Dec 152012
 

Colour me wrong but I’m a bit tired now of hearing about how Jacintha Saldanha committed suicide. Today it was second billing on the news after the Connecticut shooting tragedy.

Connecticut ‘IS’ a tragedy. It deserves to be news. My heart goes out to the parents that lost children; however old and also goes out to the survivors.

Jacintha Saldanha isn’t really news. Maybe it was, the first day, due to the connection with the Royal Family. But. Get over it already. Between 4000 and 6000 people commit suicide every year in the UK and the news doesn’t give a toss about them. Jacintha was obviously suffering some form of mental illness. Millions of people are.

The death of Jacintha is merely sad… For the news to be fair it should also list the names of the 11 to 17 other people that will also kill themselves today.


Jan 312011
 

I read an article written by Grant Scott in the August 2010 edition of Professional Photographer magazine. It was about the loneliness of being a freelance professional photographer.

While at times it seemed like an layman’s guide to depression some of it most definitely struck a chord with me:

As photographers, we do sit in front of our computers staring at the screen wondering who to contact next looking for work and how. We do wonder why nobody replies to our emails, returns our telephone calls or rings us with the perfect job. We do look at other photographers sites, compare our work to theirs and wonder “why are they busy and I am not, what do they have that I have not?”

Without the social elements of an office or studio full of people it is hard to get up every day and motivate yourself to create new reasons for people to come and see you, it is hard to find new clients and it is hard to remain creative and continue the daily slog of self-promotion.

It requires a huge amount of determination, self-belief and stamina to keep going. A photographer works in a profession that requires huge self-belief in ones work and oneself. We have nothing to sell other than our personality and creativity. When either or both are rejected our self-belief takes a battering and the more it happens the more our self-belief declines dramatically. Few of us have anybody close to us that understand the pressures of being a professional photographer.

We try, we desperately want to, give out a successful, positive persona to persuade our prospective clients they are buying into a success story. Thus we lie.

When we are asked how we are doing, how the recession is affecting us and how we are enjoying things at the moment, we lie. We try to juggle the truth; we create two versions of ourselves, the real one and the public face that meets with the client and exudes success wherever and whenever one advertises.

It is a hard act to maintain when you read the photographic press and see the success others are having. It is a hard act to maintain when you see the success your peers are purportedly having. It is a hard act to maintain when in moments of ego and extreme self-belief you compare yourself to the truly successful in the world of photography and know ‘I could have done that.’

There is a subtle difference to the paragraph above and the old joke about photographers; How many photographers does it take to change a light bulb? Fifty, one to change the bulb and forty-nine to say “I could have done that!”

Sometimes, if budget and equipment were not an issue some of us really could ‘have done that.’

Sometimes, the editors and creative directors that we as photographers are applying to for work forget that the Crewdson’s, the LaChapelle’s and the Leibovitz’s of the industry are teams of other creatives including assistants, lighting assistants, make-up artists, stylists, post production teams and marketing assistants. They are not freelancers working alone.

In fact, Annie Leibovitz tells a story in her book; At Work, where Dorothy Wilding was employed to photograph The Queen and wasn’t even in the room when the photograph was taken! Apparently Wilding’s assistants, who were trained in her style, often went out and took photographs for her. Often, she wasn’t in the same country. At one time she employed around thirty-seven people in her studio.

In his Professional Photographer article, coincidentally, Grant Scott mentioned a book called ‘Shoot the Damn Dog’. It was written by Sally Brampton, the woman that launched the magazine Elle and then suffered a clinical depression. She recovered (or so she’d thought) and became the editor of Red magazine, a position she was fired from due to ongoing depression. I’ve just finished reading the same book. On page sixty two Sally describes how she felt after being fired:

She felt that her self, her sense of worth and her calling was that of a successful magazine editor. By being fired, by losing her job as an editor of a mainstream magazine she felt that she’d failed at being herself. If she was no longer fit to be an editor then what was her worth? By failing in the role of an editor she herself had failed. What did she have left if her self had been taken away and she had no way forward or way to regain that self?

That struck a chord with me too… If I fail at being a photographer then what do I have left? I define myself as a photographer. I live to be a photographer. If I cannot be a photographer then what do I, myself, have left? I cannot answer the question. I have no answers. I do not see myself as anything but a professional and successful photographer.

For one moment in time, on this blog, I’m going to refuse to lie. The public face is going to be the real face. The real face is going public. Maintaining a show of success where there is none is laborious and wearisome. Trying to maintain momentum and enthusiasm in the midst of a clinical depression is nigh on impossible. Motivation and creativity are all but impossible when you’re this lonely and depressed.

