Project Dark18 | Part 1 – diagnosis | Featuring Brandi Lea Hills | Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice | Peterborough | 11th March 2018



Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice is the only specialist palliative care inpatient unit in Peterborough. They are also the only unit with a multi-disciplinary team which includes doctors, nurses, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, complementary therapy, bereavement counsellors, and psychological and spiritual support. This means they can care for the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of their patients, whether they come for symptom management as part of their palliative care or for end of life care. That care can be given in the 20-bed hospice or in the community thanks to Thorpe Hall Hospice at Home team – and also extends to the loved ones of the patients too. Thorpe Hall also runs specialist day services open to people living with long-term conditions. They can join in activities and outings helping to boost confidence, aid rehabilitation and offer social opportunities.

Project Dark18 is dedicated to Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice. In essence it is a “trash the dress” shoot but a shoot that will tell a story. It has been carefully well thought out with planning, recces and choosing the right locations. The shoot will be split into 3 parts; diagnosis, the final day and new beginning. There is a strong message in this shoot and I am dedicating this shoot to the patients, staff and the friends who support the patients.

The dress has a sad ill fate, to be trashed. In wedding terms, “trash the dress” is an act of giving the dress a destructive shoot. It can be ripped, shredded, swam in and thrown paint on. It is somewhat controversal that the last time the dress was worn was on the wedding day, the best day of someones life, where two people bond for eternity. These dresses can cost a fortune too. But playing devils advocate, where are most wedding dresses anyway? In a loft? Stored away? Some traditions pass on the wedding dress to the daughter’s but in this day and age I don’t think that is very fashionable on a one’s personal level.  So for my shoot, the destruction of the dress is the incurable illness and it’s fate is imminent.

In part one, diagnosis, the dress is dealing with life very well, modelled by our star Brandi Lea Hills. Brandi models a range of clothing, including top brands and she even did her own make up for this project. The main message for this shoot was to show the dress off in it’s full glory, giving it great memories and still carrying on with life as a dress. It shows it’s strong character, given hope by Brandi. I feel that Brandi is the soul of the dress and for the shoot…

Project Dark18 | Part 2 – final day | Featuring Brandi Lea Hills | Uplands Estate | Cambridgeshire | 20th March 2018



Before I begin my commentary on Part 2, I must start with the location. On the outskirts of Great Shelford in Cambridgeshire, stands a 19th century mansion, Uplands. For those that don’t know, the art of exploring abandoned places is called Urbex. Uplands is an urbexing prime find, as this stunning mansion is in a perfect derelict state. With nature taking over, it is decaying, applied with beautiful street art and with some history too. Uplands was also a working hotel until the 1980’s. This would explain the bath tubs everywhere. There are many folklore and stories to the fate of this beautiful building and it once had a neighbouring mansion called Whitfield. Sources suggest that both houses were once owned by a local self-made millionaire named as Mr Ratte. He was shared owner of a successful local company called “Ratte & Kett”, which made a fortune in the Cambridge electronics and computing industry. Urban legend claims that one night after a furious row with his Wife, Mr Ratte decided to burn both of the houses to the ground. There are a couple of versions of the story leading up the fate of Uplands. One says that Mr Ratte blocked his extremely long drive with cars to stop the fire brigade from putting out the fire while another version claims that the fire brigade couldn’t get up the drive due to low hanging trees. Either way the fire engines had to slowly make their way across a field and by the time they arrived at Whitefield, it was totally destroyed. Uplands wasn’t far behind but it survived…to some extent…

This is the dress’s final day. It will be shredded to pieces, slashed and torn. This is actually the art of “trash the dress”. As mentioned in Part 1, there are many brides that give their wedding dress, which was once filled with beautiful memories, the fate of destruction. Linking a ruined building with ruining a dress seemed like a very good match.

My style here was influenced by many films from M. Night Shyamalan and many contemporary thriller movies similar to his style. I love his directing and writing. He sometimes plays a cameo part to his movies, so this was the reasoning behind my very own cameo…well in the form of a framed picture you can see above the fire-place in one of the scenes of this shoot.

Urbexing is very exciting in many ways, it exploring history, a building that once had its own stories and memories. Yes there is the excitement of “are we allowed to be here?” but I am adding to the building’s history by not only capturing photography of the place, but by sharing my won memories here.

Part 2 cannot go without mentioning a very special assistant and in some ways, my co writer, Leanne Hills. This whole project started off as a Cinderella shoot with a dark twist. It was only until I researched Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall hospice, realising the link between the dress and its future. Leanne would suggest some wonderful ideas and brought out the cigarette and champagne bottle scene. This expresses the anger and confusion scenario of dealing with an end of life. She would also help out and assist with the lighting for the shoot.

Amongst the dark and sad times, there is a Part 3…a happy ending. Sometimes in life it is not what we do, but it is what we leave behind…and through researching the remnants of Uplands, it has been granted Planning permission to rebuild it into a new hotel…

Part 3…to be continued…

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