The One I Love - Exhibition and Private View

Scarlett publicity I'm working hard on my new exhibition 'The One I Love' which explores the relationship people with long term invisible conditions have with their pets.

Where : Free Space Project, Kentish Town Health Centre, 2 Bartholomew Road NW5 2BX

When : October 23rd - December 14th

Private View : October 23rd at 6.30pm to 8.30pm

Hope to see you there !

Naomi x

Living Differently - Heartpoint (for Catherine)

I'm still getting over my most recent energy crash. It takes a lot of self-discipline to care for myself this much. And I don't mean the physical side of taking enough rest or eating properly but the emotional component. That one I find pretty tough. For every step I take towards self-compassion a voice rears up in my head reminding me, with great authority, how indulgent I'm being to take it this easy and that I should be doing more.  It's an hourly battle not to be crushed by this inner dictatorial voice and I find myself losing the ability to see what I need with any clarity at all. To feel so in the wilderness with nothing but my own punishing thoughts for company can be a pretty lonely place and I begin to wonder if I'll ever find my way back home. Now I've written this down I can see it does sound rather melodramatic. It's also the truth.

Chronic illnesses have wavering symptoms, ranging from just about nearly OK to absolutely bloody awful and if the ghastly period is unrelenting the fear can hold you pretty tightly in its grip. The whole process of going through a crash, relapse, or flare is extremely traumatising. After the metaphorical storm has passed I find myself wincing at even the tiniest drop of rain. I know I'm not alone in this and that the unpredictable nature of long term sickness can be very anxiety producing. This is perhaps why so many of us turn to meditation, buddhism, a spiritual practice or a creative outlet to aid our navigation through these rough seas.

So, it will be no surprise to hear that recently I had given up on magic altogether, even in its most human form. That was until my friend Dina invited me over to her studio for a prolonged session of recuperative yoga. It's not the first time she's done this and I'm always grateful. The session lasted over two hours and Dina put me in a series of prolonged resting postures on mountains of bolsters and blocks, covering me with cosy blankets until I drifted in to that safe and hypnotic space between waking and sleeping. She is an expert at arranging the equipment and I often felt like I was floating in space, momentarily free of the burden of gravity.

One thing that struck me was Dina's attention to detail. Even my skinny wrists were supported by rolled up blankets. We often think of holding on as something we do with our hands but our wrists can also carry a great deal of tension, the support I had enabled me to let go at last, to take flight. I decided to find out what mysteries our often neglected wrists held and discovered the location of Heart Point 7  described as an acupressure point to quell anxiety. It also served as a reminder to me that when we are feeling our most fragile the seemingly smallest things make the greatest difference and hold the key to our emotional sanctuary. I've called this heartpoint to highlight that even in our most difficult times there are clues everywhere, tiny doorways to love and tenderness and it's in the silence and stillness that they are revealed to us.

NB: This post is dedicated to my friend Catherine who is in the middle of a storm right now.

Picture This - Ingrid Andrew 'Cusp'

Many exceptional writers have responded to a portfolio of my recent photography for a project called Picture This. I am overwhelmed by the beautiful work I've received. I have also worked with photographer and film-maker Craig Thomas, on a short film entitled Still Life, containing a selection of these images. Ingrid Andrew is a multi-talented artist. Her poem below is a delicate and beautifully observed narrative of seasonal change.

Ingrid is an artist, poet and singer songwriter living in London.

Cusp

Yesterday; morning.

From leaden skies; a flurry of snow flakes that do not settle.

The cold creeps up our sleeves.

By afternoon; a blue and silver sky, with ice white clouds.

That evening, walking home, the snow is sprouting crystalline from the pavements, thickening on car bonnets and windows.

The little, beloved tree at the rise of our road, is frosted coral.

This morning back garden fences alight with lichen green; February trees conduct sunshine along their still branches.

A blackbird and a jay sit companionably together;

survey the scene.

Picture This - Dorothy Fryd 'Pots'

Many talented writers have responded to a portfolio of my recent photography for a project called Picture This. I am overwhelmed by the beautiful work I've received. I have also worked with photographer and film-maker Craig Thomas, on a short film entitled Still Life, containing a selection of these images. Dorothy Fryd's poetry is spectacular and original. She's the sort of writer that introduces me to seeing the world in a whole new way with every word she writes. Not least in the poem below which is rich with an alerting juxtaposition of images.

