DREAMS AND REALITIES – Assignment 3, Unit 2  Task 1 & 2

(1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4)


(Research and personal images – part 5 – 1.1, 1.2)

This week, I’ve done a little more research into work that I enjoy, by other artists’, using media other than, but also photography.  I began by thinking about how I might like to use their influence within this assignment.  The following images are produced mainly using coloured embroidery thread,  and found images, sometimes found items such as tickets and fabrics. The images are then scanned into the computer and printed as digital images. Some of them are larger installations or illustrations for book covers.

I am by nature a creative person, my work life was generally creative and instinctive.  With mindfulness a relatively new buzz-word, I have long since found enrichment and affirmation through my creativity. My hands are my tools. I feel most grounded when I am surrounded by nature, and my hands are in the soil, a brush against the leaves, or the faintest scent from a flower.  I am a gardener, a plantswoman, I paint with colour in a garden and I am free of limitations.  I am happiest when my hands are moving and working some new piece. When my hands are occupied by yarn or thread, needle or blade.  I flow with a pen or a brush. By comparison, using a PC and technology does not come easily.

RESEARCH (1.1, 1.2)

Mana Morimoto

Mana Morimoto  often works with found images on Google, or her friends’ Facebook pages, this colourful Japanese artist uses bright thread to stitch bright coloured lines from peoples eyes, or to connect people. She even decorates Old Masters Paintings!

Diane Meyer – “embroiders reality in search of truth”

Diane Meyer Berlin. Bernauer strasse.( Image found on her website)

In an age where we increasingly like to publicly display our private lives on social media, we sometimes create an image of ourselves, and our world, that shows only what we want to show. Our public face, but what lies behind that face?  This US artist uses the old craft of cross stitch, which is currently enjoying a revival with both women and men, to enhance photographs, believing that there are ‘hidden truths’ behind the images.

 “The project refers to the failures of photography, In preserving experience and personal history as well as the means by which photographs become nostalgic objects that obscure objective understandings of the past.”  D.Meyer 

Buildings and faces are often ‘pixilated’ by cross stitches, and the colours observed beautifully. I particularly loved her Berlin series. There is great poignancy in her work, as she follows the path of the former Berlin wall. Photographing locations where little sign of the divide remains, just clues to its’ existence such as disused watch towers and gaps between buildings.  The use of threads in her photographs remind the viewer that there are hidden truths behind each image which have been left unsaid or intentionally ignored. You can see more of them here at: her site.

Vivienne Strauss

Although not, (as far as I’m aware) a photographer per se. This one is a little closer to home, as a personal favourite of mine. Since we can show our artistic influences within the brief here in our blogs, please allow me to introduce this wonderfully talented artists’ work. I have been following this lady for some time on social media. I adore her bold geometric, retro-feel paintings, her collages, poetry and vibrant embroideries.  Her work is witty, ironic and beautifully bright.  Humour, rejection, feminism… all life is here.  I can see, and share her love of old novels,  and 50’s chic. Her embroidered poems touch me, and her comical collaged depictions of cats and animals make me smile. Best of all, I love the hilarious montages that she stitches onto vintage flashcards. The birds are my favourites 🙂  I think her work encompasses the title dreams and realities really well, and quite simply it makes me feel good. She inspires me to make and create.. 🙂 I have asked for permission to use some of her images here, and she sweetly granted it.

Thank you Vivienne. You can find more of her work here: http://vivienneart.blogspot.co.uk


I suppose this post touches quite lightly on the subject of dreams and realities,  but finding and exploring these artists has really inspired me to move onto something on a personal creative level.  It touches on my dreams of being able to find a potential career. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to divulge exactly what I’m working on just yet, I don’t want to invest a great deal of time barking up the wrong forest, never mind the tree!!  There are big clues within this post and some of my pieces are almost ready.

So here we are… getting to my point.

