Articles

The beginnings of a blog.

In the hope it’ll help future me (and maybe others) I’m going to write a little about my journey into a better understanding of me.

A comment on a new and ongoing review of living.

In recent months, like many others, I’ve taken the time to reconsider where I am in life and what I’m doing. Primarily this has been using evaluation approach from the workplace – what’s gone well, what’s not gone so well and what can be learned from this.

I found out that some of the things I was doing and accepting I really shouldn’t have been – that I had fallen into a state known as waking sleep. Essentially a lot of my life was happening on auto pilot. Many of the things I used to do by default were no longer happening.

I wasn’t questioning what I was doing, I had no engagement with my feelings. A lot of what I was doing was to ignore where I was and instead constantly look to escape it. I was often somewhere without really showing up – a lot of what I was doing was basically going through the paces and doing learned behaviours. Even things which required consideration were basically being achieved through techniques and knowledge I could do automatically – without real consideration or questioning.

So, starting after a return from a holiday, I took it upon myself to attempt to find out why I wasn’t feeling ‘me’ (or indeed feeling much at all).

Be

One of the simplest lessons I’ve learned – and one I’ll come back to again, no doubt, is that act and art of being present. If you can be aware of what you are doing and feeling right now – without constantly reviewing the past or planning for the future then you immediately start to feel better.

I suspect this is part of why ‘experience’ gifts work so well – once you engage with the experience you are invariably present during the experience. Whether this is because you know a friend invested in the gift, because it is new and you therefore need to focus to ensure you do it right or for other reasons I’m not entirely sure. However being where you are in the current time massively changes how you feel. For one – you’ll actually check in with what you’re doing. Whether you consciously meditate, pause between tasks, go for a walk in nature or simply allow your mind to wander during a tea break – I find I get a greater sense of how I am.

Do.

Being also tends to level concerns a lot. Now, this isn’t to be confused of the problems coming with time on your hands. I have an amazing luxury in my life – the last time I remember actually being bored is before I did higher education. Since then I am never bored – there is always something interesting I could be doing. My issue is motivation to do those things. And the biggest blocker of motivation – the mental to do list. Worrying I’ve a lot to do is the best way to end up doing nothing. My current target to avoid this is to capture all my tasks in electronic form and to prioritise and plan (or park) each of the projects. This is something I’m working on and will come back to later – but I’m certain that getting the tasks into some tool for managing them makes me feel better and makes it more likely things start to happen.

Foundations

My most recent learning is to identify the building blocks to being able to produce. In the same context as Mr Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – it’s more difficult to do the higher level things we need to achieve if the core parts to living are not met. So, to this end I’m spending time to create a core foundation that gives me a structure off which I can launch my creative and productive tasks – eat well, stay hydrated, exercise, spend time with my feelings (both sensations and emotions) and engage with others. These are all ongoing – and at different places on their journeys. However the one I’m finding hardest to get right is sleep. Until now I’d not been very patient with my need to rest. I suspect this is probably one of the leading reasons which led to a feeling of burnout I’m now in recovery from.

Sleep

We’ve all had elders warn us of the dangers of burning the candle at both ends. From late teens through a decade or two we realise the short term problems this creates – and learn to correct from those wonderful parties we attend or the impact of getting up early to watch a sunrise. What I think few warn us about is the impact of long term poor sleep care. My cautionary message is this; look after your sleep more than you think you need to. If you’re a ‘night owl’ like me and feel that sometimes working into the am hours to complete something is normal or that regularly getting less than your preferred amount of sleep is something you can cope with – you’re most likely wrong. What will most likely happen is that you build coping mechanisms for this, which allow you to do it over time, with short term fixes or approaches to keep going. You’ll also feel that you’re adapting and managing to function just as well. You aren’t – this is your brain being helpful tom enable you to keep going. The truth is – as with poor diet insufficient (or incorrect) sleep will reduce your effective ness.

One day it will catch up with you and the problem then is – there is no longer an easy fix.

I’ve been doing a lot of things to rebuild myself as an effective person – learning about how to self-care properly, identifying what I want to do with the coming months, spotting things which aren’t helpful to me and being honest about what I can (and can’t) achieve. The entire process has been enlightening – with a key thing being to learn how to be more honest and inquisitive about me. Learning to consider me (as a whole) when deciding what to do has been especially eye-opening and rewarding as has identifying that I have a better memory than I thought.

I’m planning to document some of this process in this blog going forwards. If for no other reason than to capture my journey as a record for myself. But if it helps anyone else along the way then that will only be a good thing.

Please don’t hesitate to drop me a line with your thoughts or comments.

Take care of you, and don’t forget to ‘be’.

The words "I miss you" are written into the mist condensed on a timber-framed wood.

Emerging from fog.

The journey I’ve been going on feels a lot like I’m emerging from a fog that had slowly crept up on me. While I realised something wasn’t quite right the time over which the fog enveloped me meant I never really established that I was no longer able to spot that I couldn’t see clearly.

