A notice popped up on my email saying something along the lines of ‘calling for images of cages!’. Way back in university I remember photographing some beautiful vintage birdcages so I decided to dig out my old hard drive and see what I could find – and oh boy did I find a treasure trove that I was not really prepared for. Unfortunately, I found no images of cages, but what I did find was really quite exciting and strangely cathartic.
There were a lot of images of my old photo work from studying at university. I mean, mostly there were just so many memories crammed into one dusty hard drive but I found access to images that I really thought were long gone and that I would never ever get back. Result!
Finding the Treasure
Amongst those images was a series from my very early uni projects (around 2011) and one of my only photographed on 35mm film. I can’t remember much about the brief now but I think it may have had something to do with constructing your own reality within a small series. While I look back and see I didn’t quite do what they asked for, they make for pretty awesome images still and I’m definitely going to add these to my images for potential book covers. Back then I remember having so many ideas for use of silhouette photography within portraiture and this was my first foray into the field.
Learning From Past Work
The lesson I learned from looking back on this old work was that photography can be fun and playful, and sometimes I really lose a sense of that. You can experiment and get strange but brilliant outcomes and just go with what you fancy. I’m definitely going to try and incorporate that more going forward.
So, here we are – these where taken in a studio on 35mm film which I then developed, scanned, printed etc. When I found them this week I also added a bit more magic to the colour, mostly inspired by the book cover idea.
Cirque De La Silhouette
Learn more about my uni photography experience here:
I’ve thought about writing about the books I read for a little while now, and went back and forth whether or not to include it in this blog. But, you know, this blog is my place on the internet so I think it’s the right place for this to go. I am a *fairly* slow reader and I procrastinate reading – So here goes, here are the three books I finished in January this year.
January has been a good reading month, for me three books is a big achievement. Last year I slowed down with reading for a lot of the year and was in a bit of a reading slump.
This blog post is spoiler free and all my own opinions.
The Break by Marian Keyes
‘The Break’ focuses on the main character, Amy, when her husband decides he wants to take a six month break from their marriage – and act like they were both single again.
I was really sceptical about this book. What first turned me off was that it’s pretty big book at over 500 pages long, and the subject (marriage) wasn’t something I had that much interest in reading about. It had been on my shelf for a few months when a friend of mine said it was really good so I decided to give it a go.
It was the kind of book that had such a ‘smooth’ writing style that I surprisingly just sailed through it. The chapters are really short which really adds to that 1:00am ‘just one more page!’ kind of tradition, and keeps you reading more and more. It seemed fast paced, and I really liked that.
The subject of marriage and taking a break was also something that hit me right in the heart. I really felt for Amy and could make so many comparisons to my own life and laughed and cried along with her. I thought she made some rather bad decisions, but I could also see why she made them.
The ending was just what I wanted. I’m not going to say any more but as my first Marian Keyes book and first chick-lit read over about 300 pages this was a little gem.
As the first book I finished from 2019 it was inspiring in a lot of ways and hey, it feels great to finish a big book. On goodreads I rated it 4/5.
Podkin One-Ear by Keiran Larwood
The first thing that drew me to this book in Waterstones was the gorgeous illustration on the front of the book. I really like reading teenage / children’s fiction and this was so cute that I picked it up and held it tight. I saw that the author was from the Isle of Wight (relatively close to me, and I used to go on holiday there as a child) and it all seemed exciting and interesting.
The book follows a young rabbit (Podkin) whose warren is attacked by the evil Gorm and his quest to escape them and put things right.
The reason I like children’s books is that they really do not hold back when it comes to really descriptive and visually interesting characters, and the whole magical worlds that they create. The amount of creativity it endless and it’s a wonderfully freeing place to be – this book was no exception. As with a lot of children’s books the ultimate goal was doing good and defeating evil, and sometimes you just need a reminder of that featuring a badass rabbit with one ear.
There were moments in the middle of the book where I felt it was a little slow moving and I was keen for it to move on to the action again, but overall it was fun to read.
Heartless by Marissa Meyer
So there is definitely a theme with the books of January – suprise greatness. Heartless by Marissa Meyer is not one of my favourite books. It follows the story of the Queen of Hearts when she was a young girl who just wanted to open a bakery. Think Wicked from the Wizard of Oz – it’s the Alice in Wonderland version.