As this course progresses I recognize that part of the course for me, is about experimenting and finding new ways to see, and to create.  I am aware that I am finding it harder to be as proactive as I might want to be, in terms of attending galleries (and despite working on all the Harry Potter films) comprehending the technical wizardry that is using Photoshop!! I think it is beginning to dawn on me that a career as a ‘working Photographer’ is less likely.

Yes, you need to be creative and have a good eye, but you also need to be technically accurate (…and technically minded.) I may never be a great photographer.  I am still a bit over-awed the moment I look at any photography forum online by all the gobbledegook and jargon.. although, I admit, it is all becoming clearer. (I am imagining my poor tutor banging her head on the desk right now… 😉 )

Photography, ‘the job’ is, at times, more physically demanding than I had realised, you need co-ordination, a sense of balance and speed (hmm…. that’s me out already!)  You need fast reaction times, deep pockets,  an enormous kit bag, a tripod carrier 😉 , and waterproof mascara!!  If I can combine my love of photography, with my love of all things garden and flower, and my love of craft, then if I take away nothing else from this course then I’ll be happy. 🙂






 http://vivienneart.blogspot.co.uk// facebook: vivennestraussart



DREAMS AND REALITIES – LOST VS. LOSS (This post could be called any number of things… “I’m just waiting to get better..” or ” Oh, but you look really well….”)


DREAMS AND REALITIES –  Assignment 3, Unit 2,  Tasks 2 & 1

(1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4)



(This post could be called any number of things… “I’m just waiting to get better..” or ” Oh, but you look really well….”)

(Research and personal images – part 6)

RESEARCH (1.1, 1.2)

Whilst mooching about on Pinterest the other day, I came across this lovely image. To me it portrays a sense of emotion and loss, of fading and losing oneself.  YOu can see what once was.

(Sadly, there are no credits for any of these images, so they’ll remain as found images)


And also these….. These images may come in useful for my next blog post. These images give me a sense of the missing. Introspection and their incomplete-ness. The black and white enhances the images, I dont think they would have quite the same impact in colour.


DREAMS and REALITIES – IMAGES (2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4)

Through, or should I say despite illness, I am having to find a new self.  I’m not always sure where it’s taking me, and for the longest time I battled against the acceptance of illness, constantly wishing the old me back, and fearful that acceptance meant ‘giving in; somehow.  Then a conversation with a fellow, but relatively recently diagnosed sufferer, at a mutual support group led to this lovely lady saying to me, “I’m just waiting to get better…”  It’s hard to hear that now.  I was in that place too for the longest time.

Well meaning friends and family, even will say “Oh, but you look really well…” and as much as I know they’re trying to be supportive, it’s not helping. If anything, people who are chronic illness sufferers come quite often from a place of being dismissed or disbelieved, by the medical profession (more often than you’d think) by family, and even by friends. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. You can’t see magnetic fields, or gravity, but they’re very definitely there! (thank goodness)

There but not there.

Abstract. taken on Galaxy S6 phone


We were given free reign with this project… and it has taken on a life of it’s own for me. I think with this project, our images don’t need to be purely symbolic, they can be about pattern and texture. This second image shows, lines acros my face. My life has been fractured to some degree but there is light shining through the cracks, which is one of the reasons I think it would best be printed on a translucent medium.

I was a little bit apprehensive about using my mobile phone editing suite to make images, but with two missed college days, half-term, 3 exhibitions, some health issues, the arrival of a new Grandaughter (Ohh, my heart <3) and Tripod Carrier away on business most of this month,  I haven’t had a lot of time for using my camera (…phew, no wonder I’ve not had much time!) or been much able to practice using Photoshop. I made these images using my Galaxy S6 and Snapseed (I downloaded the free app) on my mobile phone.  I took two selfies, and then used the tools to draw, scratch, change colour and contrast and tone.