I was once interviewed about the social network Exposure Leeds – which I founded. During this I described my approach as having mist-bound destinations on the horizon. That this mist came to cover my entire mental world is something I will definitely work hard to avoid. A lack of clarity at the edges is acceptable – but living with no direction or idea of territory or the journey you’re on isn’t really living for me.

One of my tasks is to put in place a test for myself which helps to identify when the mist again starts to encroach.

This image reflects on the fact that I definitely lost sight of myself while in the fog.

Thanks to Andrew Neel from Pexels for this image.

H.M. Coroners Post

To the side of the ‘city park’ – Bradford’s redemption – is the pre-existing courts complex and police station. The latter emptied to make way for redevelopment and improve the lots of the copper, the latter showing it’s age. This zine looks at the interaction between the buildings, the controlled natural elements and some of the humans who inhabit the space.

Available to buy online, at Impressions Gallery (Bradford) and Village Books (Leeds)

Full online preview

Photographer: Jon Eland

First Edition: 50 (numbered)
16 page A5 booklet (8.3″ x 5.8″) on recycled stock.
Contains 14 images.

Twas the day after Xmas…

Xmas (Just) Past cover. Image © Michael Brohm (2014), cover design © Jon Eland (2015)
Xmas (Just) Past cover. Image © Michael Brohm (2014), cover design © Jon Eland (2015)

Back in December I issued an event call on social media to get photographers out taking new imagery once the immediate excitement of the festive period was over.

And so, in Leeds a bunch of a dozen trepid photographers set out into not the best of days to capture the post-Xmas feeling. In addition to other photographers who couldn’t attend also shot to the same simple brief and in total 14 creative folk sent images in to me – and I in turn took those images and created a publication from them.

And so ‘Xmas (just) past’ was created.

The resulting  printed publication is 28 pages – containing 29 original images and 2 short texts. The zine comes hand-wrapped with an explanatory brochure.

In addition – until all copies are sold* – anyone buying a copy gets unique access to the archive of submitted images (and mini interviews from those who contributed) *after this time it will become a public resource.

You can order copies at £7 + delivery

A sample of images from the publication:

Final Resting Place

The finality of death – looking at ageing and fragility from a different angle.

Shadows cast on memorial stones in a local graveyard balanced with images of a former home for the elderly – captured after it’s closure and a significant fire. Itself teetering on permanent demise.

Shared as pairs the images reflect on the contrast between the living world of the photographer and the end of life represented by the two environments captured.


In the summer I conducted a dual photo assignment in a local graveyard and around the burnt-out shell of an old-folk’s home – this photobook/zine presents the resulting imagery. The beauty of dappled light falling on the gravestones and the quiet solemnity of the out of use building. Both elements, presented alongside each other, final resting places of their own.

First Edition: 30 (numbered)
24 page A5 booklet (8.3″ x 5.8″) on recycled stock.
Contains 24 images.

Order online

‘Reconstructed’ project

My take on the concept of the ‘Imaginary Museum’ project looks at how images of a battle reconstruction, re-touched into a museum context subverts the concept of the museum.

In this series of images I looked at how the museum removes things from context, but how also it can apply a subjective view of history. General thought is that ‘history favours the victor’ – but geography, local culture and fashion will impact on how history is presented at any given time – with objects often used to provide the ‘proof’ of a particular concept.

The battle reconstruction (or re-enactment) has, for several years given a chance for people to take part in creating an approximately accurate re-run of the events of a decisive military event – and thereby sidestepping the museum and text book’s roles as ‘authentic histories’. The Shireoak Photography collective have attended and photographically recorded such events throughout the north of England – covering a number of eras – from pike men of medieval times to the more modern warfare of the Second World War.

This series of images took the photographs taken by Shireoak as it’s starting point and places these fake histories into a gallery environment escorted through the process by the gallery attendant – himself a member of the collective who created the images. What is left to the viewer now is to make a decision – is this art, is it entertainment , is it a record of an event – and if so, is it contemporary or historic? And what is the real historical truth?

Originally produced for the Artist’s Book Collective project ‘The Imaginary Museum’ – that was itself created as part of PAGES | Leeds International Artists Book Fair 

A long distance Louisville love affair

The following article was written, but submitted late for inclusion in the final edition of ‘The Paper’. I thought it was worth publishing here instead…

Jon captured on his first visit by fellow exchange photographer and Louisvillian, Michael Brohm
Jon captured on his first visit by fellow exchange photographer and Louisvillian, Michael Brohm

There was a time, not so long ago, when I had no knowledge of ‘Louisville’ – sure I’d heard of the Kentucky Derby, KFC is a household name across the globe and the brands of the Brown-Forman corporation accompany many a Friday night’s wind-down. But the city, found on this bend in the Ohio river, was all new to me.

I first heard of the city when I was asked if the photography group I help run would be willing to host a photographer. Once we’d discussed the ‘why’ – that Leeds, UK (my city) and Louisville were partner (sister) cities and that he wanted to come and work in our city – we quickly moved on to turning this into something more extensive – an exchange.

Upon arriving in the city I didn’t know what to expect. I’d seen what Hollywood and television had said about middle America – so I was more than a little trepid; with hints of Dorothy as she first arrived in Oz!

