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.


Dec 062011
 

What do you call a Professional Photographer without a camera? I was going to start this missive with a sentence containing the phrase ‘ex-photographer’ but somehow that didn’t work for me. Ex-photographer implies (to me at least) that I no longer ‘wish’ to be a photographer. That I am never going to take another picture or ever pick up a camera again.

Truth is; I am a Professional Photographer without the means to take a photograph. To push that truth a little further; I am also an artist without the means of creating art.

Times are hard the world over. Switch on the TV and one is bombarded with adverts asking you to help impoverished children in Africa, people the world over without food or clean water, mistreated animals and today I saw an advert asking me to help the victims of child marriages.

In the Western World it is almost impossible for first-time buyers to get on the housing ladder although house prices are at an all time low. Gold prices have been as high as they’ve ever been yet the common-person does not have the money to invest, rather, judging by the amount of adverts, people are being actually being urged to sell their gold (to survive). The rich get richer! Inflation rises. The cost of food and fuels rise almost daily and now, because of the recent flooding in Thailand, hard-drive prices are set to soar, thus driving up the price of computing again.

Those same times that are hard globally are also being hard locally; having said that I’m a Professional Photographer without a camera it makes perfect sense that I’m incapable of earning a living as a photographer.

In fact, since moving to Cornwall, whether because of my terrible marketing skills, a run of bad luck or my refusal to work as anything other than a portrait photographer I have only had one paid gig. Even that was sold at a fraction of the price that my last London job cost the client.

I am a photographer without a camera because living in Cornwall, as I do, as many others do, requires a circus full of skills; One has to constantly juggle money and possessions. It is a fine balancing act to keep ones head above water, one is constantly trying to escape from poverty, one has to tame ones debtors and one constantly hides behind the tears of a clown.

The constant juggling of finances is the hardest. Rent, food, water, electricity, heating, pet bills, travel, broadband connection, cell phone, TV license, addictions and quality of life: Rent, because luckily I live in a hovel, is covered. As to the rest? The water board have taken me to court. Luckily, they are the one service that can’t disconnect you. Food is juggled with electricity is juggled with heating is juggled with the broadband etc. It is ALWAYS food vs. pet bills, pet bills vs. electricity, electricity vs. travel, travel vs. cell phone, cell phone vs. addictions or addictions vs. quality of life. There is NEVER enough money to go around. There is NEVER a time when all of ones needs (according to Maslow) are covered entirely and comfortably.

Hence the fact I’m a photographer without a camera. To survive. To SURVIVE, I’ve had to sell it.

Since I came to Cornwall I’ve lost virtually everything; My physical health has deteriorated, my mental health has deteriorated. My mother has stopped talking to me, she will continue this to her death bed as her own mother did to her, my relationship with my father is strained and all my sundry family with the exception of my daughter and sister refuse to have anything to do with me.

I have lost my girlfriend of six years (along with my laptop and cordless drill) to another man and at least sixty percent of my friends are no longer friends.

To survive Cornwall I have sold: My £600+ ($960) mountain bike, my canoe, my Xbox 360 and games, my DVD collection, excess current generation video games I would like to have kept but no longer played, my entire collection of retro consoles and games dating from the eighties to the current generation (some of which will be forever irreplaceable), the gold chain I got for my twenty-first birthday, my car, a collection of rare Japanese toys and dolls, a hand forged Samurai sword, a Canon GL2 professional video camera, two pairs of Elinchrom Style RX 600 strobes and assorted diffusers, softboxes, umbrellas, dishes and reflectors, radio triggers for the strobes, my Canon 1Ds Mark II, a Canon Speedlite 430EX, a Canon Speedlite 580EX, a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens, a Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II USM lens, a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens, a Canon EF 24-70 f2.8L USM lens, a Canon EF 2x II Extender, various professional Hoya filters, all of the studio backdrop equipment, a Manfrotto monopod, a Manfrotto tripod, a Leica D-Lux 4 plus accessories and the Nikon S3100 I replaced the Leica with (although not for monetary gain but because it was utterly rubbish!)

I’m sure there’s more but you get the idea?

I have considered suicide but I have a responsibility to those few that still love me and my dog. I have considered suicide but I think I’m such a fuck-up that I’d mess it up and end up as a cabbage in a hospital bed. I have considered suicide but tomorrow might be a better day.

I live in hope that tomorrow is a better day! But tomorrow never comes as we all know. There is only today. There is only today and only I have the ability to make today better.

But most days I can’t, most days I’m not strong enough.

