Jesus Stumbles – Stations of The Cross Commission

For me the meaning of this story has been said better by Edmund Burke
“In order for evil to flourish, all that is required is for good men to do nothing.”

Jesus Stumbles Under The Weight of The Cross, Isaiah 53 v 3&4, by Melanie Gow

Commissioned to do two ‘Stations’ for the Cookham Stations of The Cross Trail I leapt at the chance to do Station 3: “Jesus Stumbles..” Isaiah 53 v 3&4.

They’re not the easiest verses to interpret in this context …

King James Version: 3: He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4: Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

What does it mean to me..?

It is reported that the citizens of Jerusalem jeered those bearing crosses on the way up the hill, complicit in the practice.   The Christian story tells us that God does not stand idly by, he is there for humanity.

But we so very often do stand idly by.


Every day I feel the weight of all that I feel is wrong in the world; capitalism is failing, greed in a finite world makes no sense, the 1% are morally questionable, equality for women, LGBT, children, minorities and animals is still on the table, I really dislike the criminalisation of the welfare class and working poor, food, health and drinking water should be a right, there needs to be non-partisan world leader with a vision for utopia, etc. etc.

A single tree asks questions in its felling …

Jesus Stumbles 6, Melanie Gow,

We often tell ourselves “there’s nothing we can do”, “it’s the way it is”, “it’s not our business.”

For me the meaning of this story has been said better by Edmund Burke
“In order for evil to flourish, all that is required is for good men to do nothing.”

Jesus Stumbles 3

There are those who are fighters, diplomats, reporters, campaigners and others.

I take pictures and write their stories … Whenever I feel the pain I turn to create something, I try to understand I focus all my energy on creating something in one small corner of the world that articulates it.


It was a bitter cold that sucks the light out of the sky, and the touch from your fingers. I watched my friend, half-naked, cold and barefoot in effluence and mud, step into this story to create something more than us. It’s what we feel we can do … take part in something that tells a different story.

To tell that different story fully I needed something in the picture that did not “stand idly by” and accept what was going on. I wanted something innocent in the image, that was not enmeshed in the culture or defeated into compliance

That’s when I heard the dog coming…


Without hesitation this beautiful dog ran over barking and running back and forth checking if my friend was alright, “asking” did he need help… really concerned, almost distressed

That’s how the picture of Station 3 came about.


Thank you Richmond Harding, for your energy


The by-product of a Catholic and Protestant pairing, I was sent to Presbyterian school, married and divorced a Jew, and a CoE, and I have been lucky enough to travel the world learning about many belief systems from the esoteric to tribal and world religions. The journey has taught tolerance and understanding, which most belief systems have as a common value.

As Alain de Botton says: Religions are too interesting to be abandoned just to those who ‘believe’ in them: …

Jesus Stumbles under the weight of the cross  Was first published on Backspaces

Crucifixion, a Story of Hope, The Backstory

It was a bitter cold that sucks the light out of the sky, and the touch from your fingers. I had to deliver a crucifix photograph for a Stations of The Cross Trail, to a deadline.

This post is made on Backspaces, click inside the box and scroll to read the story

The Crucifixion, A Story of Hope I Believe

For me, what we need from the Crucifixion story, what endures, is the story of hope. That is the universal need in the world. Hope.

Crucifixion, a story of Hope
Crucifixion, a story of Hope, an image commissioned by the Cookham Stations of the Cross Trail, by Melanie Gow

The human is a curious creature who requires beliefs of all kinds to get through their day. We have, as a species, found many ways to explain our experiences to ourselves from blue elephants with many limbs to immaculate misconceptions.

In nomine Patris, Crucifixion series, i, by Melanie Gow, Stand AppArtI am the child of a Catholic and Protestant pairing sent to Presbyterian School, who has at one time married a Jew, and a CoE. I have listened with tollerance to some fairly esoteric thoughts around the world and studied Buddhism, Roman Paganism and Tribal systems, and am in love with the middle ages.

I’m sure we are all well aware of the similiarities between all these, all God by different names and experiences. Good morals and behaviour, and understanding of things, are not the exclusive purvue of one or other religion, they are human.

Which is why I was so engaged by producing a crucifixion picture.

A while ago I was on the banks of the Sea of Galilee, or Lake Tiberius as it is in Hebrew, with my adoptive Jewish family. One of the nephews turned to me and said, “isn’t this where you tell yourselves your guy walked on water?” and laughed at what he thought was a ridiculously silly belief.

Deep down inside I felt the pain of being mocked.

et Spiritus Sancti, Crucifixion series, iii, by Melanie Gow, Stand AppArtMy childhood diet of David Kossoff Bible stories and generations of ritual are a deep part of my being, I have a relationship with Christianity. I also have a deep interest in its weft in our history, I spend an entire third of my book Toasters Don’t Roast Chickens exploring the role of belief in our lives, with one full chapter on the role of Christianity and science in our medical history.

