In our next in this series of Creative Spotlights, we chat to Hull-based photographer Joshua Elliot about his work and inspirations.
Can you introduce yourself, and tell us about what you do, please?
My name is Joshua Elliott. I’m a 19-year-old photographer and videographer that specialises in many fields. I’m both a hobbyist and professional, meaning that I do it for fun, and I do it as a job as well.
What are the biggest challenges that you face?
Getting started professionally was a task that was hard at first, and still has its struggles. When you first start out in the creative industry, you have nothing to work with, no reputation, no portfolio, nothing. It can be tough to get those first few initial shoots to jump start your career. That’s why I love keeping it as a hobby too, I don’t have to worry about expectations from clients. My mental health also has a massive impact on what I shoot, and has at times made me consider giving it up.
When you live in a world where everyone knows everything about you, and can see your work 24/7, it can sometimes be overwhelming for me knowing that I have expectations to provide a high quality service to both my clients and followers. It makes me doubt my skill a lot of the time. Luckily, I have people around me that support my journey, and leave positive feedback, and even constructive criticism so I can constantly strive to improve.
What kinds of things motivate you – people, places or games and music?
Getting out and doing photography for fun is one of the many ways I motivate myself. Getting out and doing it is the best way in my eyes. I also love taking a scroll down the feeds of other photographers on Instagram and down pages on Facebook to see what other Togs have done/are doing.
Even though it may seem that I only do photography, I’m also a gamer, I love taking days off just to play on my Switch, PC or Xbox One. Having a wide variety of genres helps to keep me occupied and prevents me getting bored. It’s similar to photography actually, as I don’t just stick to one thing, I play anything from shooters and racers, to RPGs, platformers and adventure games. I have a small passion for music as well. I don’t listen to mainstream music, even though I don’t have an issue with it. A lot of the music I listen too actually comes from YouTubers. One of the albums I’m in love with at the moment is called Flashdrive, made by Will Ryan.
What have been a few career highlights?
There has been quite a few so it’s kinda hard to narrow them down haha. But if I had to pick one, it would have to be my first exhibition. Taking place in 2017, I submitted a photo that I took during NCS in the summer of 2017. It was of a house across the lake from where we was staying during the first week at the Lake District. It was easily one of the best photos I had taken at the time. Seeing the photo on the wall in an actual exhibit was weird and surreal considering that I had only being doing photography under a year at that point. It made me realise that I had a talent for photography and that I wanted to keep going with it. And here I am in 2020, three years later and I’m still doing it. Another highlight I must mention would be starting up my photography Instagram account. While it doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment to most, to me it signified the start of my portfolio and journey. If you scroll down my feed and go to the first photo, it’ll be from April 2017, only improving from there.
What does success mean to you?
Success can be interpreted in many ways. for me, success is can be successfully working with a client and having them be satisfied. Success can be going out on a shoot with other photographers. Success can be just editing a good photo and being proud of it. It could even be just having one comment from someone saying the photo is good. It can come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re all as equally important.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a career in photography with a disability or mental health issue?
The best piece of advice I can give to anyone who wants to start a photography career, if they have mental health issues or any disabilities, would be to work for free at the very start. I get that this seems backwards, I mean you’re working and putting time in, and your time is worth money, so what gives? Well, at the start you have no experience or portfolio to show a client your skills. And if they’re not impressed or have nothing to look at, they’re not going to want to put money into you. I suggest finding what genre of photography you want to work in, contact people who would need that service and offer it for free. After you’ve done it for a while and have a few good shoots under your belt, then you should start charging. I know some people will disagree with this, and thats fine, but this approach has worked, and still does work for me and many others.
WARO speaks to local tattoo artist Troy Eyaad who is helping people in his local community get the food and supplies they need in this current crisis. In this interview, we talk about how he started paying for it out of his pocket and the volunteers who stepped up to help, alongside a lovely story about 50ps.
In times of uncertainty, people have to stick together and show community spirit to get through great ordeals such as the current coronavirus crisis. One such man is doing his part for his local community; 36-year-old tattoo artist Troy Eyaad owner of the House Of Ink tattoo studio, and Prospect 82 mini-market in Hull has stepped up to help his community in this crisis.
It is amazing what Troy has achieved and is a far cry from years earlier when he was working as a bouncer in McDonald’s breaking up fights. He shares one particularly harrowing story of being attacked with a bottle: “I nearly got killed once I was helping out a guy and five people jumped on him that were bullying him, and I got hurt by a bottle and then literally next thing I knew I had sixteen stitches in my head.”
