Blog

Social media breaks during lockdown

Lockdown, a time when social media feels imperative to keep in touch with people outside of your household because lets face it, no matter how well you get along with the people you live with, its exhausting not being able to interact with other people. Its a time to call friends and family, play online games, Skype, whatever you do to keep in touch, which is currently my only use of the internet (other than writing this and watching copious amounts of Netflix). Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have been deleted for a few days now for the second time in 2 weeks because I could feel them causing my already high anxiety and depression to hit record levels. Why? It’s mostly down to loneliness. I haven’t spoken to anyone outside of my house in over a month (other than regular calls to my best friend and a Skype call with another friend, which was bizarre as we never video call). Its tough seeing everyone content with who they’re spending lockdown time with, not to say I want everyone to feel as isolated as myself, but its just tough to see and is a constant reminder that after 2 weeks of good luck and excitement prior to lockdown, Im now back to square one and feeling deflated, unmotivated and pessimistic about the future.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the weeks running up to lockdown, I finally got a photography job in a studio and was excited to finally feeling like I amounted to something and my degree was worth it. This was after around 9 months of working in a sector that I hated and was desperately trying to get out. Now I know the job will still be there for me when all this is over, but the end seems far off and being so close to pursuing something that I enjoy, just to have it taken away over night was a huge blow to my mental health. It also probably doesn’t help that the longer I’m waiting to start this job, the more I am doubting my ability to be able to do it well (even though I know I’m great at what I do, I wish my brain would stop being unkind). I then spent the first 3 weeks of lockdown battling to get paid by my current employers, which has just added to the exhaustion and bad mental state.

Anyway, that’s the background information on why my mental health is in absolute shambles, back to social media breaks. They’re not something I usually do, or at least not usually for extended amounts of time. My online presence is important to me, to show my work and make a name of myself, however my mental health needs to start coming first, especially in tough times. Usually my social media detox’s only consist of twitter and facebook because they can be the most draining. Theres an awful lot of information on there, its the place I come across the most transphobia, homophobia and harmful political views. Its also where I feel most inadequate and undervalued, so its a place I actively avoid if I’m feeling bad. Instagram however, is mostly harmless, but even that is taking its toll through lockdown. I am stuck in a rut, which is affecting my productivity and creativity, meaning I have nothing to share to make me feel as if I’m not complete garbage and to feel validated and loved for even 0.5 seconds (which I know, first world problems am I right?), so seeing everyone having the times of their lives, being productive and comparing myself to them is exhausting. A simple solution of course is to stop comparing myself to others, which is something I’m working on, but in order to do that, you have to take away the people you are comparing yourself to do.

I thought having no social media would mean I would be bored and sat staring at walls, which don’t get my wrong, I have been. But, I have also painted, started reading a book (the last book I read was too many years ago), relearning piano and learning not to put pressure on myself to always perform. I have also been watching more new movies that I otherwise wouldn’t have watched, since Im always exhausted, mentally and physically and so just rewatch the same stuff because I don’t need to pay attention. Its also been weirdly nice to not feel like I have to be on my phone all the time and responding to people as soon as they message me. It’s just nice to be able to breathe and take a break without feeling guilty. Of course I’m not saying, delete social media and feel better, nor am I saying that people shouldn’t be sharing the good times that they’re having right now, its your life, do what you want, but for me trying to eliminate everything making me sad has been a weird success.

Also, as of a yesterday, I have finally had a creative spark, which I otherwise don’t think I would’ve had if I was still wallowing in self pity and blankly scrolling through my phone (or maybe I would’ve, who knows!) but exciting post-lockdown stuff could be coming soon and I’m finally feeling positive.

Thanks for reading this little update, I hope everyones staying safe.

Alex

Comfort zone. Who’s that?

I have always hated people telling me to “come out of my comfort zone”, it exists for a reason, right? Why, when in regular day to day life I’m constantly forced out of my comfort zone, would I actively choose to do it. Now, this isn’t a post saying I did one time and my world view drastically changed and now I am a new person, just that sometimes, you can surprise yourself and actually do well outside of it. The key is not worrying.

