Year in Review – 2016

It barely feels like a matter of weeks since I last wrote one of these posts, yet somehow, another year has passed and we’re here again.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. We spent it in Devon with my family this year and it was fantastic. Tonight though, we are at home and celebrating the departure of 2016 quietly  with the kitties.

For many of us, I think it’s safe to say 2016 was a difficult year. I’m yet to meet anyone who has described it as being their best year ever, but for those of you who have had a great year, I’m so glad for you. I truly am. It’s been tough so I am happy for anyone who made it out still smiling.

Last year, I wrote a huge, illustrated, month by month account of my year and initially, this was also going to be my plan for this year, however, I just can’t bring myself to relive a lot of what has happened, so this is the best I can manage.

2016 began on a grey Friday morning in Leicester. We saw the new year in in style with my brother’s house party, so very different to this year!

Like every year, it began with feelings of melancholy, anxiety and quiet optimism. I knew what needed be done in order to correct the mistakes of the past year and wasted no time in setting about searching for the solutions. And that was where my luck ran out really.

I took a gamble by leaving my job at Sainsbury’s for a Freelance position. After all, it had worked out once before so why wouldn’t it happen again, right? Well, I was very wrong, and what seemed like a promising new position at Packshot soon turned out to be my very undoing.

Six months of unemployment ensued, and when I did finally manage to get some work again over the summer, I ended up spending more time chasing my wages than I did actually working. This prompted the rapid decline in my love of Photography this year. The industry I once loved had betrayed me for the last time, and as it stands, I am now still in limbo over what will happen next. I really have no idea. I’ve never been this confused before.

Entering the year still in mourning for Sam has probably set the tone for a lot of the fact this year has been so difficult. No sooner had I began coming to turns with losing her, Leica had entered my life and departed again in such a short space of time that I don’t think grief has even left me yet. Then there was the sad tale of the Floofs. More loss. In fact, I’d say the word of the year would be loss.

Still, there have been fleeting moments of joy.

Yumi2

This little girl is still with us, and as she sits curled up on my lap, purring her little head off, I’m reminded that there will always been small moments of light to keep us going. I miss Leica so much, but really feel I’ve said all I can about that. She was so special and I will never forget her, but Yumi is such a great little character, she has saved me from some very dark moments since she arrived.

Other memorable moments include my birthday back in January. Natalie did a great job of organising it, and it was so lovely to see everyone. I spent a weekend in London in July with my Mum and Auntie which was amazing, and I have now acquired a new appreciation for The Rolling Stones! There was an occasion where I came face to face and even help an enormous yellow snake, a night at the London Transport Museum in November, where I got to have an enormous geek out over my passion for all things London Underground, and countless Pokemon walks. Yeah, I like Pokemon now, it’s really fun and keeps me sane! I also got into exercise, and was really good at it for a while, then I kind of dropped the ball a bit. However, everything is in place to get it all back up and running again very soon.

Now we’re at the end of the year I am back in regular work, if only part-time, but it’s all good. It’s allowing me to study and giving me the time to figure out what I’m doing next. It’s also been quite good having time to spend with friends that I otherwise wouldn’t see anywhere near enough, so, swings and roundabouts.

As the year draws to a close, i am still met with those feelings of melancholy and anxiety, yet I am really struggling with the quiet optimism of past years. Previously, Hope was the only thing which got me through, but I think I may have run out of that, and as we enter January, I must begin my year with a number of very unpleasant tasks in order to move forward. I won’t go into that now, but hopefully, if I manage to get some resolution I can fill you in.

My health is hanging on by a thread at the moment too. Everything feels uncertain and scary, and I just want it all to be over with. I need answers, and the solutions I need to get life back on track.

So to end the year, we are about to go out for a nice long Pokemon walk followed my snuggles with the kitties. This year will not be going out with a bang, just a mere blip on the radar.

To all my wonderful family, my friends , new and old, my followers and lurkers, I wish you all a very Happy New Year. Love and light to you all, I shall see you again in 2017.

Laura.