Dorothy works for the School of English at Kent University as a Creative Writing Lecturer. Her poetry and fiction has been published in Magazines, Anthologies and Competitions such as The Rialto, BRAND Literary Magazine, Forward Press, Momaya Press, Educating Kenyan Orphans, WordAid (Children in Need Anthology) and Spilling Ink Review.

Pots

For now they stay furled, unfixed. before blossom ready for tricky, unstable youth;

which axil, which bulb, which culture.

This is small reincarnation; young solicitors, young whorling snippings, weathered by recycled motes

flying off / falling in.

They sleep in their elders' beds; so long ago bloomed, like dead saints or dead planets,

whimpered out.

Picture This - Janice Windle 'Nail'

Some stunning writers have responded to a portfolio of my recent photography for a project called Picture This. I am overwhelmed by the beautiful work I've received. I have also worked with photographer and film-maker Craig Thomas, on a short film entitled Still Life, containing a selection of these images. Janice Windle's work as an artist floods through her poetry. Her poem below is a beautiful response to my photograph and captures much of what I was feeling when I took it.

Janice is a poet, painter and art teacher. She lives in Guildford, with her partner Dónall Dempsey. Janice has had poems published in several anthologies, most recently in “Cancan” by Wurm in Apfel and “Census 3” by Seven Towers.

Nail

Free falling caught in the act my sundial shadow at my feet I have suffered blows

my pirouetting days are behind me I bend my head towards earth where I came from

longing to swing up again to gaze at stars.

Picture This - Agnes Meadows 'Thaw'

Some fantastic writers have responded to a portfolio of my recent photography for a project called Picture This. I am overwhelmed by the beautiful work I've received. I have also worked with photographer and film-maker Craig Thomas, on a short film entitled Still Life, containing a selection of these images. Agnes Meadows is a gifted and prolific writer. She also runs a great monthly event for women writers of all genres, Loose Muse. I'm really excited about her heavily gothic contribution to the project.

Agnes has written five books of poetry – You and Me, Quantum Love, Woman, At Damascus Gate on Good Friday and This One Is For You. She is currently writing a novel set in 12th century Constantinople with a woman soldier as the central character. Thaw

In moments of transformation, the process of change brings a burden of misery I cannot control. My shoulder blades are knived by the black burst of feathers, the prickle of subcutaneous wings ready to emerge. And where my mouth was, replete with words half-formed for song or velvet metaphor, now I am beak-pierced, my tongue sharp as thorns or holly spike.

My arms have disappeared entirely, merged in the sleek gloss of raven plumage, legs grown crow-thin, toes a trident of talons shadowing your booted footsteps with avian shrewdness. These petrel eyes gleam in carrion hunger, my gorge rapacious for the weight of gristle and sinew.

It is worse in winter when the ground is white and the days are short and sunless. So little time to feed, I am undone by your warm breath, the smell of you coiling in heavy folds across my breast and shank, your blood a graying broth that boils in your veins, thin filaments of deceit.

You do not see me hidden in the leafless trees, are deaf to my shriek of triumph as I swoop, wings stretched, glide and settle on your shoulders, begin my rapier encroachment of your soft neck to reach the core of living brain within. dawn melts my tracks in the snow, a proof of terror, a thaw of mutating species, bird to man come daylight.

Picture This - Steve Tasane 'The Purring'

Some wonderful poets have responded to a portfolio of my recent photography for a project called Picture This. I am overwhelmed by the beautiful work I've received. I have also worked with photographer and film-maker Craig Thomas, on a short film entitled Still Life, containing a selection of these images. I was very happy when Steve Tasane wanted to take part in the project, especially as his poem is inspired by a picture of our cat, Happy Meal. Living as he does with two photographers our cat knows his best side and is very happy in front of the lens. The poem below really captures something of that 'cat nature' I have only really fully appreciated since becoming ill.

