Behind Bristol’s Independent Fashion Scene

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It’s 7:30pm in the heart of Stokes Croft and designers and models alike are buzzing around Hamilton House in a chaotically organized fashion. It’s the time of year of the Coexist Fashion Show, an annual 2-night event held to showcase the work of many independent designers based in and around Bristol. Upstairs in the dressing room, a colourful atmosphere takes hold, as Bristolians from all walks of life come together united by a universal love of fashion, art, and a general belief in the importance of staying true to exactly who you are. This mantra is embodied backstage in the jigsaw of brightly-coloured clothing rails on which hang a whole range of outfits waiting for their turn on the catwalk, from Jerry at True Soldier’s clean-cut, urban prints to Rose’s festival inspired leotards and leggings.

As the minutes tick by past the show’s proposed start time and hairdressers and make-up artists alike put down their brushes with a sigh of relief, a frenzy of last-minute image checks in iPhone front-cameras begins to take place; final touches are made and one last jewel or bhindi is stuck in place. “Models, this is your 5 minute call,’ shouts Danny, trying to make his voice heard over the general buzz of excitement and beer-fueled conversation. Gradually, the last safety pins are put in place and models begin to line up for the beginning of the show, frequenting the makeshift backstage photo-studio for some quick shots on their way.

 Stepping out onto the catwalk first are the delicate lace-clad models of Annabelle’s SUGAR collection, walking down the catwalk in Jekyll-and-Hyde-esque pairs of black and white versions of each outfit. As soon as the first walk is over, designers run backstage to meet their models for the first quick change of the evening, and body-consciousness melts away as clothes are flung off and new outfits donned ready for the next collection to be showcased. As most models are shared between the 21 designers exhibiting at Co-exist, these changes are just a characteristic of the hectic whirlwind of clothes, colour and talent that makes the show exactly what it is.

As the night unfolds, models bring fashion of all varieties to life on the catwalk, from the girls sporting the pretty pastel tailoring of fashion student Rachel Lynsey’s 50’s/60’s housewife inspired collection, to the grungy, street vibe of Where The Wall’s stenciled t-shirts that see models sauntering down in snapbacks, spray paint cans in hand. Male model Sol even takes to the catwalk in skintight silver leggings, accessorized neatly with 80’s-esque shades and a matching disco ball.

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Backstage, I manage to catch up with a few of the designers exhibiting at Co-exist, who tell me a few words about their work and the inspiration behind it. Fraser Johnston, founder of Fujee clothing talks about his collection, inspired by his daughters who are half Cameroonian, half British. With his designs that feature African prints and motifs such as Christ the Redeemer in tribal dress, Fraser says he ‘wanted to do something that reflects their duality and makes the most of two halves of a great whole.’ More of his collection can be found at www.fugeeclothing.com.

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Sheli, who is busy packing her range of custom-designed Nike trainers into their respective boxes, also has some wise words to offer on the beliefs behind her brand’s inspiration. ‘Averse attire sets out to reflect a positive message. It basically says if you wanna achieve greatness don’t ask for permission and don’t be defined by society.’ Her label, Averse Attire, offers cutting-edge cool printed t-shirts and hand-painted kicks.

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Butzi Schlaadt, the event coordinator, can be found buzzing around backstage with an omnipotent air of calmness and contentment, seeming almost unnaturally stress free. Marveling at Butzi’s talent in both organizing the event and designing her own stunningly detailed knitwear range is commonplace conversation in the dressing room, where she is accepted as the common contact who brings everyone at coexist together. Model Jules, who wears Butzi’s handmade knitted catsuit was scouted by her in a restaurant, whilst some designers even saw her adverts for the show on social media.

As the night draws to a close, and the dressing room becomes littered with a colourfully chaotic mix of hangers, fabric, make up and glitter, the models line up one last time for their final walk. And if the 2-night festival of fashion couldn’t get any more unique and offbeat, its grand finale involves this diverse mix of new-generation Bristolians dancing down the catwalk in a range of eccentric fancy dress outfits hand made and designed by the talented and just a little crazy Trina. The scene rather embodies assistant event coordinator Danny’s summary of what Co-exist is all about. ‘Its about team spirit,’ he explains, ‘about serving the community and bringing people together.’

So as the models, designers and supporters who make up the Co-exist team disappear off to the bars of Stokes Croft to celebrate the event’s after party, designer Faye of Fayenique collection leaves me with these words over a gin and tonic, which just about sum up the celebration of being yourself that is Co-exist Fashion Show. ‘Follow your heart,’ she smiles, ‘wherever it takes you.’

The article was originally published in Epigram – The University of Bristol student newspaper

The New Year, Fitspiration and Dieting Resolutions: a foreword.

‘everything in moderation, including moderation.’ – Oscar Wilde

New year, new me.

So goes the infamous, annual vow of self-betterment. As midnight falls and December ends, we clink our champagne glasses and propose unrealistic promises for the future, drinking down bubbles as we cheers to health and happiness in the year ahead.

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In reality, 40 percent of people make a New Year’s resolution. A cult of personal improvement seems to surround the concept of new beginnings, and we welcome a fresh start by resolving to kick our bad habits and commence afresh. Yet amidst fireworks, alcohol and celebrations there runs an undercurrent of self-criticism as we make intentions to better ourselves in the year to come. But why do we feel the constant need for self-improvement, bringing in the New Year by casting a negative eye on the past year’s lifestyle choices?

The largest percentage of resolutions revolves around health, weight loss and exercise, with 1 in 3 brits aiming to shed pounds and eat more healthily in the New Year. 2015 saw a huge rise in the health food industry, and fitspiration came to a specific light on social media, with such platforms now studded with ‘healthy living’ accounts and skinny, tanned women in lycra (cue feeling inadequate and turning to our favourite comfort food.) But statistics show that 66 percent of us break our New Year’s resolutions within the first month, and social media could well play a part in our lack of willpower.

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According to psychologists, one of the main reasons we struggle to find motivation when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions is that we often base them around our faults, and habits we wish to change. So, comparing ourselves to our social media health guru can do more damage than good, as said fitness inspiration platforms can leave us looking negatively upon our own bodies, and diminishing our self-worth. ‘New year, new me,’ implies a certain criticism towards the old you, and can spark a willpower-sucking spiral of negative thinking. Beginning the year regretting your festive binge eating and resolving to lose weight imminently turns our frame of mind to self-criticism, and by focusing on the bad habits we want to kick instead of our new goals we are draining our own motivation.