PS – I may have sucked at it, but I kept the blog going for the whole year!

 

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It’s Over

An awful lot has happened this year, and not all of it has been good. I’ve been feeling very low recently. Not because of any one thing in particular but because of many things. Given that until this point, I have kept most of it bottled up I figured maybe writing about some of this stuff might help.

The first thing is just how difficult it has been making the transition from doing nothing to doing everything. I was out of work for the better part of 6 months, and now all of a sudden I am juggling a job and a degree. I feel tired a lot of the time and doing things for myself has become virtually none existent since the end of September. Of course, I understand that in every situation we’re in sacrifices need to be made, but right now I’m trying to find ways of re-integrating things that I enjoy back into my weekly routine. Exercise for example. I feel shit without exercise and the sooner I get back on that the better.

Secondly, little things are setting me off down the downward spiral again. I’m really struggling to keep my mind in a good place, and as always, as life does, it is just throwing a constant stream of challenging situations at me and I just don’t have the energy to handle them at the moment. This isn’t meant to be a pity party, just an opportunity to blow off some steam in the hopes that my permanently foggy brain may start to clear a little. I never know what to do anymore and I feel like I’m just aimlessly meandering down a path that isn’t taking me anywhere.

Finally, I recently had a major revelation. Since starting my course I haven’t quite been able to decide what direction I want to take my photography down. Torn between my want to be creative and the need to become more employable, a lightbulb suddenly went off in my head. I no longer love photography. In fact, I fucking hate it. There, I said it.

This has been a long time coming as it’s been a very long time since I picked up my camera with genuine joy and excitement about what I’m about to do, but now it has all become clear.

The Photography world is a mass of egos and mediocrity. I’d place myself in the mediocre category. I’m a tiny fish in an enormous, over saturated pond and quite frankly, does the world need another mediocre photographer? No. It really doesn’t.

I even closed my PurplePort account. I don’t use it anymore and more often than not I’d browse the pages asking myself what exactly the point most of it is all about. Did half of these images need to be made? Do they have an audience outside the model, photographer demographic? No, they don’t. For many it’s just a hobby they want to take further, for some it’s an opportunity to get your ego stroked, and for some it’s a genuine passion. But those are in the smaller numbers.

Yeah, I’m fully aware of how negative this sounds, and quite frankly at this moment in time, I really do not care. In fact, I truly believe that more people should be taking a long hard look at what they’re doing and asking themselves ‘Why?’ How many people go to University and study Photography because they hope to be a Wedding Photographer, or a Family Portrait Photographer? Not very many. This is meant with no disrespect to the people who do these things as a career, they’re challenging jobs which can be vastly rewarding and I know people who are hugely passionate in both of those areas, but if we’re being honest, these are usually fields we fall into because it’s a chance to use our skills to pay the bills.

It was never my dream to become a product photographer. It was a job I fell into because it would allow me to use Photography to make money, then incidentally, I grew to enjoy the E-Commerce industry which is where I decided to stay. So, what now?

I’ve decided to use the next few months to try as many new things as possible and see where I fit. Perhaps, I’ll fall in love with Photography again and I’ll pick my camera back up with feelings of joy rather than resentment once again. Maybe I’ll discover something completely new all together, which in my heart of hearts I’m hoping to do. Either way, I’m not a total quitter, if you throw enough mud against a wall some of it will stick, and then I can start climbing out of this hole.

The truth can really hurt, and it’s taken a long time to finally admit this to myself but I no longer want to drift along in an industry which is undervalued, underpaid and destined to keep the majority of people who fall into its jaws at the bottom of the career ladder all their lives. I don’t want to be in minimum wage jobs all my life. I don’t want to be working in studios which pay through the floor day rates then spend months chasing for my wages. It’s time to move on and realise, that while I had an absolute blast for the best part of the last eight years, this is where that journey ends.

I really don’t know what the future holds for me, and yes, of course I am scared. Fear is a large part of my nature, but there are many things out there I am yet to explore, that in itself is pretty exciting. Photography grinds you down, like many things in life, but it is an industry that can swallow you whole if you let it, and I am not about to let that happen.

