19 May 2017
How are you finding your new role?
There’s certainly a lot to learn and so far I have enjoyed meeting some of the shared lives carers and different members of the organisation. I am so impressed with the dedication of both Shared Lives carers and the different members of the organisation. I am looking forward to being part of such a worthwhile service. The role is also very varied which makes it particularly interesting.
Where were you working before and what did you do there?
Prior to Shared Lives my background has been primarily working within the Statutory Sector. I have managed sensory services, day services, HIV commissioning and undertaken work within the Clinical Commissioning Group around Continuing Health Care. I have also taught health and social care at Chichester University and worked for a small lottery funded charity assisting foreign nationals. Change is an ever present factor within organisations these days so I have also been involved in service redesign in my previous roles. I have worked in many differing local authorities the majority of which have been within the south of England. I have not worked in Devon before, which is undoubtedly a beautiful county.
What is it that you like about the ethos of Shared Lives?
The concept of Shared Lives is a great model. I have interfaced with shared lives previously in other capacities, but to support people within a home situation is possibly the best means of service delivery I know. The model enables people to feel part of a family and engage within the community from a home base. Equally people who put themselves forward as Shared Lives carers are special people in my view to enable this to happen. Person centred care is paramount and a much used term, but I believe Shared Lives fully demonstrates this ethos. It’s hard to consider a type of service delivery which matches this approach.
Out of work you are keen photographer, taking images of creatures of the deep J. Where has this taken you around the world and how did you get into photographing such amazing creatures?
As an interlude from my social care management role I took the position of Editor of a dive magazine. This enabled me to travel the world and get paid to do so. An ideal combination! I have always held a fascination with sharks so have been fortunate to dive and photograph so many species of sharks in many locations throughout the globe. The great white shark has tended to be my primary focus and I have dived with these on a number of occasions in both South Africa and Isla Guadalupe off the coast of Mexico. In February this year I undertook a seven day voyage from Florida to the Bahamas diving with Tiger, Bull and Greater hammerhead sharks. No cages were used so it was possible to gain very close interactions and photographs of these magnificent predators. I still write freelance for the dive press and have had my images published in the BBC Wildlife Magazine.
You love sharks and photographed lots of different types . Do you ever get scared and have you had any incidents with them in the water?
I have spent many hours in the company of sharks and can only recall a few minor incidents which unnerved me slightly. Once diving off Cape Point I had a very close interaction with a Shortfin mako shark in teh blue 30 miles offshore, but it became agitated at my presence and made a number of very fast close passes. As there was quite a swell and I couldn’t keep track of its position I left the water quick smart and got back into the boat. On my recent trip, a Greater hammerhead of about 16ft took a gentle bite of my camera housing and scratched it. Diving off Durban I did have bull shark follow me very closely throughout the whole dive. That was a bit disconcerting for a while. Of all the sharks, Bull sharks are the one species I am weary of. They tend to be okay whilst they are in view, but they do command a healthy respect as they are a very powerful shark with a wide jaw. The truly scary experience was when I was lost at sea whilst diving Abu Ramada Plateau in the Red Sea. I was more inexperienced then but do remember surfacing and the boat had disappeared. It was getting dark and I was eventually found by an Egyptian trawler. I now always dive with a torch and Delayed Surface Marker Buoy. Contrary to perceptions sharks tend to be weary and keep their distance from divers and you have to deliberately seek them out.
Do you think sharks are misunderstood due to media and films like Jaws etc?
Absolutely! Sharks being apex predators means they tend to have small numbers of young, long gestation periods and are slow to mature. They are vital for the health of the oceans, but they are harvested at alarming unsustainable rates, primarily for the wasteful and cruel shark fin industry. Jaws was a movie of its time and the late Peter Benchley (Jaws Author) often stated that he would not be able to write Jaws today as sharks are not mindless killers. In fact sharks are highly complex animals and adept at what they do. If sharks deliberately sought humans as food items then deaths would be in the 1000’s. As it stands there are approximately 100 shark related incidents per-annum. I was fortunate to meet the late Peter Benchley and we swapped shark diving stories. Spending time with sharks you soon realise they exhibit differing personality traits and you do get attached to them. Great white sharks are one of the most powerful and elegant creatures in the sea.
You are also a keen artist, again highlighting wildlife. Is painting something you’ve always done? What’s your favourite medium and why?
I have always enjoyed wildlife photography (mostly underwater), but I also enjoy photographing seabirds and have traveled to many top seabird sites to do this. Painting was my next logical creative leap and I enjoy photographing, undertaking field sketches and then painting the animal I have witnessed in the wild. I am relatively new to painting, but have received a lot of interest in my work thus far which is great and very flattering. I have exhibited my work in a number of local galleries. I tend to use acrylic as I like the colour vibrancy and quick drying ability which is ideal for layering. My father is a professional abstract painter, so I guess it might be genetic!
You’ve traveled the world with photography- what is there left on the list that you’d like to photograph?
My next dive trip will be to the remote area of Socorro (north of the Galapagos) to photograph Humpback whales and their calves underwater. It is not so far from Isla Guadalupe where I photographed great white sharks last year. I would also like to undertake an Arctic camping and diving expedition. Polar bears are another animal on my bucket list and I want to photograph and paint them too.
Where do you live?
When my late mother was unwell she resided in Sidmouth and I spent an increasing amount of time in the area as part of ongoing caring responsibilities. I fell in love with Devon and then decided to remain in Devon. A correct decision in my view.