It has felt like early summer these past few days with sunlight absorbing into my skin with a serene ease. It was last Thursday and I woke up to the birds singing, and something like life moved through the air. Cold and still and bright with a change of season. It was then that I realised signs of growth were all around me. Snowdrops bloomed and buds started to appear on branches, all of these subtle changes that were hard to believe I’d missed.
Plans to pick up my friends on the way over to the Lake District had been made, and I rushed to leave on time. Only a month had passed since my last visit with Robyn, but I already craved the intimacy of mountains around me. I can still remember visiting the Lakes for the first time with my dad, after he’d convinced me to go fell walking with him. We drove through Glenridding and Patterdale, weaving in-between the narrow roads lined by trees and lakeside cottages. We’d hike above Ullswater, sometimes taking a dog or two to enjoy the walk with us. I loved these day trips, and found myself wanting to go back for longer and explore more single track roads and hidden spots. I must have spent about three weeks there last year, visiting in spring, summer, autumn, and again in early January to see the snow hugging the peaks. It lay like a blanket, the mountains in hibernation for the coming spring.
The drive over was slow, full of half-term traffic, but I didn’t mind much. Music danced out of open car windows and wind whipped at my hair. I was really looking forward to this trip, excited to show Ragib what the Lakes were like because he’d never visited before. Brent, Craig, and I arrived at the campsite together, and we quickly found the shop to check in. Sarah from The Quiet Site greeted me, and handed over the keys to our accommodation. Taking them excitedly, we were shown up to the Hobbit Holes that we’d be staying in for the next few days.
We had a quick tour of the inside, which consisted of a massive bed space, toilet, sink, fridge, kettle, microwave and lots of shelves. The hut was a lot bigger than I’d expected, with warm floors from underground heating and a beautiful map of the Lake District, drawn in a Tolkien-like illustration. Leaving Brent and Craig to settle in and load up the fridge, I went to pick up Rag from the train station in Penrith. I asked him what he thought of the views already, and we both commented on the heat haze that blurred layer upon layer of distant mountains. One of my favourite things to witness when I travel with friends, is their genuine appreciation and awe of their surroundings. Rag always puts a smile on your face with his heartfelt, and almost childlike, amazement.
The sun was already hiding behind the mountains as we arrived at the campsite. We all sat outside on our picnic bench, eating and planning what to do over the next few days. I knew immediately where I’d take the guys for sunrise, I wanted to share one of my favourite spots in the Lakes with them. A place I’d discovered in October 2017 with my friend Chloë - who I miss loads now that she lives in Australia. We all agreed to get up early the next morning, and set off just before six to make it in plenty of time. With that sorted out, we headed down to the bar, planning to chill for the rest of the evening.
Warmth emanated through double doors, and we were greeted by the sight of people talking and laughing together. Some kids were running around, playing pool with their friends, and there were plenty of dogs eager to have your attention. Fairy lights were strung up around old wooden beams, accompanied by taxidermy animals balanced there or hung on the walls. Two stained glass windows stood either side of a huge fireplace in the middle of the room. You could feel the heat of the flames as they caressed rosy cheeks, and I listened to the crackle of sticks blend into the conversation. The whole feel of the bar was so interestingly rustic and intimate, with relics, books, figurines and iron tools tucked onto window ledges, or hidden in the corners of the room. We went up some stairs and sat underneath an old bear skin, taking everything in with a feeling of curiosity.
I met with Daniel, owner of The Quiet Site, shortly after arriving at the bar. He told me about the future plans for the grounds, with a huge focus being on sustainability and renewable energy. I loved hearing how passionate he was about the development of the campsite, and was eager to learn more about the environmental aspects. Currently, all of the water from showers, sinks and toilets filter through four reed ponds to purify, the water is then recycled and reused. Solar thermal and solar photovoltaic panels are also installed, supplying electricity for the entire site. During June, July and August, all of the electricity is provided by these solar panels. The excess power collected over summer is then stored to use throughout the autumn, and sometimes the winter months. A biomass system also provides the energy on site for heating, powered by fallen trees within a ten mile radius. The logs are turned into wood-chipping, becoming the main material that is used within the biomass system. I’ve also been talking with Daniel about organising an event to plant trees on some of his land, to help balance what we take from nature, and what we give back.