Thinking about Learning

It’s safe to say that I am loving my course already. After months of writing about how I want to learn and improve, I have spent the last few days in seminars listening to talks about learning. I love that I am being challenged to really think about things like this and hopefully it will be really helpful in moving forward.

One of the things we have been asked to think about was a time where we tried to learn about something, but were unsuccessful in doing so. For anyone who has read this blog before, you will know exactly what I am going to say as it is something I have written about before!

I am talking of course about GCSE Maths. Maths was the bane of my life for the last few years of school. I’m not naturally academically gifted, but usually, with a little hard work I can grasp most things if I apply myself properly. However, with Maths, it just wasn’t meant to be.

From Primary School it was always my weakest subject and my understanding of a lot of it was very hit and miss. That’s not to say I am mathematically illiterate, I can count, subtract, multiply, add and divide. I can tell time and calculate probabilities. I can also draw you up a very pretty pie chart if data is your thing, but anything involving algebra and formulae is where my understanding ends. My brain dries out and my eyes just won’t co-operate when you throw letters and numbers together.

I remember being in about Year 8 or 9 and my Mum getting into an argument with my maths teacher at the time about how unsupportive she had been when I’d asked for help. Her response was amazing. She said because I do well in all my other subjects she thought I was just playing up to get attention and genuinely didn’t believe I actually needed help.

Come GCSE years, I actually got a pretty good teacher. He was very patient with me and actually did help me out a lot. I even stayed behind after class for extra help. Then my parents enlisted the help of an external tutor, a lovely lady named Steph who broke everything down into the simplest terms possible. I still couldn’t grasp it and I walked away from school with a D grade. I was ashamed.

A few months later, I actually ran into my maths teacher and I sheepishly told him I hadn’t got the C grade he had so much faith I could get. I apologised for being so ‘thick’ and all he said was; ‘47% of people in your year didn’t get a C grade either, does that make all of them thick?’ I’d never thought of it like that before, and no, of course it didn’t make them all thick. There were some super intelligent people included in that statistic, people who were creative, sporty or academic in other areas – and definitely not thick.

Fast forward to my first term at college, pretty much every tutor I had all asked the same question in my first week. ‘Are you sure you don’t want to retake?’ My answer was a firm ‘No.’ I had spent so much time, effort and energy trying to understand the things I needed to pass that exam, and I didn’t. My parents had paid good money to help me pass that exam and I didn’t. Not only am I just not confident with using numbers and formulae, by this point I decided I now wanted to spend that time and energy on things I did care about. I probably could have done better overall if I hadn’t concentrated so hard on passing that one exam, but the emphasis on passing English and Maths with a C was just so great, tunnel vision set in and I went into panic mode.

I can think of many reasons why I was unsuccessful on this occasion, but after a lot of thought, I just didn’t have the natural aptitude to deal with that particular task. I had the drive to succeed, the willingness to learn, and certainly the support of my parents, but I couldn’t make it happen. Had I tried again, could I have done it? Well, I’ll never know. I don’t need to know, because choosing to spend my time on things I did enjoy, led me to where I am now and I’m glad I didn’t let those things suffer for the sake of some information that I’ll never need to know again.

Although, I think the one thing that confused everyone the most was that I was good at Chemistry! My answer was always that Chemistry is a visual subject. I can see what is in front of me and deconstruct it, put it together and make sense of that. You can’t do that with a page full of numbers swarming around.

 

The next thing we have been asked to think about is when we were successful at learning something.

I had to think a lot harder about this, because the good things I’ve done leave me after I’ve done them and don’t still haunt my dreams 15 years later. After chatting with my Mum, I think I have found a pretty good example.

During my last year of University, I decided I wanted my final major project to help me as a commercial photographer rather than a fine art or documentary photographer. The course I was on didn’t really support that goal at the time and a lot was done to try and dissuade me from doing the project I planned in favour of something that would pass me with a higher classification. It was never about classification for me at this point, I just wanted to be able to apply for jobs in the relevant field after graduation. Don’t get me wrong, I love fine art, conceptual work, documentaries et all, but I just wanted to practise skills which would make me employable.

