A World Mental Health Day blog, from a bystander’s perspective

I have been fortunate enough never to have experienced mental health issues at first hand. That’s not to say I never will, but not so far. So you might wonder what I’m doing writing this blog for the World Health Organisation’s World Mental Health Day 2017, the theme of which is mental health in the workplace.

Before I took early retirement and became a photographer I worked for some 30 years in Human Resources, where I saw – and I guess participated in – mental illness being managed with varying degrees of success. More recently, a number of people close to me, including my business partner Lisa, have spoken and written openly about their own mental health, and I like to think I have learnt something along the way about how to be a good friend and colleague.

You might know about the Open Shutters project that Lisa and I have been leading, asking people to have their portrait taken and say something – in writing or to camera – about how they have turned their mental health issues to their advantage, and to give one piece of advice to others in a similar situation. Without fail, that advice has involved the vital importance of finding someone to talk to and not keeping things bottled up. If you’d like to read more about the Open Shutters Project, click here.

Lisa's Open Shutters portrait

So with that experience and, I hope, improved understanding, here are my tips if you have  friends, family or work colleagues who are experiencing mental health problems, and you’ll almost certainly know someone in that situation, whether or not you’re aware of it.

 

  • Listen! If the need to talk to someone is critically important for people with mental health issues, then it’s equally important to have someone to listen. Actually listen. Not half an ear while you’re checking on Facebook or posting a picture of your lunch on Instagram. There’s a useful guide to Active Listening  here . It’s skill that will improve with practice, so give it a try. You’ll have better conversations, and people will know you care enough to give them your undivided attention.
  • Be prepared for the conversation to take up some of your time, and give that time freely and ungrudgingly. If you’ve ever tried talking to someone who is constantly looking at their watch, you’ll know how uncomfortable that can make you feel.
  • Go easy on the questions. Active listening may involve asking some questions to ensure you’re understanding what you’re hearing, but that’s not the same as bombarding your friend or colleague with demands for further details. Often people will have deeply personal issues that they don’t want to talk about. If they do choose to open up, that’s fine, but you don’t have a right to be told anything.
  • People may cry: deal with it. If someone is upset, and cries when they’re talking to you, just let them, it’s OK. Don’t tell them not to cry, or not to get upset. The last thing they need is to think that they are behaving inappropriately, or upsetting or embarrassing you. Just offer them a tissue and carry on listening.
  • Not every problem has a solution. When we’re told that someone has a problem, it’s our instinct (particularly men) to suggest a solution or to offer to fix things. Resist that temptation. Let the person talk things through: generally if your advice is required, it will be asked for.
  • Big hugs hun! I’m a hugger, but not everyone welcomes being hugged, or having their hand held etc. If in doubt don’t, and if it’s not wanted, don’t take that as a personal sleight.
  • It’s not about you! If your friend or colleague cancels on you at short notice, or wants to sit quietly in circumstances where you’d expect them to be chatty, that’s fine. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you any more, or are cross with you. They’re just coping the best they can. They know you’re there for them, and if you’ve done your job as a friend well, they’ll reach out to you when they’re ready.
  • Don’t panic! My final piece of advice – given to me by a friend – is not to panic that because they are going through a difficult episode, they’re at risk of harming themselves or someone else. Remember that the person who knows most about someone’s mental health is the person themselves. They will have their own strategies for coping and will know when things are serious enough that they need a professional intervention.

 

World Mental Health Day is a good opportunity to reflect on how we can help those around us who need our care and support. Understanding that that can sometimes involve doing nothing more than giving them space can be difficult but may be the most important thing that they need just at that moment. I’d love to get your feedback on anything in this blog, whether it’s to agree, disagree or add something I’ve missed out.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read it.