That’s not to say I won’t, I want to, but I lack the means to make today better at the moment. A good day today means I got up, I shaved and showered, I brushed my teeth and I got dressed. That’s on a good day. A very good day meant I probably fed myself and washed up, maybe did a little cleaning, maybe took the dog for a walk. An extremely good day maybe saw me thinking about the future a little, maybe I got out to town where the people are and maybe I called up a friend for a chat.

Past that, I struggle.

That’s not to say there isn’t a plan. I’m not totally done in, just done in enough to not be able to pick myself up and dust myself down alone.

I can’t help but think about the past and the future; this just weighs me down and makes the present crap. There is so much baggage in my past and try as I might I just can’t let it go. A lot of the past put me exactly where I am now. I analyse and over-analyse. I know I can’t change it but I can’t seem to forget it either. It’s a painful circle.

The future also seems more important than the present and perhaps I’m making a mistake there too; Without some kind of success in life  I won’t be covered for retirement, I’ll never amass a decent state pension at this late stage and I’m not getting younger day-by-day. Each year I seem to feel my age more acutely than the last.

I’ll never realise my dreams through regular employment; they’re modest dreams by anyone’s standard but probably beyond the means of say, a civil servant in this financial climate. Especially a civil servant that’s never left a regularly paid job by his own volition; I realised the other day that I’ve either been sacked or been asked to resign from every job I’ve ever had. And I’ve had a lot!

I realise also that I lack having someone to love. As crass as it might seem, success means you get the pick of better women. Financial stability is probably the modern version of having the biggest club and the best furs from back in the caveman days. Very few women love a failure! The cavemen failures were the ones the mammoths trampled and the sabre-toothed tigers ate. Today’s failures are the financially and emotionally challenged.

This year has been terrible! I’m not going to live another year like this! I’m not! Either I make it next year or it’s that trip to Thailand I always spoke of… I can’t do this any more. I just can’t.

This year was worse than last which was worse than the one before that which was looking to be a pretty good year until the October.

2008 was the year it started to come together and also the year when it started to fall apart and it hasn’t got better. Two thousand and fucking eight! Just when all the hard work began to pay off the situation changed, I made a knee-jerk reaction and it was downhill all the way from there. Here and there I managed to grab a rocky outcrop or a tired old shrub on my descent but the rocks never held and the shrubs uprooted. In mountaineering parlance I need to find an old piton or cam wedged tight into the slope to belay (I probably shouldn’t mix nautical and mountaineering metaphors but it works…) my fall and give me half a chance to climb back up again.

Somehow, between now and March 2012 I need to find a minimum of £8000 ($12500). Yes, eight thousand pound to get myself back on track. I have no idea how! That’s just for the camera, a lens and a flash. I’d actually like £14400 for equipment and another £3000 to buy me some time in London but £8000 would be a start! With £8K I can start to take photos again and stop being whatever a photographer without a camera is called.

Donations gratefully accepted… Email me for my PayPal account details and you’ll have my eternal gratitude and a mention in my first biography. If it’s a good enough idea for Katie Price it’s good enough for me!

Mar 312011
 

If my life were a Role Playing Game, right now I’d be levelling up in photography and my relationship status would be set back to zero: +4 commitment to life, -2 happiness, +8 peace of mind and +/-9 positivity.

Finally, along with causing abject depression, my commitment to photography and a photographic career has cost me my six year relationship. My partner decided enough was enough and were I to continue along the path I have been walking she’d walk herself; Thus, she’s left me for someone else more stable. Leaving me with a rented property I can ill afford and our dog.

I got the dog! You have no idea how happy that makes me. Sid (my orange coloured Cocker Spaniel) is my rock! We shared pancakes today, sat on the sofa, scratching our fleas, catching up on the past few episodes of The Event.

I read an article the other day on the theory that time seems to speed up the older one gets.

We’ve all heard that, right? Okay, according to a study done by the University of Cincinnati some time in the seventies this effect is so pronounced that if you’re twenty today, in terms of your subjective experience, you’re already half way through your life even if you live to be eighty. If you’re in your forties, (again assuming you’ll live to the ripe old age of eighty) your life is seventy-one percent done.

So my life is (subjectively) over seventy-one percent finished, my career hasn’t started yet, I’m broke, I live in rented accommodation in purgatory Cornwall, my family have all but disowned me, my daughter lives back in London, I’m in ill health and my partner has now left me. But, I do have my dog.

I have my dog, a portfolio of work I’m quietly pleased with, a nomination for a photographic award I’m not allowed to talk about as I’m far from a finalist yet, an article published in a professional photographic magazine this month and a plan.

+9 positivity indeed! Life could well be worse… (that wasn’t an invitation).

