4.5 billion years ago, when the Earth was nearing the end of its formative years, it was struck by the protoplanet Theia, ejecting significant debris into orbit around the Earth which coalesced into the Moon shortly after.
Initially the Moon filled the horizon of Earth, raw and excoriated from its impact before slowly drifting over 200,000 miles away to where it is today, tidally locked to Earth.
This giant-impact hypothesis has become a synonymous metaphor for an experience of my own; suffering childhood sexual abuse.
In this analogy, I am the Earth, Theia is my abuser and the formation of the Moon represents the abuse I suffered and the lingering, permeating effect over time in coping with it.
Dissociation gets you through a brutal experience, allowing your subconscious survival skills to operate unimpeded - the ability to survive is enhanced as the ability to feel is diminished, blocked even. You are effectively disconnected from the act, the abuser and yourself and because of this disengagement there is no autonomous response in recovery; what to do next.
Abuse is never contained to a present moment, it lingers across a person’s lifetime and has pervasive, long-term ramifications unless there is an opportunity to share, find solace and lighten such a complex, truly emotional deadweight.
It took me some 5 years to tell a close friend about my experience and from memory I was drunk, too. It took another 3 or 4 years to then talk about this with my now wife, Tabby, without the need of alcohol to “loosen me up” enough. And even then it was only to say that I had been sexually abused - I had no idea where to go from there.
Shame plays a huge part in being perhaps the biggest obstacle to face - it stymies the process of healing because of the deeply personal nature of what has happened, never through the fault of the sufferer.
It was only 3 years ago, aided by much support and assistance proffered by Tabby as well as reading articles posted by other survivors, that I felt able to book myself in with a private therapist for an initial exploratory session. The impact of this was truly revelatory and he remains my counsellor to this day. Being presented with the opportunity to “tell my story” has effectively allowed me to unload everything in my mind that I had become so dense with, organise it, study it and repackage it in a newly-ordered manner. This exercise has allowed me to shift some of that emotional deadweight and in doing so has enabled me to feel much more positive and significantly lighter.
Whilst undertaking the Mental Health First Aider course in February I learned of the Sigmund Freud quote: “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways” and I was overcome by how much this resonated with me and my life so far.
Australian psychologist Maryann Wei wrote further about this: “We become closed - not only to people’s pain - but also their happiness. These two states of being will rub you the wrong way: pain, because it hits too close to home, and happiness, because it seems so far away, so beyond reach.
Identifying our pain is the only the first step; the hardest part comes in allowing ourselves to feel our pain. Only then we might find a channel to disseminate it, lest, in a vicious cycle, it comes forth later in uglier ways.”
Fast forward to today and the release of my friend Will’s song and accompanying video titled ‘Monster’ which he wrote about his experience of sexual abuse. When he posted a request for collaborators with shared experiences I knew that this would be a good time to share mine.
Music has been a comfort blanket for me for over two decades now and those that know me often ask why I only seem to listen to ‘sad, depressing music’ but it has never felt that way to me. It is comforting, hopeful and I am always in awe of those who can display so much emotion through their music, their voice and their words. It has strengthened me and carried me to no end.
Finally, I would like to thank a few people who have helped me along the way:
My wife Tabby for her patience, love and understanding.
Will Clapson aka Jack in Water for his bravery and for this opportunity.
My therapist Rob Francis for his continuous guidance.
Ray, James, Christopher, Paul, Alex, Steve, David & Gareth who have listened to me and my brother Gary, to whom this is dedicated.
First photo job of the year was heading up to my hometown Norwich with friend and gloomy blues grunge expert Bryde to document her day before her performance at the excellent Bicycle Shop with co-headliner and fellow Norwichian Jess Morgan.
This particular shot was taken at the excellent St. Gregory’s Centre for the Arts where there’s a massive indoor flea market. I think I bought 2 records here - Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush and Glen Hansard’s Didn’t He Ramble.
Cheers, Norwich :)
First London gig of the year was Lissie at the O2 Forum in Kentish Town. Easily the biggest venue I’ve had AAA access at and it was a lot of fun just wandering around the place all afternoon trying to be inventive. I captured this GIF during soundcheck from high up on the balcony where I was the only person there.
I like moments like that.
I remember this afternoon/evening well - it was a bloody cold one in early March and I headed to the beautiful St John on Bethnal Green church to document Anna von Hausswolff’s headline show there as part of the Convergence 2016 festival.
The church had stunning balconies upstairs with lots of natural light and lines everywhere so I couldn’t resist shooting a few portraits of Anna there.
Probably my favourite venue I shot at all year.
The first non-music related shoot of the year(!)
Did a test shoot with Hannah on an exceptionally gloomy day in North London.
I like this outtake because Hannah made it clear early on that she was a huge animal lover and even a pigeon fell victim to her affectations. A bloody pigeon.
Next up, more behind-the-scenes for The 405, this time with Paradisia at The Waiting Room. Featuring a harpist, these girls are a joy to watch and listen to - check out Silent Lover and their cover of Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark :)
In June I was assigned to follow Globelamp around for a morning starting at The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History in Hackney. Super strange place. There was a lock of Bowie’s hair in a bottle in one of the cabinets. And a book simply-titled ‘Wasps of Surrey’ which sounds like something from Alan Partridge.
My photography highlight of the year. I spent an afternoon in Urchin Studios with the brilliant Siv Jakobsen and producer Matt Ingram capturing some moments during the pre-production of her forthcoming record.
By far my favourite way to take photos - just pure fly-on-the-wall stuff and I recall being fascinated hearing a song take shape starting with just an acoustic guitar intro and ending with them both running to the studio behind the glass and building it up with drums.
I ended up publishing a collection of shots of the afternoon into a little book :)
Citadel Festival! I blagged a press / photo pass for this festival primarily to see Sigur Rós again. I also decided, rather than lug a D3 and 4 lenses around all day I’d just take along my tiny Olympus OM-10, 2 lenses and a few rolls of Poundland AGFA film.
It was a good decision - my back isn’t fucked and some beautiful late-afternoon light allowed for some nice scenes to capture around the site.
And Sigur Rós were phenomenal as always.
The last time I had been home was January so was pleased that Jess Morgan got in touch asking if I could document her homemade record-making process for items in the crowdfunding of her wonderful new record Edison & Gloriette.
Always a pleasure to hang out with Jess and loved hearing stories from her year-long process of figuring out how to make records at home!
Ooops. Just realised I didn’t take anything worth in October. Have a random photo that I like instead :)
I finally went to Norway in July and it lived up to my expectations and then some.
Spent almost a week in Arendal with dear friends, enjoyed lots of boat trips, island-hopping and just being a lazy git.
Took this photo in Kristiansand somewhere. Hope to return in 2017.
As usual, the latter part of the year yields tons of gig requests and I chose to hang out with Fenne Lily at St Pancras Old Church (a bit of a church theme going on this year, huh?) for her debut headline London show.
As usual, I headed upstairs and this venue has a nice little spiral staircase leading up to where the organ sits.
Phew, got there in the end.
Technically speaking this was shot in November but it wasn’t published until December so, up yours.
This was taken in the dressing room (I say dressing room, my shed is bigger) before Tusks’ show at The Waiting Room (again) when we just had a sole spotlight with wires hanging out for a light source. Hence the worm-like shadow on her face.
Thanks for reading this, if you got this far. I hate blogging.
A big thank you to everyone who has let me shove my camera in your face this year and here’s to more and more in 2017.