If the constant body-shaming isn’t enough to make you avoid fitspiration like a morning gym session, such ‘fitness’ media accounts may play a further role in the breaking of our New Year’s resolutions. According to The Guardian, the main reason why most of us fail to see our diets through for more than a couple of weeks is down to setting unrealistic goals, and trying to do too much too quickly. Ever considered why gyms are so packed in January, but by mid Feb, the normal ebb and flow of fitness freaks has returned to its usual self, unflustered by the annual rush? A clear, vicious circle emerges here. We resolve to loose weight to look like our media icons, we follow fitness accounts urging us to eat clean and exercise daily, we fail to fit this in with our daily lifestyle and thus return to our normal lives, only to make the same resolution the following year.

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Yet what about the people who run these accounts? Do those who genuinely prefer spiralised courgette to pasta genuinely walk among us? Yes and no. We have just entered 2016, and now live in an age when social media is the new television advertising, and the people we see on our laptops are those who we idolise. With our favorite fitness stars being sponsored by a multi-million pound health food industry in order to promote their products, it’s easy to see how the insta-famous can afford to invest so much into their fitness and image. For the rest of us, it’s a case of everything in moderation, and unless your career is based around fitness you’re better off finding a way to ease it gently into your every day lifestyle.

To give you an idea of the scale of the ‘Clean Eating’ phenomenom that hit us in 2015, retail expert Mary Portas drops some figures. Sales in coconuts have risen spectacularly, since fitness gurus and celebrities claimed coconut oil and coconut water as the year’s health must-haves. Over 1 million nutri-bullets, costing £80 a pop, were sold in the UK over the past two years. Even sportswear rose in popularity, as four times as many styles of gym leggings were available in 2015 than 2014. As a public, we’re quick to invest in our health and buy the miracle products that require minimum effort, but does spending money on our resolutions really help us to keep them?

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Essentially, both fitness accounts and snazzy lycra are popular for a reason. It’s January, it’s cold, we’re full of Christmas food and we need some motivation. But psychologists suggest that it’s the order here that we’re getting wrong. Action proceeds motivation, they claim. Sounds unlikely, but they have a point. We go for a run – we imminently feel better about ourselves, and more driven to continue. We sit on the sofa trawling through pictures of gym-bunnies and pop to the sales to invest in a chic pair of sports leggings – we’re essentially finding an artificially feel-good way of procrastinating.

When it comes to keeping your resolution in 2016, remember that procrastination is just waiting for motivation, and there is plenty of money to be made from supplying you with just that. Keep it simple, try and resist the targeted January advertising, and remember that whatever the New Year brings, health and happiness don’t necessary come from toned thighs and a state-of-the-art blender.

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An exploration into the real dangers of living life through a filter

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It seems like an age ago since the term ‘photoshopped’ was first coined and the world began to realize that the airbrushed images all over fashion media were artificial double standards, impossible to replicate. We distanced ourselves from this airbrushed beauty extremism, accepting that front-cover perfection was something only to be found on billboards and magazine shelves. But as ever, technology continues to manipulate our ideals and this concept is now creeping a lot closer to home, onto a platform we all use every day. Social media applications such as Instagram essentially make all of us Editor-in-Chief of our own lifestyle publications, giving us the opportunity to alter the way we present ourselves to our friends and followers.

Surely editing photographs is just a harmless creative outlet? I hear you. Changing the colour-balance of your holiday snaps and adding the odd lens flare for a vintage feel is really the least of our problems. Sure, we’re creating something artificial, and whether it be upping the contrast to make ourselves look more tanned or dimming the background to make that hipster bar we were in look just a bit cooler, these photos don’t represent reality. But the issues with warping real life go deeper than just a lomo effect.instagram 3

In fact, the level of filtering that social media enables us to do is much more than a surface level altering of exposure. Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram give us a blank-canvas, the opportunity to create a profile of ourselves as we want to be seen by others. By carefully choosing which photos we share, we each have the opportunity to edit our own lives; to chop out the unglamourous parts and exaggerate the good times. Think about how we might un-tag a photo, if we don’t like the way we look. Social media allows us to create a version of ourselves where the bad bits are removed, and we only show ourselves in a particular, flattering light. We present almost an airbrushed version of our lives.

 The problem here is that we don’t have the same acceptance of said warped reality here as we do with photoshopped media campaigns. We’re all guilty of so-called ‘stalking’ – where we likely procrastinate from our life-admin by looking through the Facebook feeds of friends and acquaintances. Or even worse, the classic ‘scroll though the newsfeed’ when in a public situation with no one to talk to. We look at our friends, all featured having fun and in exciting places, and immediately start to feel bad about ourselves and to compare our own, average lives to their fun filled ones. Without seeing the unpolished sides of others, we begin to feel insecure about our own imperfections.

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Whilst extensive research has been done into the physical health impacts of technology and radiation, the research into the mental health implications of social media is relatively scarce. Yet an increase in cases of social anxiety could clearly be linked to the constant comparing that these platforms permit. Every photo we de-tag, or that doesn’t ever make it on to social media in the first place is equivalent to another spot airbrushed away from a billboard campaign. It’s just another imperfection we choose not to share; the difference this time around is that you don’t have to be a model or celebrity to conceal it.

Scarily, it’s not just the image of ourselves we present that becomes warped, but also the version of our lifestyles that we choose to share, and people have even become idols for their perfect lives, or natural beauty. Take insta-star Essena O’Neil for example, the 19 year old Australian model who chose to shut down her instagram account on realizing that the photos of her candid life were just ‘contrived perfection made to get attention.’ Essena was just one of many of the ‘social media famous’ cult, whose ‘lifestyle’ accounts consisted of heavily staged photos posing as spontaneous snapshots of coincidentally idyllic living made up of green juice, coffee and beach yoga.

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 Idolising such social media stars can have further implications than just feeling a little disheartened by our own mediocre lives where yoga is traditionally found in the village hall and filter coffee tastes a lot better when it isn’t filtered and comes from Starbucks with a lot of cream. In fact, so many of us normal folk tried to emulate the ‘clean eating’ of the tanned, thin models we saw promoting said health food crazes on Instagram that a new eating disorder was born: Orthorexia – an obsession with a so called ‘healthy’ lifestyle. Whilst models are paid £££ to promote health businesses and products on social media, many followers fail to recognize the ‘non-reality’ of such promotional shots, and end up making unfair comparisons.

 The underlying issue here is the confusion between life on social media, and life in reality. What’s needed is the same serious exposure of the issue as we gave to ‘photoshopping’ to allow us to distance ourselves from this warped representation of real life. Reassuringly, accounts such as @socialitybarbie, featuring a Barbie-doll mockingly living the oh-so-hipster life of the insta-famous soared in popularity, suggesting that we have noticed the ridiculousness of our social-media self presentation. Nonetheless, it is vital that we remember that the filtering of our friends and insta-idol’s accounts goes far deeper than a simple X-pro II.

