The Visual Word | From Above the Surface

Poetry in Pictures

As an ACDC track played through the tiny tinny-sounding speaker of a smart phone, we danced
without care in a long-grassed meadow one late summer’s day. Spinning and swaying until giddy,
to the point of me not knowing where my movement ended and her’s began. With camera in hand,
I followed her in that moment and almost as default, we visually formed her words between us.

I’ve long been a believer in the magic of roots that grow and intertwine with some of the people that
I meet in life. Sharing and seeing the natural patterns that emerge with them and getting to explore
some of the places they, in turn, connect with.

Nicola Dellard-Lyle, mother and poet, became one such person when I met her and her family at a
wedding of mutual friends last summer. So when Nicola sent me a message several months later, I
felt more of that root grow. Her words read like this…

I’m writing the last lines of my first book of poetry, called From Above the Surface. It’s a collection
of poems I have written through, and out of, some difficult times I have experienced in motherhood.
It goes further back to some of the triggers and shadows from my past.
Even though I’ve been supported over the years, and I felt like I had healed, I have now found the
words to finally bring me back home. So each poem is a shot sent out from what felt like the
deepest dark. I hope it will resonate with those mothers out there who are struggling.

Weekly conversations began between us, with me realising that this was no one-stop photographic
brief. It was one that was sensitive, organic and fragile yet courageous. We talked a lot about
trees, the freedom of being above ground yet roots keeping us grounded. This was the beginning
of how our creative brief grew between us, to be able to feel our way into the right visuals to
honour her words.

As I read the through the collection of poems for the book, From Above the Surface, I can see
clearly how Nicola continues to draw her mothering wisdom from her seven year old son, Caleb.
In the time that I spent with them both, it touched me how important Caleb’s voice and ideas have
been in creating these photographs. He joined in all our planning conversations, as well as taking

part in the day itself. When he wasn’t featuring in the photos, he would stand at my side, quietly
observing and guiding his mother. And even through his joyful child-like play, I was left in no doubt
that he is wise beyond his young years.

I strongly feel that this most natural guidance in strength and growth that comes from our children,
begins before they are even born. It reminds me of the countless times I’ve quietly looked to my
own daughter for those next steps in how to be more me, as well as how to parent her through
challenging times.

The day with Caleb and Nicola was spent among the trees and meadows: our playground.

We explored woodland grottos, where we climbed and swung from branches. Danced barefoot,
spinning in circles and falling over into the long grasses. All the while, I was aware that this day in
nature’s own playground was very much their theatre stage and their direction. I was to simply be
an observing audience, recording and visualising her words.

As the day unravelled further, we became ever more excited in discovering more places to
photograph and play, and I felt profoundly honoured for the gifted
responsibility of breathing visual life into Nicola’s poetic journey of motherhood.

“I found a scrap of paper in a notebook only the other day, it was where I scrawled the first poem I
wrote ‘Return’, the first poem I wrote in a space of clarity after this difficult time.

This book and this journey has been a big healing process, and I now realise it
had been a turbulent time and I’d not been there in myself. I also now realise that I’m


Published in the Winter 2023 issue of JUNO Magazine

From Above the Surface is available from Nicola’s website HERE.

A morning with Masha Manapov | illustrator and designer

A photographic commission for Oh Magazine

Sometimes I imagine myself sitting by a giant window on a rainy day with a big mug of tea, two mongrel dogs by my feet, overlooking the Welsh hills while contemplating my craft…”

Masha is an award-winning illustrator and designer, who I got to engage in a little craftivism with one sunny morning in Bristol, for a commission with Oh Magazine

Born in Baku, raised in Tel Aviv, Masha has recently moved from Bristol to London and works on a range of diverse projects including branding, packaging, editorial and marketing campaigns. Though it’s her self-initiated side project, The Fine Print that got our hearts racing that morning. An environmentally-focussed project exploring the hidden life of the products we consume. It looks at the meaning and intention around buzz words such as ‘organic’ and ‘natural. ‘

So we quickly (temporarily) pasted posters up on a busy Bristol street.  All in the name of our craftivist photo shoot. With a little bit of traffic-dodging and answering the quizzical glances of the passersby thrown in for good measure.

She’s a passionate conceptual artist, whose colourful and textured imagery skirts the boundaries between reality and fantasy. I was also drawn to the connection we shared of exploring life’s curious moments and how we put ourselves into these scenes to become part of the story.


Oh Magazine Autumn 2021

Designed by Rosalind Howard

Sadly this is the final Oh Magazine, but you can still catch up with The Simple Things here



Expressions of Art | communicating in challenging times

As life begins to uncurl itself both seasonally and hopefully post-pandemically

I want to begin with remembering a poignant part of the past year. Not in any restrictive or negative way, but in the most creative and expressive way.

We’ve dipped our big toes for three months into this new year, after being locked down throughout winter, and I can’t help but think about what I’ve brought with me into 2021 so far. I feel that I’ve learnt such a lot from my creative compadres and seen how most people, whenever and wherever they’ve been able to, have embraced their inner artist to help guide them through turbulent emotions and anxieties.

