31 Days: Guest Post: Photography – taking up a new creative pursuit

Merchant's Arch - Dublin Copyright ©  John Ivory: All rights reserved
Merchant’s Arch – Dublin Copyright © John Ivory: All rights reserved

I promised you a writing exercise. It’s coming tomorrow and will be related to today’s post. I am very happy indeed to welcome to the blog, John Ivory, who I met through social media and have subsequently met in real life. John has recently been posting fabulous photographs on Facebook, they are of a tremendous quality but I knew that photography was something that he’d recently taken up. Thinking here about how our creative pursuits can change how we see the world and looking at the relationship between creativity and mental resilience, I asked John if he would tell us what his experience has been of taking up a new creative pursuit. Over to John…

My name is John Ivory, husband, father, owned by a cat, spent a near-lifetime in the IT industry and, until very recently, never would have used the word ‘creative’ to describe myself.  That changed during the summer of 2011 – a time during which stress and pressure caught up with me, mentally more than physically. I needed to take my mind off things and off myself. I felt the need to do something new and different. With some encouragement from my wife – a lifelong enthusiast of photography – I decided to try my hand with the only camera I possessed – my iPhone!

During the summer, as I travelled around Ireland and, closer to home, around Co. Wicklow, I took photos which I felt represented the beauty and character of the places I visited. At the end of the summer I compiled two photo-books (“Ireland by iPhone” and “iPhone Home”) using the best of the photos I had taken combined with brief words about the shots.

And that was it – hooked – so much so that I decided to acquire my first ‘proper’ camera that autumn. I was still a little scared of the ‘big’ cameras so I settled for a ‘little’ one but one which allowed me to take some control. I haven’t looked back since. I would be considered quite an observant person but until I took up a camera I didn’t realise just how much I was missing. I literally began to see the world with new eyes, looking for angles and opportunities that would be interesting to capture.

My ‘day job’ calls for quite an analytical approach and any ‘creativity’ is very much related to solving business problems. Most of my pastime pursuits, including my other great passion – music – were approached from an analytical rather than creative angle. Photography, however, affords me the opportunity to explore my ‘artistic’ creativity, something that lay dormant in me until now. I’ve also discovered that the process doesn’t begin and end in the camera. The old days of darkroom film processing have given way to computer processing of digital images and that’s something that fascinates me greatly. The creative possibilities are endless.

Photography and the creative process around it has been very good for me, helping me achieve a great balance and perspective in life. To my surprise, it has also enhanced my social life. There are regular meet-ups with local friends who share a love of photography. Additionally, I have found a great affinity between my love of photography and my social networking. I really enjoy connecting with people on Twitter and Facebook and I have found the latter to be an excellent way to connect with people who share a love of photography. Here I must also include Flickr – a kind of social networking site for sharing photos where, during 2012, I undertook a ‘Project 52’ – taking and posting one theme-based photo each week for a year. Through that project I was able to engage with and enjoy the work of many photographers from around the world. Many of them have now become personal contacts on Flickr and some even on Facebook. I’ve since moved on to more projects for 2013 but I’m making time to put the finishing touches to a photo-book of my first ‘52’ journey.

There is a long way to go and many more aspects of photography to be explored. I also feel ready now to move on to a ‘bigger’ camera. I sense it will be a lifelong learning experience but that’s a good thing. It will help me to keep looking outward at the world and the people around me in search of inspiration. I know it is going to be a very exciting and fulfilling part of my life and the great thing is the journey is only beginning!

If you would like to see examples of my photography, here are some links to my online presence:

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnivory/   – my main online portfolio

500px: http://500px.com/jwivory   – just starting to build this portfolio

JTI Photography: http://www.jti-photography.com/  – website for John & Teresa Ivory Photography

My blog: http://www.john-ivory.blogspot.com/  – I plan to combine writing and photography on here

Thanks to John for his account of how photography has opened up the world visually, creatively and socially for him. His story really shows how creative pursuits can enhance our lives dramatically, giving satisfaction, purpose and happiness.

How about you? Have you taken up something new? Have you unexpectedly come across an activity/craft that you loved? How has it helped or amused you? I know some of you tried flash fiction for the first time in last weeks challenge, can you describe how it made you feel to try something for the first time and what you got out of it?

Our creative exercise tomorrow will be based on a photo prompt related to John’s photo above that he’s kindly agreed to share on the blog. Have a look at the photo and think of ideas and I’ll set you a small challenge tomorrow. See you then!

#fridayflash Ode to Morrison

This is one of many many interrelated flashes. This is for lovely Morrison from The Solid Table Fallacy.

If you’d like to see me reading it instead Click Here. Ignore the robot time check near the end.