Before the lockdown, Mr Eyaad was already donating paracetamol to vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and the elderly. But he wanted to do more, and he started “making little boxes at first by myself making between five and 20 boxes a day, and then I start advertising on social media asking for help and I got a great team – I call them the A-Team because they’re like local heroes,” he says. “We’ve started putting money together and just buying more boxes, and putting more stuff inside it, and now we send them over 200 boxes a day.” He labels the boxes with the phrase, ‘You are not alone’ in order to raise people’s spirits. Troy has even had donations from Makro (a whole food retailer in the UK) and other members of the public to support his cause.
Troy and his volunteers have managed to reach so many more elderly and vulnerable people than when he started – the group went from providing 20 boxes a day to 200.
Troy also comments on the process that is involved in running the operation, which involves being contacted, usually through Facebook, but with the elderly community, it’s often done by word of mouth: “I’ve got elderly people down the road from where I live asking me if I can send them a parcel to help, and of course I need to do that – a lot of elderly people don’t have social media they don’t know about Facebook or the internet.”
It also involves a lot of early starts for the Hull native, “These are the kind of people I’m trying to reach by 12 pm or 1 pm. I start waking up like six in the morning and going stand in the queue, and that’s how I get the stuff at seven o’clock, and then I start setting up. From 10 am to 12 pm, by that time I have usually done 100-150 boxes.”
With this new venture, there are surely some different clientele than his usual customers at the studio. Troy tells the incredible story of an elderly lady who wanted to thank him for his amazing work, he says: “I dropped the box to her, and she said ‘hold on I want to give you something’ – she literally donated 50ps it was like 1ps and 50ps in the bag and I said, ‘We’re not taking money, we get help from other people, we’re not taking money from elderly people, and yeah she cried and she said ‘don’t make me feel useless’ and that really hit me.”
Troy’s work has not gone unnoticed either, along with news articles on the work he does, there is a Facebook group titled ‘The Troy Eyaad Appreciation Group’ which is for people in the local community to say thanks to him for all his hard work.
Rarely, local heroes come along too often, but Troy and his volunteers certainly fit the bill. Let’s hope they keep doing this for a long time to come.
WARO sits down with NEWMEDS vocalist Nick Cobley about finding catharsis in music, and the importance of sharing thoughts and feelings when out on the road, in the bar or at home.
The music scene in Yorkshire is a deluge of talent at the moment. Bands like Bonnie and the Bailers and CARO are killing it at the moment, and the Hull- based NEWMEDS are another rock outfit to really keep your eyes on.
Consisting of vocalist Nick Cobley, drummer Joe Brodie, bassist Sam Rudderforth and Mark Wood on guitar, the band have been exciting crowds with their angsty and in your face anthems since late 2017.
Their material has never shied away from speaking about mental health, most notably in their 2018 hit, Cognitive Behaviour, and Nick spoke of how the subject matter makes its way into their music: ‘’It can kind of happen by accident. Dealing with past issues is how the songs come about really, things that are stuck in your mind. It’s always been my way to get it out and rationalise how I’m feeling. It’s been a progression of doing CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and learning to deal with irrational thoughts. That’s really helped us to write the songs and pick apart what I was saying and thinking.’’
Nick also explained how having such a deep library of material on mental health can also be rather cathartic, as well as the impact it has on their fans: ‘’It was never an aim for us to write about mental health, but it just started flowing. I guess it was stuff I had trapped in there that I didn’t know I needed to say. And when I started saying it, people appreciated how open we were being, since the stuff they’re going through is quite similar. I don’t know if it helps put any issues to bed, I mean we’re still writing about the same stuff! But it definitely helps me realise what’s wrong or what’s going on in my head.
‘’The live performances can be a really big help though. Obviously we don’t write with that in mind, but to see people screaming the lyrics back at you means a lot.’’
When it comes to speaking about mental health, a lot of people can struggle to take that first step. Whether it’s talking to a professional or just a close friend, it’s often difficult to accurately portray just how you’re feeling. Nick is no stranger to that and stressed the importance of it: ‘’I was never comfortable talking about anything, and I think that’s why I got into such a pit. About seven years ago I hit rock bottom, but I dragged myself out of it, did CBT and eventually full-blown counselling. In the band we try and talk as much as we possibly can about thoughts and feelings. If someone isn’t feeling practice one day, we always give them the time they need, that’s most important.’’
NEWMEDS’ transparency around mental health issues has heralded acclaim across the country, such as being spotlighted by the BBC. The group have essentially been given an ambassadorial role for their work, and Nick appreciates that attention: ‘’I’m more than open to being that person people look to when it comes to mental health. I’ve not been a counsellor for people or anything, but I think it’s easier for them now that they know we’re willing to be open. I’ll always give my time to somebody that needs it.’’
