The Pressure of Social media

I woke up this morning reflecting on the challenges I am facing in the attempt to let people know what I do, what I have to offer, my skills and quality as a photographer and as an individual with a creative mind. 

Last night after watching a couple of documentary on Abstract Creativity I felt a little damped down, especially after the one that was depicting the world of Instagram. I use Instagram too for my work….well a little I do…but for the first time I was hit by the immensity, density and overcrowdedness of that social media platform. When I use Instagram, I simply scroll down my homepage feed and I don’t  experience how busy that whole world is in the same way as I did last night . 

I felt totally overwhelmed by it.  


I see a lot of duplication of marketing styles these days, where is the originality gone? 

The majority of people seem to follow the same templates for most things, from tv series, documentaries, marketing tactics, presentation of products, blogs, vlogs and everything else. 

Everyone is on this crazy race to put up constantly images and ash-tags of everything they are doing just to keep themselves up in the feed. Everyone seem to scream “look! I am here. This is what I do. This is what I sell. This is what I offer!”  


I see too much of the same, copies of copies repeated over and over again. 

I cannot and don’t want to be a copy of anyone else.

My whole life I’ve worked hard at maintaining my own ideas and principles without following the crowds. 


There must be another way to be and show the world out there what I love doing, what I create, the work I produce and the services I offer without feeling squashed by the social media stampede that I see happening today!!


I prefer originals to copies! 

Am I one?

Well, I don’t know for sure but I will keep trying! 



 




Metamorfosi


When I looked up its meaning I found these: 

1. A typically marked and more or less abrupt developmental change in the form or structure of an animal (such as a butterfly or a frog) occurring subsequent to birth or hatching the metamorphosis of caterpillars into butterflies.

2. A change of physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means, the metamorphosis of humans into animals.


Only a few months ago Stuart Acre, (a very interesting man who has sadly departed for higher dimensional spheres), told me to look up the Roman writer Ovid, who about 2000 years ago, wrote a long poem based on Greek myths called “Metamorphosis”. In this very long poem, he tells stories of humans who having transgressed against the gods were punished by being changed into animals or even plants.

That is how my research for a better and deeper understanding of such a process began.


I then found an article written by Professor Stuart Reynolds (interesting enough, another Stuart!) of the university of Bath, about Metamorphosis that started me off onto my own reflective process. On one side, there was my brain reading, and taking in the scientific information, while at the same time another part of me, less analytical and more intuitive was refining, digesting, and transforming it into a more subtle, but much deeper understanding of what it all meant for me in relation to myself and one of my photographic projects about metamorphosis that I’ve already produced many months before. 

What struck me profoundly in that article is the fact that despite all the shape shifting of any animal or plant who goes through that visible process, the new creature is in essence still the same individual that it was at birth, at the beginning of its own cycle. But then… it made me wonder about which one is the beginning?! I then realised that is not a linear process but is more a continuous circular life event that keeps turning around and around like the planets in our solar system, like the tiny wee atoms that create the matter, the solid appearance of the world we see, or we think…we see!?

In the article an important question brought me to a total halt. 

What can it mean for a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly, which looks so different, and yet retains its essence and the ability to reproduce another caterpillar? 

Or is it really the winged butterfly that possesses the true spirit of the insect, and the wingless worm-like larva (caterpillar) is just an incompletely developed part of the adult? 


This is when my own deep mental process began to work automatically without forcing it. I reflected on the time when the insect lives inside a stiff, protective casing. This time of seclusion from the rest of the world, totally isolated from external forces, is the most important of all. It is exactly during this time that life goes through the transformation process, growing, increasing in size, changing its shape developing its new character. All this inner transformation is not visible to the external world at first and it happens in different stages. It is only when this inner development has outgrown the protective armour that the need to replace it becomes a necessity, and yet this change still happens from within. 

When the new and bigger armour is ready, the old one will fall off and then it will continue to grow and develop from inside until the new transformed life is ready to hatch.

This process requires time, it doesn’t happen fast. The different stages of development are all equally very important and necessary for such transformation, not only on a physical level but on a spiritual level too. 