I ended up teaching myself a lot that last year of the BA course. I read, I looked at what other photographers were doing, I looked at pictures in magazines to try and figure out how something had been lit and I practised, practised, practised. Occasionally, one of the technicians would come and help out too. I would block book one of the studios for days at a time and experiment with lighting using my friends, local models or whatever I could get my hands on. I wasn’t perfect. Far from it, but I knew I wanted to get good and the only way to improve was to keep doing what I was doing.

My final exhibition images weren’t the best. We were due to exhibit at the D&AD Fresh Blood awards once the end of year show had been taken down and there was no way I was going to let me substandard work let me down for that. Against all advice, I decided to exhibit some images from the portfolio I had inadvertently acquired during all the practise I’d done. Everyone was concerned that I wouldn’t be displaying something that wasn’t part of a larger body of work or part of a concept. I don’t know what it was, but intuition told me to go with what felt right on this occasion.

I didn’t win any awards. I wasn’t expecting to. There were some hugely deserving people exhibiting who rightly won. However, my gamble did pay off.

When I returned to take my work down, one of my tutors handed me a business card that had been left for me. I asked if they’d left them for everyone, but apparently not. They’d seen my images and asked if I was around. I’d left for the day so I’d missed them.

I sheepishly called the number on the back of the card and to my absolute amazement, I was invited to an interview the following week. That gamble paid off. Big time. Next thing I know I’m undertaking some work experience for a large, online, premium fashion retailer at their headquarters in London just two short weeks after completing the course.

There is a part of me that regrets being so headstrong about the whole experience. I probably should have exhibited my final major project along with everybody else. I lucked out. Intuitive learning is definitely not the way forward.

On the other hand, I had taught myself everything I needed to know in order to create those images in the first place, so perhaps that success was earned. It all depends on how you want to look at it.

Since then, I have been lucky enough to have a successful Photography career within the E-Commerce industry which has been amazing. However, in future, I definitely know that I need to put a lot more thought into my learning objectives. Intuition worked for me on this occasion, but that’s not to say it always will.

Look at that. I may just have learned something already.

What are you doing?

Well, the simple answer is I’m doing a Masters Degree! So there’s your answer if you don’t feel like reading any further.

This is a question I find I ask myself an awful lot. This is usually closely followed by ‘Why am I doing this?’

On this occasion, I have actually been asked to think about what I am doing and make a few notes for class this week. Being the Queen of over-thinking that I am, not only am I asking myself what am I actually doing, I’m also going to throw the ‘Why?’ and the ‘How?’ in there too. I could just write a few notes, but I’m kind of feeling inspired enough to write today, so we’ll go with this instead.

There is no simple, clear cut answer for as to what I am actually hoping to achieve by doing this, so I shall bullet point my answers for ease of reading.

  • Firstly, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I am riddled with self-doubt and suffer with an inferiority complex the size of a small country. I regularly write about how I want to improve as a Photographer and contemplate ways of doing this, so for me, applying to return to study was one way of getting out of that rut and actually doing something about it. This is going to be hard. I’m not naive and I am fully aware that I am probably going to feel a whole lot worse before I start to feel better, but here I am. There’s no going back now.
  • I want to be able to produce work, that I’m proud of, and if I can’t manage that, I at least want to be able to produce work that I don’t hate. I want to learn as much about lighting and creating beautiful, glossy images as I can. I don’t want to constantly compare myself to other artists and tell myself I’ll never be able to do that, I want to at least give it a bloody good try.
  • In addition to this, I don’t want to spend my entire life being a one trick pony. It’s hard enough to stand out in the ocean of Photographers that exist in the world today, and while Photography is my first love, I want to be able to do more with post processing, moving image and even create art without the use of a camera.
  • By the end of the first semester, I want to feel as though I am moving forwards. i want to be able to post blogs showing you that I have moved forward, and that my work is developing the way I want it to. I don’t want to hide things from the world any more, I don’t want to feel uncomfortable wearing the label of ‘Photographer’ forever. I don’t want to hide from the world anymore, and while I know I will never have the confidence to put myself out there as much as a lot of artists do, I would at least like to get to the point where I can maybe post an image or two and say ‘Hey, I’m Laura. I’m not the best Photographer in the world, but I made this and I’m pretty pleased with it.’
  • I want to be able to walk away from this course in a years time being able to say that I gave it my all and it paid off.