I have never really liked Alice in Wonderland – shock horror, I know. I thought it was a bit too crazy for me, and none of the characters ever really appealed to me. I suppose what I saw of it I found a little bit creepy. I had also read ‘Cinder’ and started ‘Scarlet’ by Marissa Meyer, another series based on fairytales, and I didn’t really get on with them much. I don’t really know what drew me to this book – I suppose I just love a good villain.
This book has now made me love the world of Wonderland. I now get very happy when I hear references to it in other media. The way Marissa Meyer writes is so full of whimsy and magic it put me in a good mood. The main character – Catherine – is a badass and I really enjoyed following her story. Because I’m not too familiar with the original story, I tended to not see things coming so there were many OOOHHH moments when I realised I recognised certain characters and joined the dots to how they related to the original story too.
My favourite part of the book – the male love interest. I don’t want to say too much, but he was the most beautiful character and I could read about him all day.
Currently Reading: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
At the moment, I’m only around 100 pages in so far and I’m really enjoying it. There is so much science that my head feels like that meme…
I’m waiting for the dinosaurs to start escaping and causing mayhem. I hope I stick with it and it’s as good as I want it to be.
If you’ve stuck with this blog post then you get a huge gold star and thank you for reading.
Do you have any reading recommendations?
Jasmine Aurora x
I invite you to follow me on Instagram where I’m usually hanging out.
Choosing what degree to study is a big decision. A lot of us (in the UK anyway) will only be able to get student loans to study one degree, so it’s important to know what you are getting into. Here’s a little bit of background of what led me to my photography degree, and how I made the decision.
Side note: Also accompanied by my old photography work at the time.
I always found academic things at school fairly easy. I enjoyed learning so I didn’t find it difficult to pass my GCSEs. At the time I was torn between going into some sort of academic work and pursuing my love of acting – therefore the A Levels I chose where Drama, Psychology, English Literature – I wanted a ‘softer’ subject to choose as my fourth option so I landed on photography because I knew photoshop and enjoyed making things. As it turned out – this was not how it all panned out. Due to some health reasons I had to drop drama and psychology, meaning I was left with two a levels in English Literature and Photography. I loved both of these subjects by the end of it, but the biggest surprise was Photography. Initially taken as a fun fill in, it soon became something I was so fascinated by and loved creating. I was good at it, and I only wanted to create more.
After A Levels I had a decision to make – what could I do with 2 good a levels? At one point I had decided to go back to college to study sciences (sometimes I wish I had) but the one subject I knew I could succeed was photography – and I suppose that’s how I ended up applying and getting accepted into the University for the Creative Arts.
Making the Decision
Looking back it was quite a snap decision. I thought I had to go to university straight away, I didn’t have any kind of plan for the future and I chose a subject that I thought I would enjoy and be okay at. I think nowadays a lot of university decisions are made in this kind of situation. If I could do it all again, I think I would have taken a year out working to think about what I really wanted to do rather than rush into a degree, but that’s how it worked out.
Okay, on to the things I wish I had known before studying a degree in photography.
What I Wish I Had Known
1- Photography is a lone subject and 100% means you need to put in the effort to make it something. In a lot of other subjects (eg. english, illustration) you can work all evening on your projects to perfect them. In photography you have to go out there and get the shots at the right time / place / moment. Therefore to get on well in photography, you need to be a proactive and self motivated kind of person. You can’t leave things until the night before it’s due apart from that one time.
2 – There are quite a lot of theory lectures. At the end of the day, it’s studying a degree and there are essays and a dissertation. A lot of universities have a department to help if you’re struggling, but be prepared to learn all about post modernism, psychoanalysis, image punctums and the social and cultural effects of photography. There is reading list like with any course.
3 – You get to use some pretty awesome state of the art equipment for free. Use it as much as you can! It’s amazing. I spent hours in the dark rooms, shot on a digital Hasselblad and huge old film cameras, rented a big studio whenever I wanted and had the run of a huge library full of the best books. All the computers there had the full Adobe Creative Suite too. Oh man, I did not take enough advantage of that and I MISS it now.
4 – You will probably leave doing a completely different form of photography than you started. I went in all photoshop heavy and over edited and came out wanting to make meaningful documentaries. It’s all part of the process. You learn a lot, and it changes how you work.
5 – They probably won’t teach you much about digital technical skills. I’m not sure if this was just the uni I went to, but we had next to no training on cameras, lighting and studios. These where the things we were expected to already know, or if we didn’t, to find a book about it.