As some of you know (if you actually regularly read my rambles) I have quite bad anxiety (understatement but here we are). So, when I applied to be a photography tutor, I slightly shocked myself and even though I talk the big talk of wanting to be paid for my knowledge, in reality I knew I would freeze up and possibly cry in front of a class who may not even be as remotely passionate as me. My application was accepted and my time tutoring began. I was about to be wildly thrown out of my comfort zone and into the deep end.

I ran my first class at the end of February and it was ridiculously nerve-wracking the night before as the reality set in that in 12 hours I would be teaching 12 people (max is 15 and I was told to not be disheartened if not many people sign up because they dont usually when it’s a new person). When throughout university I used to be panicking in front of 6 people I was truly deep in the panic and I was trying not to get into my own head. “I am good at what I do” I kept telling myself. “They’re here to learn not criticise”, only they were there to criticise- I was going to be rated to see if my employer wanted to keep me or not, but it was time to push those thoughts deep down and forget I was technically being graded.

On to the class. I’ve never taught, let alone done a photography walk. What on earth was I meant to do when I wasnt in a classroom setting like I am used to and I didnt want to make people feel as though they wasted money. I chose to go with my gut- it’s usually pretty good at being kind to me. I began with a brief introduction, everyone knew they were doing street photography. I had no idea what their definition of this was, but I’m the tutor, if they looked me up prior they would know my photography is often abstract, so that’s what they’re doing to get.

The themes I covered in quick segments (I had 2 hours to do everything) were:

  • Reflections- we were close to a river and canal, windows, puddles etc. How they wished to shoot this was completely up to them, I just wanted to get their brain thinking different with things they may not generally notice.
  • Close ups. This could either be suuuuper close or just focusing on one thing in the foreground. Again completely up to them, but as many of my projects do, I wanted them to focus on some finer details to tell their story of the area.
  • Old and new. Tell the story of economical growth in the area, the old and new structures next to each other. This could also include people, both old and young. Although I dont think many people thought of this, which is a shame as I know some people had strong views that I was doing street photography wrong and it definitely always had to involve people.
  • Long exposure. A difficult one on a bright day, but I reminded everyone that long exposure isnt necessarily 30 second exposures and could definitely just be 1/30 or just anything under 1/125 really.
  • Portraits. Pretty self explanatory to be fair. It just needed people who were ballsy enough to stand in front of a camera, which is of course hard to plan for because speaking from experience, most photographers hating being on the lens side!

Over all I really enjoyed myself and despite an issue with someone clearly thinking that because I am young I am inferior, I handled myself surprisingly well AND recieved a 5 star rating.

And of course, I took a few photos myself and here they are:

Trans male: A tale of femininity.

If you have ever seen any of my previous work, you’ll know I have talked about gender stereotypes and femininity before (in fact its almost all I talked about in my work last year). if you’re new here, feel free to familiarise yourself with my work on gender after reading this- its all very important to me.

I am a male. This is not how I was labelled at birth, so I am a trans man. I am on hormones, I have a lil ‘tache, I have had top surgery that masculinised my chest and intend on getting a hysterectomy in the future, when the time is right. However, my gender identity and gender expression, don’t quite “align” in societies “norms” and this has had me thinking quite a bit about whether the way I restrict myself to fit categories is just a principal of safety or trying to please gatekeepers and strictly binary people.

*note: through this I will be referring to things as “masculine” and “feminine”- this is to societies standards, I don’t believe clothes/make up/etc is gendered*

First I want to talk about toxic masculinity, something that plagues cis men and often stops them sharing emotions, crying, generally being a nice human. It also prevents them from stepping foot in the womens clothes department because oh god I’m going to be seen looking at flowery blouses. What an utterly diabolical thought. It also prevents men having their make up done, even just for a bit of fun. Note to cishet men: wearing make up doesn’t make you *gulp* gay. Hint: You’re gay if you got the hots for men. Now, I understand this is personal preference, I’m not saying ALL men should wear make up and dresses and feel comfortable, that’s not how this works, however, men who do, shouldn’t fear being called f*ggot, fear being harassed or fear being assaulted. That is where toxic masculinity comes into play. Just leave people to be as feminine as they please and basically don’t be an asshole just because your version of masculinity doesn’t allow for people to express themselves and feel pretty.

