Having seen off 2015 and looking into the new year, it’s a good time to take stock. Some years are all about strong momentum, pushing forward with new ideas, projects and connections, and others are better for quiet contemplation and consolidation, even retreat.
For me, 2015 was mostly the latter. As I mentioned in my review of December 2014, that year had been challenging. Movement into 2015 was slow and steady – and that’s just fine.
Last January I gave a workshop to artists and creatives on showing and selling their work. The delegates were a small group of trained artists who wanted a refresher, and outsider artists wanting to know how to get their work out there to the public.
It was a great session for me personally because I adore interacting with artists. Visual creatives have such a unique way of seeing the world that I never fail to be inspired by what they do.
I was able to share what I know about showing work in galleries from my own experience as an exhibited photographer, describing how to get from concept to exhibition.
And listening to my group gave me new perspectives, practical information and lots of food for thought. The session went well, which really delighted me. It’s something I’m looking into developing further, and hope to get moving sometime early this year.
I also rebranded my business and redesigned all my websites. Doing things like this encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and acquire new skills – which is always a good thing.
The great thing about being a professional editor is that you get to collaborate with some wonderfully talented authors. A highlight of my year at the wordsmithing coalface was the pleasure of working on a book by the travel writer, Alan Whelan: Empire Road: Lake Victoria by Motorcycle.
Alan is an intrepid biker with an unquenchable obsession with Africa. As a writer he has great fluidity of style and a real skill for detail and injecting colour into scenes, bringing them to life for the reader.
An old-school traveller, he takes no mobile phones or GPS where he goes – just a change of clothes, a pack and his wits. This is how explorers did it in the past, and it’s great to know someone is still doing it today.
In his second book, The Black Stars of Ghana, which I also had the pleasure to work on, Alan biked around Ghana during the 2012 World Cup. Packed with encounters with local characters, muddy tracks, dubious food and even more dubious B&Bs, it’s a vibrant journey into the heart of a vibrant country. Empire Road continues in that vein, and I commend it to you as an excellent read – and not just because I edited it. If you love biking and adventure travel, it’s a must.
In 2015 I returned to Hidcote Manor Garden to pursue my ephemeral love – garden photography. It’s my annual pilgrimage to a beautiful arts and crafts garden in the Cotswolds.
I also did a quick taster of the architectural and urban photography project I want to pursue this year. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time to travel to do some proper photography, but I have promised myself that in 2016 I will get this project under way.
Quote of 2015
“We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.”
@CIA, on Twitter
I love spies with a sense of humour. Who needs Homeland when you’ve got the real deal on the interweb?
Person of the year
I have no one individual to recommend as inspirational, a guide or leader (the list at Time magazine contains some debatable choices!). The one person I cannot describe as inspirational is Richard Prince, who caused quite a stir in the art world and on social media in 2015. Those of you who know about his ‘photography’ will know why.
My person – indeed, people – of the year are the unsung heroes selflessly caring for others without fanfare or plaudits.
The medical staff of Médecins Sans Frontières and all aid workers helping others in desperate circumstances. All staff in the NHS, beleaguered by cruel cuts. Anyone who serves their communities, be it giving food and clothing to the homeless, to organising street festivals, visiting the elderly and sick, comforting the distressed or simply offering a non-judgemental ear, whether in person or online. The good people in Paris who offered shelter to those fleeing for their lives.
I lived in London all through the IRA bombings in the 1990s. I know what it’s like to step out of your front door to go to work and have to face the very real threat of terrorism every day. I was near Manchester Square when the Oxford Street bombs went off in 1992. Friends of mine were minutes away from the bus bombing on 7/7 in 2005. I remember that day: making frantic phone calls to check they were ok, not being able to get through. The mobile network was overwhelmed with desperate callers. I finally got hold of them many hours later – thankfully, they were safe.
In these turbulent times, there may appear to be little humanity in the world. So I want to leave you with this thought at the beginning of 2016, as we look into an uncertain future.
Those who harm others with cruel intent do not belong. They have placed themselves outside of humankind.
Whatever you do, in whatever small way to help another, you are kindness personified. Your effort helps everyone. On a clear night, you can look up at the stars and say: ‘I belong.’
We are a community of people, and a community of good. In 2016, let’s look after each other.
I wish you and yours a very happy and peaceful new year.