Walking With Angels Photobook

A beautiful 94 page, full-colour coffee table book, illustrated throughout with photographs woven together by the story. It is a return to the luxury experience of opening a book and immersing yourself.

Walking With Angels, by Melanie Gow, Cover

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A beautiful 94 page, full-colour coffee table book, illustrated throughout with photographs woven together by the story. The book is bound in a high-quality cotton-based hardcover, around reams of silk paper printed with real pigment ink and sewn together. With elegantly coloured end papers and wrapped in a perfect-fitting dust jacket, it is a beautiful return to the luxury experience of opening a book and immersing yourself.

“Through her eyes, we learn to appreciate the sublime in the undistinguished, the divine in the benign.  In short, we learn to see the world differently…

Walking With Angels is more than just a photobook, however. In this gorgeous volume, words are deployed to equal, if not greater, effect than pictures. Her distinctive, fluid prose frames every shot, harmoniously elevating the whole to an altogether different level.” Book Batter Review

Read the full review here… 

 
“Wow. Your book is amazing! Well done to you Harry and Ben! I was awoken by the postman dropping it loudly through the door making the dog bark, and so brought it back up to bed. I had intended to flick through it quickly before I got showered. 1hr and 45min later and I’ve turned the last page. Feel like I have laughed, smiled and wiped a tear along with you. What a beautiful, inspirational book! Thank you!” Harriet Burgham
 
“I thought I would just read the first page, save a proper look for a cup of tea and the sofa this afternoon, however a chapter in and I had to force myself to close the cover as I was already both engrossed and awed by the reality of your undertaking.”
Cheryl Martin
 
A book is all it takes to spark a dream – and this one has been created with the greatest love and care to stir the embers of yours.

148 very wonderful people backed a crowd-funding campaign 172% to make this possible.

 

A Tedx Talk About An Extraordinary Journey

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. An extraordinary journey undertaken by a mother and her two sons which transformed each of them. Pilgrimage in action.

I tuned into Twitter at about 1 o’clock in the morning to find a Tweet from a professor at the University of Nevada who said he was showing my TEDx Talk to his students studying leadership that day, and that’s how I found out it was online.

I thought it was the most wonderful way to discover it was out there, and now I can tell you more about the event; I was utterly privileged to take part on a TEDx run by a school, that was only the second one to gain a TED license worldwide.

Sir William Perkins School run the event with the full inclusion of their students; the girls work on the event, presentation and technical side, recording all the video and audio and then editing every talk. I am so proud school children put my TEDx Talk video together, I hope you agree they are amazing.

For me to give my first TED Talk about the walk I led as a parent, with my sons, to an audience of parents and children was just fitting. To know the students were gaining so much experience directly involved in the production was so pertinent.

I am also incredibly proud it was first seen in a classroom all the way across the world from me, in Reno, Nevada. A class led by Bret Simmons, Nevada Management Professor, to his MBA class as an example of the book they’re working on, “Building the Bridge As You Walk On It: A Guide for Leading Change”, by Robert E. Quinn, the Margaret Elliot Tracey Collegiate Professorship at the University of Michigan.

This talk was given at a TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. An extraordinary journey undertaken by a mother and her two sons which transformed each of them. Pilgrimage in action.

Imagine What Could Change If We Give Our Children The Space To Decide What Kind Of Adults They Want To Be

This was the last time I saw my boys.
The next time I saw them, they were men.

This scene of two boys walking off down an ordinary backstreet in the middle of nowhere in particular seems unremarkable, but it holds the story of a life-changing moment.

Six kilometres out from Carrión de los Condes, down a side street in Villalcázar de Sigra, we stopped in a little bar for a much-needed drink. I felt like I had been walking since the 13th century; we had been getting up at 4.30am every day for me to sew the blisters on my feet, leaving the thread in to drain the fluid during the day, and setting off before the dawn to cover 30km before the midday heat.

I was grateful for a break. When I stood up to get back on the road again, there was a searing pain in my knee so sharp I sat right back down again.

Next to our table was an advertising board with a taxi number on it. Harry looked at me sideways and said, “Maybe it’s a sign.”

Amused that he used this to his advantage, I gave in and agreed we’d take a taxi. Both my sons turned to me and said: “No, you’re taking a taxi, we’re walking.”

This was the last time I saw my boys.

The next time I saw them, they were men.