I’m not using this piece of writing to rip into cis men (although I definitely could, sorry).

Trans men are just as bad for gatekeeping and enforcing toxic masculinity. I’m not going to mention any of the “public figure” trans men who contribute to this as they try their absolute hardest to please terfs- lets just say they’re predominantly white and do not deserve any of their audiences. However, these are the kind of people who invalidate gnc (gender nonconforming) identities, call people “trenders” for not wanting every surgery going or acting in any way feminine when they’re “supposed to be a man”. Toxic masculinity.

I played my own part in toxic masculinity too, I didn’t invalidate others, but I definitely invalidated myself. I’ve always advocated for people to live how they wanna live, present themselves how they wanna present themselves, but somehow always managed to invalidate my own expression. This was especially true when I hadn’t started hormones and when I was on hormones but didn’t “pass”- terrible terminology, sorry! I was trying so hard to hyper-masculinise myself, so that I didn’t get misgendered that I pushed down any desire to wear women’s clothing, that honestly you wouldn’t have even guessed was from the womens department, but god forbid I wore womens trousers. I knew where it was from and this meant I wasn’t man enough. I know retrospectively realise that this wasn’t the case and I should have just wore what I wanted because in reality who gives a damn. I fully understand why I was like this, it was because the thought of being called “she” because I was wearing eyeliner would ruin me and crippling dysphoria would kick my ass and to be honest I got misgender enough without being openly feminine. Even now, when I pass 90% of the time, I don’t think I can leave the house wearing make up or a dress without being misgendered, but one day, maybe. For now, I’m like a teenage boy experimenting with femininity in front of the mirror, but keeping it a secret from the outside world in fear or judgement (or dysphoria).

One of my biggest issues with this whole masculine, feminine deal is; how come its generally ok for cis men to wear make up and dresses, but the second a trans man does, he is “detransitioning”. What kind of crappy double standards is that? How is it “yaaas qween” when cis male mua’s flaunt their looks, but a trans man gets maliciously misgendered. How is it “men in crop tops *heart eyes*” but only if they’re cis, skinny and white. All men should be able to express themselves without judgement. What makes it even worse is when the transmed lobby is screaming trender and making people who enjoy traditionally feminine things feel as though they’re not man enough.

So a reminder to my trans male siblings, you do you. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing being trans wrong. If you feel male, you’re male. Don’t let societies toxic masculinity stop you from expressing yourself how you want.

 

I hope this wasn’t too rambly- to put everything in short, do what makes you happy and stop feeding into toxic masculinity, its a very unattractive look on anyone.

 

Alex

New year, fine art

I’ve been sat over my coffee for 30 minutes now (its cold but I’m drinking it anyway because Starbucks prices are enough to bankrupt me) and I can’t for the life in me think of how to start this without it being cliche, so here goes.

Its 2020, meaning New Years resolutions- I haven’t made one as such, more just decided to take control of my mental health and live with a “what happens, happens”mindset, which I fear could be dangerous, but I’ll see how long it lasts. The ending of 2019 was a difficult one for me. Everything I thought could go wrong in the last few months did. The one that was the last straw was my surgery being cancelled with no warning and me only finding out when I’d travelled 2 hours to get there with a bag full of post-surgery necessities. I say necessities, it was mostly candy and Doritos but after my last hospital stay, the food just doesn’t cut it, I’m a growing boy. So after a December of mental breakdowns, rash decisions and screaming into the void, I have decided that the rational thinking I did post-breakdown, is something I am going to lead with this new year. I can’t be dramatic this year- it solves absolutely nothing and just exhausts me.

With that in mind, I did something that at the beginning of 2019, despite being medicated for anxiety, would have seemed impossible. I went to a public place and took photos using balloons. What- the? I hear you asking. You read right though. Now, throughout my entire time doing photography, I have never taken photos in a public space whilst drawing attention to myself. Sure, I’ve taken photos of nature, but that’s different, everyone does that. The closest I got to drawing attention to myself was using my homemade camera because no one had any idea what I was holding and why I wasn’t using digital, which is fair enough I suppose, we live in a digital era, why on earth would you go old school.