These two images were recently used within the college environment at a meeting to talk about invisible illness and prescribing therapies. Which is, incidentally how I found my way to this course, via a Wellbeing course.  The local council are keen to be involved with the college in this new way of treating long term, mental and physical health problems. There was even some talk of the possibility of holding an exhibition, next year, on the subject and to include work from other students on these subjects. I’ve also had lots of positive feedback from fellow students and friends too, thank you.  🙂

I have always had a quite irrational fear of getting lost… but so what if I do? I’ll still be somewhere – as my clever 10 year old Grandson pointed out to me once.  I’ve even started a new course to help come to terms with long term disability, but that’s also helping me come to terms with all the loss, but there are good things coming too. New creativity, new skills, new coping strategies.  Underneath all this doodling, my original images are still there… but not there. So although the old me is still clinging on for some reason, there is a new embryonic me forming. This course has probably been a part of that development. Of finding my way.



ps… I hope you’ll indulge just one photo of my beautiful new Grandaughter, Eleri

Eleri f5.6 1/15s 31mm ISO1.6



Images my own and research images from Pinterest and Google












DREAMS AND REALITIES –  Assignment 3, Unit 2,  Tasks 2 & 1  1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4

(research and images – part 4)

It’s all smoke and mirrors, isn’t it?

Image taken on Samsung Galaxy S6


So, I wasn’t in class last week, because of a migraine.  I understand that the rest of my classmates were delving a little deeper into Photoshop. This is super scary for a girly technophobe like me!  Not that I’m making excuses here, I’ve done what I can, with what I have ( I am the Queen of Make do and Mend, lol)  Tripod Carrier and I don’t have Photoshop software available at home. We use the much more “clunky” (as Ria described it) GIMP editing software. Please be careful Googling that one!

I think am a little cautious about the possibility of grandstanding with the whole Invisible Illness theme. Whilst we’re on the subject though, did you notice last week was Invisible Illness Awareness Week? …And Fibromyalgia Awareness Day was Saturday.  No?? Missed it?? Completely?? 😦  Well….I’m not surprised There were no fanfares or press days, or fun runs. That’s because we are pretty much invisible. Unfortunately, due to the nature of these illnesses, the people who organise these events really need to be ‘well people’ or ‘normals’, as we ‘spoonies and warriors’ like to call people without invisible diseases.  They need to be organised and supported by family, friends, carers.  They definitely need funding.  The charities that support invisible illness are pretty well under funded, and under represented, generally.  I have no answers just observations.


For my part in this weeks’ assignment, I am shamelessly borrowing from a publicity event that was held in Morecambe, last Saturday.  It was small and local, simple but heartfelt and effective. The families of people affected by invisible illness left their loved ones’ shoes on a flight of stone steps, with a label that gave their name, disability and length of time since diagnosis. The best way I can represent this is to demonstrate in my own photographic tribute.



I have taken two images, one of myself sitting on the stairs, with shoes on, and a second single exposure of myself walking away, as if they had been left there by some person that is missing in some way.  I chose the stairs, because they represent for me, a daily challenge, and in these images my ascent on the staircase is my determination to rise above being missing from life.





f5.3 1/80s ISO1250 30mm OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Missing. f5.3 1/80s ISO1250 30mm

The camera was on a tripod so it didn’t move between the two shots.  I did try to take the image using a multiple exposure but there were some technical difficulties.  I just couldn’t do it on my own  (…because I have a cable attached to the shutter remote, and it wouldn’t reach up the stairs, and I was very much hampered in the tiny space that is my hallway!) so this method seems to have worked out for the best. The lighting rig, such as it was, consisted of an anglepoise lamp carefully draped and taped over the door. My trusty Tripod Carrier (promoted to assistant) took the image for me, since I was to be the model. In post editing, I made the first image black & white, and then overlaid the second with a colour image which would represent a er.. brighter, ‘colourful’ life. The shoes are some of my favourites. Sadly, I don’t get to wear them much these days because of the pain that wearing heels causes in my legs for days afterwards.  They represent the old me.