So, there is a very brief overview of what I want to achieve, now for the ‘Why?’

  • I’ve always toyed with the idea of taking a Masters program, but for whatever reason, life would never quite allow it for one reason or another. The main one of course being work. Making a living has to come first, so returning to study never felt like a viable option.
  • Having spent the best part of this year out of work, I decided that it was now or never. If I wasn’t back in work by September, I knew I wanted to be doing something constructive with my time, so I finally applied. Got accepted, then got offered a job. Sod’s law.
  • University wasn’t a great experience for me first time around. I really struggled on my Bachelors program for a number of reasons. The main one being my health being in a terrible place at the time, causing me to find things a lot harder than everybody else. Despite the fact I somehow managed to make it through, I know that under more positive circumstances I could have done so much better. Now I want to prove that.
  • I now have an incredible support network around me. While I am largely keeping this a secret, the people who do know have said they are all behind me 100% and this is really spurring me on.
  • When I look back at my time at University the first time around, it brings back a lot of bad memories. I want to be able to attach a much better experience to study this time, and when I look back in another 8 years time (yup, it’s really been that long since graduation!) I want there to be fond memories to reflect upon, such as ‘Yes! I remember the day I finally mastered that.’

Finally, How am I going to do this while holding down a job? Well, lets keep this one really simple. If I could complete a Bachelors while losing my eye sight, I’m pretty sure completing a Masters while holding down a job will be pretty easy! Well, perhaps not easy, but I’ll make it work somehow.

If I can finish this having spent most of my time on campus and not in a hospital, that’s good enough for me. If I can finish this and be able to wear the label ‘Photographer’ without feeling inadequate or ashamed, then I’ll know I can do anything.

Where have you been?

I’ve been absent again. This time, it’s been deliberate though.

It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say, it’s just that I wanted to wait until I had some firm and proper news in place to tell you.

As you well know, I’ve been struggling for work and not really been doing very much for the last few months. Well, as these things usually happen, after months of nothing, everything began happening all at once and with all my balls floating high above me in the air, I decided to wait for them to land before updating.

So, what’s been happening? Well, firstly, I know have a job. I am now Photographer at allbeauty.com. I first applied for this job back in March but didn’t get it. Then back in August, the ad reappeared and I was offered the position without even having to interview for it again. They also offered a little more money than the rate advertised which was a bonus!

Secondly, I am now officially a student. Yes, you did read that correctly. I have returned to University after being accepted onto a Masters degree, so hopefully in one years time, I shall be a graduate once again.

Now, all of a sudden I have gone from having little to do, to having to juggle work, a course and all my other commitments, though in all honesty, it’s really not a bad problem to have.

I don’t have any shoots lined up or any kitty related stories for you today. I literally just wanted to post a quick update to show I am still here, and will hopefully have a lot more to share with you all very soon.

Have a wonderful weekend everybody!

Happy Black Cat Day

Hello all!

Today, I would like to wish you all a very Happy Black Cat Appreciation Day!

For some reason, Black Cats and kittens are always the last ones to be adopted, and will often spend months or even years in shelters or foster homes. They are usually overlooked purely because of their colour, which is really sad as usually they are just as fun and lovable as all the other kitties available. Some people are also put off by their past associations to Witchcraft and Superstitions.

However, I have never met a Black Cat I didn’t like, and if you’re in the process of adopting a new addition, please don’t rule out a kitty purely based on their colour.

