Friday Notes || No.17
On new-to-me authors & filming scenes from my everyday life
|Stéphanie Garstin||Nov 20, 2020||1|
Hello, and welcome to Friday Notes. This week’s edition of Friday Notes is all about reading work by well known but new-to-me authors, and my thoughts on filming (and sharing) scenes from my everyday life.
Friday Notes is my weekly newsletter round-up of my own work together with a curated list of the essays, articles, music, web comics, videos, films and books I enjoy each week, online and off. I hope you find something that interests you.
What I've been enjoying this week
1. ‘Why do pianists know so little about pianos?’ asks the New York Times. As a violinist and pianist - granted, very much amateur - I found this article really interesting. I started learning to play the violin two years before I had my first formal piano lesson, and so it has long been my ‘dominant’ instrument. These days I think I am of a similar standard on both, but because of my violin training I am probably more interested in and aware of the inner workings of a piano than many single instrument pianists might be. It is a source of great frustration that I can’t tune my piano myself. I don’t like asking for help and want to be able to do for my piano what I do for my violin. A violin has four strings though, and one per pitch. The bass notes on a piano have three strings per pitch. Tuning a piano takes time and experience, and I need to remind myself that there’s a very good reason why piano technicians spend three years in training for their job!
I have only had an acoustic piano - I’ve named him ‘Shiro’ as he is a white Yamaha and was made in Japan - since January, before that I had a digital piano. The first time my piano tuner came to tune Shiro back in February I asked him if I could watch him tune as I was fascinated by the process. I think he was a bit taken aback, I assume that most people just let them get on with it and don’t show much interest!
Speaking of piano tuning, Shiro needs tuning at the moment but we are currently half way through a second lockdown in England, and so I need to be patient. I should have just booked the tuner to come before lockdown started, but I wanted to wait as the weather was quite variable and big temperature changes mess with tuning stability. I didn’t want to pay for the tuning only to have the temperature plummet and the piano go flat straight away.
2. This week I have been reading short stories by Alice Munro. I am new to Alice Munro’s work, though she is a well known and well loved author with an extensive back catalogue. I am delighted to discover that I really enjoy her writing style as it means I have lots of new books and stories to explore and keep myself busy with. My library branch also has lots of her books in stock, which is helpful since the city wide reservation system is out of service at the moment.
He tells me how the Great Lakes came to be. All where Lake Huron is now, he says, used to be flat land, a wide flat plain. Then came the ice, creeping down from the North, pushing deep into the low places. Like that - and he shows me his hand with his spread fingers pressing the rock hard ground where we are sitting. His fingers make hardly any impression at all and he says, “well, the old ice cap had a lot more power behind it than this hand has.” And then the ice went back, shrank back towards the North Pole where it came from, and left its fingers of ice in the deep places it had gouged, and ice turned to lakes and there they were today. They were new, as time went. I try to see that plain before me, dinosaurs walking on it, but I am not able even to imagine the shore of the Lake when the Indians were there, before Tuppertown. The tiny share we have of time appals me, though my father seems to regard it with tranquillity. Even my father, who sometimes seems to me to have been at home in the world as long as it has lasted, has really lived on this earth only a little longer than I have, in terms of all the time there has been to live in. He has not known a time, any more than I, when automobiles and electric lights did not at least exist. He was not alive when this century started. I will be barely alive - old, old - when it ends. I do not like to think of it. I wish the Lake to be always just a lake, with the safe-swimming floats marking it, and the breakwater and the lights of Tuppertown.
The above excerpt is from ‘Walker Brothers Cowboy’ and perfectly encapsulates the feeling of standing in the mountains or beside a great lake, looking out across the landscape, and feeling very small. It’s the reason I love being in the mountains, being by the ocean, and spending time under old trees in forests.
Last summer - 2019 - Ed and I went camping in France. We spent the best part of a week on the shores of Lake Annecy in the Alps. One afternoon whilst Ed was out running I went for a walk down to the little nature reserve next to our campsite, pictured below, and sat on the end of a wooden platform watching the water ripple. I didn’t know what 2020 had in store back then. I didn’t know that I would revisit that holiday and memory each day I felt caged this year, but sitting there alone on the board walk watching the water made me feel so calm and at ease, and I knew then that it’d be a memory and a feeling that would stay with me.
