Ashes To Ashes is one of the most important images I have created to date. It describes two stories. One about my nerve damage, and one about rising from the ashes.
In this blog I will be going over both meanings, as well as going over how it was created.
“It feels as if my whole body is burning and turning into ash.
My nerves feel as if they have been burned to a crisp by an uncontrollable fire.”
This is the original caption that those who visited “The Chronic Diaires” when it was exhibited at MAMA would have seen on the artwork label below the image.
Nerve damage, dysesthesia, or whatever the doctors want to call it next, is something that I have been fighting through for at least the last 15 years.
It’s not the most pleasant of feelings. In my case, it makes my whole body feel as if it’s on fire, and turning me into a pile of ash. This feeling runs right through my body, but is most prevalent in my lower back, fingers and groin area.
I don’t often tell people that I feel it the worst down in the groin area, because I have had experiences in the past where people would question why I’m “burning down there”, as if I had an STD. I still haven’t learned to ignore those types of comments, so I generally keep it to myself to avoid having those questions thrown at me, but it is a big part of why this image was created, so I’m revealing it to the world now so that I can give this image a bit more context.
As I mentioned in the first sentence, I have had multiple diagnosis for this issue, and I’ve seen many different doctors about it, who have all said it is either one of the two problems that I mentioned, although dysesthesia is a potential symptom of nerve damage, so really it’s all one and the same
Either way, I know that it is frustrating, embarrassing and it hurts a whole hell of a lot!
It’s something I have learned to put up with though, like all of my other illnesses
I hope it can be cured one day, but until then, I will just keep pushing through it!
Rising From The Ashes
“Physical and mental breakdowns are like an uncontrollable fire that we often feel will never end. Surviving that inferno is incredibly difficult, but if you can fight through it, you will be able to rise from the ashes and live to fight another day!”
The other story behind this image is one of “rising from the ashes”.
Battling through chronic illness of any kind isn’t easy, In fact, it’s incredibly difficult.
I occasionally have full health crashes, which is basically a full breakdown of both the mind and body where I can barely function and am bedridden most of the time for a few months on end.
It takes a lot for me to get back on my feet and get my health back to some sort of manageable state, but when I do, it feels like I am a phoenix who has been reborn and can start anew, before the process of breaking down eventually starts again.
I make the most of the times where I’m not having health crashes. I think life is beautiful and worth living, so I live it to the best of my ability even though I know that things will inevitably get harder again at some point.
This meaning can also be put towards any hardship in life, not just chronic illness.
The Adventures Begin:
Earlier this year in January or Feburary, I received an email from MAMA, the gallery I was going to be exhibiting my series “The Chronic Diaries” at in May and June
In the email was an offer to extend the amount of space I had from 2 rooms to 3 rooms for free, and I jumped at the chance to have this extra room, as it is the first room you see in that line of galleries upstairs.
After accepting the offer, I then realised that I was going to have to create more work to fill the extra space, as I only had enough for the two rooms that I had originally secured for the exhibition back in August of 2016.
One of my closest friends, Matt, offered to take me out on a few road trips to create the final few images, and in late February, the adventures begun!
How It Was Created:
On this particular road trip, we decided to travel from Albury to Bright, create images on the way at different locations that we came across and then come back home.
Just as we were about to get to Bright, we hit the roundabout that took us to Bright if we turned left, and Mount Buffalo if we turned right.
Matt then suggested we go about 2 minutes up Mount Buffalo way so he could show me a little waterfall on the side of the road, and so we went and checked it out!
After we were done, Matt then said “Well, we are here now, why don’t we go right up to the top of Buffalo and see what’s there?”.
I happily agreed!
When we got up there, we found a little hut on the side of a car park. Little did I know that this hut would have something that I have been looking for to create an image in for over 3 years.
We walked in and here it was, this incredible fireplace. I was so excited!
This is an image I had been wanting to create for a long time, but had never found a fireplace that fit the visual I had in my mind for this particular image, but this fireplace was perfect.
I quickly set my tripod up, connected my Sony A7R to my phone with PlayMemories so I could trigger the camera with it, and see the images as they were being captured, and then started to get my body and mind ready to do the shoot.
It was around 5 degrees Celsius at the time, but even though it was cold, I had no issue with taking all my clothes off for this photo shoot. It ended up taking a toll on my body for a few weeks, but it was so worth it!
After I took all of my clothes off, Matt kindly helped put the ash that was already in the fireplace all over my body, and after that, I tried a few different poses and captured about 12 frames total.
I knew that I had got “the” shot on about the 8th frame, but still kept shooting for a few frames to see if I could get anything better.
In the end though, this ended up being the final image, and I am so proud of it! It came up even better than I had ever hoped!
This image is one of those images that will stick out for me for many years to come, just like my image “Staring Into The Unknown”. I am so happy I finally got to create this image, and create it was one of my best friends beside me helping out!
If you live in Sydney or will be in Sydney at the time, you will be able to see this image, as well as the other 18 images in “The Chronic Diaries” at the Sydney Fringe Festival HPG Hub as a part of the Sydney Fringe Festival! I am really looking forward to exhibiting this series in Sydney!
It will be my first solo exhibition in a capital city which is exciting!
I will have blogs going up weekly from now on! I look forward to sharing more adventures and ramblings with you in the weeks and months to come!
Keep smiling, keep believing and keep being awesome everyone!