One for PufflesWatchers

…or rather one for watchers of Puffles’ Bestest Buddy – me.


Basically I’ve come to a juddering halt in the run-up to Christmas in terms of doing useful stuff using digital and social media. The big problem at the moment is that I don’t have that many people to bounce off face-to-face – especially when it comes to tackling the gaps – or rather chasms in my knowledge, confidence and motivation in those areas that I want fill.

So this is sort of a mixture of a plea for help crossed with an invitation to get together with some other like-minded dragon-fairy-watchers to see what we can come up with, what learning we can share and what problems we can solve. It’s sort of the opposite of what I’ve don’t at the various ‘unConferences’ that I have been to where I have delivered short workshops on the (potential and actual) impact of social media on Whitehall – where people have been asking me the questions rather than vice-versa. I’m still to put the slides up that I promised because of the stupefying effects of hyper-anxiety and fear that I think can only be overcome by working with people the likes of whom this kind of work is second nature to.

So, what do you want to do?

A better way of putting it is “what do I want to be?” I want to be far more competent and confident at using a whole host of digital and social media tools (hardware and software) that I currently have, know what I want to use them for but am not using.

So…what do you want to do? (Again)

The first ‘barrier’ is the lack of decent “creative art” content. Much as I am grateful for Soph Warnes for quickly putting together the header image for this blog, I need to make the use of images far more interesting now that I have got the hang of blogging regularly.

Not being a photographer (amateur or otherwise) as well as not being comfortable with the action of going around taking photographs of everywhere (in part because I’m a perfectionist at heart) the current amount of content that I have is very limited. This I want to change, but am petrified at the thought of doing so alone. This is not because I want to offload tasks onto other people, rather it’s because I’m a people person – both desiring and needing the feedback and the creative input of those who this sort of thing comes more naturally to. Remember that I’ve had seven years inside the civil service where this sort of creativity is inevitably suppressed by the requirement for due-process and the filtering of everything that you do by management above you. Think The Eden Project vs The Millennium Dome of 2000 – the interior of the former was the brain-child of one person. The interior of the latter was the brainchild of numerous committees and ministers.

Creative art – the themes

There are a handful of themes that I would like to work on in the fields of photographic and digital art. They are as follows:

  • Puffles
  • Music
  • Fashion
  • The environment
  • Old buildings

◊ Puffles

Puffles as a theme goes without saying. This dragon fairy has sort of taken over my life and is a major component of my digital footprint. At present the only pictures of Puffles I have are those taken on iPhones. This I want to change. The outputs I am looking for are (not surprisingly) a decent set of photographs of Puffles at various locations.

Secondly, when the next batch of dragon fairies comes through, I want to take a panoramic photograph of all of them before they fly off to their new homes. (Something I missed out on with the first batch). This image is what I hope will replace the current header image on this current blog.

◊ Music – art and photography around

I never got round to joining the Duxford Orchestra this term because it clashed with too many weekend events, which was a shame. Joining an orchestra is still on my list of things to do – partly because I spent a fair amount of money on musical instruments in recent years that have not got any where near getting value for money from. Entirely my fault. The musical instruments that I own are ones that would make for some splendid photographs as objects themselves, in particular:

  • A five string viola
  • A bass ukulele
  • A tenor recorder

Let’s take some photographs, let’s digitise them and let’s see what we can do with them.

◊ Men’s fashion

Anyone who has seen my taste for fashion would have me arrested – certainly anyone who   had the misfortune of working with me over the past ten years. Some of you may have seen the displays of Anthony Menswear of Cambridge – whose displays are in themselves works of art. About once or twice a year I’ll get myself a dress shirt as a special treat. (It’s not cheap). Apart from being a small independent business, much of its clothing that it stocks has something that many high street stores lack: bold colours. Grey, bland, dark or pale have been the standard fayre for men over the past ten years – I know, I’ve looked. But then other than the men on BBC comedy shows, I seem to be one of the few people in these parts who gets hold of things with colour in them – e.g. by Duchamp. Being the cheapskate that I am, I always wait until their sales because their prices have a habit of halving. Their prices mean, as with Anthony Menswear, I’ll buy one shirt per year – replacing another that has since faded/shrunk which then quickly finds its way to a charity shop.

◊ The environment

This falls into two categories. The first being about sustainability, the second being about the freedom of the countryside. In recent years I’ve had far less experience of the latter – other than looking at the countryside from the prison of a commuter train and wishing I was in the countryside rather than in a metal box.

On the sustainability side, I’d like to take some photographs of what I can only describe as “Big sustainability” – renewable energy, futuristic housing, futuristic transport etc. Again, let’s take photos, let’s digitise them and let’s see what we can do with them.

