Posted on June 1, 2015
First off, I’m sorry for the misleading title (it is about daisy chains, but there is no set of instructions I’m afraid). And whilst I’m at it, I would also like to apologise to regular readers especially for the overload of family pictures recently. I hope it’s not all too saccharine for your tastes (but you know I can do acerbic just as well as I can do sweet, I think). It has just struck me with some force, this spring holiday, how they are at such a magical age; on the cusp of knowing, discovering the world – their world – through their own eyes as they are. So many questions and misunderstandings tumbling from their tongues. At once categorically assertive and desperately unsure. I’m painfully aware also, as they bow their heads and giggle about private jokes and shared experiences which are theirs and theirs only, how much I am no longer a part of that; how every troubled thought, or stubbed toe nail no longer requires a kiss and a cuddle and soothing words as they learn to regulate their own emotions. Don’t get me wrong; I’m also glad for this. Very glad, that they are learning to forge the paths of their own world and navigate through thorny issues like fears and friendships. But along with that comes a distance. A gap. Only small just now, and still easily overcome when troubles spill over into tears and I am needed. But it is there in the closed bedroom doors and the occasional quiet withdrawal of hands from mine. In the silences to my many questions about their day. And then there are the rolled eyes, the But mummy, you wouldn’t understand, and Don’t take that tone/attitude with me! altercations which are now part of our daily patter.
But still they want the hugs, and sometimes stories at bedtime. Still they want to laugh and dance, and share silly jokes with us at dinner time, even though I’m embarrassing in front of their friends. So those precious in-between moments – the ones without the sulks and the temper tantrums and the arguments and when I’m not so tired I don’t have the energy (and then I kick myself for missing them) – I just need to reach out and snatch them, every so often, and hold them close by to my heart. I guess the camera is just the way I know how to do that.
So, last week, we were enjoying the beautiful spring weather at their great-grandfather’s house in London. His unkempt garden had a rich crop of fine looking daisys, so my seven year old asked me to help her make a daisy chain, since she didn’t know how. I thought, Oh my goodness I can’t believe you don’t know how? It seems like something every seven year old girl should *just* know how to do. And then I realised, how would she know if no-one showed her? So I did. And we had fun picking the strongest, tallest specimens. I took pictures, and then after a while on her request I put the camera away, and we carried on until the sun got too warm and we went off to find some shade.
There may be some kind of tenuous connection in all of that, between daisy chains, life, family and instructions, or lack of. But it’s a bit hazy. And I’ve never really been one for tying up the lose threads into a perfect bow. I’m happy to leave some questions unanswered, and accept that sometimes problems cannot be neatly solved, like algebra. Life is a bit like hair, really (those of you who are female and/or have daughters will appreciate this) – no matter how hard you try to create the perfect style and tie it up all neatly, after a while some tendrils will always work their way lose. And really, in the end, it doesn’t matter at all.
Edited to say: I intended to post this over a month ago, just after the Easter holidays, and somehow it never made it past ‘draft’ version. So apologies for the delay! I’m so jealous of that sunshine now as I type with my thick fleecy socks on, and a hot water bottle in my lap!
© images and words by Emily Hughes, 2015
Posted on April 10, 2015
Jostling, whirring and bouncing in to town. A pair of dizzy bumble bees on the first sunny day of spring!
© images and words by Emily Hughes, 2015
Posted on July 6, 2012
I’m going to post and run today… It’s a dreary rainy day here, but I have a busy weekend ahead – my bag is packed and I’m off into London!
Happy weekend everyone!
© Emily Hughes and searchingtosee, 2012
Posted on April 22, 2012
So, I’ve been blogging for two weeks now, and after my initial posting frenzy I have decided that I really cannot manage to post every day. The housework is starting to suffer, I can’t find anything, the washing pile is taking on a life of its own, and the children are, well, just hanging off me, literally, at any given opportunity. I get the message: they are starved of attention. I’m feeling bad, and things need to settle down now into a gentle, manageable rhythm – more moderato than presto, let’s say. With that in mind I have decided to limit my posting to three times a week (hopefully quality, not quantity, in the spirit of Friday’s post – see below), and I’m going to aim to do two shorter posts and one longer one each week (but, of course, I reserve the right to completely change my mind about all of that at any point in time).
Anyway, let’s get back to the point of this post which is not really about photography or phenomenology (directly, at least). The title is inspired by this lovely poem Colour Outside the Lines, by Jared Louche:
I was always told to colour inside the lines,
but sometimes lines just confine your mind.
From somewhere far down in the orange deep
I start to see new colours flowering all around me.
Confusion looks like black static-scrapes
on crinkled, white, burned-edge paper scraps.
Sleep’s always coloured deep-ocean green,
rivers of copper tug me through lavender dreams.
