Yasmin Zadeh

City:

In large cities like London we live in complex, un-natural environments; amidst endless rows of tower-block silhouettes seemingly mushrooming overnight against our skyline. This high level of urbanisation and dis-connection from the natural world has prompted a parallel between our increasingly destructive environmental behaviour and the disintegration of our psyches. Many of us have lost touch with the sensuality of Nature, with the importance of slowing down and turning inwards. We have forgotten how to be alone. The series naturally unfolded over the space of two years, documenting my journey after a nervous breakdown lead me to follow my intuition and leave the city streets for the forest trees. At the point where I started to feel as though I was losing my mind, I simultaneously began having the intuitive feeling that what I needed was isolation and to feel more connected to the natural world. I arrived at my father’s cottage in the Chiltern hills just as Autumn was drawing to a close and Winter solstice approached. The house was dark and cold, the trees laid bare. The garden, full of life in the Spring and Summer months lay dormant, waiting. Despite the hours of light rapidly diminishing I began walking for lengths of time each day in various nearby woodlands, breathing in the change of seasons and meditating on the long shadows cast by the hard light of the winter through the trees that now surrounded me. The canopies of leaves that make the woods dark places from Summer through to Autumn were beginning their cycle of restoration and renewal, as was I. The more I immersed myself in the natural world and distanced myself from my urban life I began to sense Nature as an internal feeling. The forest trees became a symbol for my unconscious. and stepping into them became a way for me to face the unknown both externally and internally as I began the process of reflecting back on what had happened to me. Retreating to the wild was like entering a special mind-space for me. Away from the pace and artificiality of London’s streets and an unabating career path that was making me ill, to a landscape that was calm and timeless, where I was able to leave behind what was expected of me in order to fit into contemporary city life. The woodlands of the Chilterns countryside became a form of monastic retreat for me, a place of trial and contemplation where I could re-discover my personal, semi-spiritual relationship with Nature and begin my process of healing. In his allegory of The Cave, Plato described human beings living their lives imprisoned in an underground cave, its entrance open towards the light, only able to see the images projected in front of them on a ‘screen’, shadows cast by the hard light of a blazing fire behind them. The allegory Plato describes, is a Camera Obscura. Just as the sun and moon rise and set each day; our lives are a constant ebb and flow between the light and dark sides of our souls. Throughout our lives our consciousness, our light, can force us to confront these shadows in order for us to embrace our own duality and find quietness where there was once disorder. This notion of our own duality, and the need to slow down and go inwards, into the dark subconscious and face our shadows in order to find true consciousness, light, to me, became perfectly embodied in this photographic process. The physical and ethereal aspects of building my own camera and taking each drawn out exposure became an integral part of my meditation practice and overall healing process. Every time I opened my shutter to allow what was outside inside, and vice versa, I was able to slow down to make time to centre myself and explore the relationship between internal and external worlds. There is a certain magic, a tactility that has been lost in the rapidly evolving era of digital photography where we find ourselves surrounded by instantaneous images, our senses overloaded, never fully present or conscious to the image making process, and I felt that my photography needed to slow down alongside me. To take photos is to capture the duality between light and dark, to submit oneself to shadowplay. The shapes that emerged from the darkness became in a sense evocative of my inner explorations, the unpredictability that ensued revealing a dreamlike quality evocative of my unconscious, transforming in the dark to evoke an inverted view of my own reality.

Into the trees
Impermanence
The Meadow
Me as a Tree
Don't let this new world break you