Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A weekend of photography and art

This weekend is going to be rather busy.

Last year I teamed up with several other local, professional photographers to form the Galloway Photographic Collective. The idea is we are pooling knowledge, experience and resources to promote our businesses, photography, and this corner of Scotland.

It’s taken a few months and lots of debates and decision making, but we are officially launching this weekend.

On Saturday evening of March 31st, there will be a preview of our joint exhibition at The Catstrand, followed by a talk by internationally renowned photographer, Colin Prior.

The following day is an Open Studio Trail with 4 different venues where the public will be able to view photographs, talk to the photographers and sample their home baking.

It’s all looking to be quite an event.

Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to attend as I had already arranged to be at the Scottish Tattoo Convention in Edinburgh that weekend (see earlier post) taking photos of people with ink-adorned bodies.

However, my photos will be on display at the Catstrand and at the Lock Ken Gallery and Café, where Allan Wright has kindly given me some wall space for the Open Studio Trail.

And if all this wasn’t enough, the WASPS Studio buildings in Kirkcudbright, where Maggie has her studio is also having an open weekend for the public to view and buy art direct from the artists.

So if you're any where near the South West of Scotland this weekend, there's a visual feast to be had.

If you'd like to keep up to date with developments and events from the Galloway Photographic Collective, then do visit and "Like" our Facebook page, which can be found here:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

World Down Syndrome Day

I don't suppose there are many readers of this blog who don't know my daughter, Meg, has Down's Syndrome, but some will have forgotten, and some might be new visitors.

Down's Syndrome is also known as Trisomy 21 - this is based on the fact that people with DS have 3 chromosones instead of 2 on the 21st pair. So for the past seven years or so, 21st of March - using the numbers 21 and 3 in the calendar - has been recognised as World Down Syndrome Day.

The idea is to raise awareness and reduce ignorance and discrimination.

So if you would like to know a little more about this condition, then feel free to ask and I'll do my best to enlighten you.

Alternatively, to find the posts I've written about DS over the years, then please click on this sentence.

Down's Syndrome - it's not half as scary as you think...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Portrait and Tattoo Photography

There were only 2 things my father really objected to – 2 things he absolutely wanted his kids to avoid – smoking and tattoos.

All three of us took up smoking, and both my brother and sister ended up with tattoos.

I thought about getting a tattoo at the same time my siblings did. A friend of my brother was wanting to start up as a tattooist and was looking for people to practice on for free. I began thinking about possible designs, but wasn’t particularly impressed with the artistic skill now permanently embedded on the upper arms of my brother and sister and I decided against it. If I was going to endure a huge amount of pain for an image I would be carrying with me for the rest of my life, then I’d want something a little more meaningful and professionally done.

And so the moment passed. A few years later I met my wife, 3 months after I had given up smoking, and she wasn’t particularly impressed by tattoos, so it was never given serious thought again.

Last year, invited by a guy I’d photographed singing in his punk band, I went up to Edinburgh for the Scottish Tattoo Convention. As a portrait photographer who loves faces, seeing all these people covered in piercings, tattoos and more than a few outlandish hairstyles, I felt like a kid in a cookie factory (click here for the blog post about it).

One of the things I came to realise afterwards, was there seems to be very little good tattoo photography about. There are millions of photos on the web, but most are very amateur. It seemed odd to me that people can pay hundreds of pounds, even thousands, for their tattoos, and yet the best photo they have of them was taken on a phone or a cheap camera in poor lighting.

In response to this revelation, this year I’ve taken out a stall at the Scottish Tattoo Convention (Sat March 31st & Sun April 1st) and will be setting up with camera, lights and a laptop. For a very reasonable rate (dirt cheap in fact, until I can work out what the market is likely to pay), I’ll take their photo, edit it right there and email it to them so they can put on Facebook, print it out for their wall or send it to their granny.

So for the past couple of weeks I’ve been honing my skills by taking photos of anyone I can grab with a tattoo and have been discovering it’s quite a different kind of photography to my usual black and white portraiture. Not only am I having to think much more about colour, it can also be a tricky thing to strike a balance between a person’s face and their tattoo - because that’s mostly what I want to do – take portraits of people with their tattoos rather than just the tattoos on their own.

I’m in the process of getting a banner printed up to hang above the stall to attract attention. Ami, with her brightly coloured hair, piercings and back piece that runs from her neck to her derriere was an ideal choice.


For a few more photos of the colourful Ami, check my Facebook or Flickr pages.

I’ll be taking my son, Rogan, along with me - partly for the company, and partly to help deal with waiting customers when I’m busy.

However, I’ll be letting all the tattoo artists know he’s only 16 years old, and he will not be allowed to enter the Win-a-Free-Tattoo competition...

