Photography Blog

James Tarry's photography blog. Ramblings from a photographers over active mind. Email now or call +44 (0)7855 742 633.

Posts in film photography
Mind State: A personal project about mental health

For years now I have been trying and failing to come up with a visual project about mental health/illness. In fact I've also written several blog posts about this topic after seeing a slew of creatives all discussing how they struggle with mental health online, but I have always deleted them. Depression still feels a bit of a taboo subject or something people still see as an over exaggeration, something you will 'snap out of', or even a call for attention-I think that's why I have always deleted my scribbling. 

For the record I was diagnosed with depression around my 20s, I remember my doctor saying it was surprising it hadn't appeared earlier considering my medical history up to that point. While mine was only a mild case and I was off medication soon afterwards over the years its always been there, lurking in the background. Around my 30s I found myself in a job I hated for 5 years and in a volatile relationship that I could not seem to get out of that had me dipping back into past troubles-I was almost always angry, felt insanely alone and trapped.  I had figured out tricks or ways to balance myself-music in my headphones was one of these (later on the use of Twitter was another way of release). I used to have headphones in or close to me pretty much all the time just in case I needed to drown out/calm my thoughts quickly. In fact I still have music in or around me when needed, but while these tricks helped, they didnt get me out of the situations/feeling better.

Without going into too many details, in the back half of 2016 I felt a change happening again. In my 20s there had been a breaking point (literally) that got me to the doctors and when I was in that bad job/relationship years later there was a chance breaking point there that got me into a better place then too. In January 2017 mind racing almost hourly, countless near sleepless nights, feeling physically sick almost daily and added amounts of anxiousness every time I had to deal with certain matters or people a breaking point would happen again. 

It would be on a beach in West Sussex close to my family home where I had been so many times in the past to walk and clear my mind. This time I had my pinhole camera and a bunch of Polaroid film. The fresh air, the rain, the empty winter beach always does wonders for me-Photographically and mentally something clicked. In that moment I knew what had to be done to balance the troubles that was making me unhappy in my day to day and I knew exactly how to make a series of photos representing the levels of depression, anxiety and stress that has fluctuated in and out of my life. 

What follows is the start of a series of images shot entirely on old Polaroid 4x5 Film stock with a pinhole camera-The process itself to get these photos is often serene and relfection filled. The images are of isolated objects with a circle that represents me and how I have been feeling either in that week or memories of the past. The grey circle represents the anxiety/stress/depression, the larger the circle the more intense the moment was. It has been an incredibly cathartic process. 

There are many out there that suffer and don't/cant reach out or aren't fortunate to have the support and loved ones I am glad to have in my life. As I have found in the past few weeks after slowing releasing this series, you (we) are not alone, my hope is that by sharing this personal experience and series that it touches someone somewhere, maybe even help.

*Update: the follwing photos have been changed since inital post. Due to the nature of a long project, one gets better with equipment, materials and gets a better vision (in theory). There is now also a Instagram Page where you can view the full set as they happen: mindstateproject

2017: Pinhole photography and Instant Film Pt2

Hello again.

Alot has happened since the last post on my new instant film direction including; New55 film rarely working 'properly', a possible faulty back (which wasnt faulty), an Ondu pinhole camera with 6 light leaks (sorted by photographers best friend-Gaffer Tape). Unsatisfactory email replies with New55 over what I felt was a faulty box of film (5 sheets-none fitted properly, all ripped apart) and returns of all stock (and the other "faulty not faulty" Polaroid back) taken back to shop only to hear they had similar issues and concerns.

I will spare all the back and forths but the whole thing has been an exhausting battle. By the time New55 offered to replace the film I had decided to take the risk and buy the original Polaroid Type 55 film off Ebay. The risk being that this film is discontinued, expired and possibly the film chemical has dried up.... the seller in this case had apparently stored it in a fridge for the best part of 10 years, so I thought it was worth a punt. At £180 a box (not including postage) its the most expensive film I have bought to date, but it still works out cheaper per shot than New55 which currently runs at £60-70 a box (not including postage) for only 5 shots per box. What could go wrong that already hasn't, right? 

Well I set off back to Richmond Park one beautiful Saturday morning, pulled the Polaroid film out, crossed fingers and started again. Success. The film fits, works, and delivers. I shot 7 exposures that morning and I have 1 keeper, while that does not sound a great return per shot wise, the quality of that one keeper is way better in my opinion of what I had (examples below). The 6 others, 3 hadnt processed "properly" (part of the risk of instant film) and 3 were compositional/pinhole errors that I had made. 

I'm super happy with these Polaroid Type55 slides, its how I remember my experiance with the Fuji Pack film, enjoyable. The thing I need to improve at is getting the shot composition better and quicker, the disadvantage of using the Pinhole is that its pretty much all guess work as there is no way of 'seeing' or previewing what you are aiming at. As with every stage of every idea I have there's been trials, swearing, impatience and frustration but the big positive I take away every time this happens is that somehow I'm always able to stick with it and figure out a solution....ONWARDS AND UPWARDS! 

Polaroid Type55

Polaroid Type55



Thank you for reading-If you enjoyed please hit that subscibe button, I have a few plans over the year that might be of interest. If you have not voted for me in the Finals of Art Of Building 2016, you can do so here , my Gherkin photo (below) was selected from 2000 entries and needs your help to win: voting closes 23rd Jan! :) 

2017: Pinhole photography and Instant film

New Year and a new set and style of images. 

This new direction has been on the cards for a very long time now but trying to get all the ducks in a row to produce it was proving difficult: the pinhole camera was delayed nearly a year, the instant film is pretty experimental and also very expensive for only 5 shots per box. 

Ultimately I wanted to produce a set of images that were 'dream like', calming and atmospheric in quality hence the pinhole camera choice. I also wanted them to be insanely imperfect, which lends itself well to the New55 instant film as the spread of chemicals is never quite the same and often bleeds out. In my head I think I was also aiming for less photorealism and more of a 'painterly' quality, they (I believe) will look really fantastic printed on some textured paper, and big, of course. 

The B&W film packs seem to work better then the Colour for me, they also have the added bonus of being on a sort of textured paper so when zoomed in you can see cracks, like dried paint..... the B&W packs are also £5-10 cheaper so there's that too!

They are very different to my previous work, which tend to be big bright colours but I feel they still fit within the same realm as I further try to push film photography. My main concern is that they do not translate well on a screen and to really 'get' them they need to be printed. Either way, I'm looking forward to continuing with this, getting feedback on them and hopefully showing it this year at an Art Fair or two during the year. 





Thank you for reading-If you enjoyed please hit that subscibe button, I have a few plans over the year that might be of interest. If you have not voted for me in the Finals of Art Of Building 2016, you can do so here , my Gherkin photo (below) was selected from 2000 entries and needs your help to win :-) 




Art of the Building 2016 competition finalist


Apologies for the slow blogging of late, its been a pretty full on last few months after The Other Art Fair with little time to sit down and update. 

This morning I woke up to the BBC website informing me that I had been selected in the final 15 of the 'Art of the Building 2016' competiton run by the Chartered Institute of Building with my triple exposure 4x5 interpreation of the Foster + Partners "The Gherkin". 

A fantastic way to end the year and an honour to be selected amongst the thousands of entries. It now goes to a public vote: So, here I am asking if you like this photo to please click the link below and vote for it. It would be very very muchly appreciated, and of course a Happy Christmas to you all :)

Limited Edition Prints of 'The Gherkin" are also available for sale via Saatchi Art on the link below:

Everyone is producing better images than you........

Hello there, its been a while since I last posted due in part to work, laziness and a holiday! I returned this week from a 8day trip to the wonderful city of Lisbon, if you've never been I would suggest you go, its fantastic and sort of like San Francisco, but cheaper! That though is not really why I am writing or for that rather tenuous click bait style title.

Before my holiday I managed to complete a third image of the surfers in San Diego (see below), and it conjured up an idea, a continuation of an idea I guess. Lisbon has a number of beaches nearby(ish) and some of those are surfing hotspots, I wanted to continue this project on that route. So, I bought a needed longer lens for my Hasselblad a couple of boxes of film and the confidence that I now know how to do and replicate these images. 

To get to the coast from Lisbon you have to take a train (if you do not have a car-which we did not) its 40mins and only 5Euros return. There are several 'hotspots' on this train line, and none of them had any surfing going on. So we walked, and walked, and googled, and walked. Nothing. The 'best' beach, which happens to hold championships on was too far to walk, too difficult to get to without a car and so we abandoned it. On the way back I spotted little dots on the horizon and we fled back the way we came and low and behold, by a jetty a nice break with 4 decent surfers on. I loaded up, and shot away......7 shots in is when is when I noticed the film was not winding on. Ripped that out, stuck a new one in and of course the surf died off. One surfer left, the others hung around for a bit and then they all left. 4 shots. Not great. 

I needed to get to the other beach but with only a couple of days left, I planned to get up early catch a train back on the Saturday and hike or rent a moped if necessary to the beach. As it turns out there were some taxis hanging around so 10Euro later I found myself having coffee over looking a stunning beach with a world class reputation..... 2 hours and a bunch of surf schools later I had to leave with virtually nothing in the can. All I got was a couple of shots of people walking with their boards and a couple of bodyboarders paddling out-Frustrating. Still, it could be enough, for at least one new shot.......... could be. I have since developed those 2 rolls of film, played around with the images, and there's nothing. Individually the photos are fairly decent, but I cannot for the life of me get them to work like the San Diego ones. I am so annoyed, which brings me to the title of this blog. 

We have discussed before that it is so easy to fall into the trap that everyone else is producing world class images, better images, more consistently and frequently. We see photos every day being shared, all over social media, we see the "look i've been awarded this", "I've been selected by this gallery" blah blah type posts every day too... It is easy to feel bummed out about your work, my work. In fact I felt it after this trip. I feel it today as I write this. It has hacked me off that I have nothing new to show, I started to feel that the San Diego shots were just a fluke. Heck, this week Twitter has had an influx of architectural photos on it and I've been beating myself up about this aspect too (the job side). 

Fellow Twitterer Jon Wilkening recently started a podcast about creatives and his latest one with Mike Sakesegawa  brings up this topic of the visible creative pressure we all go through and its well worth a listen (see below). We must remember (I must remember) that more often than not all we see on Social Media is the success, we ourselves see and live with our 'failures' so it hurts more, becomes easy to beat ourselves up about, but those people sharing all those wonderful photos and art work, they have the downs too, its just more often than not they don't share them. 

There's no simple answer to this apart from believing you are on the right track, keep keeping on, try to understand every single person who has ever tried to create anything goes through this. No, everyone is NOT producing better images than you. Me? I'm still going to sulk the heck out of last week, beat myself up, be annoyed by it, threaten to burn, crumple and destroy those negatives.....the only real way that feeling is going to change is by writing about it, sharing my fails and continuing with the project and nailing one somewhere down the line, hopefully. 


** in a random turn of events **

So shortly after this was posted on Twiter Sandeep aka @Givemeabiscuit came up with the idea of addressing the balance and sharing our not so great images... we are calling it #mediocreMonday. So come on come all, this Monday we shall all post a really boring, dull, rubbish photo that we've taken..... its a bit of fun, it helps quash all the anxiety and puts us all on a level playing field, pro or amateur! #MediocreMonday, lets make it a thing :)