Within the past month I could have and was more than prepared to die, which I would have were it not for a sentence spoken to me. I can truly understand why photographers and other creatives commit suicide.

I did not know them or could ever purport to know what they were thinking at the time but I can sympathise with Diane Arbus, Bob Carlos Clarke, Warren Bolster, Terence Donovan, Pierre Molinier, Francesca Woodman and the many other not so famous unnamed photographers that have committed suicide.

I will leave the last words on suicide to Kevin Carter, a Pulitzer Prize winner. Part of his suicide note read; “I am depressed… without phone… money for rent… money for child support… money for debts… money!!! I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain… of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners… I have gone to join Ken (his recently deceased colleague, Ken Oosterbroek) if I am that lucky.”

I have no idea what the statistics are for photographers as a sub-group but in the period 2009/2010 1.25 million people in the UK sought help for mental health issues. 33% of all General Practitioner’s time was taken up by mental health disorders. At it’s current rate of increase, by 2020 depression will be the 2nd most disabling condition behind heart disease. 10 times more people suffer from major depression now than in 1945 and in the UK alone more than £100 billion is spent per annum on mental health care.

From Wikipedia:

The criteria below are based on the formal DSM-IV criteria for a Major Depressive Episode. In order to be diagnosed as suffering from a major depressive episode, the patient must meet the following criteria:

Over a two week period, the patient has consistently experienced five or more of the following symptoms, and these behaviours must be outside the parameters of the patient’s normal behaviour. Either depressed mood or decreased interest or pleasure must be one of the five (although both are frequently concomitant).

  • For the better part of nearly every day, the patient reports a depressed mood or appears depressed to others.
  • For most of nearly every day, interest or pleasure is markedly decreased in nearly all activities (noted by the patient or by others).
  • Although not dieting, there is a marked loss or gain of weight (such as 5% in one month) or appetite is markedly decreased or increased nearly every day.
  • Nearly every day the patient sleeps excessively, known as hypersomnia, or not enough, known as insomnia.
  • Nearly every day others can see that the patient’s activity is agitated or slow.
  • Nearly every day the person experiences extreme fatigue.
  • Nearly every day the patient feels worthless or inappropriately guilty. These feelings are not just about being depressed, they may be delusional.
  • Noted by the patient or by others, nearly every day the patient is indecisive or has trouble thinking or concentrating.
  • The patient has had repeated thoughts about death (other than the fear of dying), suicide (with or without a plan) or has made a suicide attempt.

Since my ill-fated photographic studio closed in 2009 I have experienced all nine of these symptoms virtually every day. I am still experiencing most of the nine symptoms every day and yet I am still trying hard to maintain an outward facade of success. It is beyond tiring and most days I fail. Today I am being honest about my failure.

Since I took up photography as a profession I have failed (by the definition of being a ‘professional’) and have therefore failed to be the essence of who I perceive myself to be. If I am not a professional photographer then I am just a photographer, a hobbyist.

Yet, in times of clarity I know I have the talent. I can be a professional photographer. I can be a great professional photographer.

When I need reminding why I do this I try to read the compliments on my website and take them on board; unlike the testament from Mrs. Smith in Blackpool on how Union Meerkat Insurance provided her with the best service ever, the testaments on my website are real and verifiable.

I became a professional photographer because that was my dream job. Being a professional photographer would also pave the way for my other dreams to come true. So far I have failed and am crushed by depression wondering, like Sally Brampton did; if I am not a professional photographer then who am I?

I know I am not a corporate slave. I am not a member of the service industry, neither am I a cook or a mechanic or a lorry driver. I am not a wedding photographer and neither am I a photographer that sells shoddy ‘portfolio’ photo-shoots to ill-informed want-to-be models for thirty quid a time.

I want to be a PROFESSIONAL, PUBLISHED, WORKING, ARTISTIC, photographer/artist.

But.

I sit here at the computer, lonely and depressed wondering who to contact next and how. I have the weight of fear, anxiety, procrastination and depression crushing me everyday and I have no one to turn to for help.

My counsellor is only words in my ear once a week. My closest friends don’t have the experience to help me and as yet, even though I’d be loathe to share my plans with peers I don’t even have the peers with enough experience to help me. I am the one they often turn to for advice!

So.

I sit here at the computer, lonely and depressed with a plan to turn everything around. A plan that I know will work, wondering who to contact next and how. Knowing that when I do know the right person to contact, I’ll have to put on my public face full of lies and stories of success when underneath, my current defeated self is cowering with fear, procrastination and depression.