Anyway, back to my anxiety-inducing photoshoot with balloons. I went to a public space, granted not suuuuper busy, but baby steps right we’re only a week into the new year, and took photos of a balloon in different locations with the aim to create triptychs of a somewhat spooky balloon (thank you IT) in various locations. Now, where it starts getting tricky is the weather- its winter, dark and windy- not overly helpful when trying to capture balloons. Its even more tricky when you go with three already full of helium and within the first couple of photos one of them pops. Then the ultimate challenge comes when you haven’t got 3 shots of one colour and it’s almost completely out of helium and will no longer float. However, unlike my previous 2019 mindset of basically throw a tantrum and completely quit trying, I persevered and managed to get 2 whole triptychs out of a 4 hour shoot. Not bad going. Usually this would distress me because how on EARTH do I only get that many, how is it not more? Am I not good enough? But that is old me speaking, it doesn’t matter the quantity, the outcome was perfect, even better than I had planned and I am damn well good enough, the elements were just trying their best to kick my ass.

Live and learn right? Next time I will hope for better weather (difficult in England) and I have now made this project one of my ongoing ones for 2020, you never know, maybe I’ll incorporate people at some point- although I do like the sinister vibe (thanks again IT) of a single lone balloon. I do wonder if there would be a way to have a singular balloon and it not look like a screen grab from a horror movie? Maybe I’ll know the answer but the end of the year.

final red

The above triptych is the spookiest (AGAIN, THANKS IT) and one I am proud of on so many levels. First is my perseverance of getting a rapidly deflating balloon look neat, but the second is one I feel I’m not “meant” to talk about, but I am all about transparency, is my use of photoshop. Anyone who knows me, knows that for the last 3 years at least, photoshop has been on my “do not use” list, other than adding watermarks, I don’t edit anything using it. However, whilst my balloons were failing, I knew I wanted each triptych to have a water feature in the middle panel and this was becoming more and more difficult and this series were the second I shot and water just wasn’t possible by the time I got to it, so I used a photo of a yellow ballon that I had shot earlier and completely changed the colour to red (cheating I know), but I mean thats what photo editing is for, right? I must admit, it felt amazing being able to completely change something too, this series is fine art, not documentary, so why shouldn’t I try new things and everyone else does it!

So, so far this year, I have battled anxiety to create one of possibly my favourite photo series and learnt new photoshop skills and we’re only 6 days in. Starting the year with a lot of positive thoughts.

Thanks for reading,

Alex

Life update 15/12/19

Its been a while. Honestly I forgot, I’ve been super focused on sending out my daily doodles (if you wanna receive them there’s still time, just sign up to my mailing list). Anyway, I thought on my first real day off in quite a while (working a day job alongside photography is a pain), I’d update yall on stuff thats going on.

My life really isn’t interesting so apologies already. As I said, I’m sending out daily positive doodles for the festive season as I know it can be difficult for people for many different reasons and it may be their only reason to smile that day. You can still sign up to receive them in the sidebar (or bottom of the page if you’re on mobile)

IMG_20191130_0008.jpg
one of the doodles sent.

Other than that, i’ve really only been working my ass off to be able to afford moving- its started going surprisingly well, so i’m ever so slightly concerned.

Another big bit of news is that on the 19th December, I am going to be getting surgery, so im out of action again this Christmas- its basically a new tradition. However, this means that after Wednesday, I won’t be sending anymore parcels for a couple of weeks, whilst I recover, unless I ever so nicely ask my mum or brother to mail them (who knows?). This also marks the beginning of a new photography project documenting my trans-ness. Probably the last very personal one I do as I’ll have nothing left to say about myself after this. I will continue my works about trans people, theres still a lot to fight for and to be said about the trans experience in general! I just won’t really have any new big milestones to make.

I hope you enjoyed this real quick update, told you i’m not interesting in the slightest.

Thanks for reading

Alex

 

Being a creative in school

I think the title is pretty straight to the point. Im gonna be talking about being a creative in school, whether thats high school, college or university- they are all challenging times for creatives. This ranges from feeling shame that you’re not following a stereotypical academic path, that we are encouraged to follow from the second we step foot into education, to feeling limited by education as to what we are allowed to create or what will get us the best grade.

