reading list | january to march

reading in a bookshop One beautiful thing about not studying (through the traditional means at least) is that I have so much time to read! And I love reading. It really makes me inexplicably happy. Why did I ignore it for so long.

I thought I would share what I have read so far this year:

  1. The Versions of Us – Laura Barnett. A kind of sliding doors novel it follows three alternate versions of a two people’s lives. One element that I found interesting was how the relationship you are in can influence your creativity.
  2. My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name – Elena Ferante. These are the first two books in this four part series. It is a saga of two friends growing up in Naples I am planning on getting the other two books in the series for reading on the beach this summer. They have been beautifully translated making the reading easy even though the books are slightly hefty.
  3. The Dust that Falls from Dreams – Louis de Bernieres. Honestly, this book is not Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and the female characters are a bit flat but I still really enjoyed this book. It has a bit of Downton Abbey about it too if you like that sort of thing.
  4. The Museum of Extraordinary Things – Alice Hoffman. Do you remember Practical Magic. I loved that movie as a young teenager. Anyway this is by the same author. Set in 1920s New York it was interesting to have a comparison between America and the UK (as in previous novel) of a similar time. One of the main characters is also a photographer which I liked reading about.
  5. The Signature of All Things – Elizabeth Gilbert. I thought I would read this after reading Big Magic at the end of last year. I love the big scope of the book and the interesting characters. Some strange bits but overall an enjoyable read.
  6. The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood. This was my first Atwood book and a very different style to what I was expecting. The book is set in a dystopian future where a lot of people have been messed up by an economic recession. A couple signs up to a new scheme where they spend alternating months between a home and prison.
  7. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie o’Farrell. I loved this book. An insight into how mental health was treated in the past the book switches between perspectives of Iris, a thirty something vintage store owner, Esme, the great aunt she has just found out about and has been in a mental institute for the last 60 years, and the ramblings of Kitty, Iris’s grandmother who has alzheimers.
  8. Everyday Sexism – Laura Bates. This is a big one. If you are a human being you should read this. Really insightful to think of how behaviours that are mildly sexist to disgraceful become normalised and how it is time to say no more.

If you love to read and have problems finding time for it this is a useful post to show you were you could fit it in.

Also any book suggestions would be appreciated!

where i’m at


I just wanted to put down my thoughts of where I am with my photography. More for myself really but perhaps it will help you to understand what posts are coming up.

Moving from London to Trieste has lead to a change in many things but also in the way I view photography. For years I was stuck in the thinking that I had to find a way to make money from my photography. I had to justify spending money on equipment by finding a way to make a good return on invest. And this I think has really held me back. I was stuck concentrating on the types of photography that would make me an income. Looking at what others were doing and whether there was space for me in the market.

With a language barrier and no hints of contacts I figured it just wasn’t going to happen. Which has given a rise to a sort of freedom. If I don’t have to make money from my photography I don’t have to be limited by what will make me money. And here is the shift: I want to create “art”. What art is exactly is still something I an considering. I am not saying I won’t be taking some snapshots of my life (see those on Instagram). Don’t worry I am not going to get all pompous. And I certainly don’t see myself suddenly making something worthy of a museum. But I do want to create something that has an intentional message in it, that makes people pause and look a bit longer. I think Robert Frank said it best

When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice – Robert Frank

Okay I will stop being so abstract now!

upping my photography game … or at least trying


So in case I haven’t mentioned it somewhere, I started teaching a photography class. My motivations were primarily selfish. I wanted to get back to thinking about photography. And I have to say I am enjoying really diving into things I haven’t thought about before. More deeply exploring concepts and ideas is something I love doing and I love that I have an excuse and motivation to actually do it.

In my explorations I came across this quote by Henri Cartier-Bresson:

If a photograph is to communicate its subject in all its intensity, the relationship of forms must be rigorously established. Photography implies the recognition of a rhythm in the world of real things. What the eye does is to find and focus on the particular subject within the mass of reality; what the camera does is simply to register upon film the decision made by the eye. – Henri Cartier-Bresson

It highlights several things to me:

  • The purpose of taking a photograph is to tell a story of a subject and you need to do everything you can to make that story happen.
  • Don’t just ‘take a snap shot’, make a picture. Be conscious and intentional when taking a photograph.
  • Photographs are created.
  • Understanding of art principles is really useful in creating these more considered images. I am currently learning more about compositional elements that I am looking forward to playing around with and sharing with you.
  • The camera is a simply a tool. The best camera you have is the one you have on you!

I suppose what I am saying in a nutshell is that I want to become more conscious when I am behind the camera. What do you think? How conscious are you when you are behind a camera?

On a second note, I am thinking of sharing some of my learning. I kind of see it as giving myself a diploma in photography and why not share that. So I thought I would share some great things I come across, photographers that inspre me and some of my experimentation. Yes? No? Let me know

on the kindle | daring greatly

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Inspired by Circle of Pine’s #theyearinbooks and my new kindle …

This might be my year of reading life changing books!

So I came across this Ted talk through the rabbit hole that is the internet and then realised that I just had to read this speaker’s book.

Brene Brown is an academic story-teller who has been researching shame and vulnerability for over a decade. Sounds like a fun book – right? Anyway, after years of study she realised that all the “Wholehearted” people she had interviewed, those who lived full happy lives, had one thing in common. They were open to vulnerability, they were willing to open themselves up to uncertainty and be all in.

