About me


 

Tamsen Courtenay as a child laughing under old fashioned hairdryer

Me, back then ... never could just leave my hair alone!

I’ve had a pretty fractured sort of life, a lot of crying and distress balanced by even more laughter and happy adventures. I’ve lived all over the place. But never have I been happier than I am here, in Italy.

After a difficult and unhappy childhood in the United States (my dad served in Vietnam and this had a terrible effect on my family) I moved to England and spent most of my adult life in London. I mostly remained there, going to University and spending time in the erstwhile USSR studying at the Pushkin Institute, in Moscow.

Back in England I worked for a bit at the Home Office, researching police powers and then - accidentally - fell into broadcast journalism (current affairs television) on the Stephen Lawrence story.

In TV broadcast journalism, I'd found my first outlet to explore the things I care about. I mostly worked at BBC’s Panorama and at C4’s Dispatches as well as one or two other independent production companies.

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Eventually, after becoming completely disillusioned with the way British television was going and its lack of commitment to current affairs programming, Steve and I changed course entirely and packed up and moved to Italy where we remain.

We settled in and then - on impulse - I decided to go back to the UK for a few months to spend time on the streets with London’s homeless population - a life changing experience. I published a book about it, that was received really well and got loads of press coverage.

 

Since writing Four Feet Under I donate10% of my art work sales to homeless charities in the UK. If you're interested in this subject, do go over and look at my website which has tons of photos and articles and whatnot that I've written.

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Six months after I came back to Italy, after researching the book, our whole region was struck by a swarm of earthquakes that lasted nearly 18 months. We lost our house. But not our lives, as did hundreds of other people. I wrote a photo-journal blog about my life during this dreadful time in 2016/17.

The one thing that has helped me navigate my way through this mad, mad world is my passion for photography which, more recently, I've been able to focus on pretty much entirely.

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I set up Stone Lens during this Covid Pandemic - a way for me to deal with the metaphorical hand grenade that seemed to have exploded around all of us. Like everyone, I have evolved during this period, have re-framed (pardon the pun) a lot of my thinking and views plus I've been reading like a lunatic. My sense of awareness of the world, its politics, its attitudes to other people and the planet itself has absorbed me. I struggle to make sense of the nature of 'being' a human.

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I'm a lifelong pacifist but also, paradoxically, a crack-shot, at my local firing range, with a Sig Sauer semi-automatic hand gun. It’s like form of yoga for the brain - I zone out and can achieve a sort of meditative state. Sounds bonkers, I know! Just so we're clear here (!) I don’t believe people should use firearms anywhere other than at a regulated range. I certainly have no desire to shoot anyone or anything apart from the paper targets.

I'm also a magnet for sick animals and rescue ridiculous numbers of waifs and strays; if I had to choose just two people’s music, it'd be Muddy Waters and Bach; I'm notoriously accident-prone and love people who make me laugh; I'm a disaster in the kitchen but adore eating, hopeless with numbers and never remember anyone’s birthday.

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Italy taught me all about what beauty and balance means. It’s everywhere here. Most of what I do and is inspired by the textures, colours, history, and magical combinations of light all around me here in the Sibillini mountains - the sheer weight of the beauty is what stops me totally losing my marbles in a world that's so often destructive and unkind. Wild horses couldn’t drag me away.