I didn’t really start actively pursuing creative studies until I was in my last year of high school, it was just something I did in my spare time. I wanted to go into journalism my whole way through school- so I guess somewhat creative but not in the same way that I am today. Anyway, my last year of high school I took art as a GCSE class and found a whole new path that I wanted to go down. I’d still take literature and language in college just to keep my options open, but it wouldn’t really be my main focus. In school, it was weird, I was terrified of people judging my art, I’d keep it hidden and only my tutor would see it, god forbid if my parents had ever saw it, I would have cried. I stayed behind a lot after school to do the work I hadn’t done in class because I would rather muck about in class and then do my work when no one was near me. I was insecure. Oh how things would change. During my art course, I was introduced to actually using photography as an art medium other than just taking pretty snapshots on a weekend. I never knew galleries showcased photography or that it was really even considered art. So, that was the beginning of something.

In college, that is when my camera obsession began. I took film studies and photography (alongside English lit and lang, but they’re boring) and started really creating for the first time. My first year was a bit of a write-off to be honest. It was me constantly begging my tutor for his opinion, asking if my ideas were ok and still being terrified to show my work to anyone. It was the same for my second year up to Christmas when, through the holiday, I had a stern word with myself and decided, I didn’t constantly need a tutors approval for my work and that if I just spent more time thinking it through myself and actually creating, it would work out a lot better. My grades improved massively (not that grades really matter, but they did if I was to go to university I guess). So, lesson number one; Don’t seek constant approval from others. At this point of my creativeness, I was also dead set on specialising in music photography, so I didn’t fully take fine art seriously. I had my eyes set on a goal and I would be damned if I changed path- if only 17 year old me knew that after a year of uni, I would have totally moved on from that dream. Although, I still wouldn’t turn down a music photography gig, I’d just have to think about how to work it around my style. Through college I completely neglected most things non-photography related, it just wasn’t my top priority, I wanted to make sure I became an expert in my field and between research files and essays, I knew which I preferred doing.

After trying to convince myself I didn’t want to go to uni, I ended up there after college. I combined my knowledge of film and photography and studied “photography, video and digital imaging” so again, my options were open to create video and to refine my skills in adobe premiere, or to focus solely on photography.

University was tough, everyone around me seemed to be doing hyper-academic classes and it made me feel very mediocre studying something that didn’t involve exams. I didn’t feel like I deserved to call myself a university student. Lesson number two; Being creative doesn’t make you less deserving. In my first semester, I had new lecturers to suss out. What kind of photography did they like? What was their aesthetic? How do I do well in their classes?

My first year and second, I did good, but not great. My end goal was to get a first class degree. I’d come so far and I didn’t want anything less than that (to be honest a third would have sufficed, but I had to prove to myself that I wasn’t shit) I got so obsessed with grades and pleasing others that I didn’t feel like I was actually doing the projects I wanted. My best grade was a project that I didn’t particularly listen to any criticism about, I just did it. Lesson number three; For emphasis: Don’t seek constant approval from others. Lesson number Four; Grades don’t actually measure your success. First year grades don’t count so that was pretty chill and year 2 I promised myself I would stop seeking approval and do my own stuff- I managed this most of the time, but there was still always something in the back of my mind questioning whether a specific project was good enough for a specific lecturer and it made me spiral a lot.

Third year was the one where I finally stopped giving a damn about other people liking me and liking my work. Instead of shaking through a presentation, I took deep breaths and spoke concisely through my pitches, I had a clear head to be able to answer an questions that might have been asked and I had prepared answers to these before hand. Showing my work at the end, just before it got graded, felt easy, I was confident about my work for what felt like the first time. I hadn’t tailored it to anyone but myself and I knew exactly what I was doing. I had completed one of my major projects in the summer break, so there was no way I was changing them if someone said it wasn’t good enough. I’d done exactly what I wanted, with no critical input and it worked out for the better and it was one of my best grades and allowed more time for my other projects throughout the semester. In December of my third year I also had surgery, which I thought I should reschedule and not risk my last year, but I didn’t. Again, this was something I wanted to do, it was something I needed to do and I knew I’d be able to work around it. Almost everything this year was planned to the minute before the first semester started and it was all on my terms and I would make it work no matter what. My third year was my best graded year and allowed me to leave university with a first- my goal in the first place. But more than that, I left with confidence and a sense of self and determination. Lesson five; Be confident and determined.

