy considering that a lifetime ago, when my parents were in their early twenties they could afford to buy a house on the salary of a fruit-and-veg shop assistant and a civil servant less than a year out of uni. But times change, and money disappears, and we work hard hoping for the best. Eventually we get results, be it a house and a garden and kids or a new laptop that fits in your backpack.

Part of me thinks it is inappropriate to talk about financial issues openly, but then I realise it is the same awkward part of me that doesn’t want to discuss all the important things like gender roles and anxiety and the sense of not having a clue what to do with myself most of the time. Is it to maintain some kind of illusion about how much I am earning, about how everything is fine all the time? An illusion is not helpful when it comes to paying the rent or explaining why I don’t have any advice for recent graduates despite getting a First Class degree and starting adulthood with the very best intentions because I still have no idea myself. I think honesty is helpful and hope that someone reads this and feels better about their own situation. What I would say to anybody that is working their ass off because that’s what they have been brought up to do but doesn’t really see why because all of their time goes to a wage that goes to someone they have maybe never met that owns the house they are living in - do not panic, you are not the only one, for every friend you have that has been given a house by the privilege of their parents and for every customer you serve that spends £10 on their lunchbreak every day without batting an eyelid there are ten or twenty or a hundred people like you who don’t know how this system works out in the end but who are clinging on and working hard and wondering all the way through, just like you, and I do believe that in the end of it all we will be O.K.

A really invigorating song came on whilst I was writing that and I found myself talking out loud and perhaps got a bit carried away without any sentence breaks but the sentiment stands.

We’ll figure it out. 

So perhaps that was a bit of a tangent, and I definitely have more to say and more that has happened, but I have been neglecting my personal work terribly the past week and I feel myself getting to the stage where I have in the past chosen to abandon a project because I face a discrepancy between what I imagined it would be and how it is. I need to work through it and not just stop. And I need to ask other people what they think because communication and interaction is what all of this image-making is supposed to be about, for me anyway. I also know that if I leave this as a draft to finish tomorrow it just won’t happen - I’ll re-read the above monologue and panic at the vulnerability of sharing anything from your brain online, and I’ll end up abandoning this too. So in the interests of getting something finished today I shall press publish and make some proper dinner. Don’t mention the STACKERS to anybody and it’s like they never were here. If you fancied looking at some photos from the beautiful Palma there is an edit available for your viewing pleasure here.

Have a fantastic week (I can’t believe it’s a Monday), and I’ll write something else soon.

Waiting 3 months isn’t exactly ‘posting more’ is it?

Hello hello hello to future me, and anybody else who may happen across this post during their travels of the wide and wonderful web.

I thought it was high time I updated my blog because yes, I did intend to post more frequently this year, and yes it has been a long and silent 3 months since I made that declaration with festive conviction and post-break energy. I don’t really feel bad about the silence because it has been a busy and productive few months where my writing has been limited by a failing laptop and lack of time in which to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) - and this is good. It is better to have things to write about but no time in which to right them, than to have time to write but nothing really to say. It is refreshing to feel like I am going in the right direction and even more fulfilling that this direction is one I am feeling out myself and not being told to follow by an educational institution or some other ‘higher power’ (like tequila). SO I do not know where to begin and how much detail is necessary to part with but perhaps I should keep this relatively concise so as not to risk losing heart half-way through and going to pursue something simpler, like toast. Perhaps a list would be useful. What have I been doing? 

Well, this year so far carries the theme of new work and new skills.

I was lucky enough to enjoy the Colour Darkroom course at Stills, which was really informative and great fun. Colour processing and printing is something I was always pushing to learn at University but for numerous reasons there never seemed to be time or facilities or staff available to show me the ropes. Being able to process my own film is going to save me a whole lot of money (but  equally lose me a whole lot of Boots points) and learning from my January experience, when there are mistakes at least they are MY mistakes (see last post if this makes no sense). I actually processed my first two solo rolls of colour yesterday and managed to load one of my films onto the spiral completely wrong - which I knew had happened in the back of my mind but didn’t have the heart or the time to try and correct it. I’ll add a slice of this happy accident at the end because I actually quite like how it came out.