 

Robert

 

Some of the other Open Shutters portraits:

Chris

Ella

Sarah

Scottie

Price isn’t everything – especially when it comes to your precious memories

cake smash, studio g photography, baby photography

In the space of one week recently we were contacted by two families who, quite separately, have been let down by a photographer at virtually no notice. They had both booked cake-smash photoshoots for their one year olds, and were both understandably very disappointed. They were given no reason.

We don’t normally do cake smash, but of course we offered to help them out in their hour of need – one booked us on the spot, the other, we assume, chose to go elsewhere, which is fine.

The family that booked us had organised their original shoot through a Groupon deal – at the ‘amazing’ price of £12. That’s not a price we would even attempt to match, but we could give an assurance that we certainly wouldn’t cancel at the last minute, neither would we subject them to a high-pressure sales session afterwards. The price they’re paying includes a load of web-sized images, and if they want to buy prints or other products that would be lovely, but it’s entirely up to them.

When you’re thinking about booking a photographer – whether it’s for a special birthday, a party, a wedding or anything else – of course price is an important consideration. But never forget – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

If you'd like to talk to us about capturing your precious moments, give us a call on 0161 300 6224, or fill in our contact form. We welcome anyone to come in and see us for a brew and a chat before you book.

People photography – an honour, a privilege and vitally important

In a week of such tragedy and grief, it’s hard to know what to write about. So much of what we do is about joy, fun and frivolity – parties, fairies, photobooths with silly hats, the excitement surrounding a new-born baby, the anticipation of a baby on the way. Somehow that doesn’t chime with the prevailing and perfectly understandable mood of anger, outrage, anxiety and sadness. At first sight, photography suddenly feels a bit of a luxury, a bit self-indulgent.

But that’s not the whole story. Not at all. As people photographers we are invited to capture key moments in people’s lives, from birth (and before) through childhood, school, university, graduation, marriage and parenthood. We see families grow, go their separate ways and occasionally reunite for a precious group portrait. Sometimes we even get asked to photograph people who are seriously ill, perhaps nearer the end of their life. Some photographers generously volunteer to take pictures of babies who have died before, during or shortly after birth.

At bad times, as well as good, people reach for photographs: photographs that stir memories, that show the beauty and personality of their loved ones. Who could remain unmoved by the images on social media pages this week as families desperately hoped for news and information. And at times of great sadness, photographs of happier times may bring some comfort to families in their grief.

Photographs also form part of social history, a permanent record to show generations to come their family origins, their daily lives, their jobs.

As photographers, we see people at moments of much happiness and deep sadness, on days filled with excitement, reminiscence, regret and absence. It is an immense privilege, and we never take it for granted.

Taster Photoshoot Pamper Parties – Come and Try For Yourself

TASTER PHOTOSHOOT PARTIES – JUST £99

 

Wondering what to do with the children this half term? Or perhaps thinking about a full pamper party but not sure whether it’s what your child would want?

This is a perfect opportunity to give it a try and do something really different during the school break.

 

If you book our Taster Photoshoot Party for just £99, your child plus three friends can enjoy:

 

  • A fun party lasting one hour
  • A light, age-appropriate make-over
  • Individual and group photoshoot
  • Soft drink and a cup-cake or snack
  • Downloadable photographs suitable for sharing on social media
  • Opportunity to buy prints at very affordable prices
  • £20 voucher to be used for a full Pamper and Pose party

 

Sound like fun? To book, or if you have any questions, look at our website www.studiog-oldham.co.uk or ring Lisa on 0161 300 6224

 

What a week! Studio G launches a mental health photography project

Lisa Marie Gee

Well. What a week! Lisa and I meet every Monday morning to discuss the week ahead. Our meeting usually takes place at Costa (other coffee shops are available – apparently) and we have a roughly organised agenda so we know what we’re doing (again, roughly). 

