From the 27th of January to the 3rd of February is National Storytelling Week.
Stories can be very powerful things. For me, they are vehicles to describe, share specific emotions and experiences.
As a child, I fondly remember stories of The BFG, the Giraffe and the Pelly and Me but in my adult life due to dyslexia, I find keeping my attention on a book difficult. I’m deeply enthused by books on philosophy like the brilliant Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, I also love dystopian fiction from such authors as Philip K Dick, Chuck Palahniuk and Douglas Copeland.
My fiancé loves to read. Specifically Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. It’s not uncommon to find a minimum of two books dotted around our house in odd places. Something we enjoy sharing together is him reading them aloud to me. I particularly like the fact he’ll do the voices for each character.
My good friend Rachel Extance shared a story about A Soup Stone on her blog. Once I’d read it, it filled me with feelings and memories of experiences of when I’d gathered people I cared about to share time together, the atmosphere I created from these gatherings of good friends and awesome food and the positive feelings which arose from those memories.
I’d like to share with you the story of an adventure I had in Barcelona a couple of years ago. My partner and I much prefer sharing an experience together over material items, so we decided that it would mean more to us to go away for a weekend on our anniversary than to buy each other something.
In April 2016 we went to Barcelona. We visited the famous Park Güell where Gaudi expertly demonstrates his skill for landscape gardening. It was a very warm day, the warmest since we’d arrived and after we’d walked around the park for a couple of hours we discovered a picnic area and had a rest.
The first thing we saw was the beautiful birds which were bouncing around at our feet, they had such vibrant colours. I focused my attention in on them, which then lead me to see two men with instruments sat under one of the trees. One of the instruments was a hang, and the other was a guitar.
Then they began to play:
I was struck by an overwhelming feeling of calm and serenity. The combination of the warm weather, the beautiful carefree guitar and the epic senary just made me feel complete. It really illustrates how creating the right atmosphere with the right elements transports you into the perfect mindset.
When I welcome clients into my studio, I put a lot of effort beforehand to get to know them better, so I’m able to understand what small elements help put them at ease. For example, I’ll have their favourite music playing, I’ll burn a candle with a pleasant scent or even bake them cookies.
I’m told regularly by clients that ‘I don’t enjoy having my photo taken’, I personally put that down to the fact that they’ve been in an environment where they don’t feel comfortable. It’s my job to create that environment and an experience which helps them to relax and feel comfortable which results in an image which really creates the perfect portrait.
I’d love to hear your stories of when an atmosphere was created for you and led you to have a pleasurable experience. Drop me a comment below or Tweet me.
Jemima Willcox is a personal brand portrait photographer based in Cambridge, UK.