I suppose it won’t surprise you to know that I’m a little bit in love with Morrison Pentworthy. He is a poet who bends towards the otherwise forgotten things; sandworm castings on the shore and the fractal repetitions of trees. He is Morrison, a little bit in love with everything. So a story, a story for him.

It was just a year or two ago, many years after everything that happened. Eddie was now Edward White, Photographer. He had tried to make sense of things too – those strange stories from old men and children about lights in the sky, fishy goings on, people from nowhere and flugtags that flew right up to the sun. He had taken pictures, pictures that my father might have called ‘life fancied up’; photographs that made the everyday extraordinary.

There was an exhibition, small scale. One of those where the force unimaginable is contained in a municipal building, slinking quietly into the background of polystyrene cups and industrial carpets, no hype, miles from the Tate or the Turner prize. Of the lights themselves he captured, somehow the hovering, the held breath beautiful and the hope of them. Despite himself Edward White had created something great. Only a handful of people would ever know. But this is Morrison’s story.

Morrison liked to ride the buses, sometimes randomly. He would take a 42 or an 11b or a 49A from the city centre and find out where they ended up. Later he might take the train back and admire the view over Killiney Bay or look into back gardens with clotheslines and old trikes and fashionable extensions. Sometimes on the bus he would have his notebook on his lap. He would awake from this reverie and alight the bus; emerge blinking into some foreign thoroughfare, some anonymous corner of brick and juxtaposition, enjoy the sensation of making sense of it.

Serendipity was one of his touchstones. We all have them. Whether its magpies, astrology, anniversaries, betting odds or Gods or our favourite jersey or bugbear, we all need something to give us a guide rail.

Serendipity. He went out of the bus and in front of him was the small door on which was fixed, modestly, quietly details of this photography exhibition. Inside, moving through the exhibition he felt his chest inflate, words ramming against his vocal chord. His fingers hummed. Yes. He went home and wrote this poem on a scrap of paper and his mother nearly threw it out when she was hoovering later in the week.

Send

Send me a secret story in a song just for me
Send me a grain of dust
Send me a heartbeat flipped, squeezed with lemon juice, soaked with sugar
Send me the sharp stars
Send me the winks in the water
Send me
Send me songs, photographs, breaths, petals, kisses, muddy puddles
Send send
Send send me the satellites and the lights of Japan and the sizzle of electric eels
Send send send
Send me the weave and the weft, the ragged starts and endings
Send

And between the lines, if you could see as microscopically as I do, yes, you would see the word Emily repeated over and over as if it was the shape of his breath. For since he had seen her in the furniture shop three and half years ago, with her children and her disgruntled husband, Emily had become another of his guiderails.

Emily too had gone to the exhibition. She was there on the opening night. She had seen a small write up in the paper and although she hadn’t rung Eddie since he’d handed her his business card at the supermarket when they’d met after all those years, she knew he’d be pleased to see her.

It felt grown up, standing there with a glass of wine and listening to the speeches, watching Eddie from a distance when she’d only ever been wrapped around him, lips, ideas, interests, limbs, kisses, kisses. She felt like a person, away from the children. She went out into the fuzzy evening with a more solid feeling.

She would not have gone back, only it was her mother’s anniversary and she was thinking about the sea. The sea healed, her mother had said, although for Barbara the healing had been only in the head. Eddie had taken some pictures that made the sea look like metal, rising, like the arc of a spaceship or the rim of the earth from space. The way she had felt about Eddie, all that potential was like the sea rushing in but now, (years later) it was all too late. The crest of the wave had fallen and the sea had gone out again.

Morrison with his notebook, his poetry and the secret codes for his sightings of Emily and yet that day, fated, at the exhibition he didn’t recognise her. She was so still, naked of the trappings of life, buses, bustle. Then he saw her hand and remembered the way she had placed it on the dining table in Furniture Land.

The leaf of the poem fell out of his book. There were red and gold highlights in her hair as she bent to pick it up. It was Autumn then and everything was tumbling. A slow light was coming through the window. She did not mean to read it but ‘Send’ she said as she held in in her hand. He watched her as she kept reading.

‘Send,’ she read and the rest and she thought of all the things she wished had been sent.

‘We met years ago,’ said Morrison ‘You wanted me to sell you a table.’  And there it was, that quiet beginning. Later they sat together in a café with plastic flowers and dreadful coffee despite being run by a middle-aged Italian with slicked back oily hair. There were plastic tablecloths so they could not see the grain of the table underneath and the whispers between the grain that silently said, ‘I love you’.

But many years later Morrison Pentworthy stepped down from the podium at a reading of his poetry, now popular and admired, to the steady, constant arm of a white haired lady with eyes like the sky; that strange, inconstant blue. Emily, Emily, Emily. Can you imagine their kiss?