Bubblegumblebees swirl from my head
When I’m being silly in bed;
electric red-yellow wasps start to drone
when I’m an angry screaming cyclone.
Thinking hard at doing maths, my head follows
pencil-thin, jagged, rust-red paths.
Shouts are nasty, silver daggers stabbing
Huge policeman’s blue hands grabbing.
Whispers slip out on a crisp, cream strip
with chocolate-brown writing typed across it.
Snores have wide, blazing tiger bands.
Boredom has no colour but fog-grey on wet sand.
Birds chirp chatty, blue paint chips.
Dog barks are cloud-white with dawn-golden sparks.
Trucks rolling by burp grouchy black splashes.
Bicycle bells ring in shaky pink flashes.
Thunder blows a splatter of sickness-green grim,
brushed throughout in a bruised-blue trim.
Boiling kettles make tiny neon-yellow fish that swim.
When I sing a song,
a long string of loud,
rowdy colour explosions
slowly go floating
past my nose and
hilarious horns brightly
pop purple spikes.
Drums’ black splashes and
guitars roar orange-red slashes clash,
blue fuzzy bass feathers fly by and
white flecks of dry piano bone-specks
spatter across the mixing mess.
Glorious, glorious, colourful mess,
But music’s the colour I love the best.
It’s a wonderful, vibrant, symphony of colour. When I read it I think of a child allowed to run wild and just create: sing, paint, make music, dance in all the glorious clashing colours of the rainbow. And don’t we, when our children are little, encourage them to run wild with bright colours, to just be creative without restriction or adhering to form? But then, as they grow up and go to school, something happens and we start expecting them to conform. We start expecting them to be neat; to colour between the lines.
When my son was three he went to pre-school. We were living in Italy at the time. I remember one day his nursery teacher pulled me aside and expressed mild concern at the fact that he struggled to keep his colouring between the lines. She was so kind and looked so earnest about it and I remember nodding my head and trying also to look concerned, but inside I was wondering why on earth this was so important, that my son who was only 3, and just wanted to run around and be wild, should be able to pick up a crayon and colour in a picture without going over the lines. I shrugged my shoulders and assumed that it was some kind of cultural thing and decided not to worry about it. Now that he is 6 and I know much more about the education system, I understand completely why that teacher expressed concern. Of course, colouring is a pre-cursor to writing and we encourage nice neat colouring in schools and nurseries so that children will develop their vital fine motor schools that will allow them to in turn develop nice neat handwriting later on.
Except of course there are some children, like my son, who have no desire to conform, and no interest in learning to colour between the lines. For them, school is a long, hard battle of wills.
Last night, Alex and I had a rare night out in London to have dinner with some old university friends. The red wine was flowing, and as we picked at our tapas we got to chatting about all the extracurricular stuff we were up to. One of us plays lead guitar in a band and does gigs, the other is taking acting classes but has dabbled in singing too, and another is getting involved in her local community, doing a course in permaculture, volunteering in her local amateur theatre group, teaching youth theatre workshops and writing screenplays (she’s a busy girl). Alex is also very much into doing photography, but also painting, and his music (we have about eight guitars in the house, all of which he plays – we joke that they are breeding). And of course I am doing my blog and photography. This is all in our spare time, on top of holding down full-time jobs. (That is apart from me as I work part-time, but I like to think the children and the housework more than make up for the other 60% of my workload.)
We wondered why it was, that at this point in our lives, in our mid 30s, we have started to feel the need to reignite our latent creative urges, which have probably for most of us pretty much lain dormant since at least our free and easy university days if not since early childhood. None of us really do particularly creative jobs for a living, but we all felt the need for some kind of outlet in our spare time (or indeed, perhaps because of this). And we all felt like we had mostly suppressed our creative sides for so long for fear of not being taken seriously, or not being very good, or lack of confidence, or lack of time, or a combination of all of the above. It is quite scary to veer off in another direction and do something new. It takes more than a bit of courage.
It’s almost as though a fresh surge of creativity has welled up from deep inside us at the same time. Yet this time, there is an urgency about it. The lazy arrogance of youth has dissipated and its place there is determination and necessity. There is a sense that this is our last chance to get it all out while we are all still young-ish, and able and full of energy-ish. But it runs deeper than that, too. Many of us at a certain point in our lives realise that maybe we might want to try walking that alternative path that we could have taken, but didn’t for whatever reason. Maybe, like me, your parents or your teachers discouraged you from following more creative subjects at school because they weren’t ‘academic’ enough and were unlikely to secure you a place at a ‘good’ university or give you those elusive ‘opportunites’ to forge a decent, respectable career.
I loved art at school. It was my favourite subject along with English, but I never took art A-level because it was just never really valued as a subject. And people (even teachers) would say, well what are you going to do with art? How crazy is that, really? And how crazy is it that vulnerable, immature 16 year olds who know nothing of the world are forced into making life-limiting decisions like that which will ultimately fashion the path they will take in life. These are the first steps we take in narrowing our choices in life rather than broadening them, and narrowing our minds.