So last Monday, we met as usual, but the meeting did not go as planned. Lisa rather dramatically said “Well enough of that, let’s talk about something important. I’m going to launch Open Shutters today!” Now, dear reader, and I am never less than honest with you, I had heard this before. A few times, in truth, in the time we’ve been in business together. But this time, she really meant it. We didn’t even have a second coffee. We headed back to the studio and started setting up Lisa’s self-portrait which was to launch the project, we recorded the video that told her story – and if you haven’t seen it you really should – they were posted on line, and we were officially launched.  As we talked we developed a vision for an ongoing project leading to an exhibition, and perhaps even a book 

We were overwhelmed by the response, and decided we needed to post a portrait and story every working day last week, which was of course Mental Health Awareness Week and, with our enormous gratitude to Ella, Scottie, Laura and Chris we achieved that. We’ve had a number of approaches from people wanting to tell their story, and we had some great coverage in the Oldham Evening Chronicle, who were proud of the fact that Lisa used to be one of their journalists. In the event, Lisa was right to abandon our planning meeting, because the project took up the whole week for both of us. 

So why are we doing this? Mental Health is getting a lot of publicity at the moment, which can only be a good thing, but the coverage tends to focus on eliminating the stigma often attached to mental illness. No-one seems to be talking about the fact that many people who have mental illness, whether an isolated episode or an ongoing condition, find that it brings beneficial changes to their lives. The people we’ve had the privilege of photographing and talking to this week wouldn’t be the people they are had it not been for their experience of mental ill health. That’s the story we want to tell with the Open Shutters Project.  

The project was initially conceived as a personal photographic project for Lisa, but as we’ve got to know each other better, and as I’ve learned about the mental health journey that she and other good friends have taken, I couldn’t possibly let her do it alone. What we’re doing is, I believe, important. It has the capacity to help people, and perhaps change attitudes. I am very proud of Lisa for having  the Open Shutters concept, and for finally taking the plunge and launching it, and I’m also very proud and excited to be part of it. 

 

To find out more, check out our Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/theopenshuttersproject/?fref=ts or our website www.openshutters.org.uk   

Ella Fraser

Scottie Felicia Oxton

Laura Norrey

Chris Doyle

Green Screen – a new toy at Studio G Photography

WE’VE GOT GREEN SCREEN AND WE KNOW HOW TO USE IT!

Studio G Photography, green screen, portrait photography Oldham, photoshoot party, photobooth

This week we’ve acquired a new bit of kit. It doesn’t look much – a bright green pop-up backdrop and a piece of software. But what’s exciting is what it enables us to do.
If you’ve been following us, you’ll have seen our photographs using a number of different backdrops, including fairy glens, arctic ice, Christmas scenes, elegant wallpaper, superheroes and theatrical stage curtains.  What our new set-up makes possible is to photograph someone against the green background, then add in any sort of digitally-created background and foreground.

This has lots of applications, including some we probably haven’t thought of. We’re thinking Fairytography® shoots, parties and photobooths, not to mention portraits, maternity photography and business headshots. The possibilities are limitless.

We’ve included a few examples in this blog to give you an idea of what’s possible, but really the only limit is our – and our clients’ – imagination.

This weekend we’ll be using our new set up at Oldham Comic Con, so you expect to see some great pictures of your favourite super-heroes – drop in and see us if you can.

Studio G Photography, green screen, portrait photography Oldham, photoshoot party, photobooth Studio G Photography, green screen, portrait photography Oldham, photoshoot party, photobooth Studio G Photography, green screen, portrait photography Oldham, photoshoot party, photobooth Studio G Photography, green screen, portrait photography Oldham, photoshoot party, photobooth Studio G Photography, green screen, portrait photography Oldham, photoshoot party, photobooth

A Studio G visit to the old library – Flying the flag for regeneration in Oldham

Last Saturday, we both had an opportunity to have one last look around the old Oldham Library before it’s handed over to contractors. Wearing our hard hats at a nonchalant angle, we joined a guided tour of the building in Greaves Street. The gallery curator took us to all the parts of the building that were safe to go in, pointing out what they were used for, the story behind their Victorian construction and development, and how they would fit into the new library facilities that are going to be built.