For people out there who struggle with mental health, it can be a task to find coping mechanisms that keep you happy and in control of your own emotions. Nick has his own suggestions on the matter: ‘’I just try and remember that the feelings are temporary, it won’t be forever. I used to do unhealthy stuff like going out and getting smashed, but I’d realise the next day it wasn’t particularly the best way to deal with it. My main one now is just talking about it. If I’m down, I’ll tell whoever I’m with about it, although these days they can usually pick up on it. Even if you don’t know what the problem is, at least you’re openly saying that something isn’t right.’’
Obviously NEWMEDS is Nick’s most common way of finding inspiration and improving his mood, whether it’s writing or performing, but what about during his everyday life? ‘’I’ll watch a lot of films, and that’s been the inspiration behind some of our music videos. I’ve also gotten massively into street fashion lately. If I’m feeling a bit s**t, I’ll go and buy a new t-shirt to help perk me up. Pets can also be a massive help. I never used to be a cat person and now I’ve got three of them! They can tell when you’re down and just sit with you. It’s almost like therapy.’’
NEWMEDS’ willingness to speak up on a subject that is sadly still seen as a taboo in our society is nothing short of inspirational. They’re putting themselves out there in an often cruel world, showing that it’s ok to be open about your struggles and that there are people out there going through it themselves, willing to listen and help.
The group’s electric latest single Psycho is out now. Be sure to give it a listen if you need a boost, or you just wanna hear some sick riffs.
WARO sits down at The Brain Jar in Hull, with comedian Jed Salisbury to discuss work and making his living in comedy, being on television (‘Who Are You Calling Fat?’) and coping mechanisms for mental health.
He’s had a very successful few years, with gigs up and down the country and several TV appearances, but Jed Salisbury is still extremely up front about his continued struggles with mental health.
The issue of mental health has thankfully become a much more widely discussed topic in recent years. Celebrities have spoken up about their own personal experiences, and people have used social media to come together and show support for one another through tough times. The government has also promised increased spending on mental health (although we’ll have to wait and see if that comes to fruition).
Jed is one of those aforementioned people who has been vocal about his mental health struggles in order to increase awareness. The Hull-based comic spoke about his coping mechanisms should a bad day come around, in the hopes of potentially helping others: ‘’I try and get myself out. I realise if I stay in things will downward spiral fast, because I’m my own worst enemy. If I’m having a bad day, I’ll go to places in town that I frequent and talk to the staff. I know that sounds cliché, but it gets me out of a toxic environment and keeps me out of my own head.’’
As you can probably imagine, constantly touring across the country can sometimes be a downer when it comes to mental health, as you rarely have any free time to yourself to sit and think, but more importantly to enjoy other things. In those rare moments of solace, Jed has a selection of hobbies that help keep him in a positive mood: ‘’For the longest time comedy was my hobby, but now it’s my job so it kind of became everything about me. I’ve had to find passion elsewhere, so I act, I do announcing for a wrestling company, I write things other than comedy, I try to take an interest in other people’s creative outlets.’’
Jed also spoke about how essentially being self-employed can play on that free time: ‘’When you’re self employed you almost feel bad for having free time. There’s always that thought process of ‘I should be chasing this or doing this’, but you have to just let that go. That’s why I enjoy going to the cinema so much, phone off, it’s like a little escape.’’
Many people in and around Hull and Yorkshire see Jed as somewhat of an inspiration. He’s a local lad who’s been able to use his talents to grow into a recognisable figure in UK comedy, despite having mental health issues. For those in similar situations, Jed provided some useful self-care tips: ‘’If you ever feel out of place somewhere, just think about all the steps you took to get there, because its so easy to doubt yourself if you just focus on the current situation. I doubted myself with the TEDtalk thinking ‘I shouldn’t be doing this, I’m not that smart’, but then I took a step back and realised I’ve essentially been a professional talker for 10 years. I’ve got things to say. ‘’Keeping on top of things is also important. I’m a serial procrastinator, so I’ll get into these cycles of not wanting to do something, and then being depressed about that, and then becoming more depressed that I never ended up doing it. I’d say just get it done and you’ll be much happier later.’’
There’s a common misconception out there that if you’re from up north, specifically a city like Hull which isn’t known for its stars, you can’t be a success. But through his comedic success as well as his TEDtalk, Jed has proved that judgement to be a falsehood. How you may ask? He claims the answer is simple: ‘’I worked hard, but there’s also an element of right place, right time. The main reason I got the TEDtalk is because I was in a nightclub and got talking to the right person. Obviously not all things can work like that, but you shouldn’t be afraid to take a risk. When I was an amateur comic I’d go out there and flop, but I’d use the opportunity of working with pros to pick their brains and up my own game.