I’m pleased with the use of colour, and black and white on the two different images because the monotone adds something to the ‘missing-ness’ whilst the colour of the second, overlaid image bring a sense of leaving that behind.  I think it says what I was hoping for, although maybe a longer staircase, or much less enclosed spaced might have been better…? Perhaps this is an image I could revisit at a later date, outdoors, on a sweeping stone staircase?

I don’t think there are any rules for this assignment about only using our DSLR’s. The brief says that we should explore alternative presentation,  investigate materials and media…so I ‘m going to just put this one out there.

This series of images have come from one rather unattractive photo of me (Well, I’d certainly rather not post it here anyway 😦 )  that I took on my mobile phone. Since I am still trying to get to grips with photo editing, but am kind of used to using phone editing for social media, I thought I would use the various editing tools on the camera phone to fade, shade, ‘scratch’ and colourise the image to different effects.

We all have a social media life, these days. We all show a ‘public face’. But there’s another side to that story usually, isn’t there? A dear friend (and fellow invisible illness sufferer)  told me recently that she had been feeling very low but didn’t want to call me, because on Facebook, I seem so together, and so happy and well.  “Facebook me” I said. “It’s all smoke and mirrors, isn’t it..?”

These images represent how I feel despite ‘looking well’.. It represents that probably half of me is hidden, scratched out by; overwhelming tiredness and/or pain, anxiety and depression. Or both. The only way I can explain it is, that the colours go.  I can fake it (the far right image) with colour… make up, and a smile sometimes, but those that know me can tell.






With a small apology to those who may be yawning a little at this project being quite so self indulgent. I suppose this is a kind of self portrait project.  A prospect that might have horrified me not so long ago.  I didn’t originally set out to work on something quite so personal as this assignment is turning out to be, but I’m encouraged by my tutor, and fellow classmates, and the more I thought about it the more it mattered to me.

For all that know me, I seem to be rather an extrovert.  Lively. Colourful, even… People always tell me that I look well, (even my GP – who knows I’m not!)  but they don’t often see the shadow of a person I have become since my illness. The sad me, sitting on a sofa, feeling too much in pain to do anything, or see anyone.  Of course there is more to me than invisible illness, and I was once told not to let it define me, but you see, it does, because it colours (…or maybe it’ greys?) every part of my life.

I don’t think this project is going to be my life’s work, exactly.  It doesn’t do me much good to be too introspective. But right now, I know it’s important to me. I begin each year by choosing two words that will guide me through the year. This year, I chose ‘Change’ and ‘Growth’.  In brackets I would add (Learn and Create) I’m doing both.

Okay, no more grandstanding….for now, anyway.  (steps down off soapbox and leaves quietly.)



p.s. If you would like to learn more about #missingmillions, the campaign to support people with invisible illnesses such as M.E.,  F.M., and C.F.S. there is a short Youtube video here





NCFE Level2 Photography

DREAMS AND REALITIES –  Assignment 3, Unit 2, Tasks 1 & 2, 1.1, 1.2, , 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4



(research and personal images – part 3)

I’ve been thinking about this project. A lot. Like, really a lot.

Visible Invisible f5.6 1/80s 45mm ISO250


I’ve been looking after my brother, who’s had a hip replacement, but in between time, I’ve done some more research. I’ve found another inspiring photographer who speaks to me. Not literally of course, but you know what I mean.


(It appears I have an affinity with Mexican photographers! Perhaps it’s the Latin blood?)

Martina Lopez uses photographic images to create new photographic works by assembling and manipulating existing images and incorporating photographs from her family albums.

Her work shows anguish, trauma, divorce, family battles and death. Cheery, eh? But her work is full of interest. Every time you look at one of her images, you find a new thing to look at in that same image. Often the background comes from a found image and is then used out of context with family photographs.

Dripping with meaning, heavily doomed backgrounds are juxtaposed (yep, I know..it’s that ‘art-school’ word, again) with happy family images.