I conducted my first Exhibition Tour during the open day at Stills last month, spending longer than was probably expected in the gallery pointing out (with glee) as many of Alan Dimmick’s individual images as felt acceptable for a Saturday afternoon. I hope that I showered the tour-ers (?) with my enthusiasm for this work and shared some of how intensely excited it made me feel about images and people and everything, really. They were friendly enough, and if they hated it they did a very good job of feigning appreciation. It was a really interesting show and one I feel very privileged to have invigilated as it caused me to question my own attitudes toward photographic collections, the nature of buying and selling work and the relevancy of physical images in an increasingly digital world. Plus, Alan Dimmick’s work was just magic. A few words from my written response to the work:

‘Put simply this is the best exhibition I’ve been to since Jason Dee in Talbot Rice a few years back. Not that my gallery going life is particularly long and not that these things can really be measured in terms of best or worst-but let’s say I enjoyed Alan Dimmick’s work immensely - that the sprawling and delicious throb of life he has presented gives me goosebumps and what’s more, the notion (that sometimes in this tech filled life seems crazy) that to shoot pictures and record moments has meaning.’

I am in the midst of shooting a new body of work, currently untitled, about my frustrations maturing as a ‘Millenial’ in a society that seems to consistently exhaust and infantilise its young adult population. I am sure there are plenty of young adults with different experiences of their twenties but as someone used to hard work but with ambitions to be creatively fulfilled in a way that is useful to my immediate community, so far graduate life has been a test. Things I was brought up to associate with ‘growing up’ - things like having a car, having a career, buying clothes that aren’t in the sale, the mystical ~disposable income~ and ~time to pursue your hobbies~ and the fabled ~~mortgage~~ seem faraway from this reality. When my parents were this age my dad got his flat free of charge as a perk of working in a greengrocer’s, my mum left uni with no student debt and in a matter of years they would be having my brother and buying a house. Meanwhile: 2017 and I am still receiving colouring books as gifts, wondering what I want to do when I grow up and watching cartoons when I should be asleep. But this feeling of somehow being misled and ill-prepared I guess extends to art world too. I haven’t printed anything for myself since university ended. I ordered two prints as xmas presents but somehow packing them in my duct-taped suitcase and shuffling them down a train carriage seemed more like a performance than an authentic present. In my day to day life I try not to allow myself to buy luxuries. To give you an idea, last week I bought a piece of feta cheese in Aldi for 95p and regretted it the entire walk home due to conflicting emotions of understanding the dairy industry to be morally problematic but also struggling to justify 95p to myself when I could equally have bought raisins or nothing at all (and ALSO loving feta cheese - especially with roast carrots). It’s difficult to be told that ‘art is passion’ ‘art is something you can’t live without’ ‘art is necessary’ when in actuality the process of producing it, to this kind of accepted standard that we see put on walls is so expensive, in time and finance, that it can only be regarded as a luxury and therefore somehow lesser than your hours at work and the muesli  and potatoes and the podcasts that are free and that make you think in a similar way.

But I digress. Translating this into pictures is still in its early stages where my ideas are making me excited and the potential that this could communicate something to somebody and start a dialogue is very real and I haven’t managed to sour that for myself yet so I am enjoying myself very much. You can see a couple of sneak peeks of this work, shot almost entirely on my 40 minute commute to work each way on my instagram, but it is still taking shape.

Oh, and I shaved my head! Which is a pleasure I would suggest everybody tries at some stage. I’ve always been curious and once I start considering something I find it difficult to let it go. I think once it dawned on me that I didn’t actually have to have hair - that it was very possible and very easy and very cheap to just shave it off - it was going to happen. In the end I didn’t shave it because I thought it would look cool, or even because I was curious about how it would look (although of course I was), I shaved it because the more I thought about it the more curious I was about how it would feel to have no hair. It was the sensory curiosity that got me. I guess the greatest pleasures are those unknown to us. And once I had started to imagine how it would feel to stand in the shower without a curtain of hair catching the drops, but to feel that sensation directly on my skull, and once I wondered how it would feel to wake up not in a muss of long hair but with warm head on warm pillow and to rub the skin with my fingertips and ONCE I had walked down a windy street with hair whipping in my eyes and in my mouth and dreamt of how it feels for men and other short-haired ladies to walk confidently in the wind it was all just bound to happen. The longer I left it the more experiences I started comparing to my imagined pleasure of having no hair. And so one morning I woke up and I did it.

I feel that this a good place to end, despite there being more to talk about - mainly because my day off is drawing to a close and this has taken three different stints at my incredibly fragile laptop to complete. What’s funny is despite my earlier aside, I did make toast. 

