Time is on grief’s side, not yours

The first tear is like a punch.
A punch that blisters the skin-thin blockade.
A punch through the medication.
A punch through time.
Because time will not heal you like they say;
its passage is no longer linear,
it’s feeble, it breaks,
and bends and stretches when it should snap.

the picnic

In this workshop, run by Cassie Gonzales, we were asked to write a scene at the end of a couple's relationship followed by the preceding first date scene. By creating a collection of objects and actions in fiction writing, we can unveil character needs. Exposition.


As it begins ...

She arrived at the door quicker than I expected. “Hey, welcome.” She’s just as bubbly as I remember. It kind of sounds like she’s singing when she talks.
“Thank. Yeah, cheers. Great.”
“I mean, how are you?” She laughs loudly at my fumble, but not in a mean way, kind of like she’s laughing with me and not at me.
“So,” she continues on as she pivots on her barefoot and walks the few steps into the lounge, “I’m not much of a chef, but I do make a mean picky platter.” I’ve already noticed the spread on the coffee table; some of the cheeses barely holding onto the rounded edges.


“Ta da.” That laugh again. This time at herself.
“It’s an urban evening picnic! I’ve trademarked the idea so don’t try and steal it.” I need to say something really flattering here. The thought is so perfect; her creativity works even at dinner time, of course it does. Shit, she’s utterly brilliant. “What an awesome idea. I would have just made spag-bol. I’m so bland.”
“Not bland.” She smiles directly into each iris, “everyone has a well of untapped creative energy - perhaps you’ll find yours at the bottom of this glass.” She thrusts a fishbowl-sized red into my hand. I want to guzzle it but I take a pursed sip.


As the picnic dismantles delicately, one dip bowl at a time, I try to stop my eyes from darting to the mess we have made on the floor. A rug that looks like it has a story to tell, perhaps one of hers.
“Let me clean this up for you.” I dodge a cracker as I stand to find a brush or something, hoping my movement will be met with directions. “Don’t be silly!” she almost yells but holds my arm with playfulness. Her nails are all different colours, some chipped, some painted right to the padding. “It’s just a few crumbs, let them be. They add to the lived-in ambiance I’m fashioning here,” her arms fluidly spanning the tight room. “That’s another trademark of mine.” She winks. I sit.

 

... so shall it end

The elevator doors open in front of me. The tiles leading up to it have been recently polished, I can tell. It almost looks like the floor hasn’t been walked on yet. But it must have been; busy suits stilettoing their way to client lunches or morning meetings. It would have been polished last night, Monday, Alex’s night on shift.


I take time in front of the mirror before pressing number three. It gives me time to fix the curve of my part. I think I made the right decision parting it to the left, the way she taught me. Fuck, maybe I should have worn it how I usually have it, she’ll know I’m trying too hard.


The doors open on the other end of my ascend. Now it’s time for the carpet to cushion my pursuit. It’s funny how this floor hasn’t been cleaned. I can see flecks of punch holes and tiny bits of debris that have been dragged in from outside. Maybe Alex was unwell and didn’t make it to the top of the building. I quite like Alex. I wonder if he still brings the other partners chips while they wait for their other halves to finish that last email. He probably does. I don’t have a monopoly on the chips.


Walking past Jo’s desk first. Even if she sees me she won’t look up. She’ll stay in her own world of starbursts and fonts. She’s not a threat to my mission’s completion.
“Hey man, what are you doing here?” The other Joe, the one with the moustache.
“Em said you guys broke up.” Never subtle.
His next punch doesn’t require eye contact, just a secure gaze on my full hands: “Not sure she’ll be keen for another picnic lunch at her desk today, man.”

let's make good art

There is a point when life can feel a little less guided by the star of Bethlehem and a little more rerouted by the misunderstood witches of east wick. These pivotal points of fray and disenchantment can throw off our entire self-theory of evolution. "What happened?" "How did I get so lost?" And the worst one of all, "who have I become?" It’s at these moments that we need to stitch back together the pieces of our true self and wonder, "where exactly is she?" Well, I think I have the coveted answer - in our craft!