Steve is Writer-in-residence for Dickens 2012, and his young adult novel Blood Donors is to be published by Walker Books in 2013. He is the master of tongue-twisting poetry with a sharp political edge.

The Purring

The Life Shadow crouches at the corner of a blank page.

A white void waits while the blackness watches – twitches, flexes – a stillness keening to spring

into the scent, the cloud-carried rumour, the rustle, a breeze, a cottoning on.

The Black Cat blinks a green eye, swishes her impatience and at once her poetry is.

Picture This - Jacqueline Saphra 'The Latch'

I invited some high calibre poets to respond to a portfolio of my recent photography for a project called Picture This. I have been overwhelmed by the beautiful work I've received. I also worked with photographer and film-maker Craig Thomas, on a short film entitled Still Life, containing a selection of these images. Jacqueline Saphra is a breathtakingly accomplished poet. I was honoured when she responded with the poem below; a sad and honest descripton of the tug of war that can happen in relationships.

The Latch How long had they stood on either side of that threshold, each willing the other to cross the line? Neither would give ground. Each grabbed a handle. They pushed the door back and forth between them for years until at last, the groans of the hinge alerted the latch, the latch remembered itself and clicked shut.

Picture This - Aisling Fahey 'Lock'

Since autumn of last year I have been unwell with chronic fatigue and have spent the majority of my time housebound. For someone who spent most of her days doing a hundred and one things (and now I realise a hundred too many) this has been a huge period of adjustment and not one I welcomed. As a writer and a photographer my creative expression has often given me stability in more fragile times. For the first few months of my illness I had little mental stamina and also suffered from 'brain fog'. My usual refuge of both writing and reading poetry was not available to me. I felt like I was stranded on a life raft with no sign of land. I finally had to learn to acquaint myself with stillness and silence. Previously my life had all been about movement and the constant preoccupation that I was not going fast enough. My fatigue put an emergency stop to all my frantic activity. In quieter moments I am grateful for this opportunity to stop and experience what being without doing actually feels like. Other times it is a hellish struggle and I mourn for the pleasure of being busy that, what is now, 'my old life' offered.

On better days I am able to pick up my camera and go in to the garden, or on short local walks. I have found the sublime beauty in repetition, something that I would have never encountered before. I have also began to enjoy getting really close to my subject matter, whether it be a dry twig in winther months or a brass hinge on the garden door. These forgotten details seem to say something about my current emotional and physical state. There is something very meditative about re-visiting the same subject matter and finding new ways to look at the familiar. I am learning that even when there appears to be no movement or change there is still transformation.

As the weeks passed I realised that I had created a portfolio of images on a theme. As any good hairdresser will tell you there is nothing like a good pun and so I entitled this portfolio 'Still Life'. I also worked with photographer and film-maker Craig Thomas on a short film containing a selection of these images. It was not long after I assembled the images in one place that I decided to invite some high calibre poets to respond to the images for a project called 'Picture This'.

The first poet to be featured is the inexhaustibly talented Aisling Fahey. Aisling has a way of telling the truth that breaks through the isolation of pain. I am honoured to have her take part.

Lock Perhaps you know where you are going, always have. Sceptics who call you lost don’t know that the ground is a map underneath your searching feet you will find your way.

Or perhaps this was all rushed - you left without a coat, keys in a heap on the floor, light catching dust particles through the slit in the curtain.

That is what makes me worry, that your compass is now a cross and you carry new destinations on your back like lead weight. You try to plan a route home, but the gravel gets caught underneath the heel of your shoe.

Around Camden in 5 Photos - a photography walk

Around Camden in 5 Photos – A photography walk Sunday 9th October

Start the new Jewish year with photographer and teacher Naomi Woddis as she shows you how you don’t need to have extensive technical skill or a flashy camera to be a great photographer. On a walking trip of the more hidden parts of Camden we’ll be finding stories everywhere – looking at sequence and how to create meaning and narrative in our photos.

The workshop is not about technical skills but instead about developing a photographer’s ‘eye’ - you’ll find imaginative and unusual ways to capture how we look at the world.

Please bring your camera – any model will do - from SLR to iPhone to disposable… Naomi’s last walk was a sell out so please book early!

Book here !