Bridge over the Wasburn


Every Wednesday I act as a volunteer at a local Community Arts centre, which supports people who are recovering from mental illness, where I offer tuition/mentoring in photography.  For the most part, this has meant support to a single individual, though I’ve worked with a few others on and off – the nature of recovery seems to be intermittent.

My ‘buddy’ (I’ve been going out with him for some time now, so the title ‘client’ doesn’t seem appropriate) had some experience with photography, but digital was pretty new to him, so we’ve gradually been working in broadening his skill set in both the technicalities of digital camera use and the wider scope of image creation and composition.  The nature of his recovery/support means there is a lot of repetition of detail and thinking of ways to reduce the complexity of taking photographs – many times we have resorted to setting his camera to ‘program’ (auto everything) so we could stop his enjoyment of taking pictures being marred by unnecessary complications like ISO, aperture, shutter speed, histograms and the like.  Of course, all this is in the context of his mood on the day and as the session goes on.  To be honest, nowadays our sessions tend to be less about the photography as such, it’s more about a walk in the countryside for a chat with a camera along for company.

He is also somebody who has absolutely no interest in computers, though I’ve managed to teach him the skills to review his pictures on the pc at the centre.  He has no interest in learning how to do any ‘digital darkroom’ work – though I’ve got him to at least delete the pictures he’s not happy with.  Originally, he would take the card from his camera to the local supermarket to have his pictures printed, then he would delete the card – we now copy his images to a large memory stick, so he could reprint in the future, or should he change his mind and look to getting a bit more computer savvy, he could revisit his images.

One of my biggest difficulties is finding somewhere we haven’t been before, (he’s not keen on repeat visits), but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find somewhere fresh – somewhere there is something to take photographs of on a walk of about 1/2 mile.  Personally, I’m happy to ‘wing it’ but that’s not appropriate for our sessions – (between 1100 and 1400 as a general rule).  This means I’ve had to start to reconnoitre potential trips – not a bad thing I guess, but it all takes time.  Of course, travelling distance is also becoming a problem  – the more we drive out the less time he ends up with.
I took this on our most recent trip out (there’s a sure bet, I’m not about to leave my camera in the car!).



33 thoughts on “Bridge over the Wasburn

  1. What you are doing must be even harder than what I am doing, teaching about computers… But I recognize that feeling of ‘how else can I rephrase this so it does not sound so complicated?’ 🙂 Not easy but so rewarding when there is a moment you get through…

  2. I love this photograph, and as one whose life has been touched by mental illness, thank you for what you are doing. Mental illness is so complicated and frustrating. Just being your buddy’s connection to the world outside the “inside of his head” is a good thing.

    • The old job search run by directgov had an option for volunteering and the Community Arts organisation put an ad up for photographers, musicians, gardeners, and other arty types – I just replied to that. You may find a similar organisation in your area, give them a call.
      I’ve been very strict in saying that I’m only available for one day a week, as I know I could easily become completely engrossed – if not photography, then gardening, if not that, computing (they offer basic, ‘this is how you use the web’ advice/tuition).

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