I have spent hours on my plan. It is a story, in itself, of self-discovery. It is biographical. It is life changing. It is my dream, it is my dreams come true. It is altruistic in parts, it is self serving in parts. It is a wonderment and an abhorrence. It is a thank you and a fuck you. It is charity and it is greed.

I sit here at the computer, lonely and depressed with a plan to turn everything around…

I need encouragement when my motivation fails. I need someone to have belief in me when I fail to have belief in myself. I need someone to help financially support my plan for the next three months.

Who the hell do I turn to?

Nov 042010
 

From the Greek Ephebos (one arrived at puberty) Zṓion (animal) and Philia (love for or obsession for, sexually), Ephebozoophilia is the sexual desire to have sex with very young animals; those around an age that we’d usually refer to them as puppies or kittens.

A form of bestiality, ephebozoophilia is illegal in most countries except for Denmark. In the UK, Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (also known as the Extreme Pornography Act) outlaws images of a person performing or appearing to perform an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal (whether dead or alive). Countries such as Belgium, Germany, and Russia are somewhere in between; they permit sexual activity with animals, but prohibit the promotion of animal-oriented pornography.

Until 2005 ephebozoophilia was still legal in the US state of Washington and the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. However, after an incident on July 2, 2005, when a man was pronounced dead in the emergency room of the Enumclaw community hospital after having been sodomized by a pony, the state legislature of the State of Washington, which had been one of the few states in the United States without a law against bestiality, within six months passed a bill making bestiality illegal and Newfoundland and Labrador followed suit.

Little has been written or researched about ephebozoophilia as ephebophilia (which denotes men who prefer adolescents around 15–19 years of age) is not recognised officially in human to human relationships. It has been concluded at a scholarly level that “few would want to label erotic interest in late or even mid adolescents as a psychopathology”; by implication proving, (what most people, including doctors and judges already know), that most men are actually turned on by teens1.

Today, in Hungary, where production faces no legal limitations, ephebozoosexual materials have become a substantial industry that produces numerous films and magazines and in Japan, animal pornography is used to bypass censorship laws, often featuring Japanese and Russian female models performing fellatio on young animals, because oral penetration of a non-human penis is not in the scope of Japanese mosaic censor.

A recent case study2 centred around Atika Kurī from Sapporo, (capital of the Hokkaidō Prefecture in Japan), a film producer renowned for ephebozoosexual movies. Rather than produce traditional zoosexual films where the male animal penetrates a human female in some way, Kurī-san used male porn stars to penetrate puppies, foals, kids (young goats) and in one film even a young llama.

Although technically not illegal in Japan and in his target market of Equatorial Guinea in Africa, Kurī-san made an error in his cargo routing and some of his freight landed on US soil and was seized by customs. Kurī-san was subsequently investigated by customs and due to the shocking nature of what they found they informed PETA.

PETA took an unusual step and with the Humane Society of America investigated Kurī-san on his home soil. What they found was that Kurī-san was puppy farming and actually part of an underground furry (one who has an interest in and sexual desire for anthropomorphic animals (animals who have a human qualities be it simply talking or having a human-like body) network interested in neoteny (the retention, by adults in a species, of traits previously seen only in juveniles)). These extreme furries (Babyfurs)3 had been experimenting with home-brew genetics on the animal’s thyroid glands looking to create a state of progenesis (the attainment of sexual maturity by an organism still in its juvenile stage and having a secondary result of never experiencing later developmental stages so never achieving the adult form experienced by it’s evolutionary ancestors).

Although Japan is tolerant of most things sexually except for pubic hair, non-governmentally sanctioned genetic research and manipulation carries severe penalties and Kurī-san was tried and imprisoned for these offences.

It is widely believed (there is official documentation stating) that the results of Kurī-san’s successful genetic experiments were destroyed humanely. However, conspiracy theorists have remarked that a) some people in Sapporo and the surrounding areas have been attacked by puppy Chihuahuas approaching the size of a large Spaniel and that b) the Japanese government have been trying to reverse engineer Kurī-san’s experiments in the hope of creating a virus capable of carrying and transmitting the gene responsible for progenesis to humans via water borne parasites. It is interesting to note that although Japan remains a peaceful country since WW2 it still bears a cultural grudge against all foreigners especially those from China and North Korea.

1 – No citation needed

2 – Only approximate dates known

3 – See link: Babyfurs

Oct 272010
 

From the Greek Arachno (spider) and Philia (love for or obsession for, sexually) arachnophilia isn’t, as some people think, a sexual desire for all things spidery (that particular kink falls under octophilia with other eight legged creatures) but a male sexual desire to be eaten by the female after sex.

