As I sat down to write this introduction on the 26th November 2018 at 12.08 p.m. a loud drilling could be heard on Deptford high st , out my kitchen window and low and behold they were installing this years christmas tree , a welcome distraction I thought how could that not be a sign of apt timing and a soundtrack to write about last years Christmas.
In the build up to Christmas 2017 a dread flooded my thoughts an anxiety and stress made me want to avoid the whole day and process of Christmas so I decided to take photos out my window on the 25th December and record the radio.
I felt I had no where to go , but I did , I was invited by someone I love, to their families christmas but an anxiety and a break down in communication with a member of my family made me feel indifferent to that day, I couldn’t go , I couldn’t face it , there were people there I really wanted to be with and meet, but my internal stress and problem with a member of my family effected me in a negative way. I created a deep sadness towards the day and associated it with the one’s that don’t have anyone, I have been told by friends close to me to get help before and my friend I couldn’t be with that day convinced me to get help for which I am eternally grateful. I am getting help with these issues and feel better just to realise and be aware of how anxiety effects me, if I ever had the chance to meet those people again, I would take it and deal with my problems as they are not anyone else’s. I have spent christmas day’s alone before and kept myself busy including one year when my car broke down and I spent the evening walking from Knightsbridge to Deptford, as I walked through peckham on that night I witnessed an elderly Jamaican women singing a beautiful song to herself by the bus stop which had a beauty about it that stays with me like a childhood memory will never leave you, I am not religious or believe in god but that lady spoke to me in a way that makes my sometime frail emotion believe in the fleeting beauty of a stranger that we are not alone. I have associated Christmas day with people who have a tough time , we can all end up alone, but in our minds we can be free.
Why ? Was that the reason for the photos ! I was cut short saying this to my psychotherapist ‘Don’t think , just see’ he said, which I needed to hear with my wondering mind, it took me a while to work out what he meant , to see the day you are in and not think of what happened before or the future but the now and today and take it from there, the only day we have. I often find myself sitting around for hours , what if , what should I do ?, where should I go ?
If I am a photographer or an artist or whatever I am, I feel a responsibility to describe / explain why I would take certain photos, an honesty to understand the process, we have a choice (not an easy one) to re-create this day if it becomes too much for whatever reason. This thought used to scare me like breaking up with someone you love, how could you re- create this feeling, time and space , you can’t , but you can change it. Anxiety is the shadow of creativity, I want to be less anxious or do I want to normalise my anxiety and learn how to switch off in times of difficulty. My problem with a member of my family should not effect others or myself but it did. I can see that person for who they are , not who Iam, as my hate / distrust has to disappear for me to see the day for what it is.
I want to get better, I will get better, I am on that road now, keep the conversation, the conversation on mental health open and understanding open, I need an open conversation on mental health, fuck the snobs and the stiff upper lips their world doesn’t work for the majority, we can work together, I can live more free , more so than I have been.
Eventually I had to talk to someone, I chose someone I love and who is close to me , but I did have a breakdown in communication with this person and we became estranged before I communicated my emotion to them , I don’t know if this was the right person, I didn’t get the response I wanted but I got a response and I got help after that person told me too and that was the answer I needed. It was a shock an amazing shock to be awake again. I remember one mad thought that repeated itself in my mind on bad days, I will be alive another year if I do this so it can see the light of day the following Christmas, but that was just a thought , they don’t control me anymore, my thoughts are not me, they don’t define my day and mood. I can escape that mindset through meditation or breathing mindfully then I have a new thought that doesn’t rule my day. I can re-imagine my normality not the abnormality.
What I saw and did last Christmas day, apart from looking out my window taking photographs and listening / recording the radio, I drank , smoked , got stoned through the 24hr period on red wine, roll up’s and hash, I was on autopilot but in the moment observing and listening ( you can do this if you have been taking photos for as long as I have )
I took about 2,000 photographs and made 192 sound recordings from the radio, I left my flat once in the 24hr’s to score off a local dealer who was stood on the corner of deptford high st and New Cross Rd , I had an outer body experience in that moment as it was me buying drugs not someone else I would have witnessed from my kitchen window, I don’t incriminate anyone in my photos. I saw a lap top being offered up for sale to passing strangers and a free food /soup kitchen run by local Deptford people and families which also offered a DJ playing tunes , clothes and hot drinks, a Christmas vibe a lot of people took advantage of. The pictures run in order of the day, Venture FM was the radio station for me that day , the best station , my loneliness lifted through their sweet Jamaican /London vibe of love, respect and family on a bleak grey day. I also heard an amazing Irish station on the A.M frequency which gave a warm feeling of festive music and humour, also Resonance F.M. played some emotive , unusual sounds, and the madness of the London pirate radio stations to take your mind raving on a Christmas day. I love radio and I love Venture F.M.
I feel better now or recently , 2018 was a very difficult year , I started getting help in September after a bad period between april and the end of August , I finally became aware again after Notting hill carnival and the emotion / awareness of others it always creates, I realised I had been in an alcohol / drug daze most of the year, 3 months of conscious help doesn’t seem like a long time but I notice the change / direction I have taken , in this moment I have stopped drinking and taking drugs (the drugs were the first thing to go) I see a psychotherapist once a week, I meditate daily and whether or not I continue in this direction, I know I never want to go back to that place I once inhabited without escape. I have found a new path / approach to life, a key to carry on this journey which is realistic and enjoyable, Christmas day is another day and as the song told me that day on Venture FM ‘hold on to love’.
Video and words: Ben Graville