Eighteen months ago, on that ordinary Tuesday night when we sat down with a plate of sausage and mash with gravy in front of a DVD and 123 minutes later the boys stood up and said they wanted to walk 800km to Santiago de Compostela, this is what I wanted to make happen for them.

That night we had put on The Way, a film by Martin Sheen that is essentially about a handful of middle-aged people walking and talking.

It is a fictionalized account of a man who walks this 9th century pilgrimage, known as The Camino, after his son dies in the attempt; and the stories of those he meets on the journey. As the end credits rolled both boys just knew they wanted to walk it, and we had to do it together. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that before, where you’ve just had to do something. No reasons why and no rational explanation, you just want to do it.

Watching them walk away, I realised that this was why I had walked all this way.

Nothing quite prepares you for watching your sons grow up in front of your eyes; knowing you will never quite be the same person again.

I could never have imagined I would watch them do it. When I woke up that morning there was no indication that this would be the day. As I bought three bottles of soft drink from the bar, it never crossed my mind that it was going to happen right then.

It’s extraordinary how some significant moments are so quiet you would hardly know they were there.

As a parent, we want to conjure a wind underneath our children’s wings, not so they can fly but for them to soar high with passion and joy. I have no end of failings as a mother but in walking away they showed me I had done all right, and I understood that this was the reason I had come on this walk. I was truly at my happiest.

When they left me in that bar to set off for a town, they had no more information than the name of a refuge I would try and get us into. The town wasn’t an easy one, it was moderately large and our accommodation was off the main street, tucked down a side road. I resisted the temptation to tell everyone to keep a look out for them and decided to let them figure it out…
And they did.

singing nuns of Carrion de los Condas, Walking With Angels, by Melanie Gow

That evening we met up again in the simple reception of the convent refuge, with the singing Augustinian nuns, the gorgeous singing nuns from Columbia. Strangely moving and yet absurd. When they sang Amazing Grace, even the strongest cynic would have folded.

After this the guys went to sit outside a bar in the sun and called my sons over to join them. They had their first boys’ night out with the best men, from a dozen different backgrounds, men with values and a sense of wonder and fun, who treated my sons as equals.

You don’t get your first boys’ night out again, so I left them to enjoy the banter and the sangria they were being bought and wandered off to the church, as I had heard it was worth visiting.

It turned out there was a service for the feast day of The Assumption, a significant day in the Catholic calendar celebrating the belief that Mary was taken into heaven without having to live out her natural life, because she was the mother of Christ.

The priest gave a sermon that I could understand every word of for some reason, about the importance of mothers and the grace of the relationship between mother and child.

This sermon on this day was a powerful coincidence.

By the time the softly-spoken, Columbian nun accompanied herself on an acoustic guitar, singing, “Everything Changes Except Love”, I was in tears.

When that sweetly-smiling nun went on to give a speech about Hope and started handing out little paper stars the sisters had cut out and coloured in while praying for us, I gave in and cried – for the next three days. With pride for my sons, gratitude, joy, relief, a feeling of coming home to myself.

Imagine what could change if we give our children the space to decide what kind of adults they want to be; because nothing will ever be the same again.

SAMSUNG CSC

The Confession

The Confession: any time I spend with this picture reminds me of the man who dared to be vulnerable.

The Confession, I asked the man from Barcelona if he'd had his moment? He said no. "I am dry", he said.

I met a man; a young and handsome man from Barcelona. It was the day after the singing nuns, and my public display of weeping, and he was amused by me.

He was cool and sophisticated, shaped by the cynicism of the world. Hardened by real life, doubtful of possibility, distrustful of sincerity.

He asked me to explain why I had cried.

Endearingly, when I finished telling him he simply replied that he hoped to have such a moment.

I met him again at the Cruz de Ferro (the Iron Cross), one of The Camino’s most emblematic points. It is where you place your stone traditionally and leave all it represents behind. Many leave something meaningful at its base with their deepest wishes. People watch the sun rise, go through the rituals, and turn and hug those they know, hoping their wishes come true for them.

He was supposed to leave at León after five days, but he stayed on the road and I met him again here in the church at the top of the highest peak before the descent into Santiago.

We happened to be standing by the confessional box under a small window set in the deep, protective walls, when I asked him if he’d had his moment?

He said, “No. I am dry.”

His yearning created a special place in my heart. I didn’t know how to respond and simply said, “Interesting”.

He said, “I don’t think it’s interesting, I think it’s sad.”

His yearning created a special place in my heart. We caught sight of each other along the road occasionally, and I saw his face grow softer and his eyes sparkle more each day.

