Give me a great lighting assistant, an awesome make-up artist, a stylist that knows how to blag great costumes and style stylishly, a post production wizard that listens and I’ll be as good as any other photographer working commercially today. But; add to that a good PR company and a brilliant celebrity management team and I’ll be the Robbie Williams of the art world! I’ll be a fucking star!
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.
Hopefully you’ve read the ‘about me’ page? If not, I suggest you do so to make sense of and understand this post.
The studio in St Austell closed pretty much as soon as it opened. I was like a goldfish in a bowl where the only people coming in to swim in my waters were the drunks, the druggies, the morbidly curious (the rubberneckers) and friends. Everyone else just peered through the glass at the sad and lonely fish bouncing off the walls and the fetish furniture.
Over the period of three months I shot three models on a TFCD basis and had one paying customer that couldn’t afford the full amount so I let him have the shoot half price. It was for his girlfriend on her birthday; I’m a sucker for people doing good deeds.
It seemed that the local LGBT community was a closed group run out of a bar in Truro and the local BDSM community weren’t half as liberal as the communities I’d known in London. I was kicked off their forum as a few people disagreed with the religious aspects of my work and I later found out that in Plymouth, at a Torture Garden/Club Rub type affair the bouncers actually removed crops, whips and swatches from the customers prior to their entry to the club.
The models that I wanted to help promote didn’t show. There were lots of girls wanting to be shot but no-one seemed to make the effort to actually show up and be shot. To the girls in Plymouth, while seemingly wanting to work with me, obviously found the forty minute trip to St Austell to be similar to trekking across the Gobi desert on foot and un-supported. They never showed. Perhaps they wandered off, lured by a mirage somewhere near West Taphouse.
A depression that had been brewing since the beginning of the year took full hold of me and in October I shut the studio doors for the last time. I hung up my camera and immersed myself into an autopsy of a failed business.
In December, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I had to give up sugar, lose weight and control my blood sugars with a daily round of tablets added to those I was already taking for the depression. Half of my family disowned me over money issues and having signed on to the electoral role when I moved to Cornwall all of my past debtors caught up with me in one fell swoop.
After a fairly dismal Christmas without the majority of my family and without money, I was struggling to deal with day-to-day issues and even those things I found pleasurable felt like chores. My bodyboard went into the same not-to-be-opened box as my camera and kites. I hung up my wetsuit and became reclusive. In January, when I thought things could get no worse I received court orders from the CSA and managed to spectacularly offend my last remaining close friends.
Our neighbours rallied around my partner and I and with them and our dog we managed to get by. As proud a man as I am I felt weak and humbled by their help. I hate to be seen as looking for sympathy and I hate being in a place where I need help rather than being able to offer it. I felt I’d made a bunch of lifestyle choices that were detrimental and that my rebellious nature far from defining me had been my undoing. At times I even envied those people stuck on the M25 on their way to sensible office jobs in the morning and similarly stuck on the M25 in the evening on their way home to their three bedroomed semi’s in suburbia with their 2.4 children and their doting stay at home but ultimately unsatisfied wives who were busy having affairs with their gym instructors.
I went for a psychiatric assessment. I became a 20 hour a day World of Warcraft playing hermit only venturing out of the house for shopping and cigarettes. If I wasn’t online then I was asleep in bed.
I had over four and half thousand ‘friends’ on my Facebook account and only twelve of them were friends. Of that twelve I missed most of their posts and updates and had upset over half of them into not talking to me.
Still, I had Jo and the dog… They stood by me and refused to give up on me. Still, I had my father who surprisingly was the one to rally round and support me of all my family. Still I had our neighbours who were there daily to chat, smoke and drink coffee with. Surprisingly I also had the Church I’d so royally offended but felt I was worth trying to convert and save.
More than that I had a dogged determination not to give up. I wanted a blog in which to vent and throw open ideas, I badgered my ISP into providing functionality which although they are one of the biggest and most professional ISP’s they didn’t offer unless one was paying a vast sum of money for hosting each year. I wanted a new slant on the business and I wanted my health back.
Sympathy can make one weak. It’s nice to receive in small doses and can make you feel loved and cared about but can ultimately leave you wanting more and losing the will to fight while wrapped in that cotton-wool ball of love.
It’s sometimes easier to shut yourself away in a room of your own and weather the crushing blows of your depression alone. It’s easier sometimes to sit alone and think and write and to measure your own failures and successes looking for that break in the weather to make you want to walk in the sunshine.
Alone you can make your own decisions and define your own future rather than being told how you’ve failed and how to avoid making the same mistakes over and over.
I’ve had to sell everything but my camera and one lens to survive since October. All the lights are gone, my car is gone and my DVD collection comprises only of those films I love and can truly watch over and over.
But… I have my blog now and I have a fresh slant on an old idea. I still have half a family and I have friends if only I show them love back. I have Jo and Sid my dog.
I’m not prepared to give up just yet and am tossing around an idea in my head that will not only be financially viable to myself but to any of the models that sign up for it. I was down but never completely out. I still have issues but I’m willing to iron them out. I still have faults but I’ll hold my hands up to them and try to overcome them.
I’m going to give it one more go. I might have a space in which to start a new studio, I might have an idea that will pay the bills but not satisfy my soul. If I have that space, hell, even without that space I might also have the idea that satisfies my soul and pays the bills.
Who’s willing to take a chance with me and step on-board?