Normally enjoyed as a role-play paraphilia this fetish is closely related to anthropophagy (the practise of cannibalism) and vorarephilia (the desire to eat someone or be eaten either alive or whole; in one mouthful). However arachnophilia differs in so much as sex or the act of procreation has to be enacted beforehand. As a role-play men will often seek out far larger women than themselves and wear a suit made out of ham or other easily stitched together meat that the female can eat off of him once orgasm has been reached. In safe sex circles rubber knives and forks are often used to prevent accidental cutting or stabbing of the victims real flesh.

It is very much a domination fetish and as such safe-words should be decided on beforehand to stop things from moving out of the sub’s comfort zone. The Webster’s dictionary actually describes it as an extreme fetish.

In it’s most extreme form arachnophilia is only ever acted out once by the male sub and there are rumoured to be underground forums where males can seek out large and willing females prepared to consume their flesh. This practise is illegal in all countries apart from Lithuania where cannibalism was never seen as a realistic enough1 crime to be noted in their statutory laws.

During the early 1990’s as the world wide web expanded and paraphiles realised that they could ply their wares there quite anonymously Lithuania saw a huge influx of immigrants eager to exist in a country where the standard of living was quite high, the scenery was beautiful and cannibalism was legal.

The most publicised account of arachnophilia centred around Heidi Alutnarat and Frau Redips, both originally from Germany when they set up residence in Czechoslovakia after they were both widowed.

Similar to the inspiration behind Eli Roth’s movie Hostel (an internet site offering humans for slaughter for cash) Alutnarat and Redips set up an underground website targeting arachnophiles.

Many men were taken for a spin as Frau’s Redips and Alutnarat’s web of deceit gained notoriety amongst arachnophiles world-wide. As many of these men with such a bizarre fetish lived in recluse and used pseudonyms online it has been difficult for the authorities to ascertain how many men the evil Frau’s got their fangs into but it has been estimated to be in the low hundreds2.

Although people with a purely vanilla outlook to sex would view arachnophilia as a tragic antic in itself, not only did Redips and Alutnarat offer death for sale, to the arachnophile they offered a service that was far less than they promised: Once the widows had lured the men into their lair they apparently butchered them without sex beforehand and then sold them on to the Czech meat market as cuts of pork, salami’s or meat pies.

The two women were arrested in October 2006 and after trial were sentenced to death by firing squad. Their execution was carried out in November 20083. Apparently their website remained online for a few months following their arrest but was taken down by the Czech authorities. A sound bite of the trial was available on a paraphile forum for a while but has not been seen or heard of for quite some time now.

1, 2 & 3 Citation needed.

Oct 182010
 

One of my most admired business models is that of Coffee Cake and Kink in London;

Coffee Cake and Kink online

Partly for the great coffee, partly for the great cake but mostly for their warm greetings, tolerant non-judgemental advice, great customer service, superior product lines, adult art and for creating in London a space where all of the above can be enjoyed by anyone of any gender, mix of gender or sexual persuasion.

Whilst I was still living in London there was nothing better than spending a sunny afternoon, drinking coffee, sat at one of their outside tables, watching the world go by or chatting to other customers about everything from Eastenders on TV the previous night to the best way to bind the breasts of a willing female slave and what rope to use.

If money were no object and I could open a business in Cornwall tomorrow I’d be phoning Alana and asking if I could either franchise or borrow their name and business model to open a similar shop to CCK down here in Cornwall. In fact, had my studio not closed it would have hopefully evolved into something very similar to CCK.

That would have, could have been the social enterprise aspect of my business; to promote safe and healthy sex and tolerance of all sexuality in Cornwall. (You have to remember that Cornwall often seems to lag a little behind the rest of the country and that Truro only held it’s second Gay Pride this year).

Cornwall, at least as far as the Cornwall I have seen, isn’t too big on sexual tolerance. Hence this post.

On the 11th of October this year, St Austell town councillors met to discuss the councils position should it receive an application for a sex shop, cinema or sexual entertainment venue. The result, pending approval by Cornwall Council was that a ‘zero tolerance’ policy should be implemented.

Apparently 90 streets were ‘blacklisted’ (those that contained any thoroughfare for children and stores that children or their parents may use, other entertainment venues or religious meeting places). Councillor John Stocker thought even more streets should have been included on the list.

The deputy Mayor Sandra Heyward (who was responsible for the groundwork prior to the meeting) insisted that the plan for zero tolerance was not decided on a ‘moral basis’.