‘’There’s gonna sadly be a point where I have to move out of Hull, because I can’t achieve anything more. Hull is great, but it’s an hour away from anything major so if I want to take that next step to TV, I’d have to unfortunately leave.’’
As someone who suffers with mental health issues myself, Jed’s story is inspirational. He’s overcome a lot of obstacles to get to where he is now, and his current success shows no signs of stopping. There’s arguably no one in comedy more deserving of a big break than Jed right now, and long may the success he’s found continue.
In our latest Artist Spotlight, we talk to Leanne Beetham (who has arthrogryposis multiplex congenita) of LippyArt about her work. Leanne is a member of Association Of Mouth And Foot Painting Artists (MFPA), and has been building incredible works of art for years.
Can you talk to me about your goals, and what you want to achieve with your work?
Through my art, photography, videos, and live demonstrations, my mission is to educate the world on the importance of both disability awareness (with emphasis to ability), and wildlife conservation. I endeavour to break stereotypes, challenge perceptions, push boundaries, & inspire others to create.
The term “disability” is too often confused with “inability”; it’s not that we cannot do things, just that we sometimes need to innovate, take a different approach to the norm, and do things in a different way.
I want to encourage people to talk openly about disability, and raise awareness of what is possible, but also of issues in which our world is currently lacking – unnecessary barriers hindering or preventing people with physical and/or mental disabilities from being able to participate in activities many take for-granted. Common sense things, such as basic wheelchair access, should – in my opinion – be commonplace among public services and businesses in modern times. Also, companies should be hiring people with physical and mental disabilities to do the assessing (not just following a minimum government guidelines checklist, which has proven itself limited at best). Although we are slowly improving, we still have a long way to go before society as a whole can be considered truly inclusive.
Issues surrounding subjects like accessibility are one of the many reasons I started my “Fur, Feathers, & Wild Endeavours” and “CONQUERED!” (Aka. Challenge) projects (see my website for details). I don’t like being told I can’t do something on account of my disability, and I especially don’t like the thought that someone else might be told the same, and potentially be prevented from doing it because they believed those words. Never accept that answer. Always research, plan, invent if necessary, never be ashamed of asking for help, and most of all – enjoy the journey; don’t be so focused on the end result that you forget to appreciate how far you’ve come and those who have helped you.
Where does your primary inspiration come from?
Everything around us has the potential to inspire; though, my personal favourite subjects are animals and nature. Our world is a beautiful and fascinating place, if you take the time to stop and truly experience your surroundings. I also enjoy photography (using adapted equipment), which helps me gain reference material for my pieces.
I encourage anyone to make a point of paying attention to the things most pass by without a second thought: the striking iridescence of a starling, a crooked old tree battered by the elements, even how light reflects through a glass tumbler, etc – everything is a potential lesson and source of inspiration worth taking note of. Even if we don’t paint them, our real-life observations can apply to anything, even works of fiction. It’s what makes them believable.
Most recently, I started working with the Sumatra Camera Trap Project, which is a wildlife conservation effort based between Indonesia and the UK. This project uses camera traps strategically placed throughout the Sumatran rainforest to observe wildlife. They have provided me with so much amazing material to work from, I am both overwhelmed and grateful for their partnership. It means my work can actually help and raise awareness for the animals I feel so passionately about.
What would you say that your biggest challenges are on a day-to-day basis?
It’s always the unnecessarily difficult things with simple solutions which frustrate me most.
Presently, I would say my biggest challenges are access to the things most people can do without thinking (e.g. travel accommodation), and public perceptions of disability – though, the latter, in recent years, I feel has greatly improved. Don’t get me wrong, I still occasionally get the patronising tones, or patted on the head like a toddler, but it’s much less common than it used to be.
I travel throughout the UK with my career quite regularly, and I find it increasingly frustrating that basic hoist facilities (an essential for myself and many others) are not available in the majority of hotels. Personally, I am fortunate in that I have a fold-up portable hoist, which has been amazing – but even so, it’s a 3 ft x 4 ft cumbersome piece of equipment. When you have a physical disability, it’s near impossible to travel light anyway, even for a 1 night stay. My basic equipment includes: my wheelchair, pressure-relief mattress, bed-raiser, elephant-feet, various chargers, even a small portable toilet – because many hotel bathrooms are too small for a standard wheelchair, assistant, and free-standing hoist to fit into. Obviously, I have regular items to pack on top of that, and – of course – my art equipment. Consequently, a hoist in the disabled room would make this whole experience unimaginably easier! It’s truly amazing what a difference this one piece of equipment makes.