The irony here, is that all the arts communities I know of have been hit hard economically during the past year and it’s these very communities that have given so selflessly to the rest of the world.

Whether it has been through treading the virtual boards with online productions, live grassroots performances or with the independent designers, makers and sole artisan traders transforming their studios to the web and sharing behind the scenes how-to workshops with the masses.

Part of my day job in an unlocked-down world, means I’m one lucky photographer who gets to explore and document the work of some of these talented artists. Observing the magic, the relationships and processes that take place in the lifecycles of the pieces they make. Spending days with them to really understand the layers, connections and thoughts behind how they create. Most importantly, why.

Capturing people engaged in doing what they love is an approach I’ve always wholeheartedly believed in. It feels evermore important this past year, to show the relevance, integrity and connectivity of some of these people.

I want to share three artists who I’ve spent time with. Each one is unique in their practice, though they are joined together in staying true to what inspires them. Whether it be inspiration from a landscape, born through nature or a journal of a physical state and emotion in their life.

Stephanie Roberts, Mosaic Artist

Stephanie is a friend and artist I’ve been in awe of for many years. She uses layers of mosaic tiles with discarded objects from the landscape. Such as broken plates, relics and even submarine parts in her work, to visually talk about the often controversial moments and unsung heroes of history.

In recent years she has shown through her art, her challenges around finding her true voice through her undiagnosed dyslexia. This accumulated in an emotionally-powerful body of work she called Case Study, which was exhibited with the blindfolded drawings she made, including flowers incased in resin to symbolise the restricted beauty of words.

She started exploring the concept of re-nesting in familiar spaces of the home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Then after becoming unwell herself with the virus, Stephanie began to draw, write and feel her body’s response during this time. In turn, this has led to her current work, visually exploring her journey into the menopause. These current pieces of work bring nurturing, wildlife, deforestation, bleeding and reef bleaching into one self-reflective ecological visual and help her mourn the children she can no longer conceive.

Chris Wood, Artist Sculptor

The first moments of walking into Chris’s workshop felt like that wonderful metaphor, a child in sweet shop, had come to life. Everywhere I looked were hundreds upon hundreds of carefully placed tools, off-cuts of wood and sculptures of dragons, wild animals and goddesses. Hanging from the beams and displayed on topsy-turvy yet steady shelves and tucked in each corner of his vast woodcarving kingdom. Even the floor is a spongy carpet of six-inch-deep shavings, as why would you bother sweeping up?

Chris is perhaps one of the most unassuming talents I’ve met. He simply loves what he does. If you travel around the Welsh countryside you will most likely come across some of his commissions. From the intricate sculpture of the Lave Fisherman of the River Severn, to the Coal Miner in Merthyr Vale, Chris also takes his chainsaw art to festivals across the country and internationally.

He points to a little half-sculpted dragon and then over to another piece, Chief Wolf Robe, placed on an exquisitely carved bench. “I’m now looking forward to finishing some personal work for the home” he tells me. Then the mask and goggles go on and he’s using his chainsaw like a paintbrush, turning on the gas to fire out flames to finish his pieces. I leave more enchanted than when I arrived.

Beca Beeby, Designer Maker

You only need to take a peek inside the old wicker Wunderbox that Beca has collected since childhood, packed full of seed pods, washed up shoreline flora and various other ethereal-looking objects of nature, to see that she draws her inspiration from the earth’s natural forms.

Her eyes shine brightly as she explains each treasure and where she found it. Names which I cannot pronounce, but when you cast your eyes around her studio at the barnacle-inspired ceramic bowls and see the exquisite honeycomb moulded silver jewellery she is wearing, all becomes clear.

We have been working together over the past year, journalling the creation of a silver honeycomb ring. It began with a visit to her beehive, where she gauges their mood from the tone of their buzz and where I learn a few bee-facts along the way. Such as how an impending thunderstorm can make them tetchy – there’s no doubt that Beca is in tune with her bees’ wellbeing! Then ever so gently, she sources the outer edges of leftover comb stuck to the wall of the hive. It’s these fragile fragments that will form the mould of the ring.


As featured in JUNO Magazine

A year in the life of vets

Documenting veterinary practices for over a year has helped to build up a visual narrative showing the layers of relationships between people, their pets and the those that care for them.

The Independent Vets Company was looking for natural in-the-moment images for veterinary practices across Wales and the UK for their websites and literature. These images needed to reflect the support and care offered by these practices. Spending time with each practice gave genuine insight to the connections and support taking place across patients, owners and staff within a day in the life of a vet.

Alice, The Introvert Library

“It was like my mood board jumped off the page and came to life. Jo spent the time getting to know me, helping to find the right space to create the right vision for what I wanted to say.

We took our time to get it right – that was really important to me.”

Alice is The Introvert Library. We spent the morning at a restored council-owned building, first built as a courthouse during Victorian times. Discovering that a leading suffragette had stood trial there in the early 1900s certainly added to our story that day. It felt like we were being given a historical nod towards brave women such as Alice, sharing her unique voice to help others find their own.