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

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

Image credit: Tristan Poyser

Bradley Brook is a new outdoor photography exhibition by University of Cumbria academic Tristan Poyser, exploring our relationship with nature and the benefit to our mental health and wellbeing.

‘Bradley Brook’ began as a response to experiencing the benefits of spending time in green spaces on his own wellbeing.

A lecturer in photography at the university's Institute of Arts, Tristan has been visiting Bradley Brook for over five years, noticing an improvement in his wellbeing when running here rather than pounding pavements in more urban areas, so it became his regular running route.

During the height of the pandemic, in March 2020, with the Brook on this doorstep, Tristan explored the benefits of spending time in the nature reserve through his photography.

Tristan photographs the same locations on every visit, recording the changes in seasons as well as changes from storms, and from the management of the park. The photos are exhibited in the location they were photographed in to fully immerse viewers into this world.

Bradley Brook is a stream flowing through Mere Clough in Phillips Park nature reserve, right next to one of the busiest motorways in Britain, the M60. Long before cars and motorways, Mere Clough was visited by Victorian botanists to study its variety of plants and flowers.

Tristan commented: “The whole process of making the work, is tailored to make me feel good about life. The project gets me out and about in the woodland. Choosing to use analogue photography allows a more methodical and considered process. Unwrapping the foil of a roll of new film feels indulgent, similar to the thrill of unwrapping sweets as a child. The mindfulness of hand printing in the darkroom is a mediative process. It’s all an antidote to the fast-paced digital world, and a conscious effort to maintain my own wellbeing.

"Exhibiting the work outdoors in Phillips Park will bring the project full circle and allow others to experience the changes to the nature reserve that happen over time.The project has inspired the delivery of Nature, Photography, and Wellbeing workshops to members of the public in partnership with the Lancashire Wildlife Trusts Nature and Wellbeing Service team who specialise in green and social prescribing. The workshops allow people to spend time in a natural space whilst learning new skills in photography, and ways to maintain their own wellbeing."

Bradley Brook and the 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.

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 exchange between the University of Cumbria's academics and stakeholders. The outdoor exhibition also allows 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 launched earlier this month and runs until 16 October.

Tristan’s photographs are simultaneously on display in Normandy, France, where they form part of a conference focus on Nature Photography and the English. Bradley Brook has also been a feature of the recent Prestwich Arts Festival.

For more details visit www.tristanpoyser.com/p/bradleybrook