workshop participants photograph nature by the riverside

On World Mental Healthy Day, we wanted to share some insights from a series of courses that we’ve been running that provide a new approach to mindfulness by using river-themed photography as way to calm the mind and reconnect with the world around us.

Participants in these photography course having been taking inspiration from the National Waterways Museum, Gloucester, the history and heritage of the River Severn, Gloucester Docks and the wildlife of Alney Island.

Photography offers an alternative way of tackling mental health issues, as the workshop leader Ruth Davey from Look Again explains: “Mindfulness is about connecting with the world around us through our senses – often through our breath, or perhaps our hearing. But photography asks us to use our eyes to focus, often very specifically, on an object, place, person, even ourselves. And mindful photography uses our sight and a camera as an anchor to help us become more aware of the moment and experience the process of creating photographs.”

Alex Ball, senior project manager comments: “The Canal & River Trust has long realised the value of our waterways for everyone’s mental health. This is even more so during these uncertain times. We are keen for more people to share those benefits and experience the wonders of the local waterways network, and the museum that tells its story. Photography offers a perfect introduction. And we look forward to putting together an exhibition of the works, together with other creative pieces inspired by the River Severn, in 2021.”

Feedback from the first course has been overwhelmingly positive with participants enjoying the creativity and being close to the water. They comment: “Water is the most beneficial way of doing mindfulness, the wind, light (and) sun can change, the same patch of water.”

This participant enjoyed being able to: “Get more close up and see more of the Severn, most of the time I use the Severn as a landmark, or see it in passing from the road, occasionally walking along, but I’ve learnt more about the history and future plans for the fish passes.

And another said: “Even though you’re close to the city which you can hear clearly, it’s still enjoyable. Bird sounds, leaves rustling, you can feel the wind, you can absorb it all and dissect what you want. There’s more to it than you first imagine, just take a bit of time and calm yourself down and enjoy it.”

Anyone can try mindfulness photography. No previous experience is necessary and no special gadgets are needed – smart phones are just as able as cameras to create meaningful images and capture the moment. Ruth has created a useful free guide to harnessing the potential of photography for mental health at


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