Silver & Light & Alchemy

I love this kind of passion, and to see this guy standing out like an extinct beautiful penguin or another rare critter.

I have been in love with photography since I was a kid with a 126 Kodak… I remember the excitement of waiting for the prints to come back from the chemist and later developing my own at college. It was real magic! I progressed from my beloved Canon A1, to an EOS 5 and then the Canon Digital Rebel or 300D as it was called in the UK. That was upgraded to a 20D, and my daughter was the last person to use that camera. I had a gorgeous collection of Canon “L” Glass lenses, but sadly I had to sell them for us to live.

No matter, I got an iPhone 4 eventually, and used that as my camera, and I had a lot of fun with Lo-Fi photography. I made a photo book , where all of the images were taken with my iPhone at train stations, or on trains in the UK. I need parameters or I go wild!

The thing is just about everyone is a photographer today, and we can all take very cool photos now, with the minimum of technical ability or skill and so it is more difficult to find something that stands out. I still swear that the best lens we have is the one in our eye and no amount of gorgeous glass can replace that for creativity.

At the end of the day cameras are just another tool. We can paint with a frayed twig, or a Kolinsky sable hair brush, but it’s what is inside that makes the image, tools only help us achieve our vision.

Watching Ian Ruhter in this video, creating paintings with light and silver, breaking the boundaries of basic  photographic materials of a long gone age, is just joyous.

Meeting the Shadow Self

I have been preparing for my seminar for Visual Culture, which is based on Jung’s process of Individuation. This involves meeting the shadow and dealing with it. I found this video by The Family Band. Fab video and for me it totally illustrates the whole shadow story.


The Alchemy of Black White & Red

The Brothers Grimm version of the fairytale of Snow White opens thus:

Once upon a time in midwinter, when the snowflakes were falling like feathers from heaven, a queen sat sewing at her window, which had a frame of black ebony wood. As she sewed she looked up at the snow and pricked her finger with her needle. Three drops of blood fell into the snow. The red on the white looked so beautiful that she thought to herself, “If only I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood in this frame.

My current work has so far all been in red, white black and grey, I am instinctively drawn to these colours, especially as I like winter which is very much the grey white and red season in nature, at least if you are lucky enough to get a decent winter.  I have been thinking about why I use these colours, and how predominant they are in some fairytales, like Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood. I found an article by English professor and author John Patrick Pazdziora about the alchemical symbolism of colours, particularly black, white and red, and they seem to fit the fairy tale narrative very well. This article by Pazdziora explains it very well:

The queen’s wish is for a child that’s black, white, red. That’s the classic color spectrum in literary alchemy.

If you’ve read Harry Potter, you’ve encountered a great example of literary alchemy, though the tradition is hundreds of years old. Here’s a crash introduction.* Each color represents a different phase of the alchemical process, or Great Work as the alchemists called it. Black signifies the nigredo stage, where the lead or base metal is burned, to remove its impurities. White is the second stage, albedo, where the purified matter is washed repeatedly to transmute it into the final stage, rubedo, signified by (you guessed it) red and gold. The beginning of the rubedo is signified by the blossoming of streak of red on the white metal; the metal is put into a container, symbolised by burial or interment in a coffin, until the transmutation is complete. The elements in the metal that were in opposition—fluid and solid, female and male, life and death, and so on—become reconciled; this is called the alchemical marriage.

What if  “Snow White” is an alchemical tale? The argument would go something like this.

   Snow White is the philosophical orphan, traveling through the three stages. The nigredo is her loss of home and self-identification in the forest, that labyrinthine fairy tale symbol for peril, liminal space, and the transmigration between worlds.The albedo is her time with the seven dwarf’s (and the number seven has so much symbolism surrounding it, there’s not enough space to even mention it here). She’s reached an equilibrium, and can be herself without the threat and shadow of the forest. The end of the calm albedo is signified by the arrival of the queen-crone, and specifically an apple that’s half white, half red. Snow White bites the red half and becomes as if dead. So she’s put into a coffin that’s decorated with gold lettering. The philosophical orphan is buried to wait for the completion of the rubedo. Enter a prince—the union of opposites and the alchemical wedding, and the completion of the Great Work.