Christianity, and the power of the Crucifixion story, is woven into the fabric of my life. I have wanted to do a Crucifixion image for at least 20 years.

In all that time the image in my mind has not changed, but what has emerged is a picture I could not have done at any other time in my life.

I asked the question what does The Crucifixion mean, this crucifixion out of the thousands and thousands that were carried out?

We’re all aware of how brutal crucifixions were, I’m not trying to tell anyone what it was like, I am trying to find what it is that we need from The Crucifixion.

Amen, Crucifixion series, iv, by Melanie Gow, Stand AppArt1 Cornithians 13:13 says, “Now these three remain: Faith, Hope and Love. But the greatest of these is Love” and for many that is what the Crucifixion means, Love.

But for me The Crucifixion is about Hope.

The Romans were disillusiuoned with their world and Christianity offered hope for a kingdom in heaven, it spoke for the first time of brotherhood, compassion, tolerance and understanding. That for me is Hope.

My Christ is suspended between this world and that on the other side of death. He is both rooted in this physical plane and yet already the earth and sky are meeting and he is partly of the air. The Crucifix was made of wood, from a tree, here the Christ figure is held in a natural crucifix, the Tree of Life. This specific tree is rent in two and seems dead, certainly much of it is crumbling and rotten, but it is clearly about to burst with spring life.

For me, what we need from the Crucifixion story – what endures – is the story of hope. That is the universal need in the world. Hope.

et Filii, Crucifixion series, ii, by Melanie Gow, Stand AppArtThat is all. I realise it could be love, it could be ‘yes’ is the answer, however we can get through days, weeks, months and years without love, but not without hope.

This piece was always important, but it became something beautiful to work on.

It took three days to shoot, and a couple of weeks to work on, and several conversations, and actually thousands of threads of thought over 20 years.

I had the great privilege of working on this with Richmond Harding, a friend, a co-collaborator on many creative projects, and the only person I know who could bring an integrity and love to this project that was needed.

He took a responsibility for the commission that is rare to find, and he brought a quality to the work that enriched the piece. I wasn’t just asking him to be my muse, we were asking him to take on the mantle of one of the most iconic images in our world and hold the beliefs of thousands around the world in his care.

Here are his thoughts on the experience: How Long is a Piece of Spring

The piece was commissioned by Holy Trinity Church in Cookham, curated by artist Gail Dorrington.

Here is the link to the Cookham there is a PDF download of all the images and the text by Fr Michael Smith, vicar, for all The Stations of The Cross Trail.

Fr Michael Smith, vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Cookham, on Jesus is nailed to the cross, Station 7, of the Stations of The Cross Trail in Cookham 2013
Fr Michael Smith, vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Cookham, on Jesus is nailed to the cross, Station 7, of the Stations of The Cross Trail in Cookham 2013

Here is the link to the backstory, on Backspaces

Here is a link to the Multi-Media class story: How the Lord of Death hijacked The Crucifixion

A Good Case For Judging A Book By Its Cover

I realise you should not judge a book by it’s cover, but I think you can at least take it into account.

One of 6 six of my pieces or Photographic Art that was included in the Iconic London 2012 Exhibition in the Drey Walk Gallery on Brick Lane in London, became the front cover for A Short History of London, by Sinead Fitzgibbon

There is this wonderful author who has an elegant talent for covering History in an Hour, not the whole 4.5 billion years of the world in 60 minutes but satifying, juicy, great chunks of it in thoroughly contemporary formats.

Although I’m sure she could elequently manage the entire 13.6 Billion years of the universe if she wanted to, Sinead Fitzgibbon has chosen to encapsulate The Gunpowder Plot, JFK, The Titanic and The Queen, Elizabeth II in her jubilee year, so far.

Sinead is published by Harper Collins, and she brings the histories to whatever device is in the palm of your hand as ebooks and downloadable audio, as well as print copies. Sinead’s latest book, A Short History of London, is the first in a series of short histories of cities around the world.

I didn’t know any of this when I met her. Which was on Twitter. We share ‘authorly type’ friends.

Tweet from Sinead Fitzgibbon, that led to the cover of her book The Short History of London

She writes and I harbour a deep desire to design the front cover of books. Maybe it was inevitable I would pick up a tweet of hers looking for a collaborator.

I sent her a piece of digital art, by reply.  It turned out to be wildly far of the mark for the book, but she sent me the brief anyway.

Well, what luck. I love what she does, I love factual reads, it was a match made in heaven as far as I was concerned.

I felt I could see exactly what she was trying to do and I got hungry to be involved. Thank goodness she liked my photograph, and design idea. I can now say “I have it covered’.

I can’t wait for her to “travel” to Dublin, Paris, Rome.. While we’re on the subject I’ll be in Spain next summer Sinead?