 

It was a fascinating tour. Some were seeing the building for the first time, but for most it evoked many memories of library visits with parents, schools and friends.

But the most exciting thing for us was the future. Over the next couple of years we’re going to see a transformation of this 19th century heritage building into a library and gallery for the 21st century. We were shown drawings, and the excitement in the curator’s voice was very noticeable. He also talked about what would follow on from the new library and gallery building, including the new Coliseum Theatre and Heritage Centre.

In recent years Oldham has shown it real commitment to regeneration and improvement. Despite the traditional Oldham cynical attitude – it’ll never happen, and if it does it won’t be any good – Oldham is now on the tram network giving fast and affordable links into Manchester. It has a state-of-the-art cinema which rescued the problematic old Town Hall. It has a brand new Leisure Centre, a Regional Science Centre, and will have a great retail development at Prince’s Gate, even if the details have yet to be finalised. The new library, gallery and other cultural quarter are all further evidence of the town moving forward.

We’re both very committed to Oldham, and fed up with those who seem to delight in talking their town down. Of course Oldham has its issues, as do all post-industrial towns that have lacked investment over the years, but the council has shown its commitment to do something about it, and Studio G will continue to celebrate and shout about that whenever we get the chance!

 

You can read more about Oldham Council’s plans for the old library building here: 

Studio G working with local businesses

Our commercial work doesn’t always get as much profile as the portrait and parties side of business, but as well as providing product and event photography for clients as diverse as Housing Units and Around Saddleworth magazine, we also make our great studio facilities available to other businesses, photographers and videographers.

Working with and supporting local businesses is a key part of our vision for Studio G, so we were delighted yesterday to welcome a young and ambitious entrepreneur and fashion retailer Eric Bishyika,  into the studio. Eric has been shortlisted for an Oldham Business Award in the Young Entrepreneur of the Year category, and needed to produce a video to be shown at the awards ceremony 12th May. Eric had organised a number of models, including Studio G’s Head Model Natale Rea, and make-up was taken care of by our very own Sharon Ball from Black & Blue Make-up and her team.

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New Image Public Relations provided the videographer, so all in all it was a great collaboration – just the sort of thing we love. Lisa co-ordinated the shoot, and Eric went home a happy man – with video footage in the can and a collection of exciting images that will help his business to thrive.

We loved working with Eric and the gang, and we wish him every success in the Oldham Business Awards.

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If we can help you achieve your business goals with creative and affordable photography, just give us a call.

Autism Awareness Week – Guest Blog by Zoe Thompson, Head of Development, Bright Futures School

Autism Awareness Week – Guest Blog by Zoe Thompson, Head of Development, Bright Futures School

 

 

Autism is a neuro-developmental condition that significantly impairs a person’s ability to look at the world through someone else’s eyes and to relate to others. It impacts upon a person’s ability to think and act in a flexible, adaptive manner. Flexibility and the ability to relate well to others are key to success in arguably the most important area of life including making and maintaining friendships and relationships, maintaining meaningful employment, and living independently.

Why we set up our own autism-specific school

My elder son, Philip, was diagnosed with autism at age 5. As parents, we looked at lots of different interventions that might help him but were singularly unimpressed at the outcomes they aimed to achieve.

The largest study of outcomes for adults with autism, titled ‘Ignored or ineligible’, (Barnard et al) was published by the National Autistic Society (NAS) in 2001. The research included a focus on over 200 young adults who had a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. All had relatively high IQ's and good language skills. Some 50% of these bright individuals had gone on to higher education after secondary school. Yet, at the time of the study:
• Only 12% were employed, full or part-time.
• Only 3% could live independently
• Over 65% had almost no social contact outside of their family
• None were married or involved in a significant emotional relationship

These are disappointing outcomes for ‘successful’ pupils and not what we wanted for our boy.