◊ Old buildings

The love of/for old buildings was embedded in me as a result of an old buildings project I did at primary school – made easier by the fact that my old primary school is very old, as well as the major building work that was undertaken on the site at a time of huge change at the school. The first head teacher at my primary school had been in teaching for so long that during the course of the history project we did in the very late 1980s a year after she retired, we found photographs from the Second World War with her in them. That was one of the things that, for me made the Second World War ‘real’ for me – that one of our teachers from my time at primary school was teaching while all of this was going on.

Cambridge is full of old buildings, but I’m not looking for the university-based old buildings. I never went to Cambridge University. Before politicians realised accessibility was an issue, the University seemed to do all within its power to keep out riff-raff like me and my childhood friends from using any of its facilities.

It’s not just Cambridge though. There are some other places that I’d like to get to in order to take photographs of. London examples include St Pancras Station, The Great Russell Hotel, Westminster Cathedral, the British Museum and Alexandra Palace.

Other interesting things

Interesting for me if not for others include:

  • doing some sketches of drawings, objects, patterns and abstract things and digitising them for use as backgrounds or standalone images
  • creating some vintage backgrounds on the back of what we’ve seen out and about
  • playing around with Google analytics
  • getting various social and digital media accounts to bounce off of each other so as to make our overall digital footprints bigger than their sum – I want to go far beyond the traditional “here are some links”
  • Getting a feel for what WordPress can do in terms of its functionality.

Okay…so how are we going to go about doing all of this?

Mill Road Winter Fair

The first thing is to identify some gatherings. The first for me is the Mill Road Winter Fair on Saturday 03 December in Cambridge. I want to create a very simple digital video for Mill Road, basically titled “We are Mill Road”. The plan is to go along Mill Road and get lots of people to say something along the lines of “My name is X and I live/work at Y” before they each say “We are Mill Road”. In the editing process I plan to line up each of the people who introduce themselves one after the other. At the end, I mash up the footage of all of them saying “We are Mill Road” with the digital film footage of each of them in a small square. Essentially this is a very simplified version of what Eric Whitaker did with his virtual choir.

Pub lunch gathering – London Saturday 10 December

Some of you may be familiar with or have attended the pub lunches that became a regular feature during the spring and summer. At the next one I want to bring along Puffles (and possibly some of the smaller dragon fairy toys to get some photographs taken with more competent photographers using better equipment than I have) as well as getting more ideas, input and feedback from those who want to give it. (Other than that, it’s a good chance for a catch up as well as being an opportunity for Twitter followers to meet each other for the first time – as many have done).

Gatherings over Christmas

Whether in a pub or someone’s house (even my place) or elsewhere, I want to get some of us together to do the ground work that I’ve set out above. It’s not just the computers stuff, but also the arty stuff – materials for which I seem to have acquired but have not used nearly as much as I would have liked.

A get-together in Cambridge

I guess this is more of a ‘social’ than a ‘doing stuff’ get together. In a nutshell I think it would be nice to get as many of Puffles’ Cambridge followers together in the same place at the same time. There are more than enough of you using Twitter regularly in Cambridge.

Working on your projects and pieces of work too.

This isn’t all about me. This is also an opportunity for those of you who want to try some things in the world of digital and creative arts to put some things forward too. I’ve put these out on this blog to give some idea of what I want to do, where I want to get to and what seems to be holding me back.

Comments, feedback and ideas greatly received.


James Long advised having an idea of what the photographs were for before going out and taking them. I guess there’s no purpose other than taking them for their own sake. Part of the challenge for me is to overcome this internal ‘mental’ barrier that seems to be stopping me from just going out there and doing it all myself.

I wasn’t blessed with the greatest art and design teachers in the world at school, none of whom were able to inspire me in the way Catherine who runs the Spring Greens tumblr account has been able to.

There’s also my desire to build up a portfolio of stuff that I’ve done and/or contributed to. The ‘achievement’ for me is not necessarily the outputs themselves, but the processes but which I and others create them.


4 thoughts on “One for PufflesWatchers

  1. The great thing with digital photography is that you don’t have costs of film, so you can take as many pictures as you like. For me the greatest barrier for taking pictures is taking pictures of people, I feel a bit shy about asking.

    I went on a photography course and one of the pieces of advice at the end of the day was to take pictures everyday in order to train your eye for photography.

    For the techniques, there are a few photography courses around that don’t cost the earth, I took one recently through groupon, which was about 20 pounds. Otherwise I’m sure the second hand bookshops and libraries are full of photobooks. Getting an idea of how the analogue camera works is good to understand the functioning of a digital camera. Even a basic camera often has settings that you can use if you know what they do – or if you just play around with them.

    For finding photos of specific things and also sharing your work, then flickr with creative commons is great. I found e.g. these pictures of a 5 string viola:

    I don’t always live up to the advice about taking pictures each day and would like to spend a few afternoons / days taking more photos. So perhaps we could try to join forces?

  2. Hey, bestest buddy, please let me know how I can get a bay dragon fairy. @hilarycampbell. Promise to take lots of photos.

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