New York, New York, be still my heart

There are three places on earth where I feel most myself: London. The south coast of England (specifically Mudeford and Kimmeridge bay). And New York City. This last one was and wasn’t a surprise to me. I’m English to the very roots of my being, yet when I walk through the streets of NYC it’s like I’m following echoes of a past lfe — or a future life yet to be. I’ve visited three times now and on each visit I sink deeper into the energy of the place. I never seem to need a map (though that’s not remarkable — the place is pretty easy to get around) and, hilariously, people always stop me to ask for directions. My head and heart feel wide open over there. I’m expanded. Even now my heart aches just thinking about the place.

Comparing London and NYC is like comparing apples and oranges. The’re both fruit and they both taste delicious, but they are unique unto themselves. London is big and majestic, with pockets of cool scattered all over the city. New York Manhattan is more intense, an explosion of life that pulses to it’s own distinct beat. I find both cities intoxicating, though, of course, London is now home, and with that daily familiarity comes a bit of ambivalence. It doesn’t help that I rarely get a chance to go into town, trips out limited to the supermarket and the gym.

Visiting NYC for 5 days was exactly the shot in the arm I needed after the last few months of getting back on my feet. I stayed in the East Village in a studio apartment I found through AirBnB. Have you tried the site yet? It was my first time and I found it really easy to make the booking, the flat was lovely, plus it was considerably cheaper than a hotel. I ate lunch out every day, ordered take away in the evening and cobbled together a picnic breakfast in the morning (the apartment didn’t have a kitchen, but it did have an excellent coffee maker!) I loved having a little home in the city for a few days — made my dream of living in NYC one day feel so much closer.

While there I got to spend some time with some treasured gal pals, fell madly in love with the Lower East Side and finally explored downtown, including the 9/11 memorial site. For some reason I had it in my head that the site would still be rubble, but they’re not only building four new buildings, they’ve also finished the memorial park. Just being in the area made me emotional, imagining how it must have been as the towers fell and the streets filled with dust and rubble. I was working for a national newspaper when the planes hit, and remember watching it all happen live on TV while the whole office exploded into action. It was utterly surreal. It’s always saddened me that I never made it to NYC before 2001, so it felt important to pay my respects.

I stood for half an hour beside the pool with tears streaming down my face, empathy levels off the charts. As I pulled myself together to leave I found it odd seeing other visitors taking photos of themselves beside the pool, grinning inanely into the camera. I know everyone deals with these sorts of places in their own way, but I honestly wanted to take them to one side and point out that this wasn’t a tourist attraction. It’s a memorial. And these weren’t just foreign tourists, either. But who knows what was going on for those people. I slowly made my way out and spotted the gift shop. For a millisecond I wondered if this wasn’t tasteless too, but I actually appreciated flicking through the books and reading the timeline written on the walls. And when I saw a set of model FDNY trucks I knew I had to buy them for Noah. It made me smile to have the thought of him with me in a place that had been witness to so much sadness. Suddenly the postcards and mugs made sense — we have to remember.

Last year I travelled a lot for work, so it was so nice to be able to just enjoy the city without any other pressing engagements. Walking around New York on my own with just my iPhone* and journal was my idea of heaven. I often talk about how taking photographs is like meditation for me and never was it more so than on those dirty fabulous streets. I wasn’t thinking about where else I needed to be; I wasn’t wondering if there was something better around the corner. I was absolutely 100% present, looking around me and drinking it all in. I take just as many photographs here at home, but there’s nothing like walking down unfamiliar streets to reinvigorate your creative mojo. My head was exploding the whole time. I loved it.

* On a sidenote, I’d decided not to take my SX-70 or DSLR with me, wanting instead to roam the streets without feeling like a mule carrying a ton of camera gear. THIS WAS SO THE RIGHT DECISION. I adore my cameras, don’t get me wrong, but oh how I loved carrying a small bag with just a lipstick, a journal, my iphone and my wallet. I took hundreds of photos, because that’s what I do, but I didn’t need millions of pixels, and I’d shot plenty of Polaroids in the city last year. This trip was purely for FUN, embracing lightness and simplicity and ease, three qualities I now want more of at home. It was the best birthday present I could have given myself.