Actually, for the first time in my life I have three plans. I have a plan A, a plan B and a plan C. Plan A is my master plan. The one I’m not discussing yet apart from to very close friends and the one member of my family still talking to me.

Plan A is my career saving plan. However, if I fail to define myself as a photographer is my life really over? According to studies by the University of Cincinnati blah blah blah it already is so why worry?

I’ve still got roughly twenty-nine percent of my life left so I might as well make the most of what little time I have left, possibly, (probably), I should stop being a depressive drama queen and start making the most of what I do have. Hence; plan B and plan C.

Reading this back to myself to spell check and proof, perhaps I’m actually an undiagnosed manic depressive and this is one of those bouts of unbridled mania that comes before another big low. It certainly sounds like it might be. Next time you’ll be reading my obituary!

If plan A fails I could? forget being a photographer and accept that my lot in life is that of an ex-pat living in Cornwall. I could get a minimum wage job flipping burgers for one of the chains or get a job in some extreme sports or surf shop and in my spare time make the most of what this (don’t believe the ‘sunny’ hype) rainy county has to offer.

I could finally learn to surf. I could visit (with my dog) the three hundred or so beaches I have yet to see including that blasted Kynance Cove I’ve failed to get to for two and a half years now.

I could visit some of the beauty spots I have still failed to visit and I could walk the moors (again with the dog and wearing those very expensive walking boots I bought pre-Cornwall convinced I’d need them and that I’d be walking the moors all the time although as yet I’ve failed to do anything but drive through them very fast in an attempt to get somewhere else).

I could fly my kites, I could take up bird watching, I could regain my fitness and by working that minimum wage job perhaps enjoy being self-sufficient again albeit on a reduced budget.

If I were sensible this life might even offer a way to come off of my blood pressure, my cholesterol and some of my diabetic meds. I’m sure it’d be on the right track to coming off my depression meds and might even be an incentive to give up smoking if fitness were a way forward to happiness. Who’d have thought it? If not gushing I do sound vaguely positive.

But wait, there’s more! I did say there was a plan C no?

If, upon reflection, plan B seemed too mundane were plan A to fail plan C would be to sell everything I own barring the dog and take to travelling.

I’d be like those intrepid photographers of old… Just me, the dog and a trusty Leica. Travelling the world (rabies shots permitting (me not the dog)) and documenting the sights. Sure, pretty much all the sights have been documented, but not by me. Have you ever seen a Pygmy wearing a gas mask or a Inuit gimp? Neither have I!

I have friends across America, I could start there by bumming some accommodation; New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas and San Francisco. That’s a start no? Is the French Quarter of New Orleans still standing?

From the US I’d like to see some of the Caribbean, I’d like to travel to North and South Vietnam and I’d like to see the Killing Fields of Cambodia. I guess I’ve seen too many war films. I’d like to go to Thailand and Japan. I’d like to visit Prague and  St Petersburg and (vaccinations permitting again) maybe hook up with some of those beautiful East European prostitutes one reads about.

If I get bored or too despondent I’ll buy myself a drug overdose in Phuket, wander off into the jungle and never be heard from again. Leave ‘em wondering. It’s a good job that my model release forms state that my beneficiaries can gain monetarily from the sale of my pictures. A dead artist is often seen more favourably than a live one.

It all sounds good on paper. However. There is still the not-so-small matter of my crippling procrastination to deal with.

As a brief aside; I do this a lot don’t I? I recently came across a theory that if you have to make a choice, flipping a coin is a good way to make it. Not as random as it may seem, the theory goes that once you’ve attributed your choices to either heads or tails and while the coin is in the air you instinctively know which way up you want the coin to land. THAT is the option to pick. Forget chance. You just go with that gut feeling.

Hmmm, if only I could find a three sided coin… In the meantime I think I’ll just sit here and procrastinate writing about how good life could be if only.

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?

Sep 012010
 

Right now I have no idea where or what I should be doing. I feel I’m in that burned out place once more, I don’t want sympathy, I don’t deserve it, I have made the bed I lay in:

I’m numb, I’m angry, I’m angsty, I’m confused, I’m short tempered, I’m looking for something I can’t find, I’m down with a few of my so called friends that promise to call or visit but don’t, I’m searching for inspiration, I need a studio, I need work, I can’t decide whether shock value is relevant any more, I can’t decide whether glamour is relevant any more, I want to see and do but can’t, I want to move on with the business but feel like I’m swimming in tar, I want to increase my meds but the doctor says I’m on the maximum dose without seeking the advice of a psychiatrist which he won’t do until I start counselling again, what I thought I knew I don’t, things are positive, things are bleak, there is good, there is bad, I can’t help comparing past and present, I hate the past, thoughts of self harming have come back, I’ve found in my dad a man I like and it’s confused me, I want Faye here, I see my past in Jo, I don’t want to, I have violent outbursts, I am laid back, I bury my head in the sand, I see too much, I love living by the sea, I want to make more of it, ultimately I think I’ll fail, I can’t give up trying, trust no-one, accept people for who they are warts and all, I’m positive, I lack motivation, my website gets over a 100K hits a month, my website generates no income, I accept me for who I am but I wish I were different.

