December, 2020. After Christmas.
Like many people, I don’t see the point of making resolutions at the end of the year, only to break them within a few days of returning to normal life, its pressures and temptations. This year, the (first?) year of pandemic restrictions, has given us all opportunities to reflect a little: the reflection necessarily includes looking at oneself. Here is where we see ourselves more objectively – in the moments of noticing just how we change as we get older. Perhaps also, we observe how we have not changed when we ought to have.
The old year
Well, there’s been COVID, of course, but there have been other things going on. We lost my Mum in March, after a 3-month circus tour of various hospitals and the lottery of the NHS that began on Christmas Eve 2019. Others left us too, and there is sadness more than usual this Christmas as we remember them. Without diminishing our losses, there has also been much joy: weddings, our own first anniversary which was spent in favourite places around Dunkeld; and the last instalments of our honeymoon with friends in the North, and then even further North in the Faroes.
The new year
This image of a bridge at Glendevon1 suggests that as we cross into the New Year, the road may be slippery at times. We probably need to lose a bit of weight (I feel like I am 7ft 6in wide in places), and we certainly ought to slow down a bit. Working life, not to be ungrateful for my exciting and challenging job2, has been more challenge than excitement in 2020. I have COVID back from Zooming too much from the couch, suffered nightmares from stress anxiety and have more than once drafted a desperate resignation letter. The Christmas break has reminded me of the blessings proper sleep brings. I resolve to sleep better.
Beyond the bridge, we are advised that we must not park in passing places, so as to not be a nuisance to others and obstruct their passage. This year, I have noticed even more that I have not been quite who I was before becoming an educator: ever since that career move in 2003, I have had an insidious, creeping feeling that I don’t belong, that I am somehow in the way. I resolve to assert with confidence and authority, as I spent so long learning, my confidence and authority. May I not overdo that resolution. Or, may I do it so well I have to return to a more lucrative profession.
Or, maybe something else entirely. Not photography, perhaps, there’s no money in that3.
The last sign to heed in our bridge image is “Danger of death”. Susan Sontag said, “All photographs are memento mori” and she is right, even outwith the context she said that in. Photography reminds us that time passes and we all tread steadfastly towards our own demise with each snap of the shutter. This is reason to be cheerful, isn’t it? Death is inevitable, so there’s no point in being sad about it. I am expecting something to fall off a shelf as I type that4.
I’ve been (re-)learning how to take photographs on film, and now feel confident enough to invest in my first Hasselblad, which will be here in a week or so. Clearly, I resolve to take many images with that, and to not neglect the other cameras I am privileged enough to own. Film photography, it is often said, requires a slower, more thoughtful approach than the spray-and-pray approach of digital. I can’t disagree, and I have loved the more considered captures I have taken on 35mm and medium format film this year. My best images are often digital, though, so I am not going to try not to favour one format over the other.
Fujica Pro 400H, taken on a Fuji X-T2 camera but with a Nikon 50mm E-series lens, reverse mounted on an adaptor. A proper example of analogue meets digital photography. Notice, however, the square format, presaging the arrival of more 6x6 images.
So, come on, 2021
Do your worst. No, wait. Don’t do that. Do what you have to, to enjoy each day as if it’s your last. To fill it with joie-de-vivre. To make music. To create. To love, and if possible, to be loved. Everything else is irrelevant.
Unless otherwise stated, the images on this page were taken with a Fuji X-T2 camera fitted with a Fujinon XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens.
All were tastefully post-processed using Capture One Pro 21.
Taken on a walk that started within 5 miles of the county border, officer. I take it you have caught all the criminals, then? ↩
at a Russell Group University, don’t you know? Dahling, it doesn’t get better than this, surely? ↩
Not with my talent and business skills, anyway. ↩
This is an in-joke. My dear, departed mother was a believer in the paranormal and would often tell stories of her out-of-body experiences and the materialisation of random objects. Since she loosed the silver cord in March, there have been one or two inexplicable, or at least unexplained incidents. I am a scientist, therefore am ruling nothing out. ↩