Self Adjustment

Over at Dylan Thomas Centre today considering Dylan’s words “We are not wholly bad or good…”

Who we are changes as we grow. There’s the person we are, the person we were, and the person we are yet to be. There’s the side we show to family and friends, and the side we let loose in public. Somewhere at the heart of it all is a life story that our self would choose to tell.

How we choose to portray ourselves in a photograph is a valuable way of sharing this story. For participants from the Traumatic Brain Injury Service it’s an empowering way of opening up dialogue about their journey through life so far. These self-portraits are far beyond the vernacular idea of a ‘selfie’ and are careful considerations on the concept of identity.

Every picture tells a thousand words.

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Growth and Optimism

After a traumatic event it’s not easy to be optimistic. Today’s group at the Dylan Thomas Centre were encouraged to examine their own personal growth and also look for potential in their surroundings. A sunny spring day is the perfect setting for optimism and growth but even without the sunshine there’s plenty of meaning that can be drawn from any surrounding. Here we looked at doorways and contrasts between old and new architecture as metaphors for how we were feeling.

This project is a ten week course run for the Traumatic Brain Injury Srvice and held at the Dylan Thomas Centre. Its primary focus is on using photography in a therapeutic way to examine personal growth, positivity, and to develop self-esteem. Already the results and the philosophy behind participants’ photographs are showing the potential of what they are capable of. It will be really exciting to see what this class produce as the technical and personal skills of this class advance over the coming weeks. More results next Wednesday!

Bringing Gower Home for the Last Time

Finally, after eight long months, the last group from Bringing Gower Home completed their workshop at Gower Heritage Centre at Parkmill, Gower. In total, ten groups from across the Swansea Bay Region have been experiencing the history, people, coast, nature, and landscape of this amazing peninsula and showing what they found through a series of photographs. All the participating organisations have contained groups of people who would not normally be able to access the Gower. All have been telling their stories and learning new skills through photography.

The images themselves are a far cry from your normal tourist photographer’s fare. We’ve turned our back on panoramic vistas and photoshopped sunsets to show the real experience of what to expect from Gower. We’ve seen chickens and machinery, heritage and tattoos. Gower isn’t just a picture postcard, it’s a living, breathing 21st century world to be enjoyed and experienced by all.

Today’s final group were all affiliated with the Traumatic Brain Injury Service. Bringing Gower Home has encouraged participants from this service to see what’s on Swansea’s doorstep and challenge participants to see their world differently. At a separate event in the Summer this group will revisit their photographs as a projected display at a venue convenient to the participating organisation. Here, each participant will be encouraged to share their feelings about the experience and discuss their photographs with an invited audience. The whole project experience is focused upon developing participants’ life skills, particularly self-esteem.

Today we were joined by the communications officer from the City and County of Swansea and a reporter from South Wales Evening Post. Both will be running features soon on the Bringing Gower Home project and how photography workshops such at these are making a difference to the lives of people across the Swansea Bay region. We’ve had more than 100 people participating in this unique project and with any luck it will be a project we’ll be repeating soon.

Thanks to Gower Landscape Project (GLP) which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Natural Resources Wales, City and County of Swansea, and National Trust for making Bringing Gower Home possible. Here’s a quick look at the results from this final Bringing Gower Home group. Enjoy!

I am organising, delivering, and supporting this project in collaboration with Gower Landscape Partnership (GLP) which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Natural Resources Wales, City and County of Swansea, and National Trust.

A Dylan Thomas Inspirational Workshop

We’ve just started a workshop today with the Traumatic Brain Injury Service based at Morriston Hospital. It’s a really exciting workshop to be delivering because it combines all sorts of disciplines into one massive positive experience.

The workshop itself is being held at the Dylan Thomas Centre here in Swansea. The facilities here are awesome and there is so much to learn from the staff and the location at the centre. There is an exhibition space here which shares everything inspirational about Dylan Thomas himself and I’m certain we’ll be using this space in the best way possible.

Then comes the photography element of the course. The group are exploring their surroundings and recording their feelings using photography. It means if they see something inspirational they can create something special immediately to voice what they’re seeing and thinking. It’s a new technical skill too which will be stretching the group to develop their learning beyond their current level.

Finally, and most importantly, this workshop is designed to follow the core therapeutic values that the staff at Morriston Hospital are already employing to develop participants’ own well being. We’re confident that the activities on this course will improve upon the strengths that participants already possess and improve their  own range of positive thinking. Support Staff from Traumatic Brain Injury Service have designed assessment methods which we’re following closely so that improvements in participants well-being can be measured in the best possible way.

It’s exciting for me to be involved in this project because it’s showing that the way I teach photography has a valid and proven therapeutic value for people who aim to improve the way they see the world. I’m not entirely sure what today’s participants expected from a photography course, but I can guarantee they’ve already delved deeper and further into analysis through their own photographs than they ever thought possible within just a few hours of picking up the camera for the first time.

Here are today’s best images. More next week!

Collage Your Memories

Next Saturday I’ll be in the Workers Gallery at Ynyshir running some collage masterclasses in the morning and afternoon. It’s exciting because I haven’t done one of these for a while. I’ve found myself looking back through my archive of photographs seeing what would be great for people to cut up.

The best results are always gained when people work with their own photographs rather than mine. It’s a way for people to reconnect with a memory and rework it into something different. This emotional connection is important to me and is the reason why I very rarely work with anonymous pictures from magazines or books. I need to feel that I am engaging with the picture at a deeper level.

I’m not sure yet how many people I’ll be working with next weekend and as far as I know there are still places available if you want to join in the fun. It’s only £12 per 2 hour workshop and booking is essential. Contact the gallery in Ynyshir directly if you want to participate. You can get hold of them via facebook, email wood4tt@gmail.com, phone 01443 682024 or pop into the gallery on Ynyshir Road.

This will be fun!

Melanie Ezra Workshop Poster

Play

After a couple of days with just glue and paper it’s refreshing to get out and about in the spring sunshine. Wandering is a wonderful way to refresh the body and the mind. It doesn’t matter where you live there is always somewhere to wander to.

Here we’re have old quarries clinging to the side of a steep hill. Housing below and above hasn’t yet encroached on this space and due to the geography is unlikely to. Instead there’s a large area of green space with as many birds, bees, bats, and foxes as disused fridges and old tyres.

Even plain old boring grass holds enough to keep my brain interested. Everything is here to enjoy in exactly the right quantities if you look at life in the right way.

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Spyglass

During my photography workshops I always encourage my participants to consider their world differently and to exercise patience in getting what they want. This ethos is something I continue with in my personal practice far beyond the workshop environment. I find that by looking at my own space differently I am calmer and more able to focus on the things that matter rather than the extraneous clutter of day to day life.

I’ve been watching the spyglass in my door for a while now waiting for the right set of conditions to get the right photograph. It’s been a long time coming. I discovered Winter doesn’t work because too much moisture builds up behind the glass. The sun was at the wrong angle in Autumn, and yet Summer was no good because all water droplets had evaporated completely. So I’ve been waiting for early afternoon light on a cool Spring day to hit my spyglass in precisely the right way.

I’ve been patient waiting for the water droplets to frame the blue sky. I’ve waited for just the right amount of glare to make the image interesting but not overwhelming. Today at 14:10 I got the spyglass photograph I promised myself almost a year ago.

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