A mentor of mine once shared a clip of his favourite writer giving a graduate speech to a new group of arts' students, and the theme - make good art. Neil Gaiman quite clearly navigates his audience through their future life and work challenges with a three-word fall back – make good art. “Sometimes life is hard. Things go wrong; in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make. Good. Art.” His string of scenarios all come back to this statement.

 “Husband runs off with a politician. Make good art.”

“Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor. Make good art.”

My scenarios run a little closer to non-fiction. Times when I have been faced with a grief so painful I thought the depths of the earth would be warmer than my bed. Other times when I’ve felt that my contribution was meaningless and destructive. Or, on the flip side, when a love so deep gave me an enlightened view of every single human expression. In those times, and many other less pivotal moments, I looked to my craft.

We joined a collective such as this to make good art. To be in a community of likeminded artists, whatever that expression may be; I've seen florals that dive into theories of ethereal reality, jewellery that clashes bold feminism with divine femininity, and space-artists that have an innate ability to add emotion and storytelling to a room. For me, the craft is writing. The grab-a-journal-and-explode kind of writing. When anything goes astray, the pencil is never far away (sorry for the unintentional, yet still not deleted, rhyme). It’s not necessarily my happy place, but more my place to gather up all the scattered marbles and attempt to put them (momentarily) back in my pocket. Love, deceit, illness, stress, grief, birth, identity, anxiety, insomnia ... it's all there and it all has the chance to be free within the bind. It is with these shared experiences that we are a true collective of human beings. Yes, we want to share our craft and make a living from what we would otherwise be doing with our time anyway, but it is deeper and rawer than that. I think it's about overcoming our collective human fault – as Ekhart Tolle puts it – to put our ego and identity aside and leave room to create with each other and learn from each other.

My contribution to this collective is an attempt at nuanced expression through words. My craft is to write. I look forward to each new brief; the piece's unique theme, the tone that is you and your vision. Most of all, I look forward to giving the words back and working together to make good art.

Here is a link to Gaiman’s speech if you are interested and have 20 minutes (which I know is a big ask for creative entrepreneurs): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plWexCID-kA

My TPC listing can be found here: http://www.theperthcollective.com/clare-reid-copywriting.php

Escapism

She found space in the periphery of the ocean,

the movement and freedom of the shell, each piece of sand that flew even further.

She avoided the rocks to invite as much space as available,

to escape from any permanence possible of tying her down.

She was the sand; she was the water, but only at the edge and only for now.

 

Eventually, the clouds found her, even on the margin of the body.

The clarity became murky; the sand was sharp.

Her penchant for avoidance no longer assisted the crave of escape.

 

She shuffled away from the edge.

And this time she didn't avoid the rocks,

she sat between them as if they could anchor her to something that was certain.

So her body would be armoured; her mind would escape as it always has.

 

NB: "Escapism is a constant pursuit and one that meanders between available and undesired. This piece is a little bit about the fluidity of the word and how, no matter how far towards the edge you go to find space, your mind will follow – In this case, permanency of body can offer some comfort when the mind is hell-bent on escapism."

wild

When I see a deep expression of nature I breathe deep, whole. It's not a new concept and I don't know where my truth is in it - I feel like every Instagram post about nature is about connection and peace - but maybe that's it. Maybe it is our collective human commonality, that to be in nature is to breathe with every cell of your body; your eyes bulge with the breath filling them up like enlightened balloons, your belly swells bigger than when incubating new life, your finger tips tingle as if puffs of air are escaping from every line in their print, your nose points to the sky with pores that are open enough to take in a particle of light that may seem insignificant but is really the whole universe warming your face.

Nature is a pulse of life and being in it just means that your presence is whole again. You are not trying to find a filling prophesy amongst buildings that were once someone's art and expression but are now just a page in a resume portfolio and a deterioration of bricks and mortar built with a desire to be anywhere else than amongst the dust and debris of sterility.

The expression of nature may not matter either, like food. It is just fuel. Some people prefer sweet and smooth to savoury and spicy, others prefer a warm sunset to a white-washed mountain but they are all fuel in their full spectrum of expression. It is air, it is life, it is nature, it is breath. 

It moves, it rustles, it plays, it dances. It runs and hides and escapes and wanders. It is whatever you want it to be and tonight, with a simple green scene on a laptop in a small house in a city, I would like it to be poetry.

