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Simon_Beedie

Mind The Lens: Interview with Picfair Photographer, Simon Beedie

07 October 2021

Posted by Picfair

Welcome to Mind The Lens, our mental-health-focused month in partnership with The Photography Movement where we're providing a range of supporting content as well as £20,000 in grants to projects within mental health and photography. To find out more about Mind The Lens, visit our blog post or application page.


"Derbyshire based. Advocate for nature and photography for the sake of mental health. My camera is my escape from the world, helping me connect with nature, no matter how brief that moment is - never underestimate the power of the Green Prescription."

How did you get into photography?

"I got into photography much like many others I suppose; I bought a cheapish compact camera for taking on days out and holidays, but with a little encouragement from friends and family, I realised I might have more of an eye than just the usual sort of snapshot. 

I soon outgrew the compact and moved into the world of bridge cameras, at the same time rediscovering a childhood love of heritage railways, steam in particular. More and more I wanted to learn how to create certain types of shots, and this became more of a passion when I graduated to my first DSLR, a Pentax K100D, (which I still own!). 

After moving away from railways and into aviation, I realised the camera was an escape. But for that to evolve into a more pure form, akin to where I am now, the natural world became key, birds in particular."

https://simon-beedie.picfair.com/

How has photography helped your mental health?

"A few years ago, I was diagnosed with mild to moderate hearing loss; as an added bonus, I also suffer from tinnitus. Whilst this is not unusual, (approx. 6m Brits have tinnitus), it does sometimes have a detrimental effect on me. Without going into too much detail, it affects people differently - for me, it is a constant tone, relatively high pitched. It varies in intensity, to the point it can be perceived over most noises. In all honesty, it can drive me crazy.

So what does this all have to do with photography?

Distraction. Quite frankly, it is a different focus, (no apologies for the pun) - using a different sense to offset my ears not working properly. I have photographed various subjects since owning a camera, but more so now, wildlife - in particular birds. All serve to give me that sense of escapism, the distraction I crave from tinnitus, but none works as effectively as wildlife.

There have been many words spoken and written on the subject, but I can attest first hand to the natural world being the greatest salve to almost any troubles that might come your way. Pulling my walking boots on and escaping built-up areas for even a couple of short hours, can lay to rest that which troubles my mind.

Ironically, it is sometimes hard to put into words, as there are a few elements to how it helps me. The simple act of wandering through an area, or just sitting and observing the comings and goings of the birds - letting yourself slow down and take it all in. The world is such a now, now, now place, it is important to just stop. After all, good things come to those who wait! And then, when putting the camera up to my eye and lining up on the subject, the world shrinks. There is nothing else, just me and that bird, whether it’s a mighty Gannet over the sea at Bempton, or a tiny Goldcrest hopping around looking for insects on my local park, nothing else exists.  

Just me. 

Just the bird.

Sound doesn’t matter any more, just that brief, visual connection of man and bird through the viewfinder. Simply magical."

https://simon-beedie.picfair.com/

Which photo means the most to your mental health?

"There are a few photos I can look at and feel the joy of the moment, the escape from the hurly-burly of the normal world, (well, whatever passes for normal these days!), and honestly, they are all birds and one species, in particular, the Northern Gannet - Morus bassanus. 

From the moment I first visited RSPB Bempton Cliffs on the Yorkshire coast, those magnificent seabirds, (the largest to breed in the UK), I was entranced and enchanted. If I had to be brutal, there are two photos that encapsulate that joy, one taken with what I class as my first serious DSLR, a Pentax K5ii, and an image taken later, after I had made the transition to Canon. 

Both are of a similar style, but both hold the same level of joy - the former because it was an image that truly made me go “Wow!” when I downloaded the image from the SD card, the latter because it is still a style I love shooting, (erring into the low key world), but was also the first image of mine shortlisted for Bird Photographer of the Year, so proves to me that I must know what I am doing with my camera!"

https://simon-beedie.picfair.com/

https://simon-beedie.picfair.com/

What's your top tip for others looking to improve their mental health?

"Give yourself time and don’t be afraid to do the things that help you, even if it feels you’re being selfish - making time for yourself is so very cathartic

I am fortunate to have a very supportive spouse, but even now I do feel guilty sometimes if I say I need time alone, just me and my camera; but the feeling during and afterward more than negates that feeling and puts me back on more of an even keel, no matter how the world has affected me during the time leading to that point. 

But most of all, you are not alone - I know first hand how easy it is to feel alone and bottle things up; but believe me, having gone through a program of therapy, I have come to appreciate the simple release that talking things through can bring. The form that takes depends on however you feel comfortable, but no matter how you feel, there is always someone out here in the world who will be more than willing to stop and just listen to you. To that same end, there will always be someone out there in the world who will smile when they think of you, who holds you in their heart as a joyful part of their life - you are you and that is truly amazing and I wish you love, light, and peace."

Visit Simon's Picfair Store

https://simon-beedie.picfair.com/


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