It was also my first big transatlantic adventure as an adult – so I was only too happy to be met by a friendly face (and hug) from Michael – who we’d hosted a few months earlier – when I arrived, late on a small jet at an otherwise empty airport.

From that moment on my fears seemed to quickly vanish. Michael’s family started this by warmly welcoming me (while giving me my own space) and my ease increased from there. Almost everyone I met made me feel like I’d just met a new friend and, in honesty, many are still good friends – I’ve more Facebook buddies in Louisville than in any city other than Leeds!

My visit to the city included the amazing Idea Festival, but I also took advantage of opportunities across the city meeting everyday people – students at Spalding University, photographers on a picnic in Bernheim Forest, residents around the Nulu area and those working in Home of the Innocents and around the Highlands – to name but a few.

I was based in the East Market district – just hitting the ‘trendy’ status it’s since embraced – but I worked to make contacts from around Louisville who could share their city with me – and the people of Leeds.  As I went I introduced myself and my mission – aiming to bring our cities a little closer together – creating a visual record of the trip by recording all those I met and paying to take those portraits with pin badges. On that first trip I gave away 200 pins, to a largely enthusiastic bunch of recipients (some much more enthusiastic than others). I also promoted a photography walk along Frankfort Avenue, and amazingly 20 photographers turned up at the meeting place and accompanied me.

How did this work for me? Well – I feel like an adopted son of the city; I’ve made friends for life – it’s rare a day goes by without me talking to one friend or another in the city. I loved it so much I came back the following year – shooting more portraits, running another photowalk (50 showed this time), an exhibition of the previous year’s images and delivering three talks – including a Pecha Kucha talk in an agricultural store!

But the question I set out to answer is – if this is a love letter to Louisville, then who is it written to? Well that has to be the people of Louisville – you’re a wonderful bunch! You have made me call your home my second city – if I was to choose to leave Leeds right now I know which city would be top of my list! You’re enthusiastic, open, friendly, welcoming, embrace challenges, love the arts and embrace other cultures, intrigued by the unusual and (most importantly) you almost never say ‘no’ to having your photograph taken!

Louisvillians – I love you and cannot wait til we meet again.

Back from my third trip to the 3 Harbours

I’ve been a busy old bee lately (so busy this post is being written long after it was due and back dated – sorry if this confuses!)

But I thought it would be good to flag up my recent visit to East Lothian, Scotland to again take part in the 3 Harbours Arts Festival. As with previous years I’ve done something new this time around – as I was aware I’d only be there for half the festival I exhibited from  two projects of work to make up for it.

My first public showing of ‘the Broxburn Bings’ (working title) project – a work in progress started during the previous year’s festival. This project documents these ageing industrial waste mounds; the leftover material from the shale oil mining of the Victorian era. I presented my images alongside those by Shirley Anne Murdoch and Wendy Walker of ShyMerge. The project is in association of the Broxburn (Wrest Lothian) community arts project, Artichange.

I’ll be doing a longer post about this soon, but for now you might want to look at the associated Flickr set.

My main project was a selection of images printed from a book project I started at the 3 Harbours in 2011. During that year’s photowalk we dropped in on Samuel Burns & Co – who classify themselves as second hand good dealers; with house clearance and bankrupt stock forming some of their amazing treasure trove. I loved shooting there – especially using my somewhat less than perfect combination of 35mm lens and wide angle adaptor (from a compact camera). The inky black and whites and wonderful image shapes give greater depth to the documenting of the location. Alongside this solo exhibition in Cockenzie House I also re-exhibited a reduced set of the images shown last year within the main ‘Photospace’ photographer’s gallery meant I essentially had three showings this year!

View a digital preview of the Sam Burns book project on Issuu. A limited number of copies of this book are still available – contact me for more.

You can also see images I shot at this year’s festival over on Flickr.

“devoid of sentiment but elegant and evocative”

A friend whose photography has inspired me for years recently acquired a copy of 24 hours on the coast – and left a wonder ful comment for me…

A good, respected, friend checked out, bought and commented on a recent publication – I was chuffed to bits to see what he had to say:

“I really enjoyed Jon Eland’s book – 24 Hours on the Coast. The landscapes have a vernacular quality to them, devoid of sentiment but elegant and evocative all the same. The cover of the book doesn’t show the sea or any obvious element of the coast, but somehow you know that the sea is at your back. The menacing feel of the wall implies that the residents behind need protection from what lies beyond. Eland’s seascapes and landscapes have an undercurrent of menace in that they have no people but clearly have been shaped by man. A series of benches looking out to sea, but nobody admiring the view. The absence of the human form leaves a palpable void, a sense of loss and in some cases foreboding. A sense of timelessness too. I also liked Eland’s treatment of the various elements on the beaches, stones, seaweed, ice – like his landscapes, they have a vernacular feel to them, but they are studies on structure, colour and form. A smooth bright white pebble juxtaposed against a bed of sand with its thousands of constituent parts. Well worth a close look.”

Vincent Keith.

He produces some wonderful imagery himself – from stunning portraits of men to beautiful landscapes.