I have 6 local girls I can shoot right now but I lack inspiration. I actually want to shoot Hollie but she’s incommunicado right now. I can’t offer the 6 anything when I feel I’m just going through the motions. Unlike my London apartment, although much bigger, my Cornwall house is set out differently and doesn’t make for good studio space. To do these girls and my own work justice I need to be able to set out my lights properly.

Maybe I need to get back to Church? But…

Part of the Church work is definitely the shock value, though in our time, the beginning of the 21st century, shock is hard to come by. The only people shocked by what I do are the devout. Most people are desensitised to shock, to religion, to horror. I questioned what shock is and how far I need to go to shock and I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that unless I find what I’m doing obscene myself I doubt I’ll shock many others. I don’t want to push myself that far.

We live in a world where car crashes are entertainment… How can I compete with that? Death is entertainment… How can I compete with that. Humanity is desensitised. Look at the horror and macabre gallery  on deviantART, people find the work beautiful. Tanya, the gallery moderator, does a great job every month showing us the best of the best of blood soaked photographs; people sucking on razor blades, syringes hanging from drug riddled skanks, hangings, mutilations, fake dead bodies washed up on the shore of life. I myself have dipped my toe in these waters. To really shock I need to immerse myself and take to swimming in these waters.

Twenty five years ago, in 1983/4, the British Board of Film Classification decided that video tapes needed to have the same age classifications that film had. Video at the time was a free for all without censorship. Overnight, what became known as the video nasty act was made law and a whole bunch of films became illegal to own or rent. I made a mint, a really pretty penny selling these films as pirate copies. I was already selling pirate porn, a few horror movies added to the mix couldn’t hurt.

People that had never even heard of Last House on the Left, Driller Killer, I Spit on your Grave and Faces of Death suddenly wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It was a media frenzy; watch Zombie Flesh Eaters and Cannibal Holocaust the tabloids stated and you’ll all become serial killers. We must be protected, we mustn’t have free will and the right to decide on our own what is good or bad for us. The now protected masses, probably unaware beforehand that these films even existed were now unable to make up their own minds unless they came to me, or people like me. We pirate film dealers had a captive audience.

The average person becomes immune to stimuli rather quickly. If I take myself as an example; selling porn. I became bored of it almost instantly. I had banks of video duplication machines running day and night. I watched a lot of what I sold not for titillation but to make sure what I was selling was of good enough quality for my customers to keep coming back for more. To this day I cannot sit down and watch a porn movie. As I’ve said before on other pages; whatever way you swing it, whatever way you film it, whatever the combinations of sexes and numbers it all comes down to fucking and sucking. It is only; fucking and sucking.

I am completely desensitised to it. However pretty the cast, whether male/female, female/female, male/male… Whatever hole is being filled with whatever body part or kitchen utensil it bores me. Who then needs the stimuli? The young and inexperienced? Curiosity is part of humanities make up. The highly sexed and those lacking the ability to get sexual partners? It caters to a need.

Once one becomes desensitised to normal (ish) sex where does one turn to for kicks? Animal Farm? There was always a call for Animal Farm. I refused to deal in it. I could never decide whether the people that asked for it were genuinely turned on by the idea or whether there was a car crash mentality surrounding it. The same with Scat and Watersports. What in fact had happened was that I had become the censor myself. I couldn’t understand how people could get turned on by defecating on one another so refused to give people the opportunity. To be completely honest, it didn’t bother me but I didn’t like it either.

Then I discovered the Japanese porn market. As with all things, the Japanese had turned porn into an art. While watching a drugged Danish girl get fucked by a pig or a Great Dane left me cold, watching a Japanese girl trying to stuff a bucket load of baby eels up her vagina amused me in some odd way. While the Danish girls always looked forced, drugged or coerced into what they did on the farm the Japanese girls seemed willing in some way. While just as perverse, the Japanese films were so out there they almost seemed like parody. They seemed comedic in some way. Perhaps eels are funnier than dogs? Perhaps because the eels were unwitting participants and the pigs and dogs seemed only too willing? Perhaps the absurdity of watching a bucket full of eels escaping all over the set was more like Benny Hill and National Lampoon than Hostel?

