Strengthening ones recovery through a hobby or pastime is pretty common. You only need to look at the sheer number of opportunities on show at 5 Ways to see that.
Maybe your thing is a bit of gardening, or a long walk with the dog. For others, cruising the streets of Los Santos in GTA V does the trick, whilst for many, writing about their recovery proves a therapeutic outlet. Equally, let’s face it, for some, binging on Netflix provides a distraction that helps them through the tough times.
Here at R3C0VRY.WRX we are dedicated to showcasing the achievements of people in recovery. It’s what we do!
So, when we saw the photography of recovery rock star, Lee Fennings, we simply had to take him to one side for a quick chat. Lee is half of the Rok Soba duo (the other half being his brother Shaun). We featured them, and their awesome recovery work, a couple of weeks ago.
Lee has self-published his photography in two books, like you do: Being Human and A Peace of Nepal.
The premise of Being Human lies within its very definition: to display the characteristics that are unique to human beings while recognising that what it means to be human differs from one person to the next.
We had a root about online and found this quote (by Susan Sontag) that seems to sum things up nicely:
To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.
So, what does “Being Human” mean to you, Lee?
“For me, being human once revolved around alcohol dependency and an ongoing battle with mental health issues. Sober since October 2014, I have adopted a far more mindful approach to life, with photography playing an integral role in my recovery. Mindfulness is a term often used to describe ‘psychological skills’ or ‘ways to handle thoughts and feelings’, but alternative terms such as ‘noticing’, ‘observing’, ‘being present’, ‘focusing’, ‘paying attention’, ‘awareness’ and so on can also be used. It is in these terms that I find similarities to street photography, albeit in a different context…
To practise mindfulness and street photography, one must ‘notice’, ‘observe’, ‘be present’, ‘focus’, ‘pay attention’ and be ‘aware’ of the present moment. With this in mind, it is up to the photographer to capture the decisive moment. So, perhaps street photography was my calling after all; it has certainly been my saviour. I also take encouragement and inspiration from the many photographers of past and present; such as John Robert Young, an acclaimed photojournalist and author.”
And street photography… how would you describe it?
“In my opinion, one of the defining characteristics of street photography is that it is never set up. Indeed, I have not interacted with any of my subjects prior to framing the shot, opting instead for an inadvertent approach up to the moment of pressing the shutter.”
I have been confronted several times and asked by people on the other side of the lens, some more sternly than others, why I am taking their photograph. I generally say that I am a street photographer who takes interesting photographs of everyday life. A wonderful rapport is established most of the time…
How do you go about choosing your images?
“My post-production time is dedicated to image selection, basing decisions on personal preferences, such as contrast, composition, ambience and aesthetic value, rather than any outside influences or persuasions. Each of the black-and-white photographs I have chosen for this book, in one way or another, depict human characteristics and will no doubt be subject to interpretation on a litany of levels.
This is the essence of Being Human and how one might think about what it means to be quintessentially human in today’s world.”
So, dear readers, what do you think being human means? Is it the ability to show humane qualities, like kindness, empathy and generosity? Is it our capacity for moral reasoning, to choose between right and wrong, or to display natural human characteristics like anger, pity, jealousy and love? Your religion, ethnicity, family background, education and so on all come together to inform your thoughts on what it means to be human.
Lee’s passion for street photography is shared by countless others around the world. Whether it is a photograph taken in a densely populated city or a sleepy suburb, street photography has the power to evoke a range of raw emotions about the human condition in the knowledge that we, as human beings are unique in displaying the characteristics of Being Human.
You can take a peek at some of Lee’s street photography below, or dive in and get a copy of one of his books, Being Human, here.
Born in 1971, Lee’s travels have seen him visiting almost every continent, with the exception of Australia, and spent nearly five years living and working in Spain, eventually returning to the UK where he began to develop a promising career in financial regulation. However, plagued with mental health issues and a tempestuous relationship with alcohol, Lee eventually fell afoul of the law, thus bringing his career to an abrupt halt. In October of 2014, Lee made the life-changing decision to stop drinking alcohol…forever.
He soon reconnected with his lifelong interest in photography and in December 2015 Lee published his first street photography book, Pulse, with all profits donated to the mental health charity, Mind. One year later he published Being Human, questioning our own human characteristics and the meaning of being human.