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Dawn Days

From The Field
Dawn Days

Therapy in the Blue Hour
Mike Guest // Written by Jenny Tough

In the wee hours of every morning, at 03:30, Mike Guest wakes up, has a cup of tea, puts on his wetsuit, then grabs his camera and leaves his flat in the dark to wade out into the sea to wait for the dawn.

Dawn Days is a project to capture the start of each day from the water, whatever the conditions. Every morning this month, Mike is out at the blue hour with no definite plan, no client brief, no surfer to capture – just him and his camera, observing nature start its day.

‘It started from a phone call with my photographer friend Nick Pumphrey, who is down in Cornwall and said he would be going out to do this, and I decided to do the same’ Mike tells me, ‘But it wasn’t until after I’d already committed that I realised in Scotland I would have to be waking up a whole hour earlier than Nick!’

But what started as a simple morning activity for a photographer to connect with his craft and nearby nature quickly turned into so much more. Mike has been uploading his footage, edited each day into unique clips and stories, to his Instagram channel to share how he observed the dawn with his audience.

‘There’s something about simply bobbing around in the water… People can connect to the way that I’m filming.’ Mike says that his short clips are to provide a moment of escapism to his viewers. ‘I don’t really care about comments or likes, it’s not about those numbers. It’s when someone says “I really look forward to these each day” – that’s what gets me. That’s what this is about’.

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Of course, the ignition for this project was the lockdown, which forced Mike to return to Edinburgh from a tour in Europe he had been working on at the time.

‘During 20 years of self-employment, I had never stopped like this. I got back into my flat and it was like Now what? How do I deal with my brain? I went into some of the darkest weeks I’ve ever experienced almost immediately. I had a lot going on personally, and that made it even harder to connect with what was going on in the world’.

Guest says that it was thanks to a strong network of male friends who weren’t afraid to talk about mental health that he found techniques to get through those weeks. And now, recognising the importance of discussing mental health and breaking down the stigmas, he’s opening the conversation from his perspective through Dawn Days.

‘There’s something in water therapy – something about being on, in, or near water. I’m very lucky that I can walk down to a beach every morning,’ he adds, feeling aware that many viewers of his clips currently don’t have the same access, but can benefit from his uploads.

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The lockdown further spurred this project by the sudden availability of other creatives. Thanks to Mike’s background in the music industry, he has a strong network of musicians, many of whom have reached out to contribute their own work to his film clips. ‘Out of the blue I got a call from a sound engineer called Barry Jackson’, recalls Mike. ‘And he tells me that he’s been getting up to record bird sounds & the ocean sounds at 3am & 4am. We realised we had a similar sort of madness and so now he’s working on the audio side of the daily films with specially recorded effects and an archive of music’.

‘Life’s not a competition – it’s a collaboration’ he notes, acknowledging the artists who have spurred the continuing production of Dawn Days.

When asked about the finish line, Mike says he’s still unsure where this is going, but with Mental Health Week, he’s eager to open the dialogue, with Dawn Days as his platform, to male mental health. Head to his channel @mr_guesty or the project website to enjoy Dawn Days.

Website: Mental Health Awareness Week
Vimeo: /guestmike
Instagram: @mr_guesty
Instagram: @nickpumphreyphoto

Written by Jenny Tough // @jennytough






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