Are you ready to be part of a story with a happy ending? If so, read on…
I grew up in the concrete jungles of the Far East but despite that, or maybe because of it, I fell profoundly in love with nature. But, I lived a grey life as a corporate citizen; every day I woke up saying “be thankful you have a job” while trying to quell the voice in my head that said “yes, but…”. I wanted out, but didn’t know how to make a change. One of the things that brought me solace during those long years was being outdoors and photographing.
The more time I spent with nature, the more I knew I wanted to help mankind find our way back to a sense of reverence for her. For a long time, we worshipped her but gradually, as we moved from the land into cities, we literally lost sight of her. Trapped in our clusters of urban housing, we forgot that we depend on nature for the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. We became too preoccupied with daily life to just enjoy her presence.
In April 2014, despite my long list of fears, I made the leap and became a full-time landscape photographer. It hasn’t been the easiest journey but there is no substitute for greeting every morning with enthusiasm (no mean feat for a non-morning person). Aged 51, I started my new life by travelling in Scotland with my husband and Bea the Dog for three months. The beauty I found was extraordinary, especially in the Western Highlands; we had planned to spend a week there but ended up staying for five, unable to drag ourselves away.
It was a feast for the senses – the young greens of spring, the smell of the clean air, the sound of the ice-melt flowing down the rivers, the rough bark of ancient Caledonian pines. We made so many images! We showed them to people in the neighbouring towns and were shocked by how many people thought they were images of Canada. How could people not know what was almost literally on their doorsteps?
I decided to do something about it and On Your Doorstep – The Project was born. We chose seven non-iconic locations across the UK and, over 16 months, set out to prove that this country is blessed with natural beauty no matter where you are. The best part? You don’t have to go far to find it. We photographed within 15 miles of each chosen location and all images were made within a 15-minute amble of a roadside or a car park. We then returned the following month to exhibit what we’d seen.
The exhibitions finished in October 2016, and while thinking about where to take OYD next, it occurred to me that I would never be able to reach enough people on my own. I wanted to tap into the art community and use the phenomenal capacity of art and literature to bring about positive social change. I also wanted to keep the message uplifting. We’re constantly being told we’re killing the planet (which we are) but those messages are not very motivating! It’s easier to engage people when you’re asking them to be part of something with a happy ending, and something local to them, on their own doorsteps.
That led to the founding of On Your Doorstep – The Magazine. It’s a collaboration between artists and writers from around the world, and we’re using the power of art to inspire the protection of nature. The magazine has three main sections (1) submissions from artists and writers showing the beauty of nature local to them (2) reporting on projects which are focused on the protection or restoration of nature and (3) a readers’ gallery showcasing work our readers send in (new in Issue 2, coming out in September).
Are you ready to do your part? In the same way that the photographer Ansel Adams used the power of the image to inspire the founding of the first National Park in the United States, we’re going to use the power of art to encourage people to take better care of the nature around them by showing them how beautiful the world around them is. If you’re a photographer who enjoys making images of nature, then we’d love to feature you in OYD. You can see our first issue here http://gaiaguardians.org/on-your-doorstep.
Email me at Karen@gaiaguardians.org to find out more.