Re-joining the guys upstairs, we all sat around for a while, enjoying the cosy environment and attempting to teach each other card games. Ragib took a look at my editorial images from ‘the end,’ and we fine-tuned some of the lighting issues. As the early evening started to morph into night, we all decided to head back to our accommodation, admiring the view of our Hobbit Hole with its orange glow leaking through circular windows. It was surprisingly comfy on the bed, and despite taking a hut for myself, the room was warm and cosy. I felt a little guilty as Brent, Rag and Craig had never met each other until that afternoon, and I wondered if they were thinking the same thing. I tried to write or read for a while, but my eyes started to become heavier and I gave up, surrendering to the sleep that had been threatening to take me all evening.
Five o’clock came, and I bounced out of bed to get ready. I packed up my equipment and props, knocked on number 14 to see if the guys were ready, and went to load up. Completely forgetting the time, I greeted Brent from my car before panicking about waking someone else up, and reducing my voice to a whisper. Clearly, I’d been their alarm, and they hurried to get ready so we could set off. Packing up a balanced breakfast of water and cookies, we entered the destination into our gps and I led the way in my Aygo.
After one wrong turn due to an out of date map, we arrived at the car park just as the sky was turning pink. We shared the two cookies between us and scoffed them down, grabbing our backpacks and camera gear. The car park was abnormally busy for 7am, and we soon discovered a local photography group had chosen to meet up for sunrise there too. Around twenty people and a few dogs were by the tarn, tripods and filters mounted, pointing towards the same photogenic peak. We greeted some of them, started taking our own photos, and petting the excitable dogs who were just as happy as us.
I’m not sure what the time was, but the light was becoming more golden. I took the guys over to one of my favourite spots. We all clambered up the big mounds of grass, rock and heather, frozen by the sudden wind that caught us. I wandered off to climb up the biggest mound and almost fell a couple times, accidentally placing my feet in loose ground. I could see for miles from up there, and I watched a stream weave between the hills into the distance. The wind was so strong that it almost forced me over, and I couldn’t help but laugh and sing into the air, wondering how far my voice would be taken. It’s strange, but I always feel so high, spiritually, when I experience something powerful within nature. I have a theory that we are actually much happier in the rawness of the outdoors because it is our most natural environment, and where our earlier ancestors spent their lives.
With a chorus of comments about being hungry and cold, we drove to Ambleside for breakfast at Copper Pot. We sipped at hot drinks and ordered our food, managing to squeeze in on the last free table. Laurel and Hardy were being projected onto a white wall, and we talked about how far technology has come. The rate in which consumables are produced, bought and binned really scares me. I believe it is a matter that needs to be talked about and resolved, otherwise we will run out of places to put our rubbish - haven’t we already?
Feeling a lot more alive with food in our bodies, we spent the rest of the day exploring and taking some photos in the bar with Harry. As sunset neared, we all headed over to Derwent Water, making a small fire and skipping rocks on the lake. I don’t think any of us wanted sunset to end; beautiful shades of pink and purple gripped at the clouds until all trace of light had gone. Slowly, we packed away our things to return to the campsite, and said our goodbyes to Harry and his dog, Coco.
We conversed with the couple we were sharing the table with, and enjoyed the live music. Brent and Craig shared a bottle of wine, and I taught everyone how to play Rummy. It was so relaxing in the bar, and the warmth was much needed after a couple hours out in the cold. Sleep was starting to catch up with us, as we talked about how amazing the day had been. A couple hours slipped by, and at that point, I think we were all pretty shattered. We walked back up to our beds, and marvelled at how clear the sky was. I pointed out the Big Dipper and Orion’s Belt to everyone, and Ragib looked up, openmouthed, explaining that he’d never seen the sky that clear before. On a complete whim, we decided to attempt some astrophotography, with a total amount of zero knowledge between us. Luckily, I’d brought a tripod with me and managed to get a couple half-decent shots I thought I might be able to play around with. I left the tripod with them and abandoned the cold for the comfort of my bed.