I always feel better knowing that I am tiny, that there was life before me and there will be life after me, and that no matter how big my worries are or what’s going on in the world, after I’m gone and the last humans are gone, life will continue. Birds will still nest in the reeds, the moon will continue to exert a gravitational force upon our oceans, and seasons will come and go. For some, like the protagonist in Alice’s story, that feeling of being tiny and insignificant is an uncomfortable one, but I find it reassuring. It puts everything in perspective.
What I've been working on this week
1. Back in March 2011 when I was still a student, I started a 365 project - also known as a photo a day project. I really enjoyed it and so here we are nearly ten years later and I am still doing it. I wrote about my ongoing photo a day project a couple of years ago on the seventh anniversary and you can read my thoughts in this blog post here.
At the beginning of 2019 to accompany my daily photo diary, I decided to start filming more scenes from my everyday life. Before the pandemic - and hopefully after the pandemic too, though that feels like an abstract concept at the moment - I worked as a filmmaker and videographer. I primarily filmed weddings but was just beginning to get started with documentaries when the physical distancing restrictions kicked in and I lost a whole season of work. In January I released my first feature length documentary which did better than I had hoped. It was a positive start to the year but then, of course, the rest of 2020 happened.
I film a lot, but before I started this project it was mostly for work. Filming intimate moments at people’s weddings, I came to see how powerful and emotional personal films can be. I wanted to make sure that I had a record of my life, too. The happy highlights, but also the trivial almost forgettable moments that make up everyday life.
2019 was an easy year to film. Firstly, the project was novel, and so it was exciting. Secondly, Ed and I went places and did things. Life was ordinary, and we lived without restriction. 2019 was filled with day trips, holidays to the Ardennes and Alps in France and the Lake District in England, time with family, and all of the things that we took for granted but have been living without for large parts of 2020. I kept filming throughout March this year as the pandemic developed, but the footage became quite repetitive. It was clips of light flickering on the walls, Minou sleeping, and not a lot else. I dumped the footage in folders on my hard drive, but didn’t feel particularly inspired to sit down and edit it.
This week, in search of a project to keep me busy, I decided to tackle the footage and edit it into monthly films. I decided to keep them silent - without music at least - as it felt appropriate, and matches the mood of the footage. There are also moments where one or both of us are playing music, or there’s some ambient sound that I didn’t want to cut from the footage in order to put a soundtrack over the top. As a result, the films are very raw and feel very honest. They’re home movies, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I didn’t crack out my slider, didn’t use off camera sound, and most of the footage is hand held and unplanned. I’m really glad I have this record of what has been a very strange year, and that it’s unvarnished and real, too.
I share the films as part of my monthly Etched Behind Eyelids series and they are hosted on Vimeo, though they are not at present listed publicly on my Vimeo page as I feel a little shy about them. I know that YouTube is where people go to watch videos, but it’s out of my comfort zone to make them that public, even though I only have a small following on YouTube. Part of me wonders if anyone would be interested in watching them as they’re so simple and I’m a quiet person with quiet interests - and that’s not me digging for feedback or reassurance, it’s just me thinking aloud - but then I remember that there are some YouTubers and creatives who appear to have similar personalities to me whose work I enjoy seeing, so perhaps one day I’ll branch out and find the courage to share more of my personal work on YouTube too.
I have updated each of this year’s Etched Behind Eyelids posts to include the monthly videos now that they’re edited and uploaded, and thought I’d share October’s here in my newsletter too. October was actually the ‘busiest’ of recent months and ‘most interesting’ of the videos I made this year. I think it’s because everything was open and Ed and I made the effort to get out and do things before the second lockdown began.
In case you are interested in watching other videos from this series, they’re all embedded in the EBE posts on my personal blog.
That's all for this week, thanks for reading.
See you next Friday!
If you're reading this for the first time, hello, my name is Stéphanie. I'm a documentary photographer, filmmaker and writer, and I live in Birmingham in the UK. I hold a PhD in environmental social science from the University of Birmingham, and write about art, society, politics and the environment.
You can find out more about me and my work at these other places on the web: