“Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”

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It’s hard to believe that it’s already been almost a month since I’ve been here! This post makes the 4th entry into my Joel Takes England series and I’m still tingling with excitement over this week’s adventure! This week I was lucky to meet up with amazing friends and photographers Nizaad and Amy for an evening tour of the Warner Brother’s Studios “Making of Harry Potter” tour. It was truly a magical (pardon the pun) few hours spent wandering around the sets, admiring the talented work of the costumes and props and becoming overwhelmed with inspiration and creativity.

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I’ve long been a fan of the Harry Potter series and I don’t think I’ve ever explained why (aside from the brilliant story-telling of course). Growing up I was an avid reader. I remember taking trips to the library with my mom and younger brother, piling up the books and devouring them one by one until it was time to go back the next week and get more. Books were always a staple in my life, I liked escaping into new worlds, choosing my adventure and getting goosebumps reading Goosebumps. But then, as a teenager everything kind of stopped. I fell into a cycle of depression stemmed from daily bullying that I was enduring at school. I learned to fill my mind with noise from tv and music instead of reading because the noise from those things drowned out the sadness that whispered inside. So books fell out of my life, off my shelves and into boxes under the bed. I became kind of a drone, a reflection of who I thought I was supposed to be and a robot just repeating back enough facts in my classes to continue everything looking normal. I didn’t have the energy to read, the desire to open a book or to force myself to enjoy spending time alone.

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I remember the first time I had heard about Harry Potter, it was during a cross-country road trip I was taking with my mom, brother, grandmother and aunt. We were driving on the busy highways of southern ontario when CBC aired a short reading of one of the books. I listened halfheartedly, remembering it was a book my little brother was interested in but never gave it much thought. Then shortly after, after returning home I was walking to my bedroom one night when I heard my mom reading to my brother. I sat on the floor outside his bedroom and listened as she read aloud each voice in character and I knew how much it meant to the both of them. Still however, I wasn’t sold on reading the books, on any book just yet. I trudged along through high school and continued to try to fill my mind with noise and activity to avoid how I felt. Then one summer I got hired to work in a day program for adults with developmental disabilities and as part of that job would be going to a summer camp to work for a week. This was the age before smart phones and Ipads and the only thing I had was an mp3 player and….books. I wandered down to our bookshelf in the basement and scanned the titles for something of interest and my eyes landed on the spine of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. I grabbed it and the following book in the series and shoved them in my bag and off I went to summer camp.

I read that first book in a day (yes it’s short but still) and I felt something inside just kind of open up and stir itself awake. I saw in this book, a boy who felt lost and was treated like he didn’t matter and then suddenly this new path and life had opened up in front of him. Even though it was fiction, it was inspiring. I found strength in reading these stories, in believing once again in the magic of the written word and in the power that the pages held. I’m not saying that my entire life changed because of these books but the stories and the words that I was letting in, helped me learn to trust being alone in my mind again, helped me sit in silence again, helped me feel like I belonged, in a strange way.

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There’s a lot of stories like this, a lot of stories of how books and the power of the written word can affect someones life and as silly as it sounds to say that the Harry Potter series was a huge gear shift in my mind, it was. I longed to be able to create stories that had as much passion, belief and wonder as J.K. Rowling had done. Her ability to share her vision with the world is something I admire and carry with me in my own art.

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The stories for me carry with them great imagery, as obviously expressed in the movies, and when I first stepped into the world of photography the series was one that I began to use to inspire my own photographs and to try and interpret in my own style. Being there, on the sets with the energy of the films and the stories all around was electric. I felt a surge of inspiration, I felt humbled that a story written on napkins in coffee shops and on trains had grown to be this force that captured the hearts and minds of so many, and changed their lives in one way or another. Needless to say it was a powerful experience and one much more meaningful than just a standard movie set tour.

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My newest tattoo, a light bulb hanging down my right arm was inspired partly by a want to remember to always shine a good light on the world but also by one of my favourite quotes, from Dumbledore himself

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

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I hope you find or have found that light switch in your own life, trust me that that it’s there and it will help your light shine as brightly as it should.

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