I listened to a very powerful podcast entitled 'Love thy Villain' recently, hosted by Matthew Syed.
You can find it here.
In it women discuss what happens when they shake off expectations and niceties. I am not talking about become a real 'villain', but just about living life fully, and worrying less about how others might see us. I am conscious of friends who find it hard to set boundaries, and aware that I have become much better at setting boundaries since I thought I might die from breast cancer. (I didn't).
It seems a shame that this revelation required such a dramatic trigger, and I hope that the podcast will help others to feel empowered to make changes.
I tried to find out more about the concept of villain era, and in fact there is very little written about it. It is mostly a TikTok thing, and I don't participate on TikTok.
I found a definition that frames it more positively;
Villain era ; 'a shift in a person's priorities as they reject the societal pressure to always play nice'.
The key to embracing your villain era includes
I have been feeling further 'empowered' since I started thinking about all of this, and wrote myself a list of wishes for the future, on my trusty typewriter, Olive. As you can see, Olive isn't hot on grammar or spelling, but then she doesn't worry about little things like that!
She does have the capacity to surprise though, and no one was more surprised than me when she told me that I yearn for a red cloak and matching boots. I am on the case.....
So how is my list going?
I have cancelled my FRPS assessment for October, as I am not in the slightest bit ready. I don't even have an idea yet, or something specific to say, but I will keep planning for next year, and stop putting myself under too much pressure.
I have successfully made kefir, and sometimes enjoy it, but at other times I can barely eat my breakfast as it tastes so fermented. To my surprise, my other half ( OH) is fully embracing its medicinal properties. So there's a win.
I set off next week for a rail adventure. Bilbao, San Sebastien and Biarritz. This will be a test for a more extensive trip in the future. All alone. I want to see the Guggenheim, and this is my chance. Also to catch up with my nomadic son along the way.
I have just managed a week's hiking holiday in the Dolomites on hand luggage only, so now have my packing list down to a fine art. The hiking was another solo trip, as OH is unable to hike on rugged terrain. I have been really missing mountain hiking, so I decided to 'do it anyway'.
It appeared that women love hiking in mountains more than men. Or at least they like the safety of a group with the challenge of some strenuous hikes. We were 14 women and just 2 men for this adventure. The uphill climbs at altitude were sufficiently challenging for me to ditch my camera and rely on my phone alone for photographs. And it wasn't really about the photography. it was about hiking in the mountains, which makes me happier than anything else that I do.
It was good to find that others had also left their significant others at home in order to fulfil their dreams. I could not compete with the elderly sisters from New Zealand who have been to Nepal five times, and who raced past me up the hill. I will train harder next time. Running up and down the dunes was not enough; I should have been wearing a back pack weighed down with water and waterproofs......
We walked on ridges with far reaching views.
I cannot explain how good that felt. Not villainous. Just uplifting.
And now the summer is heading towards an end I have plans to work on the rest of my list.
A 'red cloak and boots to match' is really me telling myself to embrace my alter ego; a more adventurous and bolder version of myself. I could certainly be a bit more courageous with my clothes, and I do believe it would feel great to walk on the beach with a heavy red cloak wrapped around me like a cocoon.
Going to the ballet is another thing that I don't do enough of, and fits with the instruction to 'indulge in each and every interest that you have'. I will have to add choral music to the list, too. I used to sing a lot, but somewhere along the way I lost my voice. Listening is a reasonable second best.
So where does art come into all of this? I have tried adding some silver leaf onto a cyanotype, which didn't go too well. New skills take patience and time. I tend to forget the thousands of hours that have gone into getting myself this far on my artistic journey.
I have various things that I would like to try, including a wire sculpture, inspired by the work of Gego. There are workshops that a braver me would be running already. Making a wish list has been a vital reminder of what I wish to achieve.
I have pinned it up in my studio and on the wall in my home office.
I am working on it steadily. Some of it will take time, but knowing what is on it makes me feel positive.
I met some lovely people on my hiking trip, one of whom shared this extract from a Hermann Hesse poem with me.
'A magic dwells in each beginning,
protecting us, telling us how to live.
High purposed we shall traverse realm on realm,
cleaving to none as to a home,
the world of spirit wishes not to fetter us
but raise us higher, step by step.
Scarce in some safe accustomed sphere of life
have we establish a house, then we grow lax;
only he who is ready to journey forth
can throw old habits off.'
My list is an attempt to journey forth and throw old habits off........
What would you include on yours?
I have been wanting to apply for my fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society for a long time. This is the highest level of distinction awarded by the society to its members, and requires a number of criteria to be fulfilled.
These include .....
Over the years I have had a number of projects where I have thought
'at last...... this could be my fellowship project'........!
All I need are 20 images on this topic or that; whether it be multiple exposures of trees, long exposures of water, black and white images of seaweed, or altered images of beach litter and plastics.
The topic has to be important to me, and the quality of the images needs to be cohesive and exceptional.
So I get started on a project, and collect maybe 16 or 17 good images, and then eject some because they don't fit well with the others, and then others because they are not quite perfect, and then I get tired of that project and find myself putting it aside and moving on to something new.
This has been going on for some 8 or so years now, and I wonder why I still want to make the grade. It is something do do with wishing to achieve the same standard as those whose photography I admire. Not necessary, but it would be a good feeling. And I do like a goal. Part of me is afraid that I will fail, and is avoiding the feelings associated with that.
Then along came 'fellowship by book', another way of presenting my work rather than as prints or digital images, and I told myself that I need to do it this way, as making books is my thing, and if I can't get FRPS by making a book, then I might as well give up now.
Some more time went by, and I made books with 16 or 17 images to fit the words that I had chosen to accompany the photographs. Findings and Forest. And a concertina book 'Under a Cold North Sky' of snow and ice with 15 images.
Each time I didn't quite manage to meet the criteria. I made the books because I had something to say; not for the FRPS but because they were what really mattered at the time.
So now, this year, I have decided to take a different approach.
I have paid a not inconsiderable sum to submit for the FRPS this October, as a driver to make a book that does meet the criteria. A cunning plan to make me get on with it......
Except I can't decide what the book should be about. or what it should look like.
I have thought of making it about water, as that is my favourite subject.
I even wrote a poem to get me started., but I found it contrived and corny.
I don't have something important enough to say about 'I love being beside water'.
So I came up with a plan to write a book about why I take photographs, and why I take many fewer than I used to. A sort of confessional about my photographic journey. Autobiographical even. A journey that started after breast cancer and a need to find a way to express how good it felt to be alive.
i have written some words, and rewritten them and refined them. They don't feel right yet, and time is passing, but I am working on it.
Slowly but surely.
I have tried some images in my publishing software, and am a long way from deciding what format the book will take.
This book needs to be special. It needs to tell a good story. And most of all it needs to come from my heart.
And in case you are worried, I can always defer until 2024 if I am not ready, but at least I have a plan.
Caroline Fraser - an ordinary life
on life, suburban living, art, creativity, photography, book art and travel.
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Welcome to Caroline Fraser Photography
Colourful abstracted and traditional photographic landscapes, book art and workshops. Capturing the moods and beauty of nature whether in wild open places or in small sanctuaries in suburbia.