According to a 2017 study conducted by Trailblazers Muscular Dystrophy UK, almost 80% of disabled people have been unable to go on holiday – within the UK – due to a lack of hoist facilities in hotels. According to CHUC (Ceiling Hoist Users Club), there are currently only 18 known hotels – within the whole UK – offering ceiling hoist facilities (7 of which are in London). From personal experience, I can also confirm that the majority of those hotels only have – on average – 1 or 2 accessible rooms available, are expensive, and do not offer family rooms, discount carer rooms, or the option of double or twin beds. This really needs to change.
In the past, fighting for the care hours I require to enable me to live a normal life often felt like an uphill battle, and was a very challenging time for me. Many assessors seem to be very much focussed on basic needs; the bare minimum you need to exist. There is a distinct difference between existing and actually living, and I wish this was acknowledged in the assessment process. Keeping someone physically healthy does not guarantee good mental health. All people – regardless of their disability – need freedom of choice and to be mentally stimulated.
I wanted to live the way I want, on my terms – like everyone else. I wanted to decide when I went to bed, toilet, outdoors, etc. I remember one assessor actually telling me that if I needed the toilet during the hours my assistants were not present, I would have to sit in my own waste until the next one came on shift, because I wasn’t getting more hours, and that was the “sacrifice” I made by refusing to live in a care home. Seriously? How can we think this is ok? Needless to say, the fight ahead was brutal, and I did eventually have to acquire legal help, but I finally got my 24/7 care – of which I am eternally grateful and use to the full!
For me, this care brings the ultimate freedom. However, each year, even though my disability is diagnosed as incurable, I face the anxiety of reassessment, in which I must re-justify every hour of care I receive. I genuinely hope this whole approach changes. People shouldn’t have to fight for something so basic; nor should it equate to your perceived financial worth. We are not “financial drains” or “burdens on society”, we are human – with the same needs and desires everyone has. I strongly believe that if everyone is given the correct tools from the start, they have the potential to do amazing things and make a positive contribution to society.
We do a lot of work around mental health awareness on WARO, and I wanted to ask do you have any coping mechanisms or motivators for any bad days that you might experience?
I give myself a break. We all have bad days (sometimes weeks, months, or years), and sometimes the best approach is to first acknowledge that it’s ok, and then plan a positive change. I try to make a routine of doing something for myself. I often find doing the opposite of what my regular day is can help greatly – if I’ve been constantly around people and talking, I treat myself to some alone time; if I have been stuck indoors, I go outside; if I’ve been generally busy, I do nothing; if all of my recent paintings are commissions, I make time to create something for myself. Furthermore, I take the time to appreciate the little things – a cuddle with my dog, a movie, music – it really doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you make the time to treat yourself well, even if sometimes you only get 30 minutes to take a nice deep breath.
On that note, I just want to add that many of us feel this need to take on a lot of responsibility. We don’t like the thought of letting people down or declining anyone. Make sure you add sufficient time to your deadlines (if you have them), to allow for things like bad days, pain days, mistakes, even a little time away from the piece you’re working on, etc. Don’t break yourself for anyone, and don’t be afraid of turning down work that doesn’t feel like a good fit for you. I had a bad habit of this at one point, and the thing is – it’s not just you that suffers, the quality of your work does too. If someone wants your best and respects you, they’ll understand and wait. Taking care of yourself is the most intelligent thing you can do.
What advice would you give to artists who take inspiration from your work, on how to get noticed?
Never give up – there will be times when things come surprisingly easily, and others where you will have to fight, and perhaps even face harsh criticism. Art is subjective, not everyone will like it, and that’s ok. It takes practice and determination – not all of your art will be masterpieces, that’s not the aim. Successful artists are never the “perfect” ones; they’re the ones who made mistakes, but never gave up, and kept putting themselves out there. You can’t fail if you keep going.
Also, get this idea of “bravery” out of your head, it doesn’t exist. I hear too many people say “I’m not brave enough to try that” – neither am I! But I face it head-on and do it anyway. The thing is, avoiding the thing you are afraid of won’t solve it or enrich your life. Whether it’s public speaking, heights, etc – tackle it. Build up gradually if you need to. More often than not you’ll find you surprise yourself and even enjoy it; if not, no losses, cross it off the list. However, by saying “I wish I could do that” and then not ever trying, or giving up because your first attempt wasn’t perfect – it’s a waste of a good opportunity. The stark truth is, we have one life, with an unknown time limit, and should be living as best we can, in the present moment, and in whatever way we choose. Those things won’t be given to you freely, you have to make the first move.
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