Wednesday, 7 March 2012
When I was in my early teens a combination of events ended in my losing confidence. I went from being a happy, galloping being, running free, to a captured one that slowed to a canter, a tired trot, then stumbled to a halt and fell. They break in horses, don’t they? I was broken all right.
I got up, of course, but kept on falling for many years. It was a very frightening, lonely time that involved hospitalisation, shrinks, anti-depressants, truth drugs – years that I prefer not to dwell on. I hit rock bottom more times than I care to remember, but finally, one day, in part due to a lovely fellow called Paul, I started coming up again. Yet it was a fragile ascent, for at my core was this terrified girl who was lost. Stumbling. Falling.
Fast forward 40 years and life – and several men in particular – have helped turn me into a stronger, wiser woman. Just as overly sensitive but I understand myself better, and having lived with Pip for 14 years, I have some knowledge of complex men. I trust myself and the fates that although tragic things happen, there are joyous things in life. Joyous people.
Just before he died Pip got a fabulous camera for his 70th birthday and the idea was that we’d share it – I would use it to take pictures for my walks for Cornwall Today. And while it has an idiot’s guide on it, I wanted to understand how the camera works so I could take good pictures. So I enrolled on a photography course.
A photographer friend had told me I had a good eye, and would soon pick it up and get my pictures published. So I went along that first day full of excitement and anticipation.
I left the first class nearly in tears. In the space of three hours, I entered a time capsule. I sped backwards, faster than the speed of light, and once more was that crying, lost little girl. “I don’t understand,” I kept saying. Not having a logical brain, I really struggle with the technical side of photography. But I couldn’t understand when the tutor explained.
This is the third course – the first was cancelled, the second was slightly better and I am keen to learn, and there are no other courses at the moment. This time I decided to go armed into battle. I tell myself that I’m not stupid. I expect to be made to feel an idiot and have to deal with it. And keep asking him to explain.
I have learnt a little. But the basic mechanics of photography elude me, like a fragile dream on waking. The other day the tutor said (in exasperation, I fear), “It’s just a matter of fractions,” and my brain had a seizure. I’ve never understood maths so numbers make my head spin. In fact, at the moment, photography makes my head spin.
A good friend has lent me some amazing books on photography. “Look at them and try not to get too bogged down in the technical side of things,” he suggested. “Go out with other photographers if you can.” Good advice – and one which I am following, though my photographer friends are very busy so it’s not a regular thing.
My pictures are published every month alongside my walks, but they aren’t as good as I’d like them to be, and I would like to understand more.
I very nearly didn’t go yesterday. I’ve been feeling exhausted, not able to sleep. But when I finally dragged myself out of bed, the sun was shining. We went to Swanpool and had an hour taking pictures focusing on composition. We had one-to-one tuition which was a great help and a few things started to come clear. I was quite pleased with the pictures I’d taken.
What I need, I think, is more one-to-one help. My dear friend Michael is going to give me a technical lesson on Friday (this could be the end of a lovely friendship) and I’m going to ask my photographer friends if they can be patient and go out with me and take pictures so I can learn on the hoof.
The amount I need to learn lies before me, like scattered pieces of a vast and complex jigsaw puzzle. So far I’ve fitted together three bits – of sky, of sea and of sand. Only another 9,672 pieces to go….. In the meantime I try and hold fast. I can do it, I keep telling myself. I can. I will. I hope.
To end on a cheering note – This afternoon I will be talking to Philip Marsden (author of The Levelling Sea) for my new walks book about Cornish writers. We will be discussing St Mawes, one of my favourite places. And his.