Shadow On A Hedge (Self-Portrait)

Every artist (or in my case, would-be artist) will at some point be tempted by the idea of creating a self-portrait, and this is mine. At first, you might think that it doesn’t really qualify as a self-portrait because you can’t actually see any of my features, but believe it or not, when I think about what I look like, this is pretty much all I can bring to mind. While in your mind’s eye, you may be able to picture the colour of your eyes, the fullness of your lips and the curve of your nose, I cannot. This is because I have prosopagnosia.

Prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness, is a brain condition that means that I have a very poor ability to remember, and so recognise faces. I’ve written before about how this can impact how I recognise, or more accurately don’t  recognise, other people, including those closest to me, such as my family and friends, but it also impacts how I see myself, and indeed, the mental image I have of myself. No matter how hard I try, the best I can conjure up is a vaguely shadowy figure that has little or no substance. I know that I have blue eyes and the archetypal Scottish red hair and pale skin. I know that I have a beard (mostly because I have to trim it one a week to keep it nice and neat), but I cannot actually picture these features.

To be honest, this lack of an accurate mental image of what I look like doesn’t really cause me nearly as many problems as not being able to recognise other people that I have previously met, beyond the fact that I frequently fail to identify my reflect if I unexpectedly catch it in a mirror. Rather, it’s just a little mental curiosity, and that’s one of the main things I wanted to try to get across in this image.

The second thing that I wanted to get across with this image is that the human brain is an incredibly diverse organ, and it means no two people will see the world in quite the same way. This is something that we all need to be aware of, and we need to bare this in mind when dealing with others. They may do things that confuse or infuriate us, but they may well not be doing this out of spite or malice. Instead, it may simply be that they see the world differently than we do, and so act accordingly. I see this most commonly in the way that adults, and particularly some parents, treat children, but I also see it in the way that adults treat each other. The result is frustration for everyone involved.

Yet, there is a simple solution to these types of situations. This is that we need to talk to each other more about what is going on inside our heads, rather than just assuming that everyone sees the world in the same way that we do (or even worse, insisting that the should see it the same way that we do). When we do this, the true diversity of the human brain will be revealed to us, and we’ll also find it much easier to understand the behaviour of others, and react accordingly.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should blindly accept the behaviour of others, but if we can develop a greater understanding of why others are behaving the way they do, then we have a better chance of resolving potential conflicts between individuals in a way that will keep everyone happy. And in the current political climate, this is something that’s becoming critically important if we are to avoid tearing ourselves and our societies apart.

 

Me And My Photography …

I’ve been posting images on this blog for almost a month now, so I figured it was about time that I provided a bit more information about me and my photography. I’ve been taking pictures in various forms since I was about ten, but from about my early thirties onwards, I kind of lost my interest in photography. This was mainly due to the need to lug around bulky SLR equipment. It was something which I just couldn’t do as part of my everyday life, and as a result, my camera equipment tended to stay at home most of the time.

Blue LeavesThen came smart phones, and this meant that I could easily carry a high-quality camera with me all the time. Through this, I rekindled my love of photography, and I found myself, once again, taking photos pretty much everywhere I went. Yes, smart phone cameras have a lot of limitations, and there’s a lot of types of photography which you just can’t do with them, but they allowed me to explore a specific subject which has always appealed to me: the patterns that reveal the beauty in everyday life.

I’ll admit it, I do have a slight obsession with spotting patterns, and with photographing them. Indeed, while most other people’s phones are crammed with pictures of friends and relatives, mine is surprisingly face-free. This was brought home to be when a friend’s five-year old was scrolling through my phone’s gallery, and he turned to me, a confused look on his face, and asked “Where are all the people?”

Winter BranchesThere’s two reasons why this is the case. The first is that I have prosopagnosia. This condition is also known as face blindness, and it means that I really struggle to recognise and remember faces. As a result, photographs of people are pretty much meaningless to me as I usually have no idea who the people in them are (I’ll even struggle to recognise myself in photographs if I don’t remember being there when they were taken!).

The second reason is almost certainly related to the fact that I have prosopagnosia.  This is that I fall somewhere fairly far along the autistic spectrum. I’d always known that I viewed the world differently from pretty much everyone else I knew, but it wasn’t until quite recently that I finally put two and two together and realised exactly why this was the case. In fact, it was being diagnosed as having prosopagnosia that led me to realising that I was almost certainly autistic, too (it’s quite a common trait in people with autism).

Reaching For The SkiesIt’s not unusual for autistic people to be obsessed with patterns, and it’s something I’ve always been aware of, but it wasn’t until I started carrying a camera in my pocket pretty much all the time, that I could indulge this fascination and capture the patterns I saw all around me as I moved through life.

As you look through this blog, you’ll notice that many of the photos have very similar characteristics. This is that they focus on strong patterns set against striking backgrounds. These are achieved through close framing, and in some cases post-capture cropping, and a small amount of image manipulation (usually ramping up the contrast and the saturation, and occasionally messing with the hue, just a little bit). This helps to draw out the patterns that I ‘m intuitively drawn to, and to make them more visible to others.

I’d been taking these photos for a couple of years, but it was really once I brought myself a Samsung Galaxy S7 last autumn that things really started taking off. The quality of the camera, combined with my regular dog-walking, meant I was seeing and capturing patterns in ever-increasing amounts. At this point, I started to realise that simply taking the photos was not enough, and I decided I’d create a blog to post them on. The reason for this is quite simple: I wanted to share with others the beauty and intricacy that I see in the world each and every day. These are patterns that others may miss, but that, because of my conditions, I tend to focus in on.

The Eye In The TreeIt’s only been about four years since I discovered that I had prosopagnosia, and it’s only been a couple of years since I realised quite how autistic I am. In many ways, they are revelations that I’m still coming to terms with, and as someone in their mid-forties, it’s been a bit of a struggle dealing with suddenly finding out exactly why I see the world so differently from many others. In some ways it’s been nice to finally have an explanation for it all, but in others it now means that I’m much more acutely aware of just how much I struggle with everyday life, especially social situations that others seem to glide through without a care in the world.

Part of this process of coming to terms with it all is that I’ve also chosen, whenever I can, to embrace the differences that having prosopagnosia and autism give me. One of these is that I have a unique view of the world, one filled with amazing shapes, patterns and colours, and it is this that I want to celebrate on this blog.