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Re-vitalise emotionally and visually with Tom Ang

During this time of uncertainty Mill Tye Gallery will be reaching out to professional photographers and artists to inspire your creativity and help you to stay well.

We start this series of blog posts with guest photographer Tom Ang who has written 10 ways to help us to revitalise our vision and creativity. If you follow Tom’s blog and put the ideas into practice, please feel free to share your thoughts or photos that you are inspired to create, with us and we will share them with Tom and on The Mill Tye Gallery Facebook page to help inspire others.

Introducing Tom

Tom Ang is regarded as a leading authority on digital photography. He lectured in photography for over twelve years at university and is also a photographer, author, educator, TV broadcaster and traveler. He loves music poetry, nature and current affairs. He has illustrated over 30 of his own books and worked as a picture editor, editor, consultant and international juror as well as videographer.

For further information about Tom Ang, his photography and his books please visit


Helping your photography matters to me. I believe that the love of photography that you have - and that I share - is one of the forces that helps make the world a better place. This is because photography opens our eyes to appreciate the world - the beauty of other people, gorgeous landscapes, the life of this wonderful planet - the good and the bad and the ugly. Photography makes us more aware. And awareness is an essential step towards love and respect. These in turn leads to us caring and preserving what is good.

The Māori have a saying “Aroha atu, aroha mai” - if you give love, you receive love. Remember you can always work at your own pace, in your own time. You’re not racing against anyone. Give yourself time to work at the exercises to get the most out of them. Many don’t make immediate, dramatic differences - it’s all stepwise, subtle and gradual. Learn to feel soft differences and changes within yourself. Soft and quiet are the changes that will last and develop within you.

If you find there’s something you really don’t like, it’s worth looking at the reasons for the reaction. It may be telling you something. Dislike is not always because it’s not right for you, but because it demands more work and more effort than you’re willing to give. Take your time to look into why that could be. Often, a strong resistance to a change or suggestion actually pin-points exactly what is holding you back.

A couple of practical suggestions now:

Get yourself a notebook, if you haven’t already: A5 or around 15x21cm or 6x8 in in size is popular because it’s small enough to pack and carry around easily, but it’s large enough to write a decent page’s worth. Keep it with you at all times. NB: many people think a tablet like Galaxy or iPad will be easier to work, then find it’s not as spontaneous or easy to use. But if they work for you, go for it!

Get yourself a roller ball or gel ink pen to write with. These cost a bit more than ball-points but produce a better, clearer line more easily that is more readable. For the clearest lines which are easiest to write, use a fountain pen but these are not the most convenient to use and cheap pens are often unreliable.

Give yourself a break from looking at your own photographs for the next month. Instead, look at monographs or collections of great old photography and books on the history of photography. If you’re not sure what you’d like to look at or who to read up, there is a book called 'Photography - the definitive visual history' published by Dorling Kindersley which, ahem, I wrote. It’s as good a place to start as any to take in the vast canvas of photographic styles and approaches and to be inspired by the work of photographers whose work has stood the tides of fashion.

• It’s hard to over-state the importance of adsorbing other images, as it not only enriches your experience of photography, the examples of great work start to affect your brain and shape what you see and what you seek.

• And it’s my strong recommendation that, while working through this course, you do not look at contemporary pictures from sites such as Flickr, 500px, Instagram, 1X … you get the idea.

Right; let’s get to ten simple measures to re-vitalise yourself emotionally. Nothing difficult, nothing needs lots of money to achieve, and some you will be familiar with. But as I go through them, I hope you’ll be inspired to use them in directed, intentioned ways. You may do some of these things anyway, but now your intention is to re-vitalise yourself emotionally, and visually.

See yourself as rushing off with great energy, your eyes blazing, heart beating fast, eager to locate the images you already see in your mind. Full excitement, you venture with trembling hands, your mind sharp and alert and full of ideas. See yourself in that state, can know what it feels like - so feel it!

Ten ways to re-vitalise emotionally and visually - Step One

Refresh body, brain and soul with a walk-in nature.

A local park, reserve, quiet river or lake, woods or forest, or in your garden. Just absorb, breathe deep, empty, receive, open. Don’t take a camera - so don’t try to photograph or even look for pictures, don’t think, don’t look for anything. Just see, take in passively, quietly. Expose yourself for at least 30 minutes.

If you find yourself thinking about photographs and what you’d like to photograph, that’s fine. Allow the thoughts to take their shape and go where they will. Don’t try to control. Don’t try to make them cleverer or more creative or push them in any way.

You may well find that the hardest part of this exercise is to let go, and to stop the habitual need to control, make perfect, get right or excel. You do this only for yourself.

Anything that really catches your interest, or gets you excited, just jot down the outline. Don’t try to write down the details.

Again, don’t censor yourself. You’re pleasing no-one but yourself. This is a big part of the exercise. So, let me repeat that: You’re pleasing no-one but yourself. You don’t have to share anything you write down; you don’t have to show anyone anything. This is groundwork for the things you do show - your photos.

So, if you want to write a single word like ‘Beautiful!’ do that. If you need to write ‘Phone Mother before 4pm’ then write it.

That’s good! Jot down as much as you feel you need to write. You can date the entry, but it’s not necessary.

Continue gazing out to the nature. Relax. Breathe slowly, sigh deeply, and enjoy!

When you get back, jot down any further thoughts - even if it’s the need for more coffee, apples and onions next time you shop. Get into the habit of jotting down thoughts and feelings. No need for whole sentences. ‘Great!’ or ‘Surprisingly relaxing’ or ‘Sand textures’ or ‘Colours of foam’ will be enough to get your creative juices going when you read them later.

Indoor Moon by Tom Ang from his ‘Homescapes' collection

(All photographs in this collection were made at home or in a small room.)

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