Superfoods: ‘A la carte’ or ‘a la mode’?

Green juice, avocados, kale… we all know the iconic ‘it’ foods that make up our cosmopolitan nutrition catwalk; the must-have eatables that all celebrities and wellbeing publications alike are suddenly promoting. So whilst fashion fads are branching out to what we put on our dinner plate, the seemly obvious question must be posed: Is there any correlation between the scientifically proven health-benefits of these foods and the media-fame they have accumulated, or are such so-called ‘superfoods’ simply wetting our appetite for an empty marketing promise? Should they gain a place on our daily menus, or simply fly-away as another fashion faze?

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‘Did you know one wheatgrass shot contains all the plant nutrients you need for a whole week, and it has twice the iron content of broccoli?’ thus reads the latest food-gossip column. ‘Oh, and it’s now been found that watercress has an even greater nutrient density that kale; it’s got the highest vitamin content out of all leafy greens.’ It so seems that fashion; bored of preaching about what we wear and how we look; appears to have latched on to another basic human necessity; what we eat.

The media is hence overflowing with conflicting information about what we should, and shouldn’t, put on our plates. Any girl of this 21st century generation know that ‘there used to be just fat and skinny’ but the correlation between what we consume and its effect on our appearance seems to have grown deeper roots in the last years, planting the seeds for a fashionable obsession with the foods we must eat to achieve the most attractive version of ourselves. It’s a cleverly targeted market, that of You Are What You Eat; a scientifically proven excuse to harness the modern obsession with aesthetics to promote certain foods that claim to have miraculous results on our inner and outer health.

However; before we jump the gun and assume we are just feeding ourselves on empty marketing we must consider the science versus fashion debate; our modernised version of the old-age science/ religion conundrum.  It would be impossible to deny the factual evidence behind the rising to fame of said superfoods; leafy greens, such as kale, do have an incredibly high nutrient density, and our most instagrammed ‘it’ food, the avocado, legitimately does contain high levels of mono and poly unsaturated fats proven to lower cholesterol; as does the iconic chia seed indeed contain a high about of omega 3s.

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So whilst eating nutrient-packed foods can supposedly do us no harm, the sudden rise to fame of said nutrient packed ‘superfoods’ still becomes problematic. It’s essentially the same backlash as anything that suddenly acquires an influx of media attention; there is a breath of different viewpoints, opinions, and thoughts. Green tea; for example. Becomes the new dietary icon of 2010 due to its acclaimed weightloss properties and high number of antioxidants. Yet ironically, at the same time as it supposedly ‘speeds our metabolism,’ too much of the stuff significantly reduces our nutrient absorption and can leave us vitamin deficient and anaemic. When constantly faced with the appraisal of these foods from the media, at what point do we began to realise that we can indeed have too much of a good thing?

On a similar level, let’s take the ‘juice.’ Most commonly found in a filtered instagram post, often a selfie with a nice candid background – post-run perhaps – listing its contents and just how damn good it tastes. I confess, I too have been a wannabe high-flying food-fashionista and ordered a super-green smoothie with a spirulina shot, under the pretence it was going to do miracles inside and out. But what about that article I read about tips to cut down body-fat, claiming liquid calories were the enemy, not just fizzy drinks but fruit and vegetable juices with their surprisingly high sugar content too? And that one suggesting that fibre was an essential component for our digestive health and fat removal – thus why would we remove all that by turning our vegetables into juice? Surely it’s a risk to dive wholeheartedly into a health fad such as a green-juice detox and trust all that the media says, when so much contradictory information is floating around.

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Interestingly, the rising to fame of an ‘it’ food has consequences not just on its consumers, but on its providers too. Anyone remember good-old quinoa? The all new super-grain, the re-inventor of ordinary porridge; our protein packed alternative to traditional oats. Quinoa gained quite a following, with recipes featuring in many fashion and beauty magazines, and began to rack up quite a cost; after-all, it wasn’t simply a GRAIN anymore; it was so much more. We paid a premium for its supposed health benefits, and the Andean farmers, who produced this staple grain for trade and personal consumption suddenly could not afford their own meals anymore, since its value had risen so greatly. Locals and famers alike began to starve, due to the demand for exportation of their dietary staple that made it impossible to keep this food for domestic use.

So, whilst fashion trends come and go, and clothes and make up trends go in and out of style, I can’t help but feel that whilst the greatest consequence of a bad fashion fad is the entire memory the 90’s circling around chokers and crimped hair, an incorrect food craze could have slightly more serious implications on our health. Take our obsession with a gluten-free diet, for example. 2014 – we all stock up on gluten-free bread and pasta to avoid the terrible side-effects that this nasty protein has on our digestive system and mental clarity; after-all, one-in-four of us are gluten intolerant anyway and 99% of gluten intolerances are never diagnosed. 2015 – It emerges that non-celiac gluten sensitivity may not even exist, and our gluten-free counterparts are simply just fuzed with fatty, chemical gum taking the place of a protein; a sacrifice we only really want to be making if we do indeed have a severe intolerance.

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This surely demonstrates the consequences of the science-media conflict; scientific food findings are blown out of proportion by the media who latch on to the information as a new essential key to health without this being based on any kind of long-term effect and research. Many fashion victims are drawn in to believing that said food is the secret to the glowing skin and visible health we see in the airbrushed, filtered photos of those who advocate their vegan, gluten-free, superfood diet, and we become obsessed with only eating foods that the media declares as ‘healthy.’ And the result of this is so extreme, it’s given birth to an oh-so-modern eating problem; ‘Orthorexia; the health food eating disorder.’ Now a clinically recognised problem, this is where an obsession with healthy eating goes too far, and prevents strict dieters such as ‘raw vegans’ or paleo dieters from breaking their obsessive eating patterns without anxiety or gloom. Essentially; it’s an obsession with fitspiration; the vegan, uber-healthy, raw superfood meals we scroll through on instagram; that makes us feel guilty for eating anything other than these nutrient-packed low-calorie fashion foods.

So, the midst of exaggerations, rumours and expectations; where exactly does this leave us and superfoods? Well, it’s like any healthy relationship. Don’t believe everything you hear or read, don’t over-commit, and make sure your expectations are realistic. Sure, these foods may lure you in with their list of properties and benefits, but essentially they should be the icing on the cake of your daily healthy diet. And a little icing AND cake never killed anyone. No single food is going to be your key to eternal youth and beauty, and you certainly can have too much of a good thing. So remember that when it comes to food-fashion, don’t be afraid to kick it old school: whilst chia seeds and bee pollen drift in and out of our store cupboard as extravagant impulse buys, the longest standing food research does indeed have the most reliable results, so lean meat, 5 a day the trusty complex carb will always be our dinner plate must-haves.

