Work in Progress
Fast Forward, Highly Commended, 2020 King Lear Art Prize in the Chairman's category for professional artists.
Verdure was developed during the pandemic lockdown in Scotland. This series explores the benefits of interacting with the natural environment for mental wellbeing. Continuing to engage, through photography, with the outdoors became for me an important part of managing lockdown. The growing scientific research of Ecotherapy shows a strong link between time spent in nature and reduced depression, including lower activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is active during thoughts focused on negative emotion. It has been found that time in nature lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Over the last eighteen years I have spent much time in wilderness areas, and meeting with fascinating people in interesting places, collaborating with them to take their photographic portraits. My photographic series have always centred on the stories of the people I meet.
In Verdure I create fantasies that come from within myself, constructed to tell a story. Using post-processing techniques, the images become an alternate reality, a temporary escape from the real world. The natural environment becomes the focus of the internal world to counteract a reality that has dismantled around us.
The series opens the door to conversations about the benefits of access to natural environments. Although well documented that social connections foster wellbeing, research on the benefits of engaging with nature is still in its infancy.
In an article published in January 2020 by The Yale School of the Environment, author Jim Robbins discusses how nature is necessary for physical health and cognitive functioning. Citing a study by The European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter, this expanding area of research finds that nature has a robust effect on people’s mental, emotional and physical health. Psychiatric unit researchers have also found that being in nature reduces feelings of isolation, promotes calm, and lifts mood among patients.
Accompanying workshops facilitate the art of seeing through “observant” photography and heightened sensory awareness of the surrounding natural environment. The work promotes connection to people and to our natural environment as being at the heart of wellbeing. It is hoped that participants will go on to develop these principals through their photographic practice, learning from my experiences, our mutual discussions, and the practical exercises that I set to this end.