“By extracting people from their original context and then placing them into fabricated landscapes, I hope to retell a story of their being, one which allows the images to acquire a life of their own. While the pieces from photographs verify an actual lived experience, the landscape stands as my metaphor for life, demarcating its quality, where the horizon suggests an endless time.”
artina Lopez

I can also see parallels of her work with that of some of my favourite artists, contemporary illustrators, and twin sisters, Anna and Elena Balbusso. Their work is simply beautiful; surrealist, painterly, with an ethereal, dream like quality, and that same ability to make you observe more and more each time you look. I could happily post dozens of images of their work but will stick to just one image… Have a Google yourself if you like it. 🙂

Image found on Google


So, you may be wondering how exactly do Martina Lopez and the Balbusso twins speak to you, Carmela? Well, Martina Lopez began working with her family’s photographs as a way of reconstructing memories and exploring feelings of loss and change.  You may already know that I write journals. They are filled with photo’s, notes and scraps, drawings and little memories. In a way I too, am creating a way of reconstructing  memories and I use my journals to explore the same feelings. The reality is that, sometimes, of course, they’re just reminders of Dr’s appointments, but I when I started writing them, in the back of my mind was that they should be beautiful, as well as personal and I thought that, one day…. maybe a long way off in the future, my Grandchildren might wonder what Nanna was really like?

My own family history can be a little ‘chequered’ at best (…don’t even ask…) and so over the years I have become the honourary keeper of records and information.  I have taken photo’s nearly all my life. Maybe not with quite the same level of competence that I have now, but it didn’t really matter. What mattered to me was that I kept them. There are more than 50 albums now, and lots of journals too. A life documented. The albums are stuffed full to bursting. I can barely shut this year’s one already! (…help!) They’re mostly decorated with photo’s but there are tucked away; pressed flowers from my garden, notes from my children when they were small: A letter to The Queen, that I just couldn’t bear to part with, A plan to run away from home (Ohh, my heart 😦 )  A baby scan of my first Grandson, my second too and now a third, this time a girl….<3 ) Nathan’s squiggly little drawings, and Max’s paint-y handprints. There are silly doodles and secret messages of love and…Well…. They. make. me. happy.

Image from my Samsung S6


They are also a refuge from the World, and a quiet place where I can be honest about how I feel about things. Especially my health issues. I don’t really want to bother my family by going on about it but I am often fearful. Sometimes, I am afraid of the path it’s leading me down. Although none of what I have is life threatening, it is life limiting. I am no longer the person that I was.  I have several conditions in fact, all of which are not really visible to an outsider.  I think I may have said in last week’s post that I have what are now called ‘invisible illnesses’. Well, not to me they aren’t. If you look closely enough, you can see how it has changed my life. I don’t mean to be all ‘Oh, woe is me..’ I’ve probably talked more about my illness here than I ever do outside of this blog!

…Some things have changed for the better.  I am softer, I have greater compassion, I have more time for people.  Okay, so there are things I can’t do now, I can’t exercise the way I used to, I don’t have the dynamism and energy that I once had and I can’t work now, (and trust me, that upsets me far more than it does you, dear reader) but I certainly have more time to myself than other people in my life do. I have time to do some of the things I love. Creating, mostly. Photography is part of that creating.

Next Week, May 12th, to be exact is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. Later on in the year, there will be an awareness week for all invisible illnesses. Sometimes, I wonder why it’s called an ‘invisible Illness’ when so many millions of people have it? That started me thinking…

I don’t dream the way I did, because I do not sleep much, and the reality is I cannot do so many of the things that I used to, but the hardest thing about having an invisible illness…? It makes me feel invisible. Lessened, somehow.

DREAMS AND REALITIES – IMAGES (2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4)

Anyway, the reality strikes that this is really a blog post for my college course, so here are some more of my images that I’ve taken this week on the continuing theme of Dreams and Realities.

Using letters I often use in my journals, cut from magazines, I spelled out the word “Invisible”  and overlaid it with tissue paper to diffuse it. Then placed my hand on top to make a physical connection.  I knew that I wanted to have a very diffused, misty look to this image. In post editing I progressively lightened the image and removed almost all the colour then added a vignette.