Madness and murder – the aSTIGMAtism that blurs our vision of mental health issues

The latest debate to take over social media revolves around the new stigma surrounding mental health problems that is the child of the Airbus A320 crash. I tiptoe into a sensitive subject to work out if it is the murderer or the media who really suffered from impaired vision in this incident…

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‘MADMAN IN COCKPIT… Why on earth was he allowed to fly?’ read the Daily Mail headline that generated waves of repercussion through the sea of social media as the aircraft’s black box raised questions about its co-pilot’s sanity. Sufferers took to Twitter to condemn the implied discrimination against mental health patients in the professional sphere, and charities such as ‘Mind’ released statements against the mass media for insensitively adding to the pre-existing stigma around illnesses of this nature. Imbalanced by extreme opinions from both sides of the debate, we find ourselves flying in vicious circles between themes of depressive stereotypes and suffering in silence. Our predicament: The more the media adds to the stigma around depression, the less patients will admit to having their illness and be able to get help, thus the more they will be led to commit atrocities such as this one, kicking us back into a whole loop-the-loop of stigma, silence and suicide.

So what actually is stigma, and why are we making such a fuss about it? Surely the English language gives us a hint as to the nature of its implications by so closely linking it with the name of a visionary impairment: Astigmatisms and Stigma… let’s call them the physical and mental barriers preventing us from seeing clearly, producing distorted vision. Now whilst headlines emerge highlighting that Andreas Lubitz had received treatment for eyesight problems prior to the crash, it’s questionable whether it is in fact our broadsheet newspapers who are having trouble seeing the bigger picture. It all comes down to oversimplifying a tentative link between murder and depression.

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Of course, it’s easy to jump to conclusions when evidence and explanations are rapidly sought, but the problem we have is that irrational crime and mental health issues and all too closely connected in the eye of the public. It’s likely that we’re all being a little short-sighted here and we need to don a pair of varifocals to see that whilst there may be a small overlap between murders and sufferers of mental health issues, in the grand scheme of things there are a whole load of murderers with no medical history of mental health problems, and a whole load of sufferers of mental health issues who have absolutely no intention of ever murdering anyone. So why has the media magnified this rare connection, generating a repercussion of both generalisations and stereotypes and corrupting the understanding of mental health issues in the public eye?

It’s easy to blame this on human nature to focus on the negative, rather than the positive. Unfortunately, we don’t watch the news for an insight into all the upbeat goings-on in our country – rather to catch up on the unusual occurrences and extreme cases. It’s like seeing a black mark on a white wall; of course we focus on the mark, since it is out of place. This is metaphorically like our attitude to world news; we focus on the bad, because it’s rare and unexpected. However, when we apply this metaphor to our view of mental health issues, it gives us a little insight as to why we’ve built up such a stigma around them. Simply because we do not talk about them, the notion of mental illness is ALWAYS rare and unexpected. As we lack any pre-existing positive understanding of mental illnesses, the negative media coverage is the main influence on our views of said problems.

Again we find ourselves loop-the-looping and diving back down to a vicious reality here. You could almost compare it to a chicken-or-egg scenario; what came first, the stigma, or our reservations towards talking about mental illness? It’s easy to see that a general attitude towards mental health problems denoting them as ‘not real illnesses’ and problems solved by just ‘getting up and getting over it,’ precipitated a kind of barrier between sufferers and non-sufferers, preventing people from talking about their symptoms and driving them to feel even more alone. Of course, as severity of illness increases, so may the likelihood of suicide or other irrational action, which become the extreme events that gain media coverage and add to the stigma. Now, think about the rest of the children from the school of those pupils involved in the crash. Since the tragedy is likely to be their first experience of mental illness, surely they will grow up with an inert phobia of depression sufferers?

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It’s comparable to religious extremism at this point; a very small minority of mental health sufferers cause harm to others, yet these are the ones who take the limelight. Nonetheless, with such extremism we are also aware of the majority of innocent believers who are tarnished by the reputation of small terrorist groups. Yet with mental health sufferers, the majority of patients may suffer in silence, causing the public to be blissfully unaware of the symptoms and difficulties faced by victims and adding to their lack of understanding. Consequently, we find ourselves trapped in a vicious circle; the less sufferers talk, the more the general public speculate, and the more the public speculate the less willing sufferers become to talk, preventing them from getting adequate help to recover from their illness.

However, we come back down to earth with a crash when statistics propose that one in four of us will suffer from a mental health problem at some point in our lives. That’s a quarter of us. So, why is mental health treated as such an inapproachable subject? Interestingly, the majority of people who took to social media for backlash the media’s simplistic condemning of mental illness with regard to the Germanwings crash were depression sufferers themselves, whilst it was mental health charities who stood up to voice their fears about headlines adding to the stigma. It’s as if one has to have suffered from an illness of this type to be able to offer understanding. Interestingly, the media states that ‘torn up sick notes’ were found in Andreas Lubitz’ house, symbolising his reluctance to admit his suffering. Thus, if we take anything away from this tragedy, we should not focus on the extreme negative actions of the co-pilot, but rather the fact that a forced silence about his illness prevented him from getting necessary help, and led him to hide medical evidence stating he was not fit to fly.

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So, whilst many depression sufferers protest about the implied crackdown on mental health checks in the employment process for positions of responsibility, could they have been too quick to negate something that may indeed be a positive move, rather than a kind of discrimination? In fact, mental illness history should be checked as thoroughly, if not more, as any physical illness, since they actually ought to be treated the same. Instead of protesting against media discrimination, we should in fact be encouraging all talk about mental health, and normalising it both as a condition and a conversation topic.

Let’s go back to the white wall/ black mark metaphor, to try and make a positive circle among the mass of negative ones. In order to draw attention away from the black mark, we must focus on the rest of the wall. This is why in the light of the crash, the most effective preventative action we can take to ensure events like this do not reoccur is in fact to normalise mental illness, encourage sufferers to talk, and break down this barrier of communication. I’d actually go as far as to say it was a case of ‘all publicity is good publicity’ since it’s so important that we raise awareness of the severity of mental issues when they go unnoticed. We’ve all heard of the ‘talking cure’, well, this no longer applies just to sufferers. The more all of us openly talk about mental illness, as we would about physical illness, we can make sure that people with such conditions do not suffer in silence for fear of being judged, and prevent negative media extremities from being all the public knows about mental health.

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Channelling our inner Charlie– why hashtagging is the new weapon of choice

Did you proclaim yourself to be Charlie? Here’s my little bit of psychoanalysis on what using the hashtag #jesuischarlie says about us, and why social media was our platform of choice to rally against the infringement of Free Speech.

