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Dawn Hart: “Creativity gives me a great sense of release from an otherwise demanding life”

For volume two of our creative writing anthology, we chose striking photography by carer Dawn Hart to feature on the cover. Here Dawn tells us about how caring for her twins Grace and Ethan has brought her back full circle to using her creative skills.

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I got my first SLR camera for my 18th birthday. I went on to study photography at Stafford College and got a job as a darkroom technician back in the 80s/90s, when we were still working on film. Sadly I became allergic to the darkroom chemicals and had to give up photography altogether. I was devastated.

After being off sick for a year, I went on to do a degree in Media Production and a Post Graduate diploma in Journalism. This led to me to work as a features writer and then features editor for the British Journal of Photography in 2000-2003. During this time I started to experiment with digital photography. I got married and went freelance as a writer while building up a photographic portfolio.

Dawn Hart June 2010

In 2010 I became pregnant with twins. Over the years my career had moved towards more spiritual and holistic work and I became a complementary therapist in 2005. It was just as I was about to complete my studies in Buddhist Psychology that the twins were born 13 weeks early.

My whole world turned upside down. My daughter Grace had contracted necrotising enterocolitis and was in hospital for 14 months, while Ethan had a stroke in the womb, which left him with brain damage. My experience of giving birth and the events that followed with my children left me so traumatised I felt I couldn't continue with my studies in counselling.

Over the last three years I have gradually returned to picking up my camera as a form of therapy. I also realised that it was something I could do around my twins' school hours. I was inspired by a photographer called Jim Mortram. He is also a carer, and I thought ‘if he can do it, so can I’.

Like most carers, I have had to come to terms with the fact that my life will never be the same. Caring for my two children with special needs comes first, but that doesn’t mean I have to give up completely on who I am as an individual.

Dawn Grace and Ethan Hart

Creativity gives me a great sense of release from an otherwise demanding life. My ambitions aren’t as big as they used to be, but my time being creative while the children are at school is really important to me.

Throughout the tough times my faith as a Buddhist remained strong and I knew I wanted to become a Buddhist Chaplain. Today I am a volunteer Chaplain at Myton Hospice in Coventry.

A photograph of Allium seed heads that I toook on my iPhone in 2015 was chosen for volume two of the Carers UK creative writing anthology. The fragility of the flower head was what inspired the choice, and in some ways mirrors the fragile existence of the carer and the person they are caring for.

At the moment I am rebuilding my portfolio again and contribute photography to stock library I currently shoot still life and in particular flowers but I have some ideas for some portraiture projects for the future.

Being a carer has brought me full circle back to using my creative skills with my photography and with writing. As well as having my photograph featured, my blog The Compassionate Carer combines my interest in Buddhism with my desire to help others cope with life as a carer.

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