Remember, Black Cats are very iconic and have a lot of positive associations too! Everyone recognises the black cat on those old Parisian posters right? What about the gorgeous Thackery Binks from Hocus Pocus or Salem from Sabrina the Teenage Witch? Surely, that’s proof enough that they’re not all bad!

If you’re already the owner of a little Black fur baby, make sure you show them how special they are today, and every day.

For now, I shall leave you with a few pictures of some of my favourite little Black Cats!

Kitty

This is Kitty, my In-Laws cat. She’s 13 this year. (Super unlucky for some, but how lucky re they to have this gorgeous little lady?)

 

And of course my Little Floofs Jake and Akemi! They’re so much bigger now. They’re settled into their new home and also have new names. Akemi is now called Suki and Jake is now called Winston. So happy that they got a happy ending after their sad start in life. I will try and post some pictures of them as they are now in a future blog.

So there you have it, I hope you have enjoyed my small tribute to beautiful black kitties.

Little Yumi Yum-Yum

Hello!

How are we all? It’s been a while hasn’t it? There’s a lot to catch up on, a lot has been going on and there are a lot of changes going on. All that can wait for now though right? I’ll share the most exciting part first.

Towards the end of June, something in me told me it may be time to let another baby girl into our home. Not because I’m over Leica, I never will be, but there was just something in my gut telling me that this was the time.

For one thing, I was seeing countless posts from all the cat related pages I follow all sharing their own version of the same sad story. Un-neutered female, brought into rescue with her kittens, all needing to be homed. Rescues are full to bursting at this time of year, so seriously, if you’re a cat owner, please get them neutered and spare the suffering.

It all felt a little different this time around. Neko and Leica had both come into our lives by chance, so actively seeking out a new arrival didn’t quite feel the same. Neko and Leica both felt as though there were meant to be ours, how would we know who would be right for us when we’re actively seeking one out? Would there be bias? Would we make the right decision? I reached out to the best person I could think of for help. The wonderful Lisa from Fur and Feathers.

Lisa showed us a litter of adorable black and white kittens who were available straight away, and sure enough there was one who caught our eye, due to her name. The kittens were being fostered by a lovely lady called Diane, so we got in touch and arranged to go and meet them, just to see if I was able to bond with a new one yet. As excited as I was, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty.

We went to meet the kittens one evening, and got to spend some time with them and their lovely Mummy. Joe was in his absolute element, he loves cats more than I do, so getting to sit on the floor and be covered in kittens is his idea of heaven. We fed them dreamies and played with them. The one I had originally be drawn to was the shyest one out of the litter, she was a little more hesitant and not as out going as her brothers and sisters, but knowing full well, that sometimes the shy ones just need the right environment they can thrive. That coupled with something in her sweet nature helped us to decide she was the one for us. So the following week, we went to pick her up.

What was it about her, that drew her to us? I hear you ask. Well, her name was Laura! It felt like a sign, a sign that would make her stand out to me and ensure she found her home with us. She was meant to be outs just as much as Neko and Leica, all we needed was a little hint.

Naturally, having two Lauras in the house would be confusing, so we set about thinking of the name. We decided to go with another Japanese name to go with Neko, but it would need to have a good meaning as well as suit her character.

After a few days of going back and forth, we finally settled on Yumi. It means ‘Friend,’

Now for the bit you’ve all been waiting for….

Yumi1

Yumi2

Yumi5

Yumi8

We’ve had her for about a month now, and she is growing in to those ears she has! She’s actually quite the cheeky little minx and is far more outgoing than we thought she’d be.

It’s safe to say that we’re all in love with her, apart from Neko who still seems a little confused by her arrival. She is totally different to Leica, and in a way I am glad because that means I can’t compare them and learn to love them both for the unique little characters they are.

So there you have it. We’re a family of four once again. I promise updates on all the rest of it as soon as I can. But, in the meantime, please take a look at the work Fur and Feathers do, and if you can, please donate a little something. They are ¬†small charity but really do wonderful work for the animals of Birmingham.

http://furandfeatherswythall.weebly.com/we-need-your-help.html