Education is the key factor here, of course. The other day I came across a talk on TED by Sir Ken Robinson (I love TED talks – I have the app on my iPhone and watch them whenever I can snatch twenty minutes here or there) on the subject of how schools kill creativity in our children. His premise is that the global education system stifles creativity in our children in order to prepare them for an ‘ideal’ life of academia. But of course in reality this is not the kind of route that all children would desire to take, or indeed should. Why do we pressurise our children into aiming for a university education, why do we prize that above all else, when a university education doesn’t really get you a job anymore?
We are failing our children because we are not preparing them for an uncertain future, where creativity and the ability to innovate will be the most valued skills we can offer to the job market. For me it is also simply about teaching our children to be true to themselves. This is the key to creating happy, well-rounded, succesful individuals. The speech is fascinating, inspiring, sad and hilarious (I defy you not to laugh out loud at the anecdote about the girl drawing a picture of God). I highly recommend checking it out.
So I will try, (tenuously?) to bring this back to photography. I have actually been thinking about these points a lot with reference to the subject. The photograph I have included today is a picture of one of my son’s drawings. He likes to fill the page to bursting with lots of colour and lots of intricate detail. He often adds bits of torn paper with writing. It’s almost as though he cannot be contained by a piece of A4. There is everything original about this picture – my son conceived it, and coloured it himself, but there is nothing original about the photograph. It is a picture I have stolen from ‘real life’. This is something which I both enjoy and find frustrating about a photograph at the same time: it can’t exist in its own right, and (unlike other art forms) it has to be contained by its own form. I don’t wish to enter into a debate about whether photography can be art (I think unquestionably it can be), but I do question whether it can ever be truly original. You can’t colour outside the lines of a photograph… can you?
And if you can or could, what would that kind of photography look like?
© Emily Hughes and searchingtosee, 2012
Posted on April 17, 2012
I am one of those people who enjoys sleeping – who actually really definitely NEEDS to sleep. Quite a lot. I look forward to it as much as anything else. It is right up there in my top five past-times along with writing and reading and doing photography and eating. It’s not so much that I am lazy, rather that I am just a bit of a sleepy person. It’s physiological, I’m sure (at least I have managed to convince myself of that). And my body really really protests at early mornings. It goes into a state of shock, and generally refuses to jolt into an acceptable state of being (although ‘jolt’ is probably over-egging it somewhat, really it’s more like trying to coax a startled rabbit out from behind the sofa. Gently, gently does it) until somewhere around 10.30am, after several cups of tea. At this stage I may be able to manage food, and quite possibly a coherent conversation. I may have also managed to abandon that dazed, dreamy, slightly dishevelled morning countenance. It is unfortunate for people who bump into me before that time in the morning (which is usually quite a lot) and especially unfortunate for those who work with me – notably because most days I only work mornings.
When I was younger I used to commute into London to my HR job in Green Park. As you can probably imagine, for someone like me this was quite a traumatic experience (almost nervous breakdown inducing – I left after 2 and a half years to seek solace in academia). Catching up with my old boss over the weekend she joked about how I used to remind her of a sleepy dormouse, slightly put out that it had been disturbed and forced to be somewhere it really did not want to be. I was a little bit alarmed when she said this. I mean, she was sort of joking but not really and then everyone else joined in and laughed and thought it was really funny in the way that you do when someone has just got someone spot on. I thought I had radiated more energy in my twenties, but clearly not.
You may wonder how I got through the baby years with my children: the night-time feeds; the refusing to settle; the shushing and patting; the teething…. well the truth is I’m not really sure. I existed, I think, but generally in some kind of semi-state. I was very tired all the time and despite what people said I never got used to it. Alex would probably say I was mostly quite grumpy. Now my children are old enough to understand I am not good in the mornings, which is a blessing. They do not protest if I secretly sneak back to bed after I have got their breakfast. I do quite well on the lie-in rota as well, because Alex is most definitely a morning person, and is easily convinced that my needs are greater than his. So generally these days I am better rested, and as a consequence much happier.
So today marked the end of the Easter holidays. No more lazy mornings in our pjs, no more lie-ins. My stomach did a little flip of protest when my alarm startled me out of my unconscious state. I rolled over to hit the snooze button and realised I had my daughter next to me, fast asleep. She often creeps into bed with me in the early hours of the morning. Sometimes she will wriggle and pester me until I give in and get up, but this morning she snuggled down and went back to sleep. So it was quite a rare and lovely moment to have her sleeping peacefully in my bed. I couldn’t resist snapping her with my phone because she just looked so serene and, well, asleep (and you can’t see it here, obviously, but she was snoring very gently too, which was very cute).
© Emily Hughes and searchingtosee, 2012