testing the waters by ellie berry

It's been too long, I don't know how to address this blog, this place. What style was I writing in before hand, or was it just messy? I think it was probably a bit .. uncollected, uncurated. I can't decide if I want this to be personal or not. I'm back living in Dublin, and it's been a bit weird coming back. The plan is to leave again at the end of February, 3 months from now. 

Let's see what I make in the meantime. 

Big ideas and hard-bitten feet by ellie berry

Blue trails are completed trails.

Blue trails are completed trails.

Since April of this year (2017) I have been walking all the National Waymarked Trails of Ireland. These trails, 43 in total, ramble through 25 counties and encompass a combined 4,000km in distance.

This project is known as Tough Soles, and wandering all over the place with me is Carl Lange. The idea came about from previous travels, where we'd noticed a strange thing happening. The further we went and the more people we met, the more we were told what a beautiful, unique, idyllic place Ireland was. To them, Ireland represented the exact type of adventure that we were travelling to find. And so, this project was born from a desire to explore and know my home. To find the Ireland that I hadn’t experienced.

To date, we've completed 20 trails and almost 2,000km. 

We make videos, and share our experiences as we go. 

A thank you note to climbing and night-time lucid moments by ellie berry

I wrote this piece as a note in my phone at the end of February/beginning of March on my way home from a climbing session. In it I try to explain the wonderful happy/calm feeling that climbing leaves me with sometimes after a session. Climbing is not the only activity that triggers this mental state - being creative in general sends me this happiness, but climbing is definitely the most frequent thing to do so.
Being on an unofficial climbing break has made me revisit this note to myself. It's in a very rough-and-ready state, but  might as well share it, and maybe rewrite it in a more legible state some time in the future. 

Although it's close to 10:30pm, and I'm on my way home from a short climbing session, I feel like I've finally woken up in what feels like days - weeks even. I am not a nighttime person, so when I get this "buzz" I'm always slightly afraid to go home incase I fall asleep again. I just want to keep floating on this natural endorphin high, breathing in the cooling air as I cycle. It's beautifully relaxing, highly calming, mentally freeing, creatively pulsing. All of the ideas I've had vague thoughts about I actually start chewing through - but I'm also happy to just enjoy the feeling of be alone. 

I've never asked if other people get this, but I assume they must. It's not a moment I really want to drag other people into. I don't know if it's even possible to achieve this tranquility if there are other people around to disturb the quiet. It's at moments like this where I let go of my inner demons for a while and just love being. Is this what meditating is supposed to achieve every day? Because when I try that my inner monologue just doesn't shut up and I often end up more stressed than when I began that exercise. Or is it that I've just finished physical exercise and so I'm enjoying the post-mini-workout endorphin lift? Is that why I see people at those empty glowing gyms at 2am sprinting on the thread mill, facing the window like the were tying to outrun a lion, or jump into the night? 
But I could swear I've experienced this calm in other situations - walking home after too many hours waitressing, and a magical calm carries my burnt out feet to my door step.
It's annoying that I get such beautiful moments late at night, making me want to go and create something - which is not what my sleeping housemates will appreciate. I don't want to talk to anyone, but conversation is inevitable when you don't live alone. 

The cold is finally pushing through my jumper, and rain is starting to hit my face. It's probably time to relinquish my canal bench and finish my cycle home. 

Thanks climbing, for giving me these moments of extreme peaceful clarity. 


Strike 4 Repeal by ellie berry

Last week on the 8th of March (international women's day), women in Ireland (and everywhere else) were urged to "Strike for Repeal" - This strike is based on non-traditional strike actions for human rights that have used in other parts of the world. In October 2016, thousands of people in more than 60 cities in Poland went on strike to protect their access to abortion - and won.  

And so here in Ireland we went on strike over the fact that we have no access to abortion rights at all - which is in contradiction to UN health rights. We are looking to "Repeal the 8th" amendment, which outlaws all abortion in Ireland.  

Below is one of my more recent attempts at both shooting and editing video.

Holes by ellie berry

Farm Security Administration photo archive:
Untitled photo, possibly related to nearby photo captioned: Tobacco lands after the Connecticut River had subsided near Hatfield, Massachusetts. Photographed in 1936.

"Holes Punched Through History"

The Atlantic Article
"In 1935, Roy Stryker became the head of the Information Division of the U.S. government’s Farm Security Administration (FSA), documenting work done by the government to help poor farmers and their families during the Great Depression... In the early years, Stryker himself reviewed and edited photographs mailed in by FSA photographers, and would often “kill” a photo he disapproved of (remove it from consideration for publishing) by punching a hole right through the negative. The photographers were unhappy with this destructive hole-punch method, and frequently let Stryker know, but he didn’t stop until about 1939."

This evening I was flicking past Twitter when The Atlantic's short article appeared. With barely any more text than what I've quoted above, the altered negatives were left to speak for themselves. It's clear these holes are not made at random, but attack supposedly specific parts of each image - sometimes the face; sometimes central; sometimes without logic, but aesthetically placed. 

