So it appears to be February already ... a bit late for a New Year/Old Year reflection perhaps ... but I found it a useful process last year ... and last year I only took my Christmas decorations down the first weekend in February ... image if I hadn't, because I thought the moment had passed ... yes ... for some tasks ... late is better than not at all.
When I reflected last year, it was on my first ever year. That seemed easy to reflect upon. A lot of new things to remember and notice. This year (and those to follow), will probably be more of a consolidation ... building on what has gone before. But there are things of note. Perhaps only of interest to me. Perhaps useful to others. Which is why I will share this here - part for me to read in the future - and part to let others in.
This year I brought a little bit of mindfulness into the process, mainly for my own emotional benefit; spending moments throughout the day giving myself little re-framing pep-talks if something's not gone to plan, noticing feelings but not necessarily being consumed by them. I would say there's been much less emotional turbulence during the wedding day process - less feeling like a charlatan than in 2010. I do wonder whether this feeling will ever go away - perhaps not - certainly not as long as I still engage in 'wizarding'* others.
The mindfulness link is interesting though. In a sense, my favourite part of photography is where it is mindfulness through the lens - where all I am doing is noticing - not trying to change or control anything - but simply tuning in to see what is already there - and reflecting that back in a pleasing way. Sometimes, interestingly, what is there needs help to emerge - to forget the camera and reveal itself - and this is something I would like to work on.
Yet in just noticing, there has been a tendency towards feeling like a ghost; I end with all these memories and mementos of events but with no evidence of me actually being there. There has been much talk in the Cooper house of how to earth myself during these processes - to really be there - not just as a passive observer - but as a thinking, breathing, feeling, participating human being. But how to be sure I truly exist when my job is to capture other people?
This conversation continues into the realm of editing and processing, when I'm hidden away with the (sometimes very unco-operative) screen, creating images that might be strange to put up in my own house. In these times and others like them, learning to delight in the end product, and linger in the after-glow of satisfaction is another process I've been chewing on. Highlights have included a lovely phone conversation post wedding with a bride, and - because it's not just about the photos - in doing a Mrs Banksesque parade** around the flat on completion of my first tax return (complete with invisible majorettes). Celebrating these little milestones and completions seems vital in life not becoming an ongoing treadmill.
Pilates has also become my friend again. Remembering to do half an hour of stretches when I get home from a wedding, rather than crawling straight into bed, has made the difference between a Sunday of tears, duvets and hardly being able to walk, and a Sunday of recuperating with a bit more freedom. It's amazing the difference this has made to the hangover caused by a petite body carrying Man Sized Cameras for a long day.
Self-care has also taken the form of not looking at others work. In 2010 I looked at other wedding blogs constantly - it helped me to learn a lot - but it also engaged a constant conversation of 'am I good enough', 'should I be doing what they're doing', 'I don't see what they see,' etc and generally de-valuing myself in the process. So in a bid to quieten The Comparisonator within, I dropped that practice this year. Letting myself and my style develop with less influence from what other people are doing has been lovely (if daunting - what if I run out of ideas?), but I have found myself really noticing the photography of films and well made television - and drawing on that for visual inspiration instead.
* to wizard: to not notice (by choice or delusion) that the man behind the curtain (or 'everyone') is no more than just a man behind a curtain.
** altogether now, "cast off the shackles of tax returns, completed records of all my earns, it's my own job to adore this, so I'll sing in grateful chorus, well done, mighty sister self ..."
When I started a heading called self-care, I thought it would be one of a few headings. But it appears that self-care was the major theme for the processes of 2011. As invitations go, holding the art of self-care as I walk forward into year 3, feels like a jolly good one indeed.
Onto a few of my 2011 photographic highlights.
All images ©KateCooperPhotography2011