Melanie-ByTony-MediumI get my picture taken a lot. On a bad day, this can mean dozens of times.  The reason?  Usually, it’s because I am ‘there’; standing around on the set of a shoot my husband is setting up, and therefore a sitting duck for any other photographer who happens to have their camera in hand and wants to just ‘check the light’ and what it is doing to skin tones. 
Until recently (like ten days ago) I absolutely hated having my picture taken.  Then, last Sunday, I was standing around on an outside location shoot at which a group of photographers had turned up to help (it’s has been my experience that photographers travel in packs, or herds even).  Elizabeth Molineux was on hand, ‘testing’ a camera she had borrowed for a particular job she was doing later in the week.  This ‘testing’ involved picking people off from the herd one-by-one, and holding her lens a few millimetres from their faces.  Continue reading

When, in late December of 2012, I decided that 2013 would by my year of thinking more consciously about creativity in all its many forms; how it inspires us and drives us onwards, I was not really expecting to wind up in a three-man tent (which doubles as a portable dark room), in a campsite […]

If you have been completely cut off from all news and media sources for the last month, you may have missed some surprising news.  Or, at least, it surprised me.  The Bell Jar turned fifty this year.  It was a shock, since I was sure it was from the 60s, which was like twenty five years ago.  But not so.

For many female writers who came next, the ghost of Sylvia Plath has always loomed large.  Lately, I feel as though she is everywhere I turn.  Even this morning, as I was waiting to wave someone away in our drive, I absently switched on the radio on the windowsill and just happened to catch Hayley Atwell reading from Andrew Wilson’s new Plath biography Mad Girl’s Love Song.  I hadn’t realised this was the BBC book of the week, although, had I stopped for one minute to consider what it might be, I would have had to guess this, or the Bell Jar itself.  (I will search the schedule in a minute, it must surely be there, or on BBC4.)  After all, Sylvia and her infectious, feminine, feminist madness is everywhere at the moment.

Which is, in my view, a good thing.  Continue reading

IMG_6234If you’ve been reading this blog, then you will know that one of my goals for 2013 is to try and think a little differently about creative expression.  As part of this process, I have managed to be become the embedded writer in an astonishing project involving more than that 100+ wet plate photographers from more than 25 countries.  It’s called ‘The Mask Series‘ and the idea is quite simple.  Everyone involved takes one image, using a wet plate camera like the one you see here.  In other words, no film. Instead, you mix up the chemicals needed to make your chosen surface (glass, tin, aluminium) photosensitive, and then, provided you haven’t blown yourself up yet, you take a photo that has a vintage M10 Czech Gas Mask in it.  (This does actually make a lot more sense if you look at the blog devoted to the project.)

Since I am writing so much about this project now, I decided it was about time I took a gas mask image of my own.  Continue reading

mask.jpgIf you’ve been following this blog, then you already know that one of my goals of 2013 is to do more conscious thinking about creativity.  What inspires it? What drives it?  How can we tap in and harness it to enrich our lives?  So I’m very grateful to  have been granted a behind the scenes pass to a fascinating collaborative art project The Mask Series – an International Collaborative Art Project which is being curated by the American conceptual artist Shane Balkowitsch.

What you see here is a vintage Czech M10 gas mask.  It’s the prop that Shane has chosen as the central focus for this global art endeavour.


Shane has issued an open invitation to photographers from all over the world to create wet plate collodion (link to your terms on the site) images using the M10 as a prop.

“Having every artist in the project use the same prop levels the playing field.  Some artists may find it an inspiration, while others may view it to be a crutch or hindrance.  Either way, the end result will be the unique vision of each individual artist.”

Since, amazingly, it turns out there are still one or two folk out there who don’t yet have vintage Czech gas masks of their own kicking about the place, Shane has bought up a supply, and is shipping them around the world, from photographer to photographer, in a sort of international gas-mask relay.   Currently there are a dozen M10s in circulation around the world for The Mask Series.  This means that even as you read this, somebody, somewhere is probably taking an old school photo involving an M10.  To say nothing of the many artists who are sat there waiting for the postman…

From the moment I heard about this project, I was gripped by the creative possibilities. lungs Continue reading

One of the projects I have been given ‘Behind the Scenes’ access to for 2013 is ‘The Mask Series’ – An international, colloborative art project which is being curated by the American conceptual artist Shane Balkowitsch.  My main interest in this project other than the obvious – that it currently involves 100 conceptual artists producing […]

It’s been a few years since my husband first showed me this clip, but I still keep coming back for more. It’s like a carton of pistachio ice cream for the tortured writer’s self-doubting soul. Grab a spoon and feel the love.

A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of hearing Elif Shafak speak at the Sunday Times Literary Festival in Oxford. When I booked the ticket, I had never actually heard of her. In general, I try to book a few events a year of things I’ve never heard of or would normally not […]

Warning: If you watch this, you will feel a deep need to fly to Dublin to have your portrait taken…