I wanted to add more layers to the image, so using an image John took of me in class, and the images of the letters and my hand, I manipulated the image using Photoshop (with the help of Tripod Carrier) to lay the photo of me over the top of the wording to portray the way illness makes me think… and to some degree the way the medical profession sees me.

In these images I wanted to give a sense of emotion to the image. To show how my illness makes me feel. I think I have acheived that with htis image. If I were to do anything different with the image, I would perhaps lighten the image to bleach it out and give that ethereal effect – “not at full strength” implying a weaker feeling or less bold, dynamic self.

In class it was suggested that perhaps if the image of me was moved to one side, there might be space for some text if it were advertising copy. I disagree with this, because it was a personal, stand alone image in it’s own right. Art and photography are subjective subjects by definition, so I am happy with the outcome of this image.

Visible invisible (carmela v3)
Visible invisible f.13 1/100s 55mm ISO100

Using an image John took of me in class, and the photo of letters, I took earlier, I’ve manipulated the image using Photoshop (with the help of Tripod Carrier) to overlay the image on the top of the wording, to portray how my illness makes me feel.

Then I lightened the image by taking out the shadows and highlights, but that wasn’t really working for me.. it’s a bit too obvious. So using different layers, I re-adjusted the colour balance on the letters and kept the layer of myself rather washed out, by removing the tones and colours.


Here’s the final image:

f.13 1/100s 55mm ISO100
Visible invisible (carmela v.4) f.13 1/100 55mm ISO100


DREAMS AND REALITIES – Assignment 3, Unit 2, Tasks 1 & 2, 1.1, 1.2, , 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4


(research and personal images – part 2)

Mirror, Mirror (1.1,1.2, 2.1, 2.2)

Loosely inspired by some of these images found on Pinterest. I shot this, last week:


Mirror, mirror

However, I was frustrated by not knowing how to set up, let alone how to take the shot I wanted! 😦  Tripod Carrier and I discussed it at length earlier this evening, and we agreed…. I am much better at seeing a scene than creating one.  But ..not one to be easily defeated,  I tried again, in a different way. Off to the conservatory then, where there’s lots of light (not quite enough as it turned out…) and room to set up my tripod and some props…

I decided to play with mirrors, light and oil. I used vegetable oil to write the same word on a mirror, and lit by natural light I took these shots using a remote shutter and a shallow depth of field at f.5.5. I have post edited by lightening and highlighting, I was also shown how to use Photoshop to get rid of the niggly bit of beading on the mirror in the bottom left hand corner and the tiny bit of plastic that I hadn’t noticed on the mirror itself. I like the shiny almost retro metallic feel to the script. “Ooh shiny” – that’s me. Easily distracted.

And finally; Mirror, mirror.

This image is kind of inspired by Time passing…. reflection, collection and recollection. Connection… all of those things.

The images with my face in the round mirror were lit by the ever useful anglepoise lamp, and have cast a slightly vintage-y hue to the image. I quite like these images but in post editing, I noticed a hair on the mirror that hadn’t been visible on the lens, or screen, So I’m not likely to use it. These are really just some experimentation shots. I think there’s more to do on this project yet…..


…and for my friends and family who are concerned that life for me is all doom and gloom… please don’t worry, I find plenty of beautiful, happy, life affirming things to photograph too …. x




Images found on Google and Pinterest, Martina Lopez Photo






DREAMS AND REALITIES – Assignment 3, Unit 2, Tasks 1 & 2, 1.1, 1.2, , 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4


‘The fear is the reality…’ (1.1, 1.2, )


(Research and personal images – part 1)

…The Fear is the Reality.

Here I am, not so much with dreams, but somewhat stuck in a nightmare. I have a big fear.  A fear of being allowed to be what and who I want to be, or even to voice what I think. Possibly because I’m not even sure what I like, or want to do. Does that sound too personal? Too honest?  Hmm ..maybe, but it is true. The fear is the reality. ‘Good but not good enough.’

