A week or so later I got an email from the same lovely chap suggesting I might want to get some photographs of an abseil event being hosted by Wide Horizons at Avery Hill Park this month. Incidentally, that’s the event in the article on the opposite page to my interview.
The abseil was last Saturday so I went up there as it was starting up and just as the sun was starting up too. I got some lovely shots during that morning and I think the early start must have got to me as I ended up agreeing to abseil myself. Interesting choice for 9.15am after being in photography mode for a couple of hours.
I have an extreme fear of heights at the best of times and leaning backwards off a 100ft tower isn’t something my instincts tell me to do. I did have to beg for a supervisor to come down at the same time as me. I was so grateful that he agreed and from there it was fairly easy. The staff there were all so fantastic and for something that I would have never voluntarily been interested in, it was actually thoroughly enjoyable all round.
Taking these pictures was a very immersive experience in that the action is so immediate and emotive. I think that’s probably the main reason I said yes to abseiling myself. I already felt like I understood the experience and knew the fear was irrational. I’d observed it repeatedly. I’d also been up to the top of the tower to get pictures of the view when I’d got there so I knew how high it was. Plus, of course, everybody else was clearly so safe.
One of the main reasons I love photography is the way you can capture such a fleeting expression of emotion, or an occurrence, that otherwise isn’t held. You can freeze a moment of time in a way that can trigger a very pure form of empathy.
I went back again in the afternoon and got a few more shots. I am really pleased I returned later as there were some very impressive small children showing excellent calm and poise. I can’t say the same for myself. I learnt a new expression: “sewing machine legs”. Due to shaking so violently.
Here are just some of my personal favourites from the day. You can see the whole caboodle over on Flickr.