Theodora Ford on Photography, Mental Health and Project365
10 October 2021
For photographer and online AP enthusiast Theodora Ford, engaging in her photography project, Project365, has allowed her to regain her focus and creative flow. She tells us more about her experience for World Mental Health Day
As an older photographer for many years the urge to record footage has not abated and now retired I have the (theoretical) luxury of time to devote. In the past, I have worked in forensic mental health in secure units and have seen firsthand how fragile mental health can be. I live with my very supportive and patient husband and I have four children.
After a particularly stressful time, my creative flow came to a complete stop. After a year without a spark, I decided that a concentration (no pun intended) that was entirely mine was needed, in order to reignite some creativity.
Project365 came to mind. I had heard about one-year photography projects and decided to get involved. One photo per day for a year. To be posted on Instagram only. The kit used had to be light, small, discreet and fast. I use a small Panasonic GM5 (without mirror), a Lumix f1.7 20mm prime, UV filter and occasional circular polarizer.
The lens will focus down to about 6 inches and when I crop, sometimes sharply, reasonable macro results can be achieved. I don’t use a flash or a tripod unless absolutely necessary, preferring to increase the ISO to be able to hold my hand. I also use a iPhone SE20.
Using jpegs, I photograph in color although black and white is my favorite medium, reminiscent of the days when I had a Ilford Sporti 4 Camera and later, on my first SLR, a Olympus OM20 which fired in priority at the opening.
I developed and printed the photos in a small dark room in the loft. Most photos are now slightly edited using the basic editing feature of the iPad. When converting from color to black and white, the light and shadow should be adjusted slightly because the simple conversion does not reproduce the image you saw, it makes them rather flat and gray. I don’t really like heavily edited shots, things need to be as natural as possible for me.
It’s a challenge. He’s a queer, irritating, infuriating, annoying and, at times, gratifying. After the first year, I was so relieved to get to 365 posts that I was happy to be done, but after a few days I missed it so much that I left for a second year. Photos need to be taken and posted daily although I can’t always do it.
Discipline is really beneficial because it adds structure and purpose to the day, is motivating, focus on the topic does a good job of drowning out internal chatter and at the end of the day even if you don’t. could do something else, you did.
There is a large and supportive photographic community of all styles on Instagram and it has been both possible and fun to make friends on Insta, especially during the pandemic. I am two people in particular who have struggled and posted about this.
I was interested to see if my style changed over the course of the year and if any themes crystallized. After going through the images, I notice some changes, mainly in the composition which is a work in progress. The first year is, I think, because I was new to it, somehow fresher although the glorious summer might have had something to do with it.
This year has been more difficult, again due to the weather and the poor light. The themes that emerge are those of motif, light and shadow, nature and machines. The small details hold my attention and, faced with a huge structure for which you need a special kit, I will look for the small details which are interesting in themselves.
Several articles evoke the feeling of a warm, dusty, privet-scented evening in the suburbs reminiscent of a house we lived in when I was little. Other minutiae include the reproductive parts of flowers, leaf patterns and color, lichen textures, insects and spiders.
Urban decay is also a favorite, reminding me of London in the early 1950s, when there were bomb craters and demolished buildings everywhere you looked.
Childhood memories seem to have a great influence, represented by the intricacies of plants, patterned pebbles, cobwebs, dewdrops, the things that fascinate a child. I have no particular influence, it comes from several genres and I am always open to new ideas and inspirations, the important thing being to evoke something in the image.
While I’m not interested in copying anyone’s style, it’s really constructive to watch how other photographers use color, light, shadow, modeling and to wonder how they have achieved this effect. It’s also a great excuse to look at plenty of stunning looking photos!
I kept the kit to a minimum for ease of use, fewer decisions to make, less to carry, and encouragement for interpretation. The benefits of the project are having a reason to go out most of the time, feelings of accomplishment, an increase in confidence, learning to see good shots (and save them for when the light is good), development of the style, freedom to experiment, support, criticism and satisfaction of the online community.
The main impression I get from Project365 is that of peaceful calm and maybe that’s what I look for in life through my camera.
You can see more on Theodora and her Project365 on Instagram @theodoraford