#nofilter

The #NoFilter campaign for UNICEF brought the location into the darkroom, using the film development process to give meaning to its message. Water from the highly polluted Saigon River was used to develop analog portraits of children who live in areas around the river, highlighting the dangers of their living conditions. “I wanted to shoot young children to emphasize their innocence in this polluted environment … to highlight the impact and suffering,” says portrait and advertising photographer, Teo Chai Guan.

The shoot took place at several locations in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and while research and location scouting could take place in advance, the portraits were completely dependent on who the team managed to find on the day. Teo describes this, as well as a 10-year hiatus from using film, as just one of the many challenges he encountered.

Like most photographers, Teo had never used un-filtered water to develop film before and described the process as a science experiment. “We collected samples of various grades of polluted water along different parts of the river and each type of water gave different effects. It was always an anticipation to see how each photograph turned out,” describes Teo.

This powerful UNICEF campaign, for their WASH program, won 2 Bronze Lions and Eurobest 2016.

Campaign: #NoFilter
Client: UNICEF
Agency: FCB Happiness Saigon, Vietnam
Photographer: Teo Chai Guan
Chief Creative Officer: Geoffrey Hantson
Creative Director: Paul Busschau
Producer: Huynh Tram

Revolution

Rather than simply receiving a brief from an Advertising agency, photographer Mathieu César finds it imperative to be involved in the concepting stage of an idea in order to create images that convey the final message. This cohesion is clearly evident in the ‘Revolution’ campaign for AIDES, (launched on World AIDS Day) which aims to dispel fear and isolation, and reduce the stigma of HIV pathology in sexual relationships. “I love that I was able to be involved in this campaign and use my photography to share important core values,” says César.

In order to create the perfect shot for each campaign, César described the project as a balance between adventure and caution. “We were afraid that this campaign would offend people,” he says. “We needed to convey the correct message with the correct image, [therefore] I needed to catch the perfect moment when the desire and the emotions are in perfect cohesion with the position and the location.”

All four images of the campaign were created with César’s signature black-and-white aesthetic, but keeping their unity with such different scenes was a challenge. “The indoor images were shot in studio, while the diving scene was specially constructed in a studio swimming pool in Paris and the parachute image was shoot on location at the Lagon Bleu,” he says without revealing the beach’s specific location in an effort to retain its anonymity. “We managed to keep the same team, as well as the same gear on each shoot to create a consistent campaign with limited post-production work.”

Campaign: Revolution
Client: AIDES
Agency: TBWA Paris
Executive Creative Directors: Benjamin Marchal, Faustin Claverie
Art Directors: Sébastien Skrzypczak, Morgane Alexandre
Photographer: Mathieu César
Production : Iconoclast Image

the art of copywriting

For some people it's skydiving, for others, it's public speaking, and for a mere few there is a fear of a blank page and the blinking cursor mocking every attempt at a keyboard strike. For me, however, there is a melodic, almost meditative feeling that joins me while I write. The best way I can describe it is that I feel like a pianist with my fingers working tirelessly to create a new piece, to create art if possible. This feeling is probably unique to those who have decided to pursue writing as a career, but the fact is that, while we don’t all have to be pianists, we do all have to be able to write with some legible quality in our everyday lives.

In marketing terms, we write to a brief. This means that all the creative people are singing the same tune and ensuring that the work stays ‘on brand’. This brand is something that is unique to your business and, if Breadbox Marketing has had anything to do with it, you will know your brand’s tone, style, audience, and personality. Having this knowledge is the first part of writing anything for your business and creating a piece that communicates your brand correctly. Does your brand use abbreviations or is it more professional? Can you use slang or puns? Would you ever reference pop culture – does your audience care about the recent Kanye West and Taylor Swift spat?

Once you have the personality of your brand figured out, and the rules that surround it, then there is the need to execute that in a way that sounds articulate. My advice: dedicate time to writing and get into the ‘zone’. Writing needs a certain part of the right side of the brain activated and that means creativity, so try music to get things started. When it comes to our more left-minded friends, let me give you a very logical tool to think about when articulating your thoughts – active sentence structures are almost always preferred.

 

Active: Subject, predicate (verb), object

Passive: Object, predicate (verb), subject

 

Active: Kayne West tricked Taylor Swift

Passive: Taylor Swift was tricked by Kanye West

*See, our brand can clearly reference Taylor and Kanye without a problem.

