Mark Minard is a Moving Image Nature Arts in Health specialist. Mark’s background is in design engineering. He brings this experience and his deep understanding of our connection to nature to his work as an artist and film-maker. His films are used to support patients, their families, carers and staff in locations such as hospitals, maternity units, care homes and hospices. Mark speaks to the Landscape Gardens and Health network (LGHN) about his work with the moving image.
LGHN – Can you tell us something about your own connection with nature? How did it start?
Mark – My great grandfather was a head gardener in the UK. My grandfather and father were also growers. I was born in New Zealand and lived there for 37 years. I was always outside as a child and grew up immersed in wild nature. Now I am lucky enough to have experienced a variety of landscapes around the world, and noticed how different they feel.
As an artist I feel the purpose of my work is to raise our awareness of nature on all levels, holistically. I think my experience of the Maori understanding of our profound connection to nature is really central to me. If this connection becomes broken, we become broken. There’s a good quote from an indigenous elder, 'if the river is sick, we are sick; when the river becomes well, we are well'.
LGHN – When did your interest in photography begin?
Mark – I started taking photographs at about the age of 10. My grandparents were keen photographers. I remember taking black and white images of a tree at about 12 at a camera club.
Later on, I became involved with dance and movement. At some point I started to dance less and to observe more. It was good sensory training and led me to mindfulness, although that wasn’t a word in those days. I began to film dancers in nature and discovered a way of creating images that connects people with the beauty and essence of nature’s movement.
LGHN – At what point did you see that your ‘art nature’ films could contribute to health and well-being in a hospital setting?
Mark – I spent five years helping to support my partner’s father who was coping with mini strokes and vascular dementia. At the time, I was working with film purely as an artist. It was while I was visiting him in Chester Hospital that I noticed how many TV screens there were around the place. I asked a nurse if they ever used them for anything other than TV.
She directed me to the hospital’s charity office. Strangely, someone from the breast screening department had just been in to ask whether it was possible to support women in screening and biopsy. The end result was that I created and installed some nature art films. It completely changed the space for staff and patients. My work has grown steadily since then and now uses a 6K high speed cinematic camera. In 2017 I was Highly Commended for Improving Patient Experience at the NHS in the North West Excellence in Supply Awards.
LGHN – Tell us something about the practicalities of getting your art films set up. How would a hospital, for example, find out about your work and then get something installed?
Mark – Anyone interested in having MENAT in a therapeutic environment can get in touch with me. I’ll talk to them and maybe visit them to find out more about what they do. I like to spend some time exploring each situation to understand what their situation and needs are. I volunteered with the Red Cross for eight years. The training I was given taught me how to assess people and situations quickly. It still comes in useful.
I often ask staff and patients about their favourite places in nature. I like to use some of the places they mention in the art films - places that are local and familiar to them. After I’ve finished my research, I design the layout and then do the installation myself. The engineer part of me loves the practical side of getting things set up and the facts and statistics involved with feedback. I enjoy designing the best installation for the situation and installing it and seeing people connect to nature and feel relieved at its presence.
LGHN – Where can people find more information about your work?
Mark - They can look online at www.vimeo.com/markcameronminard and www.facebook.com/natureasmedicine.
People can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Examples of MENAT installations include:
There are many different kinds of gardens and landscapes that facilitate health and wellbeing. The network embraces all projects and examples ranging from hospices, hospitals, care homes, clinics, prisons, community gardens, cancer centres as well as nature based therapeutic work such as Ecopsychology and horticulture therapy. Landscape is taken in its broadest sense, embracing the natural and designed environment, highlighting its many relationships to human health and wellbeing.
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