Book-Cover-for-A-Short-History-of-London-and-the-cover-photograph-in-the-Iconic-London-2012-Exhibition-by-Melanie-GowCoincidentally the photograph was shown in the Iconic London 2012 Exhibition in the Drey Walk Gallery on Brick Lane in London.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the photograph and the cover together. I tweeted it to Sinead. Naturally.

Thank you Sinead, thank you for giving me your precious book cover and I hope I can do many more for you.

I realise you should not judge a book by it’s cover, but I think you can at least take it into account. I may not be Chip Kidd, yet, but I’m more affordable and I love it. I also love Sinead and her book.

Sinead Fitzgibbon 1Sinead Fitzgibbon is a writer and blogger. The author of history ebooks a lover of history, art, food and all things literary. And a Radio4 fanatic. No wonder her books transfer so well to the ear

Find more @

Sinead is also on Twitter @sfitzgib

PS There is nothing like seeing your image on her book behind the Twitter feed of the author.

The Tweet that Sinead Fitzgibbon sent looking for an ebook cover designer



Exposure On A Photograph, For You

Maybe only realising what had happened in hindsight, like a memory that surprised her by how much of it was built around things unnoticed at the time.

For You, by Jonathan Steffen, image Melanie Gow, model Liam BarnesIt is a rare and extraordinary opportunity to hold in your hands 30 years of one man’s life and the relationships and experience of love over that time. Exposure is just that, forty poems on the theme of Love by Jonathan Steffen written over his life – matched with forty photographs by different outstanding contemporary photographers from around the world.

The poet could have written a body of poems on Love in a good week, but he can’t go back and write them as a 20 year old, or in the consummating or break up of a marriage, or a weekend away in 1983, he wrote them at the time – over time.

Jonathan’s poems are deeply personal and intimate, and there is a real courage in laying them bare. Each frame of Photography is a window into who we are. A photograph captures a moment in the same way that Jonathan’s poems are what he thinks and feels in a brief flash in time.

It took nearly two years for me to find the right photograph for all the poems – and for Jonathan. I wasn’t just matching a photo to a poem but to the poet too.

There were times I  found an image and Jonathan didn’t like it, or the photographer was not able to come up with a picture, or Jonathan found something he liked but the photographer did not respond. We just kept searching the world.

Eventually we had 39 photographs, and one poem left:

For You
by Jonathan Steffen

Time was when you and I would lie at night
As in our graves – a stone-faced, silent pair
Of effigies, the lady and her knight
Grown thin with all the years of shared care.

I was entombed, a warrior no more,
Enchained by all the vows I once had made;
No more the lover or the troubadour,
I thirsted for the songs I once had played.

And so I left you, as in many a song,
And played the knight to many a damsel fair
And wooed them with my words, some false, some true –

Until the nights of love grew just as long
And just as cold and just as short of air
And in my sleep I reached for you. For you.

To complete Exposure as a project I had to find one more photographer for this one last poem, but every photograph I found didn’t come to fruition for one reason or another.

I suddenly realised the photographer was very close to home, it was my poem.

I knew exactly what the poem was about and how I saw it. I picked up my camera.

There are two people in the poem, the writer and the woman. There are two people involved in a photograph, the subject and the viewer. I took this as the reference point, found a set of stone, worn, claustrophobic steps, to carry him away, to keep inert emotions from breathing.

I imagined myself to be the woman watching this relationship unravelling, watching the man leave in unaccountable increments. Locked behind unconsciousness, habit or ambiguity of feelings. Maybe only realising what had happened in hindsight, like a memory that surprised her by how much of it was built around things unnoticed at the time.

In the poem though the man’s thoughts return to the woman, so at the furthest point the man turns to face me, the woman, full on and time freezes us both in that pattern forever.


This photograph is a part of Exposure, a haunting, 88-page coffee-table book of 40 modern love poems by Jonathan Steffen, with each poem illustrated by the work of an outstanding contemporary photographer.

Each of the poems stand on their own and each of the photographs stand on their own merit too, but together each pairing brings so much to their relationship.

As a collection it becomes a mosaic of views on love with the thread of one life running through 40 very different and separate people, from a vast range of ages and cultures, speaking from their life experience.

I think the integrity of the project shows, Jonathan has held the quality of the project as a priority and strived for that at every stage. It has been a real pleasure to work with someone who wanted to create something lasting with value, and I was always aware I had a man’s bared experience in my care.


My photograph illustrates the poem “For You, by Jonathan Steffen

Find more about Exposure @


With thanks to Jonathan for gifting this poem to me

With gratitude to Liam Barnes for giving me his time and his image, for whiling away one whole afternoon and forever making me think of Ragu now whenever I drink a Bloody Mary .

With appreciation to Tallulah Rendall for letting me put her haunting music, Ghost on the Water, on the video of the pairing because I love how it brings in the woman’s thoughts under Jonathan’s narration.

With recognition to Fred Aspel for helping me create the video.

And not to forget my two sons who support me, and truly enable me to pursue my visions.

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