The next morning came after a deep and undisturbed sleep. Everyone was up again before sunrise, and we spotted some cloud inversion hanging over Ullswater a couple miles away. The lads jumped into Craig’s car, and went down for sunrise. I hung back, hoping to capture something nice from higher up. ‘Nice’ turned out to be a massive understatement, as the whole of the valley was ablaze in a velvety golden light. By the time the guys got back, I’d set up our cooking stuff, and suggested a breakfast of fried eggs or pancakes. We all took turns cooking, attempting to make a perfect runny yolk and laughing at our failure. Brent made pancakes with strawberries, and we all dug in hungrily. The morning was so calm whilst we sat outside, enjoying the heat of the sun on our backs. None of us wanted to leave the campsite, and we reluctantly packed up our stuff and gave back the keys, agreeing we had to to do this again.
Late last year I was interviewed by Alannah, founder of Forester Products, a sustainable and eco-friendly company from Northern Ireland.
We’d spoken for a while prior to this, and quickly noticed our beliefs towards the environment were very similar. I found myself taking some promotional shots for them in autumn of 2018. All of their products are made of entirely cruelty free and vegan materials.
WHAT INSPIRES YOUR WORK?
A lot of inspiration comes to me from nature, and from within, through perspective and self-reflection. It is easy to focus on just the good things or the bad things. However, not a lot comes from dwelling on one emotion. Intrigue ignites inspiration for me, and a lot of the time it is a spontaneous observation, thought, feeling or realisation. Within my documentary work, I like to capture these emotions through the eyes of others, and capture their stories/relationships/passions/pains. With my landscape work, I adore showing people how I see what is around me; as we all have a unique eye. Portraiture allows me to capture an idea or a person in a way that is both passive and intense. I love that photography allows me to be so versatile and expressive.
Read the full interview here.
CLOTHING FOR THE MIND
The Lone Wolf Pack was created to start a conversation. So many people out there struggle with their mental health, and we want to make them feel comfortable finding help.
Wear our products with pride, and start talking about your health. Ultimately, there's nothing more important than you.
WHY ARE YOU NAMED “THE LONE WOLF PACK” AND WHERE DID IT START?
The Lone Wolf Pack was inspired by my love of wolves. I’ve had an affinity to the name ‘Akela’ (the pack leader in The Jungle Book) after my final year project at university, where I set up a company called Akela Tailoring. I love the way wolves are seen as both a pack animal and a loner. I thought this was very fitting for the way mental health is seen; you feel completely alone but are also part of a huge group of people who are suffering just the same.
HOW DO YOU PLAN ON CHANGING PEOPLES PERCEPTION OF MENTAL HEALTH?
I just want people to talk to each other about mental health more. Whether it's their own, or someone in their lives, all we need is a conversation. Mental health is such a taboo subject still, and people are so scared to own their issues for fear of being judged. I want everyone to know it's okay to suffer, and that they’re never alone.
TELL ME ABOUT SOMEONE OR SOMETHING THAT HAS INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE.
I have a lot of people in my life who suffer from, or are close to someone who suffers from a mental health condition. In a way, each of their stories inspire my work.
The raven tee is inspired by my mother. She suffers from anxiety, and she always feels like she’s being watched and judged. I designed the raven tee with her in mind, and I wanted to show her that although she feels like she’s on the outside, we're all on the same path and we’re in this together.
YOU DESIGN ALL OF THE MERCHANDISE YOURSELF, WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS FROM, AND WHICH DESIGN IS YOUR FAVOURITE?
I’ve always loved designing. Whether its drawing illustrations, fashion or branding; I’m passionate about making things pretty. I get a lot of my inspiration from social media like Pinterest and Instagram. I’m also so inspired by the people around me. From my husband, best friends and work colleges to my therapist; everyone has a story to tell.
I love the logo tee the most. It has been interpreted into so many different things, which is amazing. Some people see the wolves as mountains, the heartbeats as an anxiety attack or simple a sign that life will go on. I think it is so inspiring and heartwarming to hear other peoples interpretation, they always hint a little bit to their own story.
WHAT IS “BREAKING THE STIGMA”?