By the time Philip was 6, we had found a parent-led autism intervention, Relationship Development Intervention™ that focused on enabling children with autism to become adults who had much improved prospects of making and maintaining friendships and relationships, holding down meaningful employment and living independently. Not only was Relationship Development Intervention™ (RDI) (Gutstein, 1999) parent-led, it also suited our family learning style and sought to work on the core difficulties at the heart of autism, enabling children to fill in the gaps in their development.

When Philip started school it was obvious within a few weeks that he had difficulty coping with the environment and the social demands it made on him. We took him out of school because it was making him too anxious. For us, Philip’s autism was the biggest barrier to his learning and development, yet we couldn’t find a school that offered any more than superficial ‘social skills’ training and other similar compensatory approaches.

In contrast, at home, RDI had helped us to change our communication style and to change the way we interacted with Philip to help him become more flexible and better emotionally regulated. Following our implementation of RDI, Philip’s ADOS score (which shows the severity of the autism) had reduced from 19 out of 22 (very high) to 12 out of 22. Our ability to understand and support our son and our family quality of life were much improved.

Eventually we decided to set up our own school so that we could incorporate some of the principles and practice of RDI into our teaching methodology. We call this RDI-derived approach ‘guiding’. In 2010, Bright Futures School opened with just one pupil. We now have 9 pupils with a further 2 families seeking a placement for their children.

 

 

World Book Day 2017 at Bright Futures School

 

www.brightfuturesschool.co.uk

 
Further information
To learn more about RDI, visit www.rdiconnect.com
To see RDI in action via video footage of Mums working on developmental milestones with their kids, visit http://notnigellanotjamie.blogspot.com and http://brightsideoflifeasd.blogspot.co.uk
https://www.facebook.com/groups/471747329526072/ A facebook group consisting of parents and Consultants discussing RDI

 

A tale of two coffees……aka dreams will always stay dreams unless you act on them.

We always joke that everything at Studio G revolves around coffee, but actually that's not too far from the truth. Let me tell you a tale of two coffees.

The first was two years ago today. I (Lisa) was an average portrait photographer with a dream of opening my own photography studio. I could think of a million reasons excuses why it wouldn't work, but for some reason my husband and family all seemed to believe I could pull it off. In search of 'common sense' I met for coffee with my most grounded and sensible friend, Robert. But instead of telling me I was being ridiculous, he offered to become my business partner. Clearly he saw something in me that I didn't, the same something that my family must have seen.

That story, and what happened next, are well documented - we ended up jointly running Studio G Photography. We didn't exactly all live happily ever after - establishing a business has been far more difficult and time-consuming than either of us anticipated. But if we knew then what we know now, would we still have done it? I can only speak for myself, but my answer would be a resounding HELL YES!

Fast forward two years and we have been back to the scene of that fateful coffee meeting this morning for a small celebration and a catch-up. This morning the talk has mainly been about a massively ambitious project which, if we pull it off, will fulfil another of my lifelong dreams. And you know what? I think we'll do it. If you believe in yourself you can achieve anything you put your mind to. Anything. Last week I walked across hot coals because I told myself I could.

The thing about dreams is, the more you fulfil, the more you get. But unless you take action your dreams will never become reality. 

When I opened the studio I didn't consider where it might take me. But almost two years on, my photography has improved by leaps and bounds. I am mentored by Olympus' Principal Photographer, Damian McGillicuddy, I am on the brink of starting two very big projects that two years ago I would never have thought possible, and the studio is building partnerships with several local charities, allowing us to give something back to the community.

So the moral of this story is dream big or dream small, that's up to you, but take some action towards making those dreams come true. Take a step, or take a huge leap of faith like I did, but do something because no matter how hard the road is, it will all be worth it.

Oh, and if you fancy donating a little something to Tameside, Oldham and Glossop MIND, in recognition of my fire-walking heroics, here's the link to my Just Giving page. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/StudioG

Thanks for reading,

Lisa x