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A Multi-Faceted Journey Of Healing & Coaching Sports – Exclusive Interview With Christiaan Partridge

Christiaan Partridge is a Family Doctor, Photographer, football coach and cricket coach. Having picked up a camera at a relatively late stage in life, Christiaan has recently achieved a First Class Honours degree in Photography via the University of Chester. For the past 7 years, he has been a youth football coach and also an ECB Core Cricket Coach. Christiaan also has vast experience in running amateur sports clubs, specializes manly in Landscape Photography, with a particular interest in Therapeutic Photography to treat minor mental illness.

photo of Christiaan Partridge

Christiaan Partridge, General Medical Practitioner, Photographer


Introduce yourself! Please tell us about you and your life, so we can get to know you better.


I am a part-time GP Partner and a part-time Photographer, and in my spare time I also coach both football and cricket, as well as still playing both sports. I’m married with two children, a daughter aged 15 and a son aged 13.


I have been a GP Partner for just over 20 years in the same practice, I also have a PGCME and am able to teach, and have a strong interest in Respiratory Medicine, being an active member of the Primary Care Respiratory Society and British Thoracic Society. I have worked through many changes in the NHS, and particularly the challenges of the pandemic and those ongoing since.


My interest in Photography started back in 2007, when I first purchased a Digital SLR, then followed that by booking onto a Landscape Photography workshop and have never looked back since. It is a complete break form the stresses of being a Family Doctor, I have recently gained a First Class Honours Degree and been awarded Associate of The Royal Photographic Society. I also hold a CAA approved Drone Licence, with aerial photography and videography adding another string to my bow.


I continue to play Veterans football and am a regular player in my village cricket team. I also enjoy listening to music, my favourite bands being The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Muse. I prefer the sound of vinyl and enjoy going to watch artists play live.


I currently coach an Under 14s youth football team, which I have been with since they were 8 years old, and am an ECB Core Coach, involved with our village club’s Under 11, 13 and 15 mixed teams.


Tell us more about your academic journey. How did you decide to pursue a First Class Honours degree in Photography, and how has it impacted your photography career?


In all honesty, my academic journey has been one of self-discovery and interest, rather than necessarily career-boosting. Photography is an exceptionally competitive industry; I have spent most of my working time doing small local commercial work and the occasional commission or purchase of one of my Landscape images. I have derived so much enjoyment from Photography, it brings a work-life balance that I had otherwise struggled to achieve, and I feel it is something that I have grown with, both as a photographer and as a person.


I started out with a fairly basic Digital SLR and then booked on a Landscape Photography workshop, really to learn how to use it beyond automatic settings. The first night of the course, everyone met for dinner, there were two guys on the course who were camera club members and the discussion got quite competitive between them. That night I thought I had made a big mistake, but as we were out n the field the next day, I realised it was one of the best things that I had done. Following that first outing, I returned to do a workshop with the same group, until they stopped running workshops a few years ago.


I am someone who likes to explore my subject and surroundings, and decided I would like to learn more, so first started with an online Diploma of Photography, which challenged me to learn new genres of photography, including more commercial, advertising and portrait photography. I really pushed me out of my comfort zone, but I could see better results in the images I was making and that my eye was developing. I then started an HND with the British Association of Photography, which pushed me even harder, involving research into the history of Photography and Photographic methods. It really helped to develop my own style and also helped me to understand where my photography fits in context of place and time.


Having come all that way I decided why not finish off the degree qualification with the one year top-up course. This was very much self-directed learning, where I was able to drive the subject content within assessment parameters. I have a particular interest in Therapeutic Photography, and so wrote my dissertation on that subject, whilst my major project and final exhibition centred on the Suffolk Coast, which is my home and also my photographic passion. However, my final exhibition pictures were of a Social Documentary style, charting life in the Suffolk Seaside towns in the summer of 2022, something that a couple of years earlier, I would never have contemplated doing.


Ending up with a First Class Honours Degree, whilst still working as a Doctor I’m told is a fantastic achievement, but I don’t think it has quite all sunk in as yet.


You mentioned a specialization in Landscape Photography. What draws you to this particular genre, and could you share some of your favorite locations for capturing landscapes?


I spend a lot of time inside through my work, sitting at a desk, working 10-hour days and sometimes more. So, getting outside is a priority, to keep me sane! I love the British countryside and coast, we have so much variety of both right on our doorstep, that I feel we don’t appreciate fully. I accept that the weather doesn’t always help, but we have such diversity confined into a relatively small space.


It also fits very nicely with the therapeutic process of slowing down and appreciating your surroundings, much I suppose when we were only able to shoot on film, and you can get away from the noise of everyday life. There is a wealth of evidence which supports being outside is beneficial, along with the calming effects of waterfalls, rivers, and forest landscapes. I think we all have our own special relationship with the coast, often driven from childhood memories, which makes it a very special and individual place. I love the tones of light that nature produces, much more colourful and softer than artificial light, as well as colours and patterns, particularly in wild flowers, and how these are reproduced time after time.


I have enjoyed photographing the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, the Dorset Coast and wherever we have been on British family holidays, and these all contain spots which are absolutely stunning. In the Lakes, Buttermere has to be my favourite, but very early in the morning before the tourists arrive. In Yorkshire, I prefer the less-crowded Swaledale, which feels very wild still, and the very strangely named Crackpot Falls, a beautiful waterfall just off a public footpath. I enjoy the Jurassic Coast, but again it gets very busy at peak times, but Corfe Castle is a standout for me. The Northumberland Coast is stunning and my second favourite, particularly the quiet, expansive beach at Budle Bay, where there are dunes, sea grasses and beautifully white sand. But my favourites are close to home, and I love the Suffolk Coast and Countryside, particularly the beach at Bawdsey, once the home of Radar, and the very unique landscape that is Shingle Street, with it trapped pools of seawater on a bank made just of pebbles.


I'm interested in the concept of Therapeutic Photography to treat minor mental illness. Can you explain how you use photography for therapeutic purposes, and what benefits have you observed in your practice?


Therapeutic Photography involves working with a small group of people with a facilitator and directing them to take images that represent how they are feeling. Each person then presents their image or images, and the facilitator opens a discussion so that the photographer can explain why they took that particular image. There is no need for the facilitator to be a trained therapist, it is merely a method of getting a person to open up about their feelings. However, the lack of a trained therapist can also be seen as a disadvantage. This technique was used by the photographer Jo Spence, as a way of her coming to terms with her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. One of the more modern techniques is the use of the Selfie to improve self-esteem, but the technique can be used to explore relationship issues, negotiate change and also societal behaviours. There is also Phototherapy, which does involve a therapist and selected photographs or images, that are often not taken by the client, but have some meaning to them. There is a wealth of research out there, but a lot of the studies are not standardised in method or analysis.


There is also a therapeutic process involved with photography, something else that particularly draws me to Landscape and Coastal Photography. I have mentioned above that the process slows you down, but it also gives you a focus, getting your composition correct, managing the lighting, noting the changes in the sky, waiting for the right moment. I take a lot of long-exposure images, with shutter speeds that range from 1-2 seconds to 5-6 minutes or more, this allows time for reflection, but often to enjoy the moment, the here and now and become attuned to your surroundings.


For me personally, this is therapy, time to forget all the noise of daily life, and I can recognise 3 phases that I go through on each shoot. Firstly, is becoming aware of my surroundings and potential subjects, the stresses of daily life start to lift and become almost forgotten. The second phase is a clarity of thinking, whether this is related to the subject I’m shooting, or a sudden resourcefulness and being able to prioritise my To Do List. A notebook and pen are often handy at this stage. The final phase is a complete relaxation, I recognise that I’m in the zone, aware completely of the here and now, and maybe my photograph developing, but of nothing else. This for me is what makes this style of photography so appealing.


What inspired you to transition from being a Family Doctor to pursuing a career in photography, football coaching, and cricket coaching?


I am still working part-time as a Family Doctor, but it has been a combination of stresses and the ever-changing political background of the NHS that have driven me to look at a Portfolio type career. Added to this, two admissions to hospital with a fast, irregular heartbeat, caused by stress, has made me take stock and make some changes. I’m sure many would say, “How do you fit it all in?,” but it is a question really of doing what I enjoy.


From a personal point of view, Family Doctors are increasingly becoming the poor relations of the NHS, being effectively gatekeepers is a very difficult job, has is having to deal with anything and everything. The stresses are high, complaints and public disgruntlement are at an all-time high and as a professional body, I feel that we are very poorly treated. Part of that is because we don’t all stand together as one, but our diversity should be our strength.


Photography has become a therapeutic process for me, and I think that is reflected in the success of my work, and a clear development over time. I frequently look through my old images and sometimes think, why on earth did I take that photograph? But, there are successful images in there too, but the progress and range of subject is obvious.


I am now coming to the end of a long playing career in amateur football and amateur cricket. In both I have had success and also faced adversity. As my children have shown an interest in both sports, the natural progression for me was to give something back, and coaching does this. I also don’t want them to face to poor experiences I had when I was their age, particularly in cricket, and this has become my inspiration and driver for change. I want children to enjoy and develop and be given every opportunity to do so and have fun at the same time.


I am also Chair of both sports clubs I am involved with, and I think that comes from being a respected ambassador and also being very organised and efficient. I am busy, but I get things done. I am used to working with people from all backgrounds and try as best I can to find some common ground with all, something that comes from my Family Doctor background.


You mentioned experience in running amateur sports clubs. Could you elaborate on this aspect of your background? What have you learned from managing sports clubs, and how does it tie into your other interests and activities?


I have been Chair of both the cricket club and football club for a few years now, being involved in running teams in both, and coaching young players. I try to lead by example and have mentioned above that I am very organised and efficient. Perhaps my status in the community as a respected professional affords me an ambassadorial role, but I have evaluated, reflected and made changes at both clubs which have allowed them both to prosper. Both roles have their challenges, mainly as amateur sports clubs, raising funds, recruitment and retention are the biggest of these. The communication skills developed as a Family Doctor are essential in these roles too, as is being reflective and trying to think a little out of the box, certainly thinking on feet which is another doctor skill.


Again, it is about giving something back to the community and leaving a legacy, for my children and all those others involved, so that these clubs are there for them in years to come, and maybe in a better position than they were before I was involved with them. It is also maintaining a place for me to enjoy my sport, stay healthy, spend time with friends and escape from the surgery!


If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be and why?


In the NHS, depoliticization and cross-party control, not used as a vote winner. The funding of the NHS goes to the wrong places, there are too many layers of management and those who do the hard work are no longer rewarded appropriately. It can only succeed if properly funded and if it is taken out of the political game. It is something we should cherish, but I fear it is being lost.


In Photography, that you have to use a camera! It’s as simple as that, particularly for me to gain the benefits of the therapeutic processes. A.I. can do wonderful things, and we do use elements of this already in the digital darkroom, but an image made entirely through A.I. is digital art, not photography.


Finally, in Recreational Cricket, properly fund cricket in state schools, get them the equipment they need and the facilities and make it as big a priority as football. Too many children are missing out on an opportunity to play cricket, and we are potentially missing out on finding the next Ben Stokes.


Tell us about your greatest career achievement so far.


I think that being brave enough to try and change my career path and gaining my Photography Degree, whilst still working as Family Doctor has to be it.


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and visit my website for more info!


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