And speaking of home, one of the nicest things about being away was realising that this place — this flat, this city — really does feel like home now. I needed to be far away, in a place I love just as much, to appreciate what it is I’m building here. A new life. A future. And maybe one day I’ll realise my dream of living in both cities, living the LON-NY life.


As a few people have asked, here are some of the shopping/food highlights from the trip:

Le Labo – gorgeous perfumes
Erica Tanov – accessories to die for
Blue Stockings – brill book store
Narnia – vintage goodness
Assembly – fashion chic
Maryam Nassir Zadeh – ditto
Beautiful Dreamers – great accessories
Malin + Goetz – perfume oils!
CO Bigelow – perfume!

Aurora – Brooklyn brunch
Stand – great burgers
Bare Burgers — even better burgers
Digg Inn — healthy fast food
Pastis – obviously
And there was this great pulled pork sandwich I had for lunch in the Chelsea Market but, alas, i can’t remember the name of the place. It was so good!

A year in photos: January – June

All but two of the photos in this post were taken with my iPhone and shared on Instagram. As my packs of Polaroid film have dwindled, and I gingerly experimented with the new Impossible Project film, it’s not surprising that most of this year’s images have been snapped with my phone. There are a lot of pro photographers out there who might sneer at this. I mean, how can I call myself a photographer if I never break out the big camera? It’s been over a year since I touched the Hasselblad, and my DSLR is practically a stranger to me. But here’s the thing: I consider myself a photographer because I have this compulsion to express myself in photographs. Because photography is my meditation. Photography and journalling are the two things that keep me sane, the familiar tools I have used all my life. So it doesn’t matter to me what camera I use to do that. I don’t need a zillion pixels because my images won’t be blown up to billboard size — the majority of them won’t be seen beyond my Instagram stream. I shoot for pleasure. To record the world around me. To remember. To relax. And I really do take photographs every single day — i just don’t share them all on Instagram because THAT would soon get annoying.

Speaking of… there’s been a lot of hand wringing over the new policies Instagram announced yesterday. I’m going to wait to see how it unfolds, because there’s always uproar when a social media site announces change — i’ve seen it happen so many times before, when the language used is misinterpreted and everyone is up in arms. Looking at the Instagram blog today it’s clear they are listening to feedback and clarifying what their intentions are. So i will wait and see. Because if my Instagram feed is full of advertsing i’d be less inclined to use it, obviously — I’d rather just pay to use the service and have no advertising at all — but it was clear to me that the language they used would cause confusion and it looks like they are addressing that. They still have time to make this right.

In the meantime, some photos from the first six months of this year…









Photo Meditations: the self-study course!

Very excited to share this with you today — the Photo Meditations self-study course! I’ve been wanting to do this for ages as I know how frustrating it is to have to wait for registration days when you want to start a course NOW. With a self-study course you can sign up any time and dive straight into the magic of soulful photography from the comfort of your own inbox :)

The course is broken down into five key sessions (with 5 lessons per session) emailed to you one after the other — the self-study course runs for 27 consecutive days in total, starting the same day you sign up. Each session comprises two in-depth lessons, a narrated slideshow of 20-40 minutes (past students raved about these), a photography secret and an interview with a photographer I admire. Woven through the lessons are lots of suggestions for you to try and ideas for you to experiment with. Plus tons of visual inspiration, of course!

When I get back from the tour the plan is to start working on a brand new course to launch in the autumn (if you follow me on Facebook you already know what it’s going to be about :) so to do that I need to create some space. The communinty that forms in Unravelling and Blogging from the Heart is crucial to those courses, but I feel Photo Meditations is a really personal journey into your own photographic creativity, so I know it’s going to be perfect as a self-study course. Each day I take you deep into the processes of creating images that carry your heart, that express YOU through every element of the shot. It’s about photography but, really, it’s about so much more than that.

If you’re ready to infuse more soul into your photography and are hungry for a creative project this summer, Photo Meditations could be just the ticket — read all the deets over here.

ps. Lots of people have been asking me if I’m going to do an August Break this year, and the answer is a very definite YES! Last year’s was so much fun, plus I think we should have an Instagram twist too… Watch this space… x

pps. The Vancouver book event is now live!