6 – A lot of universities (definitely UCA) focus a lot on analogue film photography. It’s fun, but be prepared for that.
7 – Different lecturers will have different opinions and mark your work very differently. It’s frustrating and subjective but that’s just art. I once was doing a documentary project and my tutor told me to remove an image because it stood out as being too different. In the next tutorial, a different tutor told me I should 100% KEEP it. So, who knows. I also had a tutor once who would talk about Martin Parr forever. (PS: I really like Martin Parr’s work it just became a bit of an in joke)
8 – When you leave there are no jobs. Okay, so there might be the lucky few who fall into something salaried, but a lot of photography work is freelance or personal projects. A degree in photography is not a ‘fast track’ to earning a lot of money as a photographer. Afterwards, you’re on your own with how you choose to apply the skills to your life. Out of the people I’m still facebook friends with, only a very small handful are still pursuing photography. A few people have gone on to related skills like design or marketing, but I think most have left photography behind.
9 – It can be really expensive. The equipment side of things is sorted (and amazing) but like with any art subject, projects are self funded. If you want to photograph a series abroad then you need to fund that, or if you want to creative a2 framed prints you need to fund that too. There is a lot to be done to keep the costs down, but it can get expensive. When you study analogue film, which for me was compulsory, the cost of dark room paper and buying film is a lot.
Overall, I’m happy with the knowledge and experience I got out of studying a photography degree. There are some times that I wish I had studied something with a more linear career path in the sciences, but there are also some times that all I want to do is photography. It’s hard to know right now. I’m still finding my path.
I hope this has been useful to anyone who’s thinking of taking their study of photography further, please feel free to ask if you have any questions and I will help if I can.
Hi everyone! It’s getting so close to Christmas now isn’t it? It’s definitely time to throw on a festive jumper and dance around to some tunes on Spotify. As a photographer, something I often forget to do is photograph my own family. Part of this is because I want to be in the moment and chat and laugh and experience it all, part of it is because bringing a big camera everywhere can be cumbersome and part of it is just that I forget.
I run a business in family photography – I often instill in my clients the importance of having photos of your loved ones and lovely moments to look back on and how precious family photo sessions are. This often overtakes my own need for family photos, and from now on I want this to change. These are all moments that I want to remember too – I want my family printed on my wall, and it’s completely within my power to do so.
This weekend I was able to travel back to my hometown to see my parents and family, something that I only really manage to do a couple of times a year. It was such a lovely weekend and I’m so happy that I’ve now got the memories AND the photographs too. It was all very festive. We walked around the street fair on Friday night, full of people dressed up as elves, a santas grotto and lots of children singing carols. On Saturday we headed to Gunwharf Quays and there was also a rock choir there getting all Christmassy and festive. It was also my nan’s 80th birthday so I was so happy that I got to be there to celebrate it with her too.
Going forward I want to create my own photobooks of MY family and get some lovely portraits to print on my wall.
As someone who relies on external hard drives for everything, I knew that one day I’d be writing a post like this. At some point, technology fails, and I count myself as super lucky that this is the first time ever I have had a hard drive fail on me. I just plugged it in one day, and along with some very questionable noises coming from it, it never showed up again.
Luckily, I was pretty much prepared for it to happen after hearing about horror stories from a lot of other photographers. All of my work for clients is safe and the only things I lost were a few personal photos and a few random files. I am very lucky, and I’m glad I took the basic measures to get things backed up. HOWEVER, this has given me warning for the future – I think there comes a (usually disastrous) moment in everyone’s life where they see the need to back things up, and this just happens to be mine. If you haven’t taken to back up or protect your files, then please let this little post be a reminder to do that. Share it far and wide to get the message to everyone one there.
1 – Create a ‘Mirror’ hard drive which doubles up your current hard drive.
There are various softwares that can do this for you, or you can always do it manually by copying photos to both whenever you import.
5 – Don’t wipe your memory cards for important jobs
A more expensive way of doing things and not necessary for everyday things – but if you have that Really Important Job™ it might be worth adding the cost of new memory cards that you never delete from or reformat.
6 – Don’t store things directly on your computer if you can help it.
Working off of backed up hard drives and online storage is generally more reliable.
Previously, I was probably utilising 3 of these methods on a consistent basis which is how I was able to get over this pretty unscathed. However, I’m still going to try and go through some data recovery to get back anything that I lost. It’s expensive though, and can be so easily prevented.