Photography and green space – can they positively impact mental health?

Photography and Green – Can They Positively Impact Mental Health?  Surname

Photo credit: Tristan Poyser

Bradley Bach is a new outdoor photo exhibition by University of Cumbria academic Tristan Poyser, exploring our relationship with nature and its benefits to our mental health and well-being.

‘Bradley Brook’ started in response to the experience of the benefits of spending time in green spaces for one’s own well-being.

A photography professor at the university’s Institute of Arts, Tristan Bradley has been visiting Brook for over five years and has noticed an improvement in his well-being when he runs here, rather than stomping on sidewalks in more urban areas, so it has become his regular run.

At the height of the pandemic, in March 2020, with the creek on his doorstep, Tristan explored the benefits of spending time in the sanctuary through his photography.

Tristan photographs the same locations each time he visits, capturing the changes of the seasons, as well as changes caused by storms and the management of the park. The photos are exhibited in the place where they were photographed in order to fully immerse the viewer in this world.

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Bradley Brook is a stream that flows through Mere Clough in Phillips Park Nature Reserve, just off one of Britain’s busiest motorways, the M60. Long before cars and highways, Mere Clough was visited by Victorian botanists to study its variety of plants and flowers.

Tristan commented, “The entire process of creating the work is tailored to make me feel good about life. The project takes me to the forest. The decision to use analog photography allows for a more methodical and considered process. Unwrapping the foil of a new roll of film feels indulgent, similar to the thrill of unwrapping candy as a kid. The mindfulness of the handshake in the darkroom is a mediative process. It’s all an antidote to the fast-moving digital world and a conscious attempt to maintain my own well-being.

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“Exhibiting the work outdoors at Phillips Park brings the project full circle and allows others to experience the changes in the reserve over time. The project has encouraged workshops on nature, photography and wellbeing to be held for the public in partnership with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Nature and Wellbeing Service team, which specializes in eco-friendly and social prescribing. The workshops allow people to spend time in a natural space while learning new skills in photography and finding ways to maintain their own well-being.”

Bradley Bach and associated workshops are supported and funded by the University of Cumbria, the UK Research & Innovation Fund (UKRI) and the Lancashire Wildlife Trusts Nature and Wellbeing Service.

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dr Colette Conroy, Director of the Institute of Arts, University of Cumbria, (below) said: “The collaboration with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust is a great example of knowledge sharing between the University of Cumbria’s academics and stakeholders. The outdoor exhibition is also open to members of the public to engage with art and research in a very different and more accessible space than the traditional gallery.”

The outdoor exhibition started earlier this month and will run until October 16th.

Tristan’s photographs are being exhibited concurrently in Normandy, France, where they are part of a conference focus on nature photography and the English. Bradley Brook was also a feature of the recent Prestwich Arts Festival.

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