I have been in this position once before, when doing an Access course to Art & Design, way back in 2000, the final term of year 2 when we were told we could paint whatever we wanted….. Arrrghhh! I had no idea, and I almost gave up the course.  I can take direction, because I want to please, but I struggle to please myself.  If I could do that term again, I know now exactly what I would have chosen… flowers. Huge canvases of parts of flowers. They’re so sensual. I can completely understand where Georgia O’Keeffe was coming from, despite the guffaws of Tripod Carrier’s friends last year, when we went to see “a load of fannies” at The Tate Modern. I think her work is beautiful, it speaks to me in volumes, and I  found a kindred spirit (albeit a dead one). Now here I am again, without direction, being given another project to do whatever I please, and I am almost paralysed with fear. What if I get it wrong?

Is it Personal? Yes. This blog has become an extension of my journals. It’s easy to sit here cossetted in my nest, safe and warm and pour out my thoughts to you. I might not find it as easy to tell you them in person.  Honest? Yes. The reality for me is that I spend too much time in my own head. I live with pain daily. Wouldn’t it be a nightmare for you too,  living with pain? Every. Single. Day. For. Ever.  I also live with it’s twin spectres; insomnia and depression. Time. I have nothing but time, endless time…. hours of wakefulness and sometimes, fear.

So I have a nightmare that is how to approach this project, without direction, and with the daunting thought that I can do anything I want to interpret it.

“Dreams and Realities.” Where they once were filled with fantasy and colours, my dreams are not really in colour these days, perhaps a reflection of how limited life can feel at times, but probably more likely as a result of never getting stage 4 REM sleep, because of my condition.  Those old dreams were of colour and dancing, soaring like a bird, swimming in tropical seas, Richard Gere and Elvis (Oh, sorry Ria… you didn’t mention fantasy, did you?) Ahem… Right… where was I? Oh Yes…. Dreams… Running men made of Marmite (yes really!) and laughing Trolls that would eat my family (make of that what you will!!). And the reality that is the nightmare, of a life lived with pain. Of the reality of what the medical profession now call ‘invisible illness.’ (…just like fairies, it’s only invisible to those who don’t believe.)

RESEARCH (1.1, 1.2)


“You cannot see me from where I look at myself” francesca woodman

Francesca Woodman, is best known for her beautiful, haunting photo’s of herself, and her models. Her haunting images showing obscured faces, blurred bodies merging into backgrounds, walls, furniture and even wallpaper.  She often portrayed herself as a ghostly image, or an angel. I feel her work shows such intensity, and extraordinary vulnerability. To me, personally, she quite clearly says, ‘I’m here, but I’m not here.’ There’s a lack of distinction between herself, the World, and the world around her. A sense of self-displacement.

“You cannot see me from where I look at myself” She once said of her own work, which was largely rejected in her lifetime. Tragically, this talented girl killed herself in 1981, aged just 22.  I think her work is beautifully sensitive. It’s entirely relevant and contemporary, today.  In today’s world of ‘the selfie’ it seems girls are obsessed with themselves, but are they obsessed with an image of themselves? A mask? ‘…Here but not here?’  I am grateful that growing up, I did not feel that pressure, and with a new Grandaughter due fairly imminently, I fear for her that constant pressure, and demand to fit in or fall out.


“I never painted dreams. I Painted my own reality.” frida kahlo

I came to discover Frida Kahlo when I first saw the film Frida, played by Salma Hayek. I was captivated by this colourful and vibrant female, who painted her pain, anguish, fears and realities. She depicted on canvas a life filled with painful and tragedy, her physical and emotional pain.