Fascinating stuff, I can see I have years of inspiration and research from this fairy tale theme. I am going to apply the theory to Red Riding Hood and see how it works.Here is a doodle I was playing with earlier in my theme colours… I am taking photographs of local woods and adding red threads and playing in Photoshop. I think I am going to have a book of photographs as part of my work, photos of my work and stuff I have set up in the woods, my little house models etc.

photo 1

photo 2

Antlered creatures

I made this collage with my own photographs, manipulated in Photoshop, and then I used oil crayon to draw on the images and the gel medium on top to blend it all together.

I like the way that the differences between the girl (my gorgeous daughter Tabby is the model), and the wolf/deer man are subverted by both of them having antlers. I like this piece. I definitely seem to be focused on Red Riding Hood, woods, forests and wolves at the moment, so I am going with the flow.


Tree of the Day

Trees without leaves, all dark against wintery skies… they move me…

They make me grab my iPhone, and take photos, trying to capture the feeling I get in those 5 megapixels…

A 100 megapixels would not be enough, but I can try…


I love to shoot into the sun in winter, such a simple way to make magic…



Minus 11

I woke today to a glorious world of white. I love winter. I don’t mind that it was minus 11 degrees outside my kitchen door, or that my car windscreen froze over again right after I de-iced it. I don’t even mind that the water tank is frozen and there is no water for a shower or a cup of tea.

I don’t mind any of it, because I LOVE WINTER!!!




We live here…

When we first came to this land, I felt like a Borrower… The Borrowers are from a children’s book by Mary Norton. They are little people, they come out at night when noone is about and borrow things. they live in the same house as the big people but noone knows they are there. That’s how I felt… we lived here but noone knew, it felt surreal and dreamlike.

I still get that feeling 9 years later, often on the drive into town. I feel a long way from anyone, even me sometimes. And then views like this on a daily basis, just add to that feeling of surreality.



The Sunset & the Supermoon

Two great views within a couple of hours…

Wakapuaka Sunset


I like my iPhone camera… I may consider another DSLR… if I have a windfall… I have been having  yearnings lately… Must contact the Rebels… my old photo buddies from the days of the first Canon Digital Rebel, or the 300D as mine was called back in Blighty…

All Light on the Night…

Well I am glad I got some pics last night because it looks like Light Nelson may be cancelled this evening. These are some of my favourite installations. There were a lot of quite technical things this year, but I like the simple effects of light and shadow much more. I also like the recycled aspect. I thought this was a recycled event actually.

I think it is important to reeducate people though art, and recycling what would otherwise end up as landfill, into something beautiful, is a great way to do that.

So, without further ado, here are some of the best according to yours truly:

The Wormhole


Purple Haze


A bit of battiness


The Beatles meet Bach, or – While sheep may safely graze in lilac fields and last forever…


Goldfish and Pinkfish


A rose by any other name


Nature is hard to beat …


The Suter Cafe as Fairy Grotto


Underwater wedding dress


The unbreakable lightness of leaves – A light bulb garden…




The Light Shows

Today in the studio we all presented our Light Nelson Powerpoints for peer review. Personally, given the short time-frame I think all of the submissions were fabulous! Most of them fitted really well in the concept of Light Nelson.

I see Light Nelson as not just a light show, but as a lightening of the spirit and atmosphere, in the middle of the Southern winter. Not that I need lightening as I love winter most of all! I was very conscious of this, and also the fact that Light Nelson is a family event, and these concepts served to inform my views on what works and what doesn’t for this event.

My favourite installation I think is the one by Van Van and I… I really love it! A close second is Jess Shirley’s slideshow. It features photos of people around Nelson all saying why they love Nelson. Jess has written the statements on the photos and is showing them through an outside window at NMIT. It looked great on Friday! I love the celebratory atmosphere of this work, I love it’s positivity, and it is great to see all these happy smiling beautiful people! This for me embodies the very spirit of Light Nelson.

I also found out that my neighbour and good friend Linda is part of the slideshow!! You go gals!


My friend and neighbour Linda, or Mindy as I call her!

Photo by Jess Shirley