In Someone Else’s Shoes

Last week Daniel Regan ran our In Someone Else’s Shoes workshop, looking at the interplay between creative writing and photography, and how we can use the two to build empathy. We looked at how to use singular photographs to inspire us to create stories and characters based on images. It’s a creative exercise to deconstruct a photograph and see yourself through the eyes of the photographer: what were they thinking when they took the photo? What emotion were they experiencing? Breaking down a photograph can help us to construct characters and see the world from a different perspective, through the eyes of another.

One of our participants, Elizabeth Uter, has happily shared the work made in the workshop. The following poem was made in response to one of Daniel’s landscape photos.

Mount Olympus of The Andes by Elizabeth Uter

I seek an El Dorado of the skies,
my lens shutters on this seat of heaven.
Antique-white as far as the eye can see,
clouds – cold bone – of the air,
moody, drifts on a sea of ivory.
And in the seaweed green of trees,
there are fern-watery depths un-viewed.
Broken earth-rock anchors, hard by,
where early peoples veiled their lairs
in ancient, ghostly lacing, hidden from the outside.
I am altitude with attitude, breathing variations of blue, blurred by the touch of this Olympus of the Andes. Here, within white mysterious mists,
I see the Shaman’s emerald secrets of
prehistory gathering in this writhing,
roiling, ever-changing terrain to become
the most unexpected meeting of minds.

The second part of the session was for participants to go out and make their own series of images. The images were to be taken through the eyes of another, someone other than themselves. They were challenged to think creatively about how they would take these photographs? What would they look for? What might they notice as their character that may otherwise go unseen?

Once we returned from photographing each person put together a series of 3 images and created another piece of writing in response. Elizabeth was kind enough to share her images and writing with us.

Ocular By Elizabeth Uter

lowly to the ground,
yet hallowed.
Climbing the stones,
the roads,
the pathways to the Gilded One
who forever stands, darkly, haloed-gold in watching muteness from a dimmed past of cairns unturned.
Now, is the healer, hair streaming close to skull, twigs on brow shattering in strings
from luminous head, who crosses the divide.
There are distant bells ringing, pulsing,
as Divinity broods on the rushing world, staring, wise, communing with the ground. Mouth drooping with the weight of words
hanging from its lips.
Each – the name of persons told and yet untold – Carrier of the burnishing bread,
basket crushed with loaves, ready
to be scattered to the four winds.
Never forget those visions
of souls tucked and underneath
totems – peaking between pea-greened earth, encased in delicate, creamed yoke obelisks – these are the clans of humanity to be, gathering like seeds under the old ‘Life Tree’ – sent from this dreaming Godhead
whose Face is flickering in the wind,
each line on each revered cheek
etches deep the human blood-lines.
Eyes downcast … is
sketching, being, the world.

Another one of our participants, Balaka Fell-Holden, shared her writing made in response to creating a series of images made through the eyes of another character.

Beyond the Curtains by Balaka Fell-Holden

Out there you can see it all. My past. I thought I’d drawn a curtain over it.
But I haven’t really. Litter in the mind.
With my hobble- stick, I part the filigree lace and frost-bitten gauze, all edged in devil-black stiffs.
Stifling me till I cough up tobacco juice, sticky like pomegranate. It’ll be the death of me.
There’s me in the ‘Cock o’ the Walk’ pub. It was really busy back in the day. Heaving. Not like now.
Lacklustre glasses. Hold one of them up now to the pee-green light. You’ll see the fingerprints of
all them who’ve held that particular glass. Mine’s on several.
There’s the Mad Hatter eating pickled eggs with his long, fine fingers. And Pee Wee Wilson pretending to choke the Corduroy Kid who’s fighting back tears like mad.
Pee Wee always was a Jack-in-the-Box.
We used to guzzle greasy breakfasts in Charlie’s Cafe where we held our business meetings, addressed the agendas for the day. We chiselled out plans, final, immoveable. Careful not to tread on bloody toes as we sipped our Bloody Mary’s. Some of them got a bit loud and teeth got chipped.
Poor Charlie.
They said they were bad them boys. But they weren’t. They just got into a bit of boyish trouble.
It was to do with rushing things a bit. The old nerves getting the better of them. Not enough planning.
They wore evening wear all day, a dash of Old Spice. Real nice they were. Lovely manners. Real finesse. Boys who looked after their mothers and brought them lavender oil to rub behind the cauliflower ears.

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