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Even a light-hearted blog has to take a turn for the serious on occasion, and when the right to free journalism is called into question, there seems no better time. Here’s my humble opinion on a social media rally that has generated universal support and criticism – I present you with my own interpretation of ‘being Charlie,’ for the everyman. Whilst we’re fighting for ‘freedom of speech,’ I decided that the best rebuttal to the breach of this principal is the expressing of your own opinion, in the hope that, in the name of what everyone is apparently protesting for, it will be accepted, understood, maybe contradicted but nonetheless, you won’t be victimised for voicing it.

Two days ago, I posted a picture, a ‘throwback,’ you know the cliché, to summer, when I had been in Paris, smiling under L’Arc de Triumphe.  ‘My heart is with Paris today,’ I captioned it, and reached for the # key, ready to link it up to the wealth of other photos showing their consolidation for the victims of the Paris attacks, and then I pondered in a moment of existential crisis. Suddenly unsure of what I was about to proclaim myself to be, I had to pose to myself the latest fundamental question of this last week… AM I Charlie?

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Just another social media junkie?

Let’s start by putting it all into context. This latest attack has gathered a massive response; from news reporters, bloggers, politicians and creative individuals including journalists, writers and illustrators alike, arguably because of its breaching of the right of free speech, an ideal that comes with a lot of ambiguity. This hashtag #jesuischarlie has gone global, being tweeted around 5 million times. Even at the Golden Globes were celebrities such a Joshua Jackson and Diane Kruger seen posing for photographs holding a ‘je suis Charlie,’ sign as if it were the latest Parisian accessory to be endorsed on the red carpet. Whilst fully supporting the incredible reaction to this event, and in fact being completely astounded in the power of humanity to bring exceeding goodness and strength out of a tragic situation, I can’t help but wonder what exactly it is we have in common that unites us all under the umbrella of ‘being Charlie.’ If it is anything at all, that is. Or maybe we have just mistranslated its soft french meaning, interpreting ‘I am Charlie,’ as, ‘I support the right to be able to speak freely.’

Yet there is a part of me that even wondered if the extent to which the hashtag went so viral simply demonstrated a desire to be involved, the same desire to be a part of something that governs the trends we see on social media. With relation to the Charlie Hebdo attacks, this same part of me pondered if putting a # in front of an ambiguous startement and endorsing it with the opinions and views of many talented individuals simply duped us into thinking that the latest craze on the creative scene was indeed to BE Charlie, without really knowing what we meant.

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A little harsh? Let me explain my reasoning. The magazine has made the bold decision of repeating the act that sparked off the whole attack; depicting the prophet Mohammed, this time in all its glory ‘sur la couverture,’ with the caricature declaring himself part of the social media phenomenon – holding a banner declaring ‘je suis Charlie. I was slightly surprised by the words chosen by Richard Malka to defend the magazine’s latest cover, who told France Info radio ‘We will not give in. The spirit of ‘I am Charlie’ means the right to blaspheme.’

I had to put my hands up in self-defence here. As an individual endorser of the hashtag, I thought I was simply just declaring my sympathy for the victims and their families, and my belief that the right to free speech should not be violated in such a horrific way. Nonetheless, I don’t believe in exercising this right to deliberately cause offence. There are so many muslims whose religion has been given a very bad name through the action of such extremist groups. So although I love the message of Charlie Hebdo’s new cover, that highlights that the underlying principals of each religion are indeed benevolent and contravene such acts of terror, should we necessarily be re-offending a whole religion, including those ‘silent listeners’ who took it on the chin, who didn’t voice their offence yet nonetheless had their beliefs contravened? Take Ahmed Meribet, for instance – the Muslim police officer, who died defending the magazines right to go against the beliefs of his own religion. Whilst absolute freedom of speech is an ideal, I’d personally argue that practically, in the context of the world we live in which is so susceptible to racism and religious discrimination, a little sensitivity is required. Although the extremist attackers reacted in a horrifically violent matter, we can’t deny that other religions have retaliated to offensive depictions of their holy figures – remember that it was the Vatican who took legal action against Benetton over their banned UNHATE campaign featuring Pope Benedict XVI kissing a leading Egyptian imam.

But surely if this is all that being Charlie encapsulates, why is it ‘Charlie’ who has become the new martyr for free speech that we all relate to so much? Why not the Jews, killed in the Kosher supermarket siege?  Why not Ahmed, a personification of the benevolent qualities of Islam? Why not the Nigerians, whose innocent villagers were simultaneously slaughtered by Boko Haram’s most horrific attack yet? These ideas all featured on banners in the Unity march, so why has is ‘Charlie’ been so infectious? What is it about the moral figure of ‘Charlie’ that unites us, despite his blasphemy, despite his deliberate provocations?

To answer this, I want to look at the online reaction to both the attack, and the new magazine cover. Alongside an event that questions the borders of freedom of speech comes a huge backlash of opinions from those who publicly exercise this right in their career; the journalists, the authors, the artists, the illustrators. The internet has been flooded with a wealth of articles -and isn’t this the most fitting response possible; in an attack where free speech has been called into question, we have retaliated in an explosion of creativity and opinions. Nonetheless, how could all these opinions ever be in concordance? Obviously, there’s going to be disagreements. But how to react… this is where it gets interesting. Almost every one of these articles has sparked off a debate, a list of insults, even threats… people ‘disgusted’ with what they have read. Surely, whist we are all defending Charlie Hebdo’s right to religious satire with our self-proclaiming as ‘Charlie,’ aren’t we supporting the right to express our own opinions without being victimised?

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 Even though the idea is being put into play on a much smaller scale here, I have to ask, why are personal opinions here generating so much criticism? Why are some favoured, whilst others picked apart? What happened to the principals behind the Unity march, the ‘togetherness’ that the aftermath of this attack was supposed to give us? We’re all fighting for the right to freedom of speech, yet criticising people who use it. Surely, in the world of online journalism, the best example we can give of unity is the acceptance of different opinions, and the celebration of the diversity they bring us. In this simple practice, we’d be creating a microcosm for the real world, where opinions are expressed, appreciated, disagreed with; but no one gets hurt simply for expressing them.

However, this mutual sharing of opinions is to be valued, and it is in having an opinion ourselves that we resist the terror that tried to take this away. Here I found the answer to my question.  The backbone of social media revolves around this same sharing of opinions, pictures, and ideas. We’re not all journalists, but sites like Facebook and Twitter provide our own daily tool to express our opinions to the masses. We create an online diversity, a society that thrives on communication and the sharing of things we like, without being criticised for our individuality. So when this value, on a much greater scale, was called into question, we used this same media to protest, as the everyman’s platform to express freedom of opinion. We exerted our defiance in 140 characters, retaliating by using the device at our disposal to voice our thoughts when this freedom of expression was called into question. Whilst for example, the killings in Nigeria were exceedingly tragic, it was Charlie who stood up to voice exactly why they were wrong. ‘We should be celebrating our differences’ Charlie said, ‘learning from them, rather than exterminating them.’ Charlie reminded us of the small difference we can make to a world where diversity is called into question, simply by expressing our own, unique opinion.