“She is hailed as a hero by so many because she is someone to validate their own struggle to find their own voice and their own public personalities” – Edward Sullivan

Co-incidentally, Frida Kahlo once met Georgia O’Keeffe and was, according to a friend, “…very irritated by O’Keeffe.” – possibly provoked by competitive feelings but I see some parallels in their work.  I am a little fascinated by the fact that evidently “She kept mirrors in every room of her house, her patio included, as if she needed constant reassurance of her very existence.” (I too, have mirrors in every room except the kitchen – unless you count the mirrored oven door 😉 ) The garden has several… what does that say about me, I wonder?

Her work drew from personal experience, including marriage, miscarriage, and many operations. Her paintings are characterized by a stark portrayal of pain, incorporating symbolism of both physical and psychological wounds. Neither realism nor surrealism, her work is threaded together with ribbons and hair, roots and vines, bones and corsets. There is meaning in every part. Interconnected.

image found on Google
The Broken Column, 1944 Frida Kahlo http://www.fridakahlo.org


If I had to choose one word to describe what I love about Kahlo’s work, it would be defiance. Kahlo defies her broken body, her physical discomfort, and pain. There is hope amid the despair, but there is often, optimism and humour.  I have that same hope.  I have moments when I have a life that is not touched by pain, anxiety, or sadness, and insomnia. The moments where I am my ‘old’ self are more fleeting, these days though.

Woodmans’ work is intense, and beguiling. It is honest, and sometimes humorous. I would like to hope that some people might find some of those qualities in me.

Okay, so where am I going with all this?  Well….I’m not entirely sure yet. I have done some research, as you can see. I have wrestled this way and that with what I want to do… Which part of me am I wanting to expose to you exactly? I may end up ‘publicly displaying a vulnerability that I may not want to on days when I feel better. There is a happy, cheeky, creative, family orientated, Carmela, but also a quiet, lost person wrapped in pain and sometimes sadness. A side that many never see.  I had hoped to try and maybe integrate my craft somehow into this project, not as a direct image, more as er… decoration… but so far, it’s not really coming together.  Today, I spent some time cutting and weaving photos of family members, I thought about stitching a photographic family tree, but even that has it’s difficulties: How do I present them as an image? What does it say? Does it have a voice? Only to me, perhaps. And in today’s world of data protection, would I be protecting them if I put them here? Probably not.

Loosely inspired by these images from Pinterest

IMAGES (2.1,2.2,1 2.3, 2.4)

So, I looked to the other side. The darker side. ( …perhaps some might say the dramatic side 😉 ) I spent a few days taking shots, but even now, I’m not sure if this is the direction I really want to take. Maybe they are a little too obvious? I used a simple polythene dust sheet to create this ghostly effect. I stood outside and pressed my hands against the window to make them more prominent in the shot.  Using GIMP as an editing tool, I then converted the images to black and white, then raised the contrast and shadow levels, over and over, on the same image  to see what effects I could get Then added a vignette to darken the edges.

Evaluation:  They are indeed pretty spooky, dreamlike/or nightmare-ish (as you prefer to see it), but I think what I am looking to achieve is something a bit less creepy? I think I may re-visit these at some point as I feel that for the purposes of this project I want the feeling of being trapped in ones own skin rather than haunted.


These final few shots, give something of what I want to say… that in some way I am lessened by this so called ‘invisible’ illness… it scratches away at me, and makes life blurred and less colourful. I have often been heard to say I just want my old life back. It feels unfair….A stolen life. Stolen is too strong a word.. but I do feel cheated.

(Yes, I know it’s not a flattering shot!)  A slightly  okay, very, dodgy selfie! Using GIMP (you’re right, Ria… it is clunky compared to Photoshop!)  as the editing suite, I converted to B&W, then overlaid the same image twice, then raised the contrast and highlights, and blurred the image. The final image is almost unrecognisable as the the former but using the same method, I continued to raise the contrast and highlights and then to draw over the image…. I think I need to find something between the two…


Long-term, chronic illness changes you. In some ways, it changes who you thought you were, and what you thought you knew about yourself.  My foundations are somewhat shaken. I think I’m fairly happy with this as a starting point for my assignment.

lots more to come….