What the guy pointed out in his article that I really like is the fact that the moulting, the name attributed to this wonderful process, captures the idea of shedding old clothes but fails miserably to register that “it first involves acquiring a pristine set of new ones”. 

That is what I thought was such a profound realisation. 


Hormones play a strong part in this development, from the initial stages of the larva to the birth of the butterfly. It is the same with us, humans. Hormones have such an important role in all our developing stages, and being a woman I am so aware of them. Throughout life, from the time we prepare for our first bleeding, to pregnancy, birth, lactation and then menopause, all this is triggered by hormonal changes happening inside our bodies, our own protective armour. 

How magical is that! 

On a conscious level, I don’t think I was so deeply aware of how similar my life was to that of a butterfly,  the moment I was inspired to create the “metamorphosis” project. Yet, I feel something inside me knew it already. The process is not totally completed yet but I’m starting to understand that there is no end to anything but only a continuous transformation from one stage to the next and the next and …..  the next. 

Right now it is so clear to me!


All these elements gathered together brought a better understanding of why I created this work around my own metamorphosis process which is exactly what this story is about; a continuous transformation and self-development, on a physical level, with my body constantly changing together with my internal growth as a much more refined human and spiritual being. The wings in the final image represent the freedom from the Ego, old false believes and mental patterns acquired through life that have kept me trapped inside my own mind. 


My personal creative work is becoming more and more a physical extension of my inner work, and is helping me to grow those magical wings that will help me to fly.


The “Metamorfosi” project  started off as a set of three images but the more I worked on it and the more I discovered that I had a lot more to tell.  

The photoshoots were all great fun, and playful times. The images taken in the tunnel, in the middle of winter were exhilarating because of the cold conditions on location and had to be achieved as fast as possible because…..I WAS FREEZING!  


The first image of me inside the giant sock, is something that is not part of the original planned set, and is only one of the extra shots taken with the help of Dave Hunt - he was holding up the sock to create the hanging effect - another fab fine art photographer I’ve done a workshop with last year. I put it here just to show one of the many stages I went through in order to get to the final images, and there were lots of trials….and errors before I worked out a way that worked for me!


All images were achieved with the use of a remote shutter release gadget hidden in my hand or in the birth of the butterfly I had a friend with me who was pressing it whenever I asked to do so after getting in the different poses.


This is one of my most loved work I have created in the past three years. 



Italian Connection

 Italian connection

I woke up this morning thinking about a portrait I did a few years back; I was still married then, and I remember my hubby returning from a conference in New Lanark, telling me about this interesting guy he met there. Born in Edinburgh with an Italian heritage. His parents migrated to Scotland after the war, he was part of the first generation of Italian migrants’ children born in Scotland. He was trying to describe him to give me an idea of the type of character he was and then he simply said: “ Och!…you would like him a lot! He’s full of charisma and had such an interesting life. He has so many wonderful stories to tell!”


I was intrigued by the charismatic man I just heard of, but of course, life moves on and the opportunity to meet him, never presented itself, so I forgot about him. 


Many months later, my hubby again, brought home a book that this same guy had just published, a quick glance at the book, then it sat on a bookshelf for a few more months, till one night before going to bed I picked it up and started reading it. I was hooked!

I remember looking forward to reading Laurences musings before falling asleep, they were so inspiring, full of wit, humour, and felt so real, so genuine. The book is like a diary, and each story is about normal day-life events that happened and the people he met. They are told in such an amusing way, and they are full of wisdom, and they clearly state a deep search for the self.


I found it enchanting and charming. I often found myself laughing at some of his stories. I loved them because there was a sense of vulnerability and fragility in his stories too. I had a feeling that he was getting to understand more and more the importance of being open and vulnerable towards all life experiences, and he was doing so together with an infinite curiosity for life beyond the physical. The spiritual realm seems to be a new discovery, one that was really appealing to him at that point in his life! From a wild past, then many years dedicated to working with less advantaged communities to a peaceful retired life. A small cottage in the green Scottish countryside, with lots of time and tranquillity to reflect on less physical matters in between cutting wood for the fire and landscaping the wee garden around the cottage. 


