As in Photography, so in Life.

Eva Kalpadaki - Empty Space (untitled - and unintentional in its design)

I had the pleasure recently of meeting up with Eva Kalpadaki PhD who is a very talented photographer of the abstract and minimal, and who is based in the very corporeal and maximal Brighton. 

The context in which we met was unusual in that it was a forum of Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce which brings together creative businesses and artists at The Basement in Brighton. The next event is linked here:

Thrown together in a group discussion, it was obvious that both of us had a shared interest in how conventional networking (where two people reprise their business cards in each other’s faces as quickly and brutally as possible) could be subverted into something more interesting. How simply asking open-ended questions of each other would lead to a far greater understanding of how each other operates, what our aims and ambitions might be – and how we might be able to support one another in achieving them.

Eva’s photography which she kindly sent me links to, has an interesting lesson to teach us, unconsciously and without a manifesto.

I started the conversation on email.

RS: I was encouraged to see an artist who is capable of asking deeper questions through the simplicity of abstract photography. The minimal approach you use on the latter material, where the lens unflinchingly captures the interface between reality and dreams – and the jolt that boundary can deliver is superb. However, just as exciting is your earlier work using the ultra-plasticity that the camera can obtain when exposing its eye to flowers and other natural objects shows a different perspective – but achieved with the same sophisticated eye. The area that I am particularly interested in and impressed by is the unresolved questions that your art raises which subvert the usual expectations of the medium.

EK: As much as I like ‘the usual expectations of the medium’ and I started photography by exploring those expectations I ended up in what you saw; to question the nature of photography and to cause a tension in what you are looking at. I don’t know what to expect as I follow my inspiration and the flow of things but I am really looking forward to the next step.

RS: The most interesting ideas are the ones that no-one else is thinking yet. The trick is to see things in a different light, and then turn that light on for others.  Then get people of like mind to coalesce around you. 

The reason I like Eva’s work is because, as with minimalist art, it seeks to move away from self-expression and in so doing drops the usual conventions which ask for storyline, insight, commentary, allusion, metaphor and the artist either physically or symbolically inside the work.

The technique is the palette. The palette informs the technique. It speaks of space. The image on the canvas is the art in itself. It doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. If you can read messages, meanings and morality into the creation, then that is your mind’s neurological pathways conspiring together to write a storyboard – and therefore speaks more about your history and hinterland than the artist’s.

Artists like Eva are seeking to engender reaction, response and allegiance in the viewer through the unadorned action of the photograph rather than in the subliminal meaning or consciousness of the artist. If it is beautiful it is because it is beautiful. We can admire the work because of its purity and aesthetical freedom. It is a physical object like a glorious sunrise or a new born baby. It is enough in itself to be admired. It does not need a context, a movement or endorsement by its peers.

Ad Reinhardt said about minimalist art, “The more stuff in it, the busier the work of art, the worse it is. More is less. Less is more. The eye is a menace to clear sight. The laying bare of oneself is obscene. Art begins with the getting rid of nature.”

How does this apply to life and how we apply ourselves to it?

Well, every time we go into a situation with a complex set of expectations, a series of demands before the negotiation has even begun, an anticipated lexicon of what the other person is going to say, we spoil the essential beauty of the moment of meeting.

Instead, what would it be like to simply look forward to the moment. To anticipate the specialness of interaction with another unique human being. To enjoy the visual kick, the vocal surge, the intellectual power jump?

Eva’s art does not have an agenda attached. Her simple, tranquil, ‘empty’ expressions of life from a different perspective are teaching one lesson only. Or is that an anti-lesson?

Here is the lesson: Do not expect, simply enjoy.


Links to Eva Kalpadaki’ s work.

A course she is leading at Phoenix Brighton (starts 27.4.11) and a link to an exhibition Eva curated with some of her  students from Phoenix during the Brighton Photo Fringe 2010:

Finally, one of my son Callum’s pictures, and a link to his Flickr site:

Don't look for meaning, just savour the image. 'New Light' by Callum Stannard

The Art of Self-Presentation

Spot the light. Then reflect it back.

Ok, you have been asked to present a training seminar. Or make a speech.
You. The You that normally chokes when asked for the time. Lost for words? More like abandoned in a huge wide open space called low self esteem.

It'll all come out in the mouthwash..

We’ll deal with the self-worth issue elsewhere – but let’s get you through that presentation and then you can ask me later about how to rewire your self-worth to 100%. It should take about 30 minutes.

So let’s assume that you have the responsibility to populate the Seminar. How do you get an audience? Simples.


How will they hear about your event in the first place?

Quality of initial contact is very important. ‘You only have one opportunity to make a first impression.’
Was it Facebook, Linked In or – is it your immediate circle or a little wider. Remember that they have chosen to attend.
That’s quite a compliment to little ol’ you.


Warming up is essential to any worthwhile connection. This is about demonstrating your trustworthiness in the early part of the Seminar. Create an honest, unsophisticated atmosphere, taking time to honour them, love them, honour their commitment and interest (they have chosen to come). Never overestimate their knowledge – or underestimate their intelligence.

Take time to make people feel good: laughter, looking at them easily – plenty of eye contact, so they can connect with you. Avoid using a lectern and having any furniture between you and them.  Trust yourself.
Take this time to introduce yourself and your organisation/interest/cause/department/whatever, some of the things you offer – and a comment on how being involved has changed your life (or at the very least, your week!). Be honest, without being negative or apologetic.
Thank people for being understanding about anything that goes awry. Love what you say. Say what you love.
Embrace your audience. Endorse, honour, value, praise, reassure, approve them.
Steer their attention to small gems that will change their thinking, rather than blanket knowledge that is easily ignored.
When possible, increase psychological buy-in by having participants sign a register: Name, email, phone, address, how they heard about you. This is ESSENTIAL for your future involvement with these people. Make sure EVERYTHING is perceived as to their advantage (and make sure it is!)