Thursday, March 08, 2012

I Blame Batman...

Anger is always righteous.

It is a response to perceived unfairness, injustice and wrongdoing.

It induces mental and physical changes as we gear up to challenge the misconduct or atrocity. The heart rate increases and adrenalin surges through our body.

It is a reaction designed to be immediate and temporary – mentally it will often shut down, or at least muffle, the parts of our brain that would normally think of long-term consequences, and physically it kicks open the same physiological sequences as the fight-or-flight response.

It was not designed for the long-term.

Indeed, anger that festers and smoulders over an extended period will start to damage the body and begin to lay down pathways and connections in the structure of the brain, which will make it easier and quicker to activate the higher energy, mental and physical anger reactions.

Ultimately, if it is not dealt with and let go of, over time it can lead to a whole range of destructive conditions, from high blood pressure to sleep disorders to digestion problems to heart attacks.

So where on earth did I get the idea that holding on to anger was not only a good idea, but a righteous, heroic thing to do?

I blame Batman.

In the ongoing implementation of Mickel Therapy strategies – becoming aware of symptoms of ME/CFS and tracing the underlying emotional responses to the situations they occur – periodically mini revelations will happen. Certain things I was completely unaware of, or had never questioned, reveal themselves in a forehead-smacking, “D’oh!” kind of way.

One of the more recent was the realisation of how often I have held on to senses of anger and injustice for very long periods of time – way beyond any point they could conceivably been of use.

I realised a few years ago I had to let go of righteous indignation whenever possible as it would wear me out as quickly as physical exercise. I had 10 minutes of “This isn’t fair!”, then my brain would fog over, pull the plug out and I’d keel over.

So for some time I’ve been trying to avoid taking too many new injustices on board. But what of old ones? And why should they still be there many years or even decades later?

My favourite superhero as a kid was Batman – the only one without a superpower. He was strong, athletic, intelligent and on the side of good against evil. What a great role model.

He was also dark, secretive and moody. His parents had been murdered in front of him as a child, but rather than be broken by this, he channelled all that anger, injustice and rage into instilling fear into the heart of wrongdoers.

My original favourite superhero had been Superman, but then our parents bought me and my older brother 2 large books with a collection of the best stories of Superman and Batman, and gave the Superman one to my brother.

Initially I felt I’d been handed the 2nd prize. Once again – just like clothes, bikes, toys, record players and anything else you're given as the 2nd son - my older brother got the best, and I got what was left over.

So rather than allow my brother to have the better book than me, I made Batman my own. He was MY superhero. He was BETTER than Superman because he didn’t have to rely on stupid alien superpowers. Superman was just some silly goody-two-shoes, whereas Batman lived in the dark, dealing out justice in a more visceral way. The dark heroic knight.

As a child who was bullied in primary school, the idea of taking all that anger and outrage and injustice that I felt, and channelling it in such a way that in later life I would be able to make those bastards pay, had a great appeal.

Being angry no longer needed to be followed by feeling useless and impotent – I could store it up, I could save it for the right moment, like collecting coupons and cashing them in when you really needed it.

And I knew that Batman would be a Scorpio, because I was a Scorpio, and according to The Compleat Astrologer, Scorpios were the darkest, most secretive and deeply, powerfully emotional of all the star signs. That was me, that was.

And let’s not forget Kenny Rogers song “Coward of the County”, where after years of taking abuse from the local cowboys, the young lad who’d promised his dying father he’d never fight, finally lets all those years of abuse flow out into a righteous, heroic act where he beats up all the bad guys single handedly.

The strong, silent type, with dark, brooding depths barely concealed beneath the calm exterior.

The fact I’ve never been silent in my life and have always blethered on endlessly was completely ignored or forgotten, and actually points to the fact this role model was entirely the wrong one for me.

I’ve always craved love, warmth, friendship, openness, communication and cooperation – about as far removed from Batman as you can actually get.

But growing up I thought this was the way I had to be. Storing up and holding on to anger, injustice and outrage so that one day I would be able to channel them all into saving the world.

The latest revelation, then, has been that I’ve taken this notion for granted for so long, it’s never occurred to me to question it, until now.

D’oh! (slaps forehead)

Friday, March 02, 2012

Never Ending Coffee

Some of you might remember back before Christmas I put together a wee animation using the online site, "GoAnimate" (see Animation)

While going through some old notes for the Somewhere to Store Them blog, I discovered a short sketch I'd forgotten all about, but felt it might work using this animation system.

So, if you have 40 seconds to spare, click below.

However, if for some reason it doesn't work (or isn't there), then follow this link instead: Never Ending Coffee by kimayres

Like it? Create your own at It's free and fun!