To me breaking the stigma means getting to a place where people aren’t afraid of asking for help. There is so much negativity around the term ‘mental health’ and that needs to change. How can we expect people to feel comfortable with their illnesses, if society both flinches at words like ‘depression’ and ‘OCD’ but also uses them as adjectives to describe their bad days. This changes peoples perception of mental health completely; we’re not comfortable talking about it openly and honestly while at the same time we play it down and use mental health to explain our saddest moments.
DO YOU THINK MENTAL HEALTH EDUCATION SHOULD BE GIVEN IN SCHOOLS?
Absolutely, yes. I think kids need to understand that what they are feeling or going through does not define the rest of their lives. More effort needs to be put into teaching the youth on how to cope with mental health and help those in need. We need clearer boundaries on languages used around mental health and we need better procedures in place within schools to help the children who are in need.
School is such a difficult time for a lot of people, and with the right kind of education we can put a foundation of knowledge in there that will help the students deal with any problems they may have in their future life.
A lot can change in a year. These days, life seems to fly by and it’s easy to get lost in the days and weeks which quickly turn to months, without doing the things we enjoy. Before we know it, half the year is gone and we still haven’t started a load of things we’ve been meaning to do. We forget about picking up a new language, or learning how to cook healthier recipes, or make time to exercise more, or go see those things we want to see. Life gets busy, but the way I see it, we need to do those things in the here and now. As grim as it is to think about, it’s only an assumption that we will make it to a ripe old age and retire with time, money and energy to do the things we want to do now. It’s important that we get fulfilment in life, and that we’re able to be proud of what we’ve achieved. Whether that is as simple as getting out of bed, showering, saving up for a holiday or completing a marathon. It took a long time to have this mind-set change and positive outlook on the things life throws at us. A lot has happened throughout my life to get me to this stage where I feel I can do whatever I want, and achieve anything I set my mind to. To me, it is important to talk about my journey as open and honest as I can, which is why I have partnered with Georgia from The Lone Wolf Pack to fight the stigma around mental health problems.
Personally, I had a hard time growing up once I reached adolescence, never fitting in with girls because I was too boisterous and rough, and never fitting in with boys because of the age they were. I struggled a lot as I reached my teens and found myself becoming more isolated and reserved, oblivious to what was going on inside my own mind. I started to have panic attacks, and many nights where I felt horror at the thoughts that seemed to fill my head and deafen my ears. I would argue with my parents for no reason, and stop talking to my friends, instead turning the volume up to max on my headphones; blasting some heavy metal and noise that drowned out the rest. Apparently, I was intent on giving myself tinnitus but thankfully, I never quite managed that. My school, and every other one that I know of, never gave any education on what mental health was, or the problems that are sometimes encountered with it. This left a very dangerous environment for me as a young teen, as I was left to google my symptoms, and we all know what google is like. This led to a lot of research and an obsession to learn what was ‘wrong’ with me. I took every online test I could and started to talk to people who felt the same sense of confusion and sadness; we all seemed to be desperate to diagnose ourselves with labels so we could at least name what was going on.
This obsession to learn what was happening inside became a very self-destructive habit, and I soon became more depressed. Having uncontrollable panic attacks almost daily, a loss of thought, feeling and sense of self. I would skip school and hide out in fields to sob. My attendance got worse, I got in trouble more and then argued more with my parents in turn. I suppose, now I can look back with some perspective and say those were all signs that I needed to ask for help. However, I never reached out for help, or even thought of telling anyone of my troubles, all of which took me down a darker path to learn how to cope alone. It is difficult to describe what depression feels like, some people simply think it is low-mood, but its so much more and less than that. Depression is a never-ending contradiction of feeling everything so raw and shutting down to feel nothing at all. Finding that switching my feelings ‘off’ was a way to help, I started to bottle up all of the guilt and anger and self-hate. This was a major point in my earlier timeline where things started to go even more wrong.
