The past three years, like for most people, have been a bit of a journey for me. I have lost a parent to cancer, I have separated from my partner of six years, I have realised a lot of things about who I am, and who I am not.
On top of this, the pandemic complely destabilised my sense of normalcy, and the buisiness I spent several years building had to nearly completely go on standstill, throwing me into a position of financial insecurity, something which I am only starting to recover from now.
In January, I spent the majority of the month paring down my possessions and moving them piece by piece to my new flat, and was lucky enough to be given space by friends while I sorted out a lot of complex issues.
It was around this time my stepfather Rob told me he was moving to France for a while. He had bought a piece of land with a house on it in various states of disrepair, and planned on spending a few months living in it, and getting it back into a liveable condition. After five whole minutes of thinking, I decided to go with him, and help with the work.
And so, at the end of January, we took off in a car, and drove to Central France, and thats where I have been living and working for the last two months. I have been breaking through walls, chipping away at floors, cleaning decades old mold, painting, heavy lifting, and taking our dog Teddy for walks.
At times, it has been pretty brutal. For the first two weeks the heating was broken, so work was often in sub zero temperatures with six layers of clothing on, and sleeping wasnt much better. Right now, I am writing this a few days from leaving, in the sunny spring weather, wearing shorts outside. There is still a chill in the air, but feeling the sun directly on your skin more than makes up for it.
Being far away from my routine, from my home, from my work, and in many ways from myself, has given me a lot of time and space to reflect. It has given me an opportunity to work hard physically, but to rest mentally, and prepare myself for where I want to go in the future, as a person, and with regard to my creative work, and my business.
By resting the parts of my brain that are normally active, and by engaging in things I normally dont spend much time on, I have the opportunity to reflect and change, and be more honest with myself.
I have a few reasons for sharing all this. The first, and most important, is that I want to take down many of the boundaries I have put around myself, both personally and professionally. I want to create artistic work that reflects me honestly, and I cannot do that without making myself vulnerable.
For me, that has meant opening up myself to a lot of complicated feelings about myself. About loss, queer identity, body image, personhood, and trying to process a lot of the past few years. Part of that process, I am sure, will be creative projects, part of it will be less explicitly visible.
I am not the same person I used to be, and I am sure that will reflect in my work, and my relationships with other artists, clients, and the business as a whole. However, I feel a lot happier, and a lot healthier, than I have done in a while.
The second, is that if you are reading this, I want to encourage you to take a break, if you can. Maybe reflect on something important to you, maybe just relax, and enjoy the moment you are in.
I love a lot of the work I do, and I find it artistically satisfying. I enjoy spending time working hard on projects. However, it is important to differentiate that, to me, from the need to produce labour. None of us exist first and foremost for the purpose of selling our labour. Especially with increasing economic precarity, political instability, and a climate crisis already unfolding, it is even more important to remember the importance of community and care, familial and social bonds. These things are older than the current economic system, things older than the divine right of kings, and older than organised civilisation.
Take care of yourself, and of others. Working as a photographer, as programmer, a day labourer, an accountant, may be a means to an end, but it is not as important as resting, taking care of yourself, and taking care of each other.