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To return to where we started, I’ll go back to my own use of the #jesuischarlie hashtag. I initially wanted to delete my post, as I felt that what it stood for had become so blurred I didn’t necessarily agree with all that ‘being Charlie’ entailed. But it’s still there, the filtered picture of the Arc de Triomphe in all its glory. This is because, on thinking more, I realised maybe ‘blurred’ is a good thing. We don’t all have to be ‘Charlie’ in his entirety; we don’t have to embody everything that Charlie Hebdo stood for. All we are declaring is that there is a part of us, a little bit inside everybody that relies on and identifies with something encapsulated in Charlie Hebdo. For me, it is the freedom of expression without hurtful criticism. For others, it could be the ability to bring goodness from a terrible situation. Or for some; just being able to forgive, or even to take religious and cultural differences in a lighthearted manner.  To not be afraid. Nonetheless, in being Charlie, we celebrate our differences.

 The # has become a symbol of unity, bringing together all our opinions together under one big umbrella of diversity. Arguably, it is more about what it stands for, than what it states. Being Charlie is to express our own viewpoint, and the # unites all these views together, reminding us of what we have in common. To take to social media to rally is to exercise your own platform to exert freedom of opinion. And it is being Charlie, that we are all reminded of the little power we do have in the face of a tragic situation.

Techno-lovin

Is our constant access to and accessibility via social media deprecating our relationships? I look into whether this techno-loving is removing our Shortcut to future happiness.

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I’ve touched before on the omniprescence of smartphones and social media in our lives, with reference to photography and memories. As I sit down for a date with my laptop, I now want to look the impact of such technology on an ever more personal level, thinking about its place in our relationships, and finding out whether binary is the twenty first century language of love.

On Valentine’s Day 2014, as we all sat down for candlelit dinners, pink wine and champagne truffles, a special relationship was being consummated between two of San Francisco’s most illustrious names: Facebook and Whatsapp. As Mark Zuckerburg laid the table for a romantic meal with his wife, in burst Jan Koum, chocolate-covered strawberries in hand, using Zuckie’s perfectly set table to lay out his cards and negotiate a deal to sell his company. Picturing it, this seems like an almost slapstick personification of how social media can interrupt our one-on-on time with our partners, of the constant presence of such apps in our love lives, and how the intrusion of social networks such as Facebook into our private lives may devalue said intimate times.

To illustrate the impact that technology and social media has made on our relationships, let’s throwback to the 1970’s – the years in which a select few long haired flare-wearers spent chasing my mother. After being asked to a dance by a certain fella, yet not hearing a word from the chap in the preceding week, the bubble-permed redhed slipped off to spend her evening with another Beatles look-alike – only to receive a strict, code-language phonecall from Mum directing her home this instant to the rogue tuxedo-clad gentleman waiting expectantly on her doorstep.

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In a society where we are used to communicating with our partners every single day, the idea of not exchanging a word throughout a whole week seems bizarre and alien. Of course, this techno-loving does help us in some departments – Skype facilitates the ‘long-distance’ relationship, allowing us to talk with our other halves like they were in the same room, Facebook keeps all-too-curious girlfriends up to date with exactly who their men have been spending time with, and let’s not forget Snapchat, bringing smiles to long days at work with self-destructing silly pictures from our loved ones. Arguably, all this new technology helps us build stronger relationships, as talking between each other becomes must more of a part of our daily lives, and we are able to keep each other up to date with exactly what we are doing right up to what we are having for breakfast (a compulsory Instagram shot, best completed with the hashtag #instafoodporn). In fact, the use of technology potentially shifts the focus in our relationships on the verbal rather than the physical, since it provides many more opportunities just to talk, rather than always DOING something together (I mean anything from just eating dinner to watching a movie, to clear that up for the more dirty-minded amongst you.)

Nonetheless, perhaps there is a reason why Shakespeare never wrote his sonnets in binary, and maybe these super-intimate cyber relationships are clogging up too much of our disk space. Communicating every day takes up time, and creates an expectancy which leaves us feeling empty and curious whenever contact is broken, not to mention a huge gap in our daily lives if the relationship disintegrates.  Furthermore, it potentially shifts our focus away from our own lives onto someone else’s, since not only are we always preoccupied about what our other half is doing, the concept of always having to have something to tell them about is likely to influence our daily decision making. It goes without saying that the more we know about someone else’s life, the more we will find to quarrel about – and as the exciting stories drain away and subject matter becomes scarce, we are fertilising the perfect ground for a harvest of petty arguments. This constant communication leaves us living in each other’s pockets – and of course we are not wanted there, otherwise where would we put our smartphones?

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This is not to mention the privacy issue, which unfortunately goes deeper than your settings on Facebook. Only in the 21st century have we added yet another complication to our relationships – should you read your partner’s texts or emails? Marie Claire, the independant, and thestudentroom all have their views on this commonplace tenchoglitch. Whilst Facebook Chat provides the perfect ground for flirting with your co-worker before you get their number, and a girl’s name in your contact list sets alarm bells ringing for any anxious girlfriends, the technological revolution arguably piles the pressure on our relationships, by feeding our insecurities and paranoia on empty calories.

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(“wait… WHAT?!”)

Hitting “CRTL -” and zooming out now, we have to consider the full screen view of technology not only within our relationship, but surrounding it. Hard to get becomes even harder to play when we are constantly contactable via social media, and the 2 day rule for calling after a date dissolves into the two-second-after-we-said-bye Whatsapp rule. Constant availability doesn’t stop there, as private time becomes strained when our eyes are always scanning our email inboxes, and excitement often comes from our Facebook news feed rather than what is actually going on around us. Consequentially, whilst we all know to hit ‘safely remove hardware’ before disconnecting a USB, disconnecting completely from the world around us becomes almost impossible when it’s so easy to keep up to date with what everyone else is doing, make unfair comparisons and get a tad jealous of everyone who seems to be having a whole lot more fun than you right now (don’t worry – they’re actually just sat in front of their laptop too, uploading the photos for you to stalk.) With all this on your mind at once, it’s no wonder it’s difficult to shut down, explaining the lack-lustre of your love life when your mobile phone is the only one who’s turned on in the bedroom.