I just loved that wee book, the stories were so full of life that my mind was turning them into short movies inside my head, where all the characters and places were suddenly so real! 

I love when books do that to me!


At that point, I knew I wanted to meet him because such a person inspired me and I wanted to make a portrait of this charming man that started shaping his form in my fantasy filled mind.


I managed to find his email address and wrote to him. Actually, I wrote twice, since my first email got forgotten under a pile of other emails, but eventually, he was happy to meet me in Edinburgh for a coffee. I felt as if I was transported in his book when we met in one of his favourite cafes, I knew of from the stories he wrote! 

Suddenly I was inside one of his stories too, and we were the characters for that morning! In fact, I have sometime wondered if he ever wrote about this strange meeting with me!?


As soon as I saw him, I noticed that the lines on his face were carrying the weight of pain and sadness, he had a stern and serious expression that somehow didn’t fit the image of the man I created in my mind.

We told each other the tales of our lives and we both relaxed in each others company.

He admitted that he wanted to make sure I wasn’t a total “nutcase”! 

I would have probably done the same if someone contacted me out of the blue wanting to do a portrait of me! 


I love listening to people’s stories, especially when you find good story-tellers like Laurence. There are some amazing people out there, and photography gives me the opportunity to discover them and learn about their wonderful lives. Then I work around their portraits, to create an image that expresses how I see them.


It is not how they see themselves, it is how … I see them.

And everyone is always more interesting than what they think they are. 

I suppose I do what a writer of novels does with his characters, the only difference is, I use a camera and photos instead.


 Anyway, by the end of our meeting, he invited me to visit him to his cottage in the countryside where we could do his portrait. 


A few weeks later, I was there! 

We spent the morning together. He welcomed me with a lovely breakfast with tea, coffee, freshly baked muffins, butter and homemade jam. I had to travel a fair distance to get to his place from where I live, and he was so thoughtful and caring, totally aware of that.  After breakfast, we started looking around for places that would best suit his portrait. Indoor, window light; outdoor, around the cottage and garden. It was there that I discovered some hidden gems. We went for a walk and he showed me some historical places around the estate where the cottage is situated and we even saw a big earthy mound where a badger lives nearby.  Like always, posing for a portrait requires a bit of warm-up exercise. It is like dancing, where the photographer and the model are the dancers who need to get used to each other ways of being and moving before a flowing rhythm is finally established. It is then, that the magic starts happening. I was shooting for about one hour, but it was only when I took the last picture that I knew that it was going to be the “One” I would have chosen out of all. The last step of our dance turned out to be the most important of all, the one that carried the soul and spirit of the dance!


I was still puzzled though!

How is it possible for a person with with such a fine sense of humour not to have a happier face!? 

EXPECTATIONS

My mind pictured him to be in a certain way and created some realistic expectations of how he would look. I already had his character printed inside my story. 


Was his wee cottage the way I imagined it? No! 

So incredible to think how words trigger our imagination in such strange ways, that create visual and sensory experiences of something we are not really living ourselves, and that is different from reader to reader. 


Each mind, with its collection of life memories stored in an invisible computer, makes up its own stories about what we see, hear and feel daily and throughout life.

I imagine this invisible computer connected by invisible cables to our bodies sending signals back and forward. All these signals containing the information we have gathered. 

Are we feeding our own mind or are we feeding something much bigger and separate from us? 

Is it really separate? 


Are we just small individual computers collecting information through our own experiences that are stored in a gigantic/infinite motherboard (computer) somewhere else in the Universe?!?!


Is it why we created computers and Artificial Intelligence? To duplicate exactly what we are??!! 


Is this the thought that inspired men to build such machines?!


Wow….where did I go with my free-flowing writing this morning?

I never planned to get to this place! 

I had no idea that writing about Laurence would have brought me to this kind of thinking. 

Oh well….thoughts run off in so many directions and yet they are linked together still.


Here is my favourite portrait I took that day! 

This is how I see Laurence Demarco ….. a dreamer, a philosopher, a visionary. 

Someone who deeply inspired me!

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