I was fourteen years old when I first self-harmed. I did it because I couldn’t feel anything, I was numb for months on end and completely out of touch with reality. I forgot how to process emotion, how to even categorise what myself or other’s felt, and I considered myself a void that constantly sucked up positivity, happiness, and enjoyment. At this point, I could not bare to not feel anything, it was eating me up inside like gangrene to a foot. I cannot remember exactly how I hurt myself, I think my brain has blocked that off as an unconscious measure to defend itself. I can, however, remember the aftermath of the realisation of what I had done. I’d never felt such defeating sorrow, remorse or pity, but I had felt something at least. I am not embarrassed of how I tried to cope with depression at an early age, I just feel never-ending sadness that this is how other people are trying to cope too. Outsiders would look at self-harm and think that that person wanted to kill themselves, but for me, that was not true. It was my anchor to not being numb, but it was also irrevocably self-destructive; causing riots in my mind and breaking my heart. I only wish people like me were told of or educated to try different ways to cope, ways where we did not have to inflict pain on ourselves to feel something.
So, I had tried two ways to cope. Both were not sustainable, and both made my depression worse. Turning my feelings ‘off’ led me down the path to self harm, and I did not want to follow that path any further. Self-harm made me feel so worthless and small, that I had started to have suicidal thoughts to end the conflict that seemed to haunt me every day. Contradicting those thoughts, I took action to try and reach out for help. I was sick of crying in the shower until the water went cold, sick of wearing long sleeve tops and bandages on my wrist, sick of being sick. Strangely, I think I will always recall the first time I told someone of my struggles. I was not too close to her, but I knew she was a sturdy rock that would know what to do when I didn’t. I saw the pain in her eyes as I showed her my wrist, and she held me as I started to sob. Overwhelming amounts of feeling hit me, I felt guilt for what I had done; relief for her accepting me; and pride for finally facing myself head on. She asked if she could bring someone else to help, I said yes. And so began my road to learning about depression, and more importantly, how to cope with it.
It took me five years, countless failed attempts at therapy and endless conversations about anything and everything, to feel a little more balanced and like I was in control. These were the hardest five years I experienced, and I won’t go into them today. What I want to talk about, is how talking saved my life. Through talking about the complicated feelings I felt, I was able to understand myself more, and the way my mind worked. I was able to address my depression head on and be in control of it, notice when things started to get worse, and put my coping mechanisms in place to prevent it from overwhelming me again. Don’t get me wrong, I relapsed during these five years and had more really dark times, but I was able to overcome it.
The key to coping (for me) was to listen to myself. I have always been creative, since a very young age when I wanted to be an author, and then a singer, actor, artist, photographer, poet, and writer again. I find that now, I am very self-reflective and dig deep to uncover any concerns I have and understand my emotions, thoughts and feelings, and where they come from. Using this creativity as a tool to express my inner-most feelings, I picked up a lot of creative based subjects during my time in school. With art, I used a lot of etching and black materials to show how I felt, making the pieces very personal and intimate to me. Drama helped me become more grounded, and my teacher was one of the most supportive people I could have asked for. I was able to experiment within different characters, and empathise with other people’s pain and situations too. With photography, I took a surrealistic approach and came up with some hauntingly dark projects which seemed to help me cope. I suppose, creating was my first positive coping mechanism, and still is. Within all of my work, I try to show an element of escapism, or use the work as a measure to temporarily escape.
This time last year, I was traveling around Australia and New Zealand, in awe by the views my eyes took in, but feeling so very alone and astray inside. Traveling and seeing beautiful places is what makes me happy, but last year I did not feel happy. Honestly, I felt a lot of guilt over a relationship that ended and an overwhelming ache for myself, because I did not know who I was. Bear in mind, I still don’t know who I am completely; and that is okay as people are always changing and growing. But, this time last year I felt utterly out-of-touch, and struggled to even do things I would have normally enjoyed. When I returned to the UK, I tried my best to encourage myself to grow. I planned a couple of adventures, and met a new friend whom I hold close to my heart, probably because she’s a deadass savage like me. Really though, we just get each other and both enjoy traveling. I traveled to the Highlands of Scotland and Isle of Skye, and then to the Lake District, and finally the Peaks. I kept feeling increasingly lonely despite the fact I was doing something I was supposed to enjoy. In November, things got really bad and I cancelled my trip to Scotland last-minute to try and get better.