He arrived in Santiago the same morning we did. I came down the stairs of the pilgrim’s office and saw him below me in the line for his certificate of completion, the Compostela. I stepped up to him.

It was all there between us in that moment, unsaid.

He burst into tears.

We hugged for the longest time!

For me this very small story describes the big picture… perhaps.

What Are The People In The Next Town Like?

A stranger walking into a new town stopped a farmer working in the fields on the outskirts and asked: “Tell me, what are the people of the next town like?”

I have been asked a question this week, it’s one I get asked often:

“I have heard quite a lot of bad things about the walk! That a lot of it is along main roads, and it’s very crowded etc? So I just wanted to get a first hand view, is that true?”

I have thought of many answers to your question, ranging from practical advice to detailed descriptions, but really there is only one answer.

It’s a simple one; I am reminded of a parable I heard a while ago, of a stranger walking into a new town who stopped a local farmer working in the fields on the outskirts and asked: “Tell me, what are the people of the next town like?”

The farmer asked in return, “What are the people like in your home town?” The stranger replied they were lovely, as good and kind a people as any man could wish for. The farmer told the stranger he would find the people of his town were like that too.

A few hours later another stranger passed on the road into the town for the first time and stopped the farmer in his toil to ask the same question, “What are the people of the next town like?”

Again, the farmer asked him how he found the people in his home town, and the second stranger said, “Oh they are mean spirited and unfriendly, as big a bunch of crooks and moaners as you can imagine.”

The farmer replied: “You will find the people of this town to be much the same.”

What I am trying to say is that you take yourself on the walk, it’s about you and how you handle any challenges. The Camino does go along main roads, and train tracks and under pylons, and past cement factories and industrial outskirts; a lot of it isn’t pretty, or even inspiring.

One day we were on a particularly stony and endless path on the way to Nájera, it runs along a busy road for much of the day and that can wear you down. We decided to reach out to the passing cars and trucks, and began the game of waving at them. The amount of bright smiles, and surprised and enthusiastic waves, we got back made the road lighter on our feet, and the hooting horns made us giddy with a silly joy. 

A lot of the way is short on comfort and it can get very crowded. Isn’t life like that? Life asks us to walk tough roads at times, it’s very crowded, it is not comfortable all the time. It isn’t how the road is that matters, it’s how we respond that counts.

It is precisely the ability to keep going when its tough and uncomfortable that makes the difference.

A pilgrimage is not about rest and recuperation it is about throwing a challenge down to your life and yourself; it will show you what kind of person are, or give you the space to be the person you want to be.

Maybe this encourages you to make an opportunity like this for yourself.

Why I Want To Publish A Photobook, And Need Your Help

Watch the video on the crowdfunding site read the story, PLEASE PRESS THE PLEDGE BUTTON and join me – let’s publish a photobook together. Imagine who we could inspire.

From the first day we walked, people said: “I wish my children would walk with us.” It took me a couple of days to realise that mine weren’t walking with me, I was walking with them.

 

Yes, of course, I wanted to do the walk, and I thought it would be a great space to give my sons to decide what kind of men they wanted to be; it was my gift to them. But, they are the ones who watched a film and stood up as the credits rolled and said they wanted to do this.

That is all it took; an ordinary Tuesday night, a plate of sausage mash and gravy, and a DVD of ‘The Way’, and we set out on a walk that gently changed our lives.

A film or a book can be a life-changing inspiration, I have been asked for a book countless times, I have to publish a photobook but in order to do that I need you to trade with me; and here’s the story of why …

Within three weeks of coming back the story became an exhibition in the cafe at the back of our Town Hall, a space created by Art on The Street for artists to exhibit for free. An artist friend of mine, Gail Dorrington, insisted I tell the story on a opening view night, and so we turned it into support for a locally run food bank, Open Kitchen. Two dozen friends brought cans to donate and listened to, and looked at, our story and said: “You are going to do a book aren’t you?”

Walking with Angels Exhibition and talk, by Melanie Gow, Maidenhead Town Hall, October 2013

I was at the Windsor Contemporary Art Fair when the Gallery at Ice saw the story and wanted to showcase it, and it became a solo exhibition. The Talk became a formal event, and the place was filled. At the end everyone wanted a book, more specifically a photobook with what they had seen and heard.