 

Okay, with that semi-figured out, then there is the question of narrative mode and narrative structure. The choice of narrative mode (I, we, you, or they) will largely come down again to your brand’s style, but it will also depend on what you are writing. Whichever mode you choose, just stay consistent!

Taking your readers on a journey is also very important. Every good piece of writing will do it – from a social media post to a tender submission. This is what we call narrative structure, and it can mean the difference between a good piece of writing and a bad one. We can almost guarantee that readers are bored; with the abundance of material thrown at us every day, we are starved for a bit of suspense and a need to go on a journey to stay engaged. Don’t say everything in the first sentence, spend time setting the scene for your readers and get to the point succinctly soon after. Which social media post are you more willing to like? My bet is on the one with the considered narrative structure (or you will shy away for the topic of pelvic floor altogether and skip this section):

a) With your baby getting heavier and wrigglier every week, it’s important that your focus doesn’t completely shift away from you. Listen to your body’s aches and pains and seek guidance from a physiotherapist to help you strengthen your abdominal and gluteal muscles and pelvic floor. + Share image of mother and baby.

b) Visit a physiotherapist to help you strengthen your abdominal and gluteal muscles.

Yes, there is more to being a good writer than just getting the apostrophe in the correct place. Although if I see another university graduate mixing plural spelling with possessive spelling then I'm throwing in the towel right now! – Happy writing.

'war at home'

Taking its name from the shocking statistic that 22 American war veterans commit suicide every day, Mission 22 gave the issue a name, but not a face. The War at Home campaign shows the empty living rooms, bedrooms, garages, and hallways where soldiers are dying from suicide. “I wasn’t always photographing the exact place where the suicide happened,” explains conflict photographer David Guttenfelder. “I walked through their homes and their neighborhoods, which really had become their personal battle spaces. These otherwise-mundane places took on a darker, more ominous feel.”

After returning from 20 years in war zones himself, Guttenfelder’s focus had not been on advertising or architectural photography. “A traditional documentary photographer would approach this very differently. Mission 22 built a bold campaign around a clear point of view. With print, web, TV, social, billboards, they started a broad conversation. I learned a lot. These are approaches I might also bring to my editorial work in the future.” During the three-week production, he had to face his own feelings about coming home from war. “My career covering war helped me connect with the grieving families. I felt I had a strong bond with them. I’d even been on the same front lines with some of these veterans who’d taken their own lives.”

The campaign took home a Bronze at the Cannes Lion Awards for PR Campaigns. The team is now exploring how they can begin the next phase of the campaign.

Photographer: David Guttenfelder. davidguttenfelder.com

Article published in Capture Magazine. capturemag.com.au

I never thought

I never thought it would end.

That I would have to listen to other people's advice,

And stories of me and you, and their untouched meaning in life.

I never thought I would sleep alone.

That you wouldn’t be breathing or dreaming next to me.

That your stubby fingers would uncurl and never reach for my hand or grab my face or run through my hair.

I never thought I would plan a life.

That I would only have me to ask if it’s right,

It only has to be right for me to survive, not even thrive, but that doesn’t seem right.

I never thought it would end.

I could only imagine the grief, but not the rest.

That people move on and continue to love in front of my face, right there, on the couch, on the street,

loving each other when I just watch and wait for it to stop and hope that they remember I had that once too.

I never thought my job would end.

No alarms of panic, no reason to move, no purpose to pursue, none of my information people need.

My mind still full of answers that no one asks.

I never thought you would actually go.

That all the research, stats and facts were really true.

And you had to go without me that morning.

When we hadn’t finished or really started figuring out where you were going or when we’d meet again.

I never thought life would go on.

That I would sleep at night and still wake up.

That sun would rise and set on nature’s time.

I never thought you’d stop at 25.

That your twin’s birthday would be approaching in 2 days but nothing is planned for you.

No present to buy and no card to write.

I never though it would end.

It really doesn’t matter what I thought because the days are moving and I have to leave you forever young while I’m just forever alone.

I never thought I would stay.

I know it’s better to join you but I have to live for everyone else,

even in this amount of pain,

so that they never have to say to themselves;

“I never thought she’d actually do it.”