How to overcome the fluttery stuff..

Start this connect process at the moment of contact. This may be when someone meets you in the loo before you come into the room, or as you’re chatting with someone else. It is the peripheral information they will go with most convincingly.

Get some two-way connection. This is easily done by asking if it is too hot/cold in here, or setting some deliberately co-operative activities: Have people stand up, and/or do the Power of Pretend Exercise (Assume it, produce it – pretend you are happy, and lo and behold after five minutes of faking it you really are!). Passing round notes etc. is great. If you’re following another seminar, have them stretch and chat. Be ultra-sensitive and make space for people’s humanity.
Build unity by focusing on what the people in the room have in common. (Honour individuality too) Make notices work for you:
Where the toilets are. Phones: “It’s easy to forget to switch off your mobile phone so if you’re not sure, do feel completely free to check it now.”


People have different learning styles. (You didn’t know that? Contact me if you want to know more).

Now is the time to enjoy using them! The major element of this is to start with the purpose of the seminar. Have something for each person.
Live your brand. What you are THINKING will come out. If you don’t want it to, change it.
What do you want people to absorb, pick up ‘through their skin’? Send it out through YOUR skin!
Do you really need notes? Avoid if you can.  Learn thoroughly what you have to do in the session, so it is part of you.


What do YOU want out of this for the future?  Identify the multiple wins. There will be massive opportunities for you if you want to take them. Keep the purpose of the seminar at the front of your mind.

Remember the ‘silken thread’ of business development: most of your business comes from 20% (sometimes just 3%) of your effort – but you don’t know which 20% until later!
Offer several clearly different opportunities for participants to follow up the session. One expensive, one exclusive, one affordable.

Enjoy yourself. They will too. Promise.

The ultra-relaxed look - Roy Stannard with an audience in his pocket

This article is based on the methods used by Powerchange Ltd – the Company I am involved with – for more see

Loose tongues – can you trust what your voice is saying about you?

What do people hear – you or your voice?

Is your voice saying things about you without you knowing?

As someone who didn’t speak until I was five years old and who has intermittently lost my voice at times of stress in my life, I am interested in matters of the voice.

What does your voice say about you? Can it reveal things without you knowing? Does it attract or repel independently of the rest of our bodies?  Does it give away what we are really thinking without any cognizance from us?

I remember times when I have taken to the platform ready to deliver an inspiring speech, to rally the troops and persuade an audience of my fitness for a role and my voice has swung limply in the wind, cracked when it should have been solid, limped across the finishing line when it should have burst the tape.

The experts in body language will tell you that when your voice rises in pitch at the end of a sentence it means that you lack conviction in what you are saying. Controlling types are adept at making their voices close down like a mantrap at the end of a sentence in a tone that brooks no argument.

High, breathy tones denote turbo-charged emotional types who like facilitating the health and wellbeing of others, but do not inspire fear or respect.

The opening gambit in a sales call will either establish or destroy the same trust. A confident conversational tone will keep the listener on the end of the phone. A shouty sales pitch delivered in sheer desperation will inspire the ring tone. If the pitch of the voice that is speaking to you changes abruptly, there is fair chance that its owner is lying to you. Of course, it could mean that his underpants are too tight.

An extrovert is ‘outed’ by his or her voice which will be louder and more propulsive. An introvert will speak in a more muted and less speedy way – the voice will give away the fact that its owner is a highly analytical type unwilling to make quick decisions and deeply distrustful of  fast, emotional decision-making. An enthusing style personality will find such people irritating in the extreme as they themselves speak quickly, animatedly and without a great deal of forethought. The analyzer will find such people frivolous and unworthy of trust.

At Powerchange we find that the most important element to establish in manipulating the behaviour of others is the establishment of rapport. The voice is a key instrument in this endeavour. If we hear a voice that sounds like our own then we automatically feel at home with it. Not only do we prefer the voice, but we also veer towards believing what that voice is saying.

Research has also discovered that people with attractive voices enjoy better sex lives from an earlier age – and with more partners. Those with attractive voices are also likely to have better bodies – broader shoulders and narrower hips in men. Its equivalent in women would be an hourglass figure, curves and attractive face. That is why we are so disoriented when we encounter rare cases of beautiful voices attached to visually unappealing owners. A phenomenon that is often associated with radio.

When I was eighteen and working in the City of London as a Lloyds Broker I consciously made the decision to alter my voice from a working class quack from the Thames Estuary to that of a sophisticated public school drawl. The former would have held my career back; the latter ensured acceptance from the privileged sons of the land who occupied the underwriting chairs in the Lloyds of London Chamber of the 1970s. I sometimes wonder where my original voice went. Do tapes exist anywhere of me speaking with my untrammeled Southend vowels and Essex glottal stops? My voice allowed me a career in radio later in life and has sometimes afforded me an authority I probably haven’t deserved. It has quelled schoolchildren in classrooms and chaired business meetings. It has commanded platforms and serenaded women, delivered bulletins and bolstered egos. But I sometimes wonder who is speaking.

The voice is an important instrument of persuasion, reason, argument, flattery, anger and sorrow. I usually think before I use it in case something unintended slips out like a piece of kiss me quick doggerel.

It’s good to have an attractive voice. But attractive voices are more likely to be unfaithful – or at least their owners are. This may be connected with the fact that people with nice voices are perceived as having a more desirable personality.

Having a voice that you are comfortable with and sounds relaxed and at ease when it makes an appearance is usually interpreted as meaning that you are a person of worth, secure in your body, confident and great company.

A useful rapport builder and a pleasant bridge. But I’m listening to the voice within.