Holding Back

Where the Red Kite Flies Blog Post 4

April 2022

From the Family Album

I’m back at the cabin again for another week, partly to work on my project but also to catch up with people, for a change of scenery and to have the space and time to think and ponder ideas. 

Getting that balance right between over-thinking and allowing thinking and ideas to emerge more naturally is something I find difficult. I naturally lean towards over-thinking and over-planning and not allowing enough time for play and spontaneity . So this visit I’ve made an effort not to make too many plans and to let myself be sidetracked from my project.

It’s springtime in Wales and there are plenty of welcome distractions. I have been spending an awful lot of time visiting my friend Caz’s sheep and looking to see if the new day has brought any small and furry lives into the world. Oh if only I could have told the child version of myself, who spent many hours trying to hug sheep on the Malvern Hills, that as an adult I would end up with friends who would let me hug their lambs. Maybe that would have been enough to make me a less stroppy child (see photo above, from the family album).

Besides following sheep around, I have been doing some more obviously productive things. The last couple of weeks I’ve had several zoom calls with project partners, including my old tutor and photographer friend David Gepp, PHD candidate and pal Ellie Macdonald and the wonderful Hannah Fletcher from The Sustainable Darkroom. These sessions have been great for bouncing ideas about and for reminding me of things that I’d forgotten that I do actually already know.

One example of this is showing too many people my photos at an early stage in the project. It can be helpful but it can also be confusing and at worst actually detrimental. I feel like this is one of those things I’ll be forever re-learning. 

This brings me to thinking about something I’ve been pondering for some time and that I discussed with Brian Carroll, who publishes Offline Magazine, on our journey back from Glasgow last summer from Ellie’s wedding. What to do when you’re working on a project and your instinct is to want to share the photos, to put them out into the world. This may especially apply to social media and that feeling of needing/wanting to share regularly on Instagram. I think a better way to describe it is actually a compulsive urge to share. 

So how do you get the right level of sharing, of putting your project out there, so that people can watch the progress and feel involved in the process. And at the same time  you also hold back the majority of the photos so that when the project reaches a level of completion for a book or an exhibition, people aren't seeing a lot of photographs they've seen before? I've been working on a few strategies for this:

  • Going through my archive. Find those hidden gems from previous projects that I once rejected. I've found this particularly fun and it's been great to look through these with the people here, showing a moment from their childhood here that feels like a lifetime ago for them and feels like just-the-other-day for me.
  • Showing 'behind the scenes' photos. I’m loving Instagram stories for this for and for the way that taking phone photos of my sessions with the kids/teenagers/young adults involved in Where the Red Kite Flies frees me up.
  • Posting photos I like but that won’t end up in the final edit. Though I should also know by now that that changes. Like the one below of Ted which I liked but wasn't sure it was one for the project. So I posted it to Instagram. And now I think it very well may be one for the project.
  • Taking photos that aren’t project related. This is a hard one for me, this community in Wales is where I feel most creative but I've decided to embrace this instead of working against it and have taken to wandering around with my trusty 35mm camera on my walks. 
  • Working on this blog. It has been such a surprising joy to re-discover my love of writing and find my writer's voice again. Probably like many photographers, I've always found writing about my work tricky but doing it in a blog format has made it an easier and enjoyable process. 

I think I’m kind of getting there or at least I’ve worked out the right balance for me, but it’s a hard thing. I would think many of us would instinctively want to share our newest work, which we would hopefully see as our best work. But I'll take comfort in the fact that I've got a bit of a strategy (see, I'm such a planner) and I'll look forward to  knowing that much of the work will be a surprise to my audience when it comes to the exhibitions and publications. 

Ted, Nov 2021 

If there's anything you'd like to hear more about or if you'd like to share your strategies for not over-sharing work in progress then please pop me an emailI'd love to hear from you. 

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