Finally, after two weeks off work, I gave up trying to help myself, by myself. I rang into work and talked to my manager about how much I was struggling, and he helped me get to someone who could help me. Luckily, I work in an environment where mental health problems aren’t taken lightly. I am grateful beyond words that it is taken seriously, and can’t imagine how hard it must be for people in the workplace when they don’t get any support. After another failed therapy attempt, I agreed to try once more with a new therapist who turned out to really get me. I have officially been discharged and I’m back to feeling my normal self again. I’ve taken several trips since, which I have wrote about in my previous posts, and I’m happy to be enjoying it again.
Point is, I was given ears that listened, arms that knew when I needed to be held, hands to hold through darker times, and love from my friends because they knew I was struggling. I now try to be all of those things back, because I don’t think anyone can manage all that negativity by themselves. I try to encourage people to talk about their struggles, and ask for help when they need it. Together, we can build a community where it is safe to talk about these things that aren’t easy to talk about.
MIND is an amazing charity that tackles mental health problems with education and support for people around the clock. Georgia, founder of The Lone Wolf Pack, donates 10% of every purchase to MIND. You can see her beautiful designs here, all inspired by the struggles of real people.
I also want to say THANK YOU to Afnan and Andre who are two very talented buskers whom donated all of their earnings to MIND the day of this shoot. What a generous pair, hopefully you'll hear them perform one day down Northumberland Street.
Editorial Brief: I want this to be a story of two people who care deeply about each other. It will be through the use of both body and facial language that we show this connection, which can be either platonic or romantic. I want there to be room for the viewer to have their own interpretation of the photographs. By pairing my imagery with my own poetry, it will give a complete sense of the beach and the story of these two characters. The photographs will visually tell a story, and the poems will describe the deeper feelings, allowing the reader to experience the smaller things that happened within these pictures.
This has been one of those projects that has been building up for a while, but took no real form until early May. I have always looked to tell stories with my photography, and I've been practising this skill over the past months with both landscapes and portraits, mixing into a sort of documentary/travel style feel. Focusing on my own ideas and refining how I capture particular stories or feelings has been very eye-opening for me. It's allowed me the time and space to feel freely about the world around me and the lifestyle I would like to capture.
PLANNING & PREPARATION
I have been a fan of several photographers whom have influenced and helped shape the work in this editorial, mainly @1924us. These guys are such a huge inspiration to me, sharing genuine and honest stories about their lives, as well as the outlook that they have towards growing, living and appreciating what is around them. They're an extremely talented and hardworking bunch of creatives, whom sell beautiful works that they have photographed, written or designed themselves. I would urge you guys to go read through some of Christian's stories that are shared via his Instagram, and even hire them for some branding if you can afford it.
The concept for this editorial started all fuzzy and blurred in my mind, struggling to take a form of its own due to my lack of experience within this area. I knew what I wanted it to feel like; warm and homely; rustic and old fashioned yet intimate. I started by opening up Pinterest and creating a secret board full of the colours I got those feelings from, eventually selecting some final images and creating some concept boards, which I have below. I don't know all of the photographers whom took these beautiful photographs, which is one major downside to using Pinterest to gather images. The only image I can credit is the last shot of a beach fire, taken by Bailey Wilday whom is a young photographer and vlogger from Tasmania, Australia. He captures absolutely breathtaking landscapes and portraits in Tassie, and is one of my favourite photographers (as well as being solely responsible for why Tasmania is so high up on my list of places to visit). His editing creates stunning tones and feelings of contentment, which was the vibe I was going for in this editorial shoot.
After gathering the colour palette concept boards, I contacted Tyne Tees Models and shot them an email asking to use some of their models for this shoot. I managed to get Sophie Grieve-Hunter and Joe West whom both fitted perfectly with the style I was going for. I've worked with Sophie previously, and she truly is wonderful to work with. Neither of us had worked with Joe before, but it was amazing to see him enjoying the shoot and sharing some of his own ideas with us as the day got on.
Being my first styled shoot, I was giddy with both excitement and nervousness for how it would go. I bought some props to help set the scene, things like: blankets, food, cushions, bowls, wicker baskets - the lot. I then set things up in my own back garden to decide on layout and angles, what kind of camera lens to use etc. I found this process was really helpful because it allowed me to develop more of an idea of what I wanted from Sophie and Joe during the shoot. I can honestly say that the shoot went better than I expected because it took its own shape and form throughout the day, evolving into something I'm so happy and proud of.