I made lots of calculated decisions in the summer leading up to my last year that I wish that I had done the year before, I got rid of lots of people who were holding me back and I was selfish in putting my future career before anything else and it paid off. Lesson six; Being creative is about putting yourself first and not losing sight of the end goal.

 

I hope this helps any creatives in education.

You do you and don’t let anyone or anything hold you back. This is a time to experiment and flourish, its okay to make mistakes, the path to creativity is a scribble and although confusing and sometimes discouraging, it will work out in the end. There is no right or wrong way to be a creative, only your way.

 

Alex

Trans awareness week: Being aware vs being a good ally.

What is the difference between being aware of trans people and being a good ally? Surely awareness is enough, right? Wrong. Theres a huge difference between just doing bare minimum and knowing that trans people exist and supporting trans people to the best of your ability.

It is one thing to say “yeah trans people exist” and another to say that trans people exist as well as understanding that gender is a spectrum and accepting all trans people, regardless of if they’re binary or not. A good way to be aware is by taking time to learn about trans issues. Not only by talking to trans people (sometimes we get exhausted explaining ourselves to people constantly), google it. Many trans people have written guides to being aware of trans issues, utilise these resources. Trans people do not owe it to you to explain everything about their lives and experiences. It. Is. Exhausting.

Be “aware” of trans people all year. We don’t all come out of the woodwork just for November. We exist all year. We struggle all year. We want equal rights and awareness, all year. Understand that we are not the enemy, we are simply living life and would like the world to be more inclusive of not only trans people, but everyone. It genuinely hurts NO ONE to make things inclusive, it does however, make marginalised groups feel more comfortable living. It is a win-win situation.

HOW TO BE A GOOD ALLY

  • Use a trans persons correct pronouns, even when they’re not around. I can’t believe this needs to be said, but if someone refers to your trans friend/family member/coworker with the wrong pronouns, correct them, don’t change how YOU refer to them. Most of the time, the person will be grateful that you corrected them. This is especially important with GNC pronouns. Always refer to people with the correct pronouns.
  • Call out transphobia when you come across it. No matter where you are, call transphobia out. Transphobia can come in many forms; from physical violence, to off the cuff remarks. Sometimes, people don’t even realise they’re being transphobic, until they’re called out. This is why it is so important to call it out, so that people not as educated as yourself in trans matters, can become a better ally and not harm trans people.
  • Dismantle the rigid gender norms. For everyone. Its all well and good saying “men should wear crop tops”, but when that translates to “cis men should wear crop tops”, it becomes an issue. Many times when trans people wear clothes that don’t fit the box that they’re confined into, they are accused of not being trans and this is so harmful. Be a good ally and say no to confining people to the gender norms. This includes non-binary people too. When a non binary person wears “mens” clothes, they are still non binary. When a non binary person wears “womens” clothes, they are still non binary. stop policing what genders can and cannot do and wear.
  • Learn inclusive language. This can range from using they/them pronouns to refer to someone who’s gender you may not know (or to refer to GNC folks), to calling “feminine hygiene” products “menstrual products”. This also means you need to understand that trans men are men, trans women are women and that a persons genitals does not determine their gender. Understand that it really isn’t that hard to be inclusive and once you get into the mindset, it is one of the easiest things to do.
  • Lastly, understand your cis privilege. Understand that people are more likely to listen to cis people as they are the minority, so amplify trans voices, rather than speaking over them. Understand that some trans people are in fact discriminated against and murdered, purely for being trans. This just isn’t the case for cis people. You. Are. Not. Discriminated. Against. For. Being. Cis.

 

Side Note: Support trans creators. Trans people are often discriminated against in the work place and find it harder to get and keep a job, so support them the best you can. It really is appreciated.

Go to your local TDoR (Trans day of remembrance) event on 20th November. A great way to kick off being a good ally, is to support your local TDoR event, where we mourn the trans people who have sadly lost their lives this year.