To decode all these thoughts and process them into something legible, we can summarise that amongst its many obvious advantages, the various problems that social media scatters into our relationships translate into one main love-hacking virus – anti-opportunism. Whilst technology offers us such a vast array of information about the whos, whats, wheres, and whens of what is going on around us, it becomes increasingly difficult to feel content with where we are, what we know, and what we are doing there and then. Having so much information to take in, whether it be about our partner or somebody else, only complicates our relationships, making it harder to feel satisfied with ourselves and thus more difficult to keep them healthy.  So, make the transition from standby to off every so often, reduce your virtual footprint, and decrease the pollution into your love life.

Disposable versus ‘sempre disponibile’

Could a limit of 32 photos be the perfect antidote to the constant accessibility of digital cameras, helping us suppress our overly snap happy desires and restoring the value of each picture we take? I pop this idea in my hand luggage and whisk it away on a long weekend to Florence to find out.

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In my last article, you may remember the rant I had about the Smartphone camera and its ‘oh too pressable’ shutter release, the extinction of the shiny 6-4 photo print, and the temporality of the .jpeg image. I vowed to never use my iphone as a photo album again, and to renew my vows with my Lumix DMC on the path to achieving fewer, and better quality pictures. Nonetheless, I can only blame my inner laziness as my photos still remain on its SD card, since after inspecting them on its digital preview screen, uploading them onto my computer to see them on a, well, larger digital screen somehow failed to incite any excitement.

 Furthermore, after seeing my mother sift through over two thousand images on the plane back from a holiday, having bought and filled up two new memory cards en route, I decided this tedious task wasn’t for me. Seeing the world through a viewfinder just seemed to dim the sparkle of experiencing something first-hand. What we needed was rehab for our shutter release addiction.

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This therapy for our snap-happy fetish came in the form of a cardboard-packaged camera, void of any digital screens, kicking it old school with just a viewfinder and a button to press until the red LED lights up to use the flash. Whilst vintage comes back into our wardrobe with charity shop retro finds becoming our everyday staples and high necks and scrunchies creeping back from the 80’s, it seems to be sneaking back into social media too, with these average quality, vintage coloured, scanned-in prints becoming integral to any edgy art student’s profile. Something about these slightly faded but so-damn-flattering images seems to give a quirky, cosmopolitan look to your daily life.

However, pretentiousness aside, the magic of the disposable camera is found in the number wheel on top – indicating the 32 precious spaces on its film. By limiting the number of photos you can take, the camera promises better thought-out pictures, since what you capture must be worth the backwards click on the number dial, reducing your potential for trigger addiction like the hand of a ticking clock. Could this be the antidote to the iphone camera revolution? Starting with the man in the mirror (no, not the one in that selfie with the flash reflecting over his face so you can only see his gym prepped body), I decided to put this snap-limiting idea into practice, taking just a disposable camera as my partner on a long weekend to Florence, challenging myself to take just 32 pictures in one of Europe’s most photogenic cities.

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As an Italian student, art enthusiast and someone who is generally infatuated with pasta, pizza, cappuccino, the Vespa, the Fiat cinquecento, renaissance architecture and almost everything else Florentine, this was not an easy feat. Honestly, after the first evening and next morning, I had already taken far too many night time snaps of the Duomo – it really IS impossible to fit in all into one frame but that litter perfectionist in your head makes sure you just keep trying… ‘oh, surely winding it up ONE more time won’t hurt anyone… just avoid looking at the number dial and pretend it didn’t happen, it’ll be worth it for the perfect shot.’ Furthermore, visiting something as overwhelmingly colourful as the Florentine leather market just calls for beautiful photos and your index finger is magnetically drawn to the shutter button just as your heart is drawn to the beautiful burgundy satchel with embossed leather detailing. This is not to mention the fact that walking through the Italian city with something so inconspicuous as a disposable camera immediately marks one out as a tourist, since you can no longer hide behind the ‘I was just looking at something on my phone and it happened to be pointing in that direction’ guise. I have to admit that a couple of shots on my precious camera film were taking up by the Italian stall holders who so politely offered to ‘make a photo of the pretty lady.’

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Consequently, as we reached midday of our first full day in Florence, I was defeated, as my number dial showed three, and I wasn’t even halfway through my city break. I was forced to ask the man at the tourist kiost ‘Dove posso trovare uno como questo?’ and point to my exhausted camera. I was in luck, however, as there was a photography shop just down the road which could provide me with my cheat fix – 32 more photos to play with. I vowed to be much more careful with these, as I knew this really was my last chance, framing every shot carefully and using them as sparingly as I could. However, I admit, I was an addict unrestrained by therapy as every so often I snuck out my iphone camera, just to make sure I didn’t miss a trick by not using one of my precious 32 on something seemingly trivial, and well, I had to have a couple to instagram straight away.

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Having now collected my film and looked at my prints, I am definitely pleased with the results of CHALLENGE 32. The vintage colouring gives an effortlessly chic look to the picturesque city, without the need for a photo editor, and the week-long wait for the prints really heightened the value of the photographs. I came out with a good variety of carefully chosen and framed shots, and spreading the shiny prints out on my desk gave an undeniable satisfaction, whilst making me feel a bit like Anne Hathaway in ‘Love and Other Drugs.’

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 However, no therapy comes without confession time, and I have a few secrets to share: firstly, I exceeded my limit by 407 duplicated ‘insurance’ shots on my iphone, some of which are very good photos but all lack the artistic look of the prints, therefore did not make the cut for my facebook album and have not been used in any way since. Secondly, I obviously cheated here by buying a second camera. And lastly, the most shocking and heartbreaking of all – whilst carrying my two disposable cameras in the bottom of my bag on the way to be developed, I believe the first one fell out somewhere along the way, and I have not seen it since. This is incredibly sad, as I lost all my photos from the first part of the weekend, but it also made me think – in an experiment that was supposed to be an antidote to the temporality of digital images, I in fact lost film images too, and ironically justified myself in not only using two cameras, but in taking shots on my iphone as well.

So what can I conclude from my experiment? Well, for the quirky-arty-cool, the disposable gives shabby chic shots that look a lot more authentic than the standard digital image. For stutter release addicts, challenge 32 does help you restrain yourself and think more carefully about each image you capture, but honestly, it takes the willpower of a saint to do this without cheating, and if you have an overactive eye for the perfect shot, sometimes the number limit just isn’t enough for all your creativity. And lastly, well, ALL photos are temporary, so whilst photography is productive and photo memoirs are precious, the most important film is the one in your memory – so make sure you don’t see everything through a viewfinder.

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The extinction of a photographic species… is this something to zoom in on?

A few consecutive events have made me think about the rejection of the traditional camera in modern society, and our latest love affairs with new slim, sexy, all-purpose smart phones.