Below are some of the images featured in The Atlantic Article, followed by more that I then found myself through the Library of Congress. 

Most of the punched negatives are "untitled", but reference other negatives within their description - such as the two below:

In my reading of the images, the hole goes from offering some comedic moments, to taking on a whole persona. 
I've a lot more I want to say on these images, but that will take time of me searching for the right way to say it. So for now I'm going to share these images with you, because they are too intriguing not to. 

Let me know what you think. 

On a side note,

When I was younger I used to read a lot - possibly too much. For one excuse or the other, the amount of reading I was doing pretty much dried up to nothing. To throw myself back in the deep end, I'm going to read a book a week. Last week's book was Pyramids by Terry Pratchett. This weeks book is Wanderlust: A history of walking by Rebecca Solnit. If you have any recommendations, pass them on! 

240km in words by ellie berry

Day 1:  Home, Dublin city centre - Sallins, Kildare. 
Day 2: Sallins, Kildare - Monasterevin, Kildare (via Robertstown).
Day 3: Monasterevin, Kildare - Carlow Town, Carlow.
Day 4: Carlow town - Kilkenny city, Kilkenny.  
Day 5: Kilkenny city - Cloneen, South Tipperary.
Day 6: Cloneen, South Tipperary - Home, South Tipperary.

The idea for this walk came about in my final semester of college. The year before I had spent more of the year living abroad than in Ireland, and had walked 1,100km through France and Spain with my boyfriend Carl. While spending so much time away, I had thought a lot about Ireland and the idea of home. So many people we met were in love with our country and culture. And so when it became time to make new photographic work, walking seemed like a natural option. 

I didn't leave with a specific outcome in mind, and the images I made were definitely not what I expected. This walk was quiet and long.

I stayed in B&B's and hostels along the way. Not bringing a tent hugely cut down on the size of my bag. Which means I hiked with one extra pair of pants, one extra top, and change of socks and underwear, a book and notebook, my camera, a charger for my phone and camera, and a few snacks. 

My route planning was fairly simple - I followed the grand canal south-wards out of Dublin, until I reached Carlow. From here, I ended up following Google Maps - which on the first day brought me along a closed road, over a mountain and down into Kilkenny. From Kilkenny onwards was a wandering mix of small and smaller roads, crossing into areas that I had vague memories of driving through a when much smaller. 

Reaching my mother's home was a mix of excitement, exhaustion, and a lot of relief. I got to sit on the grass for a long time, and I relished getting a clean pair of socks. 

Life after college: the big decisions? by ellie berry

Above is a photo I made during my final year of college. I borrowed a camera from the stores so I could try my hand at some medium sized navel-gazing. It had been a long time since I had shot in that format, and wound on that kind of film - which as you can see, I didn't get quite right. So I ended up with a couple of oddly (and one that turned out to be unusable) exposed rolls. 

Looking at those rolls, and 35mm that I've shot since then, it's clear to me that I've been wandering without a purpose for quite a while. 

But I didn't start writing this entry with the aim of discussing the possible listlessness of recent work. That's only happened because I decided to use this image as the header or introduction to this piece.

I've come to ... I've forgotten. 

I've developed an interesting problem. Since finishing college I have lost my attention span. I spend hours flicking from one social media to the other, reloading and rescrolling through the same feeds. Ask me to read a real body of text, that isn't some horrible clickbait infested mess and I cannot concentrate. Two sentences in and my mind has stopped focusing on the text - instead I have music lyrics, book plots, random celebrity gossip, and trash shouting over my inner monologue reading voice. 

I currently have four different journal drafts simply because I get half way through writing something and my mind moves on, not willing to work through that awkward sentence I need to phrase. 

Having now admitted and assessed my problem, it is time to start working. Over the last few weeks of December, I am going to start re-writing my thesis "The Poetics and Politics of Imagery: National Geographic's misrepresentation of non-Western countries through Instagram." And! Actually, I would love to finish reading Edward Said's Orientalism. But the two of these go hand in hand. 

And now for an image to break up my words. I've typed more than planned. Apologies if I have shown this image before - it is from the same roll as the photograph above. 

I think it is time to finally get around to the title of this piece, "Life after college: the big decisions?". I graduated with a first class honours 24 days ago. This was as far as I had planned in my life. Up until now, it's been easy. I've followed the general path I've been planning since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. No one warned me how scary it would be reaching the end of it. Lots of parts of me want to run away to somewhere beautiful (New Zealand has been the fixation for about a year, but really anywhere far away qualifies) and kind of postpone or completely cancel this idea of making "big decisions". 

"Are you going to do a Masters?"
"Where are you working now?"
"What's the life plan?"
"How's the boyfriend? You've been going out a long time now."

I have been asked these questions a lot. My unfocused mind mentioned above has also been using these questions to distract me from actually living, and so I feel like I've been bombarded with this since the summer. Change feels like it is definitely needed, but committing to something has become difficult. 

Do these "big decisions" even exist, or is it just me asking myself these questions while I figure out what is actually supposed to happen? Eh. Life, aye?