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Well, where to start! Here we go with blog 1 – which I feel should be a little introduction from the beginning to give a little context. In August 2016 I relocated home from London after 10 years out of Teesside. Following years of working in the charity sector in homelessness, International Development and working in research/event management for Pancreatic Cancer UK, I unexpectedly walked back into my old life (where I grew up). I walked back in however with a newly diagnosed and shock physical health condition, and a date in the diary for brain surgery. I came home with a broken heart, as a result of a break up with my long term partner when I needed to come home, and all the bags I could carry on the train. The broken heart I won’t go into – but luckily, I still had one of my best friends still living up north, who picked me up from the train station with a sigh, a hug and a double cheeseburger. He didn’t say much but he drove me at speed to the highest hill point he could find (he knows I love a good view, especially of the sea!).

For Christmas – as a surprise this same friend and his family, with incredible kindness clubbed together & bought me a camera & a tripod! With no idea what to do with it but plenty of time to learn thanks to impending surgery, I went online and bothered anyone I could with any photographic knowledge. Luck would have it one day, when on a run through Saltburn woods on a crisp morning, I met the kind hearted Mark Cardaropoli – carrying his tripod over his shoulder and large lens on his camera! I took a punt and asked this man if he was a professional photographer. He said no, but that it was a passionate hobby – I soon learned indeed this man was a brilliant professional and helped not only himself but a lot of other people with his work.

I explained my story to Mark, and why I wanted to learn photography (which had always been a hobby) more seriously – whose reaction was a pause, followed by a simple “fuck”. Without hesitation, he offered to teach me everything he knew! This was the start of my photographic journey and Mark became and remains both my mentor and my friend!

Massive thank you to Mark for all your past and ongoing technical and moral support and of course to the Smith’s for their generosity and being my family. I have since also had training with the marvellous professional Keith Moss and Ben Benoliel, who I will write about in future blogs!

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