All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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Behind the Lens #7: Montreal Airport

This week’s theme ‘Behind the Lens’ is a combination of photography and memory. Each day a random image will be plucked from my archive and – regardless of how good it is – showcased on the blog along with the story behind the image. Today, an ending, Montreal Airport.

Montreal Airport (Canada, August 2000) © Addy

“The end of a melody is not its goal: but nonetheless, had the melody not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche~

Approximately ten minutes after this photograph was taken I was walking through the departure gates to bid Canada adieu. For three months I had travelled the breadth of the country two and three-quarter times; Vancouver to Halifax to Vancouver to Montreal. I had met dozens of amazing people, spent time with old friends and fallen in love. Or rather lust, considering we barely knew each other. Each day in that land of elk and beaver I’d challenged myself to become a better person.

I ate strawberries and cherries for the first time, I kept a running tally of women in dungarees (the CDC), I skinny dipped, hiked mountains, leapt ravines, gave a massage for the first time and took a swim with a few snakes. Realising a childhood dream I’d purchased a hat that made me look like Indiana Jones, lost it in Toronto, purchased a new one, then lost that one about two hours before this photo was taken. I’d even performed an impromptu Shakespeare rendition and hugged a tarantula.

This photo, taken after a twenty-four hour period at the airport, will always remind me of those three months. Sure, it was an ending, but it signalled a new beginning. I was stronger, more confident, oozed self-awareness and believed in myself for the first time in my life.

It will always remind me that, once, for a brief moment, I attained a state of blissful ecstasy. A happiness I fear will never be felt again.

 


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Behind the Lens #6: Light (Abstract)

This week’s theme ‘Behind the Lens’ is a combination of photography and memory. Each day a random image will be plucked from my archive and – regardless of how good it is – showcased on the blog along with the story behind the image. Today, an abstract; Light [4].

Light [4] (Port Fairy, February 2006) © Addy

“Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong.
No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first,
and is waiting for it.”
~ Terry Pratchett ~

It should come as no surprise that after arriving in Australia I found myself succumbing to the occasional bout of homesickness. Being thousands of miles from my home, my family and the culture I grew up in was a lot more difficult than I’d imagined. At times I would lose myself in Scottish music; allowing the haunting melodies of fiddle and bodhrán to soothe my aching soul. On other occasions I would transport myself to my homeland though the literature of MacKay Brown, Gray, Stevenson or Burns. Occasionally neither of these strategies would work, so I would head to my home from home, the wee town of Port Fairy on the south-western coast of Victoria.

From the moment I first visited this town in November 2004 it felt like home. The proximity of the ocean reminded me of Inverness, the air recalled Portree, the calming nature transporting my soul to the distant West Coast villages I’d fallen in love with during my backpacking years. Over a number of visits I began to be known around the town; in the hotel I always stayed at I was the writer-photographer working on an urban fantasy novel, in the pub I was the whisky (with no ‘e’) drinker, in the milk bar I was the apple and blackcurrant juice drinker and to everyone else, I was just another citysider who had succumbed to the beauty of their town.

In February 2006 I was in a dark place. Months of depression and stress had taken their toll and the discovery of the affair my girlfriend had been lying about for three years hadn’t helped. I was lost, alone, confused, teetering toward suicide and desperate for home. For five days I retreated to this magical town. One day spent cycling around the local area, another spent staring out to the ocean, across them all throwing myself into the healing power of literature. As I cycled and stared, as I read and pondered, I would take photographs in an effort to pull myself from the abyss. To lift my spirits so I could once again soar toward happiness.

One night, following a nasty panic attack, I took my camera onto the darkened streets and took a series of abstract photographs focussing on light. Perhaps my intention was to distract myself from my thoughts, perhaps it was to focus on something I needed to guide me from the darkness, either way, for a moment it worked.

Of the six photographs that comprise this series, this is my favourite, perfectly capturing the delicate balance of my soul at the time; the light bleeding into the dark, the confusing, interconnected maze of light battling for prominence mirrored the battle my soul fought between life and death.

 


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Behind the Lens #5: Inverness Sunset

This week’s theme ‘Behind the Lens’ is a combination of photography and memory. Each day a random image will be plucked from my archive and – regardless of how good it is – showcased on the blog along with the story behind the image. Today, a photograph I’ve adored for nearly thirteen years; Inverness Sunset

Inverness Sunset (Scotland, October 1999) © Addy

“How strange this fear of death is! We are never frightened at a sunset.”
~ George MacDonald ~

The time, October 1999.

The place, Inverness.

After nearly two months of exploring this beautiful country I had settled into the Inverness Student Hotel backpacker hostel. My ‘home’ was room number six, a four bedded dorm room with a view of Inverness from a paint peeling, rotting window. From the River Ness to Craig Phadrig and everything in between, I fell deeply in love with that view over the months I resided there, never more so than on one quiet Autumnal evening when I arrived home from work.

Wearing only my boxer shorts, I grabbed my camera and threw myself out the window. With my body dangling precariously in the air and both hands steadying the camera, the only thing preventing me from falling seventeen feet to the concrete below was one leg clinging desperately against the ledge. For three minutes I hung in that ridiculous position, snapping several images in the hope to capture the awe-inspiring sight before me.

The result, a photograph that has attached itself firmly to my heart and shall remain there until the day I draw my last breath.

Containing no manipulation, no filters, no editing, no photoshopping, nothing; this was exactly how the sky looked that quiet Autumn night in Inverness.

Hence why I threw myself out the window in my boxer shorts!

 


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Behind the Lens #4: Abandoned Boat, Berneray

This week’s theme ‘Behind the Lens’ is a combination of photography and memory. Each day a random image will be plucked from my archive and – regardless of how good it is – showcased on the blog along with the story behind the image. Today, one of the first photographs I developed from in a darkroom; Abandoned Boat, Berneray

Abandoned Boat, Berneray (Outer Hebrides, October 2000) © Addy

“Ciamar a smaoinichinn gun glacainn
an rionnag leugach òir,
gum beirinn oirre ’s gun cuirinn i
gu ciallach ’na mo phòc?”
~ Sorley MacLean ~

In October 2000, a few months after beginning college, I returned to the Island of Berneray for a weekend of roaming, reading and relaxation. My first visit to the island had been in February of the same year whilst travelling the Outer Hebrides with two friends and I developed an immediate love of this most beautiful of Hebridean Islands.

One of my projects for the weekend was to take a series of photographs that I could use as part of my college coursework. Shots of the hostel in which I stayed were taken, images of the machair and expansive western beach were photographed and whilst wandering between the two, random landscapes and monuments were captured for posterity.

This abandoned boat was such an image. Resting on a patch of grass away from the Sound its wooden frame was disintegrating due to the occasionally bleak Hebridean weather. Although far from being the greatest photograph ever taken, it stands out in my collection as being one of the first images I ever developed myself. From processing the negative through to burning the sky in the darkroom.

For years, this photo hung on my wall as a monument of time and place. A memorial of that inspiring, blissful weekend and the months of creativity and excitement that my college course allowed. Over time I would develop better images, but from the moment I watched the boat take shape within the chemical bath, I was smitten with the joy of the darkroom.

This process remains one of the most relaxing activities I’ve ever done, a process that the digital evolution has all but wiped off the map, a process that, no matter what anyone tells you, is infinitely more beautiful than sitting in front of a monitor.

 


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Behind the Lens #2: Hope

This week’s theme ‘Behind the Lens’ is a combination of photography and memory. Each day a random image will be plucked from my archive and – regardless of how good it is – showcased on the blog along with the story behind the image. Today, the image called hope that marked the end of my photography hobby.

Hope (Port Fairy, November 2005) © Addy

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”

Alfred Tennyson

This photograph was once described by my girlfriend as boring, uninspiring, monotonous, lacking in any aesthetic value, a complete waste of time and one of the many reasons she believed I should waste no more time on my photography hobby.

She may have been right. There are no curvaceous women, no point of reference, a somewhat obscure composition and little to hold people’s interest other than the seemingly endless sky as it plunges into the ocean below.

But when I look upon this image I see other things.

I see myself sitting on a beach in pitch darkness, a knife held to my wrist, as I contemplated slitting my wrists before wandering into the very section of ocean depicted here.

I see myself picking a stick from a crudely made fire and placing the flames against my skin in a vain attempt to feel something following a breakdown.

I see myself screaming into the night as I realized my life was over. That nothing would ever be the same again, no matter how hard I fought.

Photography is more than capturing a moment in time, space or place. It is a recording of emotion; of memory, dreams and life. When I took this photograph in late 2005 I was beautiful. I had a wonderful girlfriend, the beginnings of a social network, a job I was proud of and a whole life stretched out before me. Had I known what nightmares this beach would hold I doubt I would ever have taken the photograph, for no matter how many times I gaze upon it those hells have eclipsed the original emotion I was trying to record,

The emotion of hope; for my life, my mind and most importantly, for my soul.

A hope that was stolen by the winds of time and a few ill-timed words when I was most vulnerable.


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Behind the Lens #1: Punk Queen Pelican

This week’s theme ‘Behind the Lens’ is a combination of photography and memory. Each day a random image will be plucked from my archive and – regardless of how good it is – showcased on the blog along with the story behind the image. Today, a personal favourite titled Punk Queen Pelican.

Punk Queen Pelican (Philip Island, November 2004) © Addy

“King and Queen of the Pelicans we;
No other Birds so grand we see!
None but we have feet like fins!
With lovely leathery throats and chins!”
Edward Lear

In November 2004 my parents visited Australia for the first time. Having been down under for over two years, my then girlfriend and I put together a comprehensive program of events that would showcase as much of the country as we could. Given my mother’s love of penguins, a trip to Philip Island and their infamous penguin parade was a no brainer.

After two days of exploring Philip Island we were heading back to Melbourne when we came across a number of pelicans being fed. Although not as cute as penguins, there is something majestic about a pelican, so we pulled over to take a closer look.

It was whilst randomly snapping photos of the pelicans that I noticed the woman held in hypnotic rapture by the beautiful avians before her. Immediately my attention was drawn to her hair; the vibrant colours, the spectacular layers, the contrast against the subdued colours of the overcast day. In all honesty I think I wanted to photograph this more than the pelicans!

After lining up the shot, I waited for the pelicans to position themselves into the frame and fired off a few images.

As I was sans-digital at the time, the image was shot on slide film and then processed weeks later. It was only when I was studying each image in my flat did I notice the unfortunate positioning of a pelican’s beak which, given the text emblazoned across the woman’s posterior, gave the image its name for the rest of time.