I had a title for my project— Memorial Benches: A Cultural Marker in the Landscape — and a starting date for my PhD of 1st January 2021. When I look back on it now it seems a bit crazy but, within days of starting my research, I had entered the Images of Research competition. It was an easy thing to do, to submit a photo and one hundred and fifty words; I thought that by entering the competition I could test myself and exercise my own understanding of my project. Sometimes, we just have to be brave and jump in and see how the water feels.  

In my case, the water analogy was pertinent because the site I was exploring for my place writing project was flooded after prolonged rain, and the memorial benches, which were at the heart of my writing, had their feet swamped. In the field, it was their inaccessibility that struck me and I took lots of photographs. Since I already had them on file it was simply a matter of choosing one suitable for the competition. And, because I entered right at the beginning of my project I really felt like the pressure was off; I could explain without having to justify or prove anything, and the photograph said a lot, it was indeed worth a thousand words. 

For the first time I had the chance to talk about my project in what I felt to be a safe environment, to explain it to people who had no previous knowledge of it, to talk about my hopes and dreams for the project using ordinary everyday language. Other researchers, who were not creative non-fiction writers like myself, showed genuine interest in my research and in a strange way this gave me confidence. I made contact with different people in the university, outside of my faculty, and this has proved to be extremely helpful in building a small network, a support community, and I don’t feel so alone.  

I really enjoyed being part of the 2021 cohort. There are no downsides to entering this competition. The process is straightforward, and the organising team very friendly, and I highly recommend it to everyone. 

Images of Research 2022 is opening soon for entries. Keep on eye on Twitter for launch news.

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