You find a new understanding and trust in your body, it recalibrates what is most important in your life. It expands your vocabulary and at the same time you come to accept that there are words that there are no others for. It can not help but redefine your sense of spirituality. Thank you to all who came, your interest and support is my reason to be here. Thank you.

It all grew so much when it was invited to Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, who came up with wonderful ideas for the exhibition experience and, again, I gave a talk; and we had to add chairs as it was full to capacity. Again, I was asked for a book, a photobook, something people could take away that held the inspiration.

Walking With Angels at Norden Farm, by Melanie Gow, photographs by Becky Young, full house

Then the exhibition was accepted into St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, and it became mobile; and 42,000 visited the cathedral while it was there, and people asked for something they could take away with them – a photobook.

Walking With Angels, St Giles Cathedral

I finally understand; I see it in the faces in the audience as I talk, and when people stop and look at the exhibition and are drawn in by the stories and pictures. I bought a book once, ‘The Pilgrimage’, by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho back in 1987, and said I would do this one day.

It took 30 years, but a simple book was still the spark of a dream. My sons watched a film.

I finally understand; as I have been inspired by something as simple as a book, my sons by a film, it is no longer about me. I need to publish a photobook, its just the way that inspiration gets out.

But I am the one who has to figure out how to make it happen.

As a published author I know the publishing process, and the market forces in play, a coffee-table book is not on any publisher’s wish list, the cost to benefit ratio isn’t there for them. But I live in a time when it is possible to publish independently; the same, if not higher quality, product.

However, I need to find a way to raise the publishing costs, I am the starving artist you might imagine, and a lone parent, and we have a pilgrim’s means. We are fine, we have all we need, but I don’t have the extra resources to bankroll a book.

Yet, I know a book is what I have to find a way to publish. So I am turning to you. For help.

It is a beautiful book, I have run up a prototype, I have an editor to help me make sure the text sparkles and tells the story, and comes without typos. I have a designer who will make sure it is laid out beautifully, and I have a print house that will make sure the book is the highest quality. It is registered and has an ISBN, a unique numeric international book identifier, and the costs are only £5,000, not a lot if you will join me.

I didn’t want to just ask for donations;

I could have done a sponsored run or some fund-raiser, but I wanted to do something where everyone who helped got something fair in exchange and became a part of it. It is more honest.

  • The simplest trade is a pre-order of the book for £25.
  • You could pre-order 2 and give one to a friend who you know will love it, or donate it to a school or library for £50 and I will sign them.
  • But if you just want to support and just throw £10 into the pot, I am very happy and it really makes a difference. In exchange you will get The Talk but not just any talk, a TEDx Talk; a friend, Laura Lucardini, suggested it and I will stand on the legendary red circle and tell the story, with pictures. You can contribute just £10 and get the TEDx Talk in a PDF, speech and pictures.
  • If you would like one of the photographs of lessons we learned while out walking (see the collection here), and a book, that would normally cost £115, and I’ve wrapped it up as a bundle for £100
  • If you would like the mobile exhibition and a talk to come to a venue near you I can travel anywhere in the UK with it, and £500 will make that happen, including travel costs. This can also be donated and I will arrange it for you and dedicate the talk to you.
  • I have also been given a camera exactly like the one I used, a Samsung Nx1000, a brilliant 3rd-generation mirror-less DSLR. A smart camera that has literally become an extension of my eyes and hands. It is responsive, light and frees me up from worrying about its settings and technology to concentrate on the moment I am drawn to. I will teach you how to use it over Skype, and you will get a photograph and a book and a TEDx Talk PDF, all this and the Samsung NX100 for £1000.

There are places that want the exhibition and the talk, like schools, and to keep telling the story I have to create the book, in order to do that I need you to trade with me.

If I had a plan to do this all along I would have all this organised, but I’m genuinely just trying to keep up with a story that wants to be heard; and I get it, my sons responded to a story. A this is a true story; at 12 and 16 my sons were inspired to walk for 33 days and 800km across a country. And it was the best thing they could have ever done.

The surprise was the throughly transformative overhaul I went through. For the first time I feel emotionally and physically in the same place, this is something we all want isn’t it?

Help me out here, please. I can’t do this without you.

Every single pound counts.

Watch the video on the crowdfunding site, HERE, read the story and the aims, PLEASE PRESS THE PLEDGE BUTTON – on the righthand side it’s the green button that says Screenshot 2014-06-12 09.49.47

Join me – let’s publish a photobook together.

Imagine who we could inspire.

WWA Crowdfund SLIDER