More exciting things to come this weekend, and more things to tell you (future me, unknowable anonymous potential internet audience), and more to do and experience and imagine and discuss. I will be uploading some shots from Palma soon because I went ahead and booked my first ever solo holiday last week. Which was surreal and fantastic - but more of that to come.

Bye for now.

An accident, a new year, sense of relief

Hello, welcome, everybody wave hello to 2017.

A new year has started and as much as I don’t really go in for all that ‘new year new me’ bullshit, 2016 was a particularly draining year emotionally and physically, and even though calendars are a construct (and time is objective and all that other condescending pseudo-intelligence people regurgitate onto others that are trying to feel positive about something new and a little bit exciting) I have to admit I was glad to see it over. 

2017 does feel different, at least for now: I feel relief, I feel excitement. I’ve been thinking a lot in the last few months about our relationships with ourselves - about how we treat our bodies and our actions and ourselves as people. It’s something I’ve only come to consider recently - that how you treat yourself and prioritise yourself is just another kind of relationship with somebody. And it’s not cool to be an asshole to anybody, yourself included. I have a whole discarded draft post about how fragile human relationships are, perhaps most meaningfully with ourselves. For the longest amount of time I have refused to forgive myself any kind of small failure, any kind of awkwardness, any kind of mistake, anything I’ve said that revealed how a lot of the time I’m really quite furious, anything that equally made me seem pathetic or lazy or dim. And it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting being so self-critical and disappointed in your perceived mediocrity because it’s just you against you - the part which is trying so hard to make the other part satisfied is tired, and the part that is so fed up of the other part occasionally falling short is even more so. And so without going too far into the rabbit-hole of learning to be gentle to yourself (as you would be with other people) - this year I’m feeling quite good.

Over Christmas I had an entire fortnight away from work. I was able to travel back to Devon for the first time since 2015 and got to see so many friends and family members, so many hillsides and cliffs and stretches of ocean. I took my cameras with me and shot a few rolls of film, I walked a lot, I discovered some cracking new podcasts*, I baked bread, I ran 3 miles along the beach on christmas day. Jake even took me to Dartmoor, to where we think was Wistman’s Wood (although with my below average navigational skills we can’t really be sure). It was probably the best Christmas break I’ve had since school - the key point being that at no point during the week I was at home did I think ‘there’s nothing to do’ and instead I was met rather abruptly with a ‘oh dear I’m leaving tomorrow’. NYE was your typical montage of cheap white wine, quite expensive white wine, trying to get a beer garden of people in Camden to all sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’, failing to do so, more cheap white wine, crisps, crisps, olives, forcing other people to eat olives, beer, realising your ability to convincingly socialise is plummeting and then waking up in the afternoon to a house you don’t recognise, drinking water from the tap and squinting outside at torrential rain, trying to find your phone and then eventually, when everything just feels like you might one day feel ok again, having a milkshake. My first NYE in London was courtesy of Chanti - thanks again, for everything. 

Flash forward, back in Edinburgh, I rush to A&M to get my films processed and 2 rolls get ‘left in the machine’. They come back pretty much ruined, given to me as two uncut strips,  folded into four and put in a bag. Most of each roll is fog from being over-processed. But here and there you can make out bits of the moor - and in one corner, you can see the ghost of Jake’s face. There’s a very rough edit of these below so have a gander. They’re actually quite beautiful I think. Like looking through a net curtain, or looking back at something you can’t quite remember. Like the year behind has been washed with light.**

I did get some 35mm back with no problems and I’ll upload that somewhere soon. There’s an absolute cracker of an image of a dead mouse in a freezer bag. That sounds sarcastic but those of you who know me will be able to imagine how delighted I was sat at the computer seeing that little mouse scanned upside down and leaping airborne out of the screen. But perhaps that’s just me. Almost definitely just me. Give me a few days to scan them properly and you can have a look and make your own mind up. I’m going to try to post here more in the coming months because I have three drafts that I started before christmas and chickened out of posting, which is sad. It’s better to post something people might think is stupid than to post nothing at all. Oh, and after a year of wondering how a particular body of pictures and words fitted together on a wall I’ve realised they don’t at all - I’m making a book! 

Speak soon internet.

*The Allusionist, in particular, is a dream to listen to.

** You can now see the entire set with accompanying text here.

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