During the meeting, examples were given citing why a zero tolerance plan was best, including; an Ann Summers store in Cardiff, six doors away from a Disney store, a sex shop in Truro having been granted a license next door to school uniform shop and the fact that a sex shop that opened in St Austell several years ago was forced to close after only six weeks because “concerned parents protested and it became a ‘bit of an embarrassing’ place to go”.

The above was taken from an article by Dominic Howell in the Cornish Guardian dated the 13th October 2010.

Zero tolerance huh? Well, it looks like my plans are scuppered! I wonder how old the councillors are, what businesses they personally represent and what the demographic of the shopping public of St Austell is?

I can (sort of) see the councillors point of view if they were objecting to the sort of sex shop that existed in the 1970’s that only appealed to the ‘dirty Mac’ brigade. But, since the internet that kind of shop has largely vanished. Firms that synonymised that kind of sex shop like ‘Private’ have moved online and there is no longer a need for blacked out windows and screens between the shop door and shop proper. Sex shops by today’s definition are often stores for women who want to experiment with their sexuality actually run by women.

Jacqueline Gold’s clever re-branding of the Ann Summers chain paved the way for this and brought sex to the high street although when they tried to open a shop in Tunbridge Wells they were accused of ‘degrading’ marriage. Perhaps it is fashionable to move to St Austell for retirement from Tunbridge Wells?

Firms like Sh! Harmony, Coco de Mar and Organic Pleasures took Ann Summer’s ball and ran with it, proving that women actually liked sex and that the problem with sex was (probably) the male’s perception of ‘sex’. This was largely typified by shops with blacked out windows, rows and rows of magazines and films featuring big breasted, vacant eyed never-to-be starlets on the covers and blow-up dolls in boxes with a lurid red, gaping hole where the mouth should be and legs akimbo held apart by hard plastic seams that grazed your skin. (Allegedly).

In an area like St Austell that has problems with it’s youth, with drug use and teenage pregnancy is zero tolerance the best policy?

I know for a fact that when I opened my studio for it’s short lived stint in St Austell that people in the LGBT community, the transgender community and the BDSM community were crying out for somewhere they could shop, drink coffee amongst their own and have somewhere to meet on a day-to-day basis.

I know of a schoolgirl lesbian that was bullied into leaving her school when she ‘came out’ even though it is fashionable to be bi-sexual in the same school.

A middle aged lesbian complained that nowhere in Cornwall was there anywhere she could turn to for advice on lesbian pornography or sex toys without being part of the ‘LGBT’ culture, something she felt she didn’t ever want to belong to. Her sexuality she explained, was her own private business and not a statement. She lived alone she told me.

I know that people in both the Transgender and BDSM communities in St Austell didn’t always want to have to travel to Truro for a monthly structured meeting (munch) or have to go to Truro’s ‘gay bar’ for a drink.

On Facebook, there are Ann Summers ‘groups’ (with plenty of members) based in all the major Cornish towns. Ann Summers parties are therefore big business locally which by association would imply that there was a need for sex toys and sexy lingerie. As my own modelling groups on Facebook and these Ann Summers groups often shared the same ‘friends’ I can safely say that the demographic for both was in the age range of 14 years old to around 22.

Councillors and parents in Cornwall. Wise-up! Your children are having sex! Your constituents and shoppers are having sex. Your children and constituents may be gay or not adverse to wearing a little latex while strapped to a St Andrews cross being flogged enthusiastically about the buttocks with a leather riding crop or bamboo cane.

One could argue that given the propensity of ‘online’ shopping there is no need for physical sex shops?

I would say that since the days of the ‘ivory white’, ribbed, nine inch plastic vibrator (sorry; massager) are (mostly) dead and that since sex toys now cost often into the region of hundreds of pounds that physical shopping and sensible, adult advice are completely warranted.

In my opinion a store running with a business model like Coffee Cake and Kink is almost a necessity in all major towns. Cornwall could benefit with a similar shop in Penzance, Truro and St Austell with Plymouth (pun intended) bring up the rear.

Where better for the coffee drinking, cake eating, youth and the sexually diverse to get sensible, non-judgemental advice? Are they going to get advice on safe experimentation in sex education lessons? The family planning clinic? The doctors or from a teenage mum that to supplement her minimum wage income is running Ann Summers parties for her mates? I think not.

Zero tolerance? I think that the councillors of St Austell need to re-think their policies or at the very least have someone on board to play devils advocate and help bring Cornwall (kicking and screaming probably) into the 21st Century.