Daring Greatly, explores our fear of vulnerability, how we protect ourselves from it, the price we pay for not being vulnerable and how to own our vulnerability. It also looks at the opposite of vulnerability, shame, and how it differs from guilt.

For me the underlying message is not what would you do if you couldn’t fail, it is what would you do even if you might fail. A much more vulnerable idea but one that is certainly mind opening.

A second idea that struck me was that we live in a ‘culture of scarcity’. We are always worried if there is enough. At the societal level we ask if there are enough jobs, money, etc but on the individual level we (definitely myself included) have a constant voice saying I am not good / thin / talented enough. And I certainly say I don’t have enough time on a daily basis. For Dr Brown the opposite of scarcity is not abundance but enough, what she calls ‘wholeheartedness’ which at its core is vulnerability and worthiness.

I have to say I think I am open to trying things out and taking risks but only in some areas of my life (hey, you don’t just wake up one day and find yourself in Italy). But I know that it is not something I do with my dreams of making photography a bigger part of my life. There were some big aha moments all through this book and I definitely recommend it to everyone. This is one for the boys too as I think if we all worked some of this into our lives the world would honestly be a better place.

If you don’t have time for another book check out the ‘original’ Ted Talk and this is a great longer form talk especially for creatives on Chase Jarvis Live.

I might move onto reading some of her other books or perhaps some of the other authors she mentions. Oh so many options.

Have you read any life-changing books this year?

well aware

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I was listening to a podcast this morning and even though it was an hour couldn’t stop listening (I am not one to normally listen to podcasts so that is saying something).

The podcast is the Well/Aware Show from Lindsay Mueller. In this first episode she talks to Alex Sharry, a rather awesome sounding yoga teacher.

The whole hour was interesting and I am even thinking I will go back and listen to it again tomorrow. But I thought I would share some of the words that Alex said about doubt, and intimate life and persistence which connected with me and I thought the words needed some writing down and sharing. They are a little disjointed and not verbatim so I hope Alex and Lindsay forgive me.

I doubt myself all the time, … and I think almost everybody doubts themselves all the time.

I guess the thing that helped me overcome my major self doubt was picking what it was that I love to do and doing it full time and seeing that I could. I think for a while most of my self-doubt stemmed from not really knowing what I wanted and therefore life just feels out of your control, especially if you are someone seeking an intimate life with yourself, a life where you feel fulfilled, a life where you feel like you are just going to work and going home … Find what it is that makes you happy and do it with no excuse.

The more you do what you love and the more you put it out there the more you exercise persistence, the more that everything you love will unfold and unravel. It doesn’t mean that self-doubt goes away but it gives you a confidence.

The more you see yourself and not your doubt the more you trust yourself.

Coping mechanisms for doubt:

Trust yourself more than it feels comfortable. Trust the world or whatever higher thing you believe in will show you clues when you need them the most

She also talks about perfection, mean girls in our heads, change and persistence and meditation. It’s a good one.

on the kindle | food, girls and amsterdam


Inspired by Circle of Pine’s #theyearinbooks and my new kindle …

I’m not one to give critical book reviews, I just don’t think I am that discerning. So I think I might stick to sharing what I learn from some of the non-fiction books that I read. I am kind of hoping to read at least two books a month. One fiction and one non-fiction. Increasing my literary intake is also necessary as the quality of my English seems to be deteriorating, although my Italian is only improving at an incredibly slow rate. Anyway!

This month I read a book-book, In Defence of Food by Michael Pollan. Mr Pollan and his book and ideas have been doing the circuit for a while but I spotted it on the library shelf at work so thought I would loan a book from a library!

Without giving the book away the principle behind the book is “Eat Food. Not too Much. Mostly Plants.” It is the first line of the book so really not giving it away.

It is very American focussed, but considering the American diet is pretty much going everywhere and I don’t think the British diet is that much better it is still relevant to other nations. Pollan basically scrutinises what he calls ‘nutritionism’. Food just isn’t food anymore because scientists tried, and still try, to reduce food down to its component parts and gave advise without really knowing what they were talking about leading to ‘component’ advice like the low-fat 80s and 90s and diets we get now which are low carb, high fat, high protein etc. Food exists within a context. You don’t just eat protein, carbs or fat. You eat a carrot (within the object of the carrot), within a meal, within a lifestyle and a culture.

One point I found particularly interesting and hadn’t really thought about is that as humans we can survive and be healthy on very varied diets. But not the ‘Western Diet’. Think for example the differences between the Masai who basically eat blood and meat, some cultures which are vegetarian, some like the Inuit who eat incredibly fatty diets. And they are healthy. But when we get to the Western diet which is full of food which is no longer really food we are becoming really really unhealthy.

His advice is to get back to a starting point of eating actual real food. Ones that don’t have hundreds of ingredients. Ones that your great grandmother would recognise.

Well worth the read if you are getting tired of all the fad diets.

On the fiction front I read Gone Girl. The first half of the book I was a bit bored and wondering what all the fuss was about but then it got interesting. Still not the most amazing book ever but worth the read. I’ll be interested to see how the movie worked out now.

I also picked up The Miniaturist because I had seen the cover and decided I wanted to read it and when Laura mentioned it was her book for this past month I thought I would check it out again and the price was reduced. I really enjoyed this book, just a story with a bit of magic running through it as well as intrigue and a bit of girl power in a sort of medieval laid back kind of way. I also now want to go back to Amsterdam for a visit.

Next on my non-Fiction list is This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. Not a light hearted read for sure. For the fiction side I might see if I can find something that is set in Japan.