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Firstly, on clearing up my shelves, I came across my once shinynewchristmaspresent Lumix DMC, with its faulty lens and plasters sticking the battery compartment together. The sight seemed almost comic, looking quite the epitome of an out-of-date, neglected old invalid. Why, I thought, when this camera used to be my partner everywhere I went, has it been reduced to a dust collecting ornament on my shelf?

Secondly, my love affair with my iphone5 was brought to an unsatisfying end when it was stolen on holiday. Although the handset was replaced by my insurance company, tears were shed over the thousands of lost photos (literally thousands… the technological revolution leads us to take pictures of everything, from our breakfast to our new clothes #obviously.) Although the last 30 days worth were backed up on icloud, God bless Steve Jobs, there is only so much that the apple nerds can do to save our memories, and for victims of disorganisia like me, the words ‘I should have backed it up’ will haunt you for life.

Lastly, a similar iphone stealing incident happened to a friend of a friend. His lasts words are reported to have been ‘OH MY GOD, like, there were like photos I hadn’t even INSTAGRAMED yet. You don’t understand. MY LIFE IS OVER.’

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All in all, this led me to think that maybe, whilst being caught up in the sexiness of our smart phones, we are somehow missing a trick. Firstly, whilst technology has incorporated some 13 megapixel cameras into our phones, we are still missing out on essential tools only the camera can provide. The word viewfinder is becoming redundant faster than ‘wherefore’. Similarly, manual focus and zoom can be essential to capture a high quality image. Although pressing one simple button on my iphone captures a good picture in seconds, the photo-taking experience is somehow reduced without looking through the viewfinder to frame the perfect image, adjusting the lens for a sharp focus, and choosing from the variety of photo settings such as ‘landscape’ and ‘night portrait’ to compliment my composition. Surely the smart phone result cannot even compare with a traditional photograph.

Yet don’t get me wrong, I’m no technology Scrooge. Surely if we’ve progressed from the pin-hole camera to the disposable, we can go from the digital to the all-purpose smart phone? You only have to compare photos of your grandparents, parents, and yourself to see that technology has been benefitting our photograph collections for years, so why stop here? Surely the big shots up at apple wouldn’t lead us backwards now, when they have been pushing us forward for so long. Maybe by taking our 13 megapixel smart phone everywhere with us, we in fact have more photo taking opportunities, and are thus more likely to record what we are doing, and hold on to such memories?

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Nonetheless, I only need ask if you’ve ever sat and looked through your childhood photo albums, and as a top procrastinator I can confess that this is one of my favourite time passing hobbies. I feel there are few things that compare to turning the shiny pages of a photo album, and watching your parents fall in love, become pregnant, bring you into the world, and seeing yourself grow up from baby into toddler into little person and… BAM. Then it stops. Here comes the digital revolution, where photographs are no longer printed out, but stored in their hundreds on the computer. Somehow, the pleasure of looking through old photos is reduced not only by not having the physical copy in front of you, and by the sore eyes given from looking at a computer screen for too long, but also by having to scroll through ten of the same image… I mean, it’s just so easy to press that little button, might as well take a few to get a good one, and well, a few more won’t hurt, and oooh that’s a great angle, look at that lighting… well, you get the picture (no pun intended.) One can only miss the pleasure of taking your film along to Kodak, and skipping back a few days later to collect your package of shiny prints to stick in your photo album. If anything, the smart phone and its constant access to camera roll does nothing but eliminate this little piece of happiness, by forcing us into an age where photos are not even saved in yearly files on the family computer, but kept on one’s personal handset, for one’s personal enjoyment.

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Furthermore, going back to where I started this post, on the subject of smart phone theft, I had to think about the vulnerability of the virtual photo. Thousands of memories are stored on this tiny 12x6cm tablet, and only backed up if we are organised enough to do so. The memory on our phones is so great that I no longer have the pressure of inserting my camera’s SD card into my laptop to transfer photos and make room for more, so I can simply snap away and add to my camera roll without a care in the world… (Yes, I DO need 5 different photos of the stages of cooking my pasta and tomato sauce dinner.) Of course, we do almost absentmindedly back up our photos onto various social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, but by sharing our experiences with the world, our photos become impersonal, and I had to draw the line at asking my friends to re-send my photos back to my phone from Instagram after it had been stolen. That takes #communal too far. I also feel it is sad when we are sharing photos our closest relatives have not yet seen with whoever happens to be online at the time we post them, and few people are fortunate enough to have as socialmediasavvy mothers as mine.

In conclusion, by replacing our less fashionable, rather more curvy, a little more bulky and less easy to handle real cameras with our sexy size 0 models, we are losing out on not only tradition, but the quality of our photos, and the sentiment attached to them. This seems to be an anomaly in the world of technology, where a product has reached a peak, and is now back tracking. Or, maybe the cross combining of products into a phone/camera can never hope to create something as effective as the devices could be on their own. Either way, I have nothing against you keeping your toyboy iphone for a bit on the side (for example, quick snaps on a night out), but when it comes down to it, but your traditional camera is your partner for life, so make sure it always accompanies you anywhere important.

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From bees to brown bears… all about my blog

I am an Italian student, prospective writer and illustrator, holistic life searcher, fashion enthusiast, gullible sucker for all advertising, lover of art and coffee, daily life ponderer, photography dabbler and a terrible decision maker with an overactive brain.

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From day to day, I find myself analysing the different trends of modern cosmopolitan life… like do superfoods really exist, are iphones the answer to everything, is there an app for THAT?! I’ll go for a coffee, watch the people stream past the window, think of the goods and the bads of what comes by me. I find myself having discussions between the red and blue corners of my brain, contemplating what I see, in order to reach some kind of conclusion to store in my treasure box of opinions.

This Aladdin’s cave of thoughts and opinions on everyday life forms the basis for Bees and Brown Bears. I feel that such a toybox of conclusions might simply be useful to the equally indecisive, who may choose to consult my streams of consciousness to help them along the path of daily decision making, or simply considering different opinions on the trends of twenty-first century cosmopolitan living. 

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This blog is for those like me, who may value the opinion of another confused individual to help them reach their own conclusions to important matters, or simply want a bit of daily thought-stimulation. I want to discuss the goods and bads of every day matters, those thought provoking trends of daily life that convene on your facebook news feed –   from all-purpose iphones to vegetarianism, from selfies to fitspiration, from Bees to Brown Bears, if you will.

I hope you will find something useful here, to help you think out of the box, to broaden your thoughts about something, or simply ease you through the decisions of everyday life.

Enjoy, with an open mind and a little lightheartedness.

Love, Beatrice (Bea, Bee, Brown Bear)

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This picture is inspiration to me – it makes me think of thoughts, ideas, and creativity being shared from one person’s individual box to the rest of the world. I hope my blog will go someway to achieving this.