Oh those crazy Japanese… Not content with eels, anything with tentacles became game. Anything from the sea in fact. You have to love the twisted morality… While it was illegal to show pubic hair and the genital area was more often than not blurred out or covered with a mosaic it was alright to fill a vagina with live fish.

What we in the West made sordid, the East made art. While bondage in the West during the 70s and early 80s comprised mainly of badly printed booklets showing men in inflatable rubber suits and hoods or Wellington boots and rubber Macs the east had Shibari; Bondage as an art form. While in the West we were training German Shepherds to fuck drugged women wearing dayglo wigs and overly large sunglasses to hide their identities the Japanese had Wakamezake and Nyotaimori. While in the West, forced sex films tried their hardest to be as brutal as possible; where rape was taken almost to the level of snuff and made to seem as unpleasant as it would be in real life the Japanese take on this was Chikan; rubbing of the genitals on unsuspecting teens on the subway and the odd crafty boob grab.

To this day, one of the funniest things I have ever seen though in no way sexually arousing is a video of two Japanese girls indulging in emetophilia or Roman Showers. The thing that amuses me most about this short clip is the humour… Neither girl seems forced, in fact the girl actually vomiting seems to be enjoying herself no end and giggles helplessly all the way through.

So back to the story; questioning my own need to shock through photography and feeling completely numb and uninspired I went on a soul searching mission to uncover my motives and find something to nudge me back into a world where I felt something. I wanted to be horrified. I wanted to be shocked. I wanted to feel revulsion. Fuck, I just wanted to feel. Something, anything, other than the stress and anger I have been feeling. Sickened to the pit of my stomach has got to be better than nothing right?

I started in the past…

What was considered vile enough to ban in 1984 is now freely available at any good video store. Zombie Flesh Eaters is now branded ‘UNCUT’ and ‘REMASTERED’ you can now experience it in the comfort of your own living room in 5:1 surround sound and HD video. We who now watch real war on prime time TV in HD widescreen can also watch the beauty of Rape and Revenge that is I Spit on your Grave. Better than that… Why watch the originals of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House on the Left when we can watch the bloodier, more violent remakes? There seems to be a fashion right now… Take a classic horror from the 80s and bring it up to date for the desensitised. Which is the better film? Carpenters Halloween or Rob Zombies Halloween?

I started in the past; over the past few weeks I’ve watched; Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Holocaust, Zombie Flesh Eaters, Last House on the Left and Nightmares in a Damaged Brain. I enjoyed them as much as I did in the 80s.

What the general public never knew was that while the media pounced on the horror blockbusters, if they can be called that, was that there was an underground movement producing art house movies far more shocking. From Japan came the Guinea Pig series… Flowers of Flesh and Blood, The Devils Experiment and He Never Dies. While Faces of Death was reviled few people knew the Mondo genre had spawned far more shocking films like Traces of Death where nothing was staged unlike Faces and Japan’s The Death Files. Love it or hate it, Tobe Hoopers Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a classic piece of film making. Dealing with Cannibalism and Necrophilia it touched a raw nerve in many people. It was all the more shocking in that it was based on the true story of Ed Gein. Take then the little known films from Jörg Buttgereit; Nekromantik and Nekromantik 2 where necrophilia becomes romanticised and the protagonists fall in love and run off with their corpses preferring them over the living. 1976s In the Realm of the Senses went a little further giving us unsimulated sex and a castration to boot.

I dipped my toe here too. Still I wasn’t moved. I’d seen them before… I needed something new. Oh font of all knowledge that is Google, show me your wares, lead me to the forums. “Come” said Pinhead “We have such sights to show you”.

I need not go into detail regarding the films here but I found and didn’t find what I was looking for… It seems (unless anyone can tell me otherwise) that the most shocking films of all time are as follows; August Underground, August Underground Mordum, August Underground Penance, Salo, Requiem for a Dream, Irreversible, I Stand Alone, Tokyo Gore Police and Visitor Q.

While not easy watching, some for their graphic content, some for their depressive subject matter and some for being just shock for the sake of shock I can honestly say that I am still unmoved. If I am moved in any way it would be the need to question why some people have gone to the lengths of say “Mordum” to utterly repulse the general public. A public that won’t search out these films anyway.

To bring it back into context I cannot compete and don’t want to compete with these movies. If the general public want to be shocked they need to see these movies. The lengths I would have to go to to surpass them would be far out of my comfort zone. Maybe comfort zone is the wrong phrase? I feel desensitised to the point where I could portray as bad as or even worse images as these films but why would I want to? What would I achieve and what point would I be proving? I need to rethink my motives and desires.

What would you like to see from me in the future?