Thursday, February 19, 2015

My journey shooting people naked...

I wanted to talk about confidence, because since the age of about 12, I've had very little. One of the things I've learned in the last year is that most women have real issues with their body confidence, the other thing I have learned in the last year is that women are seriously, amazingly brave. My eyes have been opened this in I've had a slap across the face and had to blink repeatedly from what I've seen.

It all started with this email that appeared one day, around this time last year, from this chick who wanted me to shoot her naked. That chick was Laura Jane Williams of Superlatively Rude. Laura was already shocking me, her email told me she was getting fit...she wanted to change her life and get back in control. How you ask? She shed almost 3 stone! And she decided that after, she wanted me to capture her at a time when she was more proud of her body than she may ever have been, at a time when she wanted to be naked, because she knew she looked bloody great. And so I did...

It was clear she was beautiful, but what was maybe most beautiful was that she took on this challenge head on and owned her body completely. She said, I'm nervous as shit, but I want you to really capture me, a person who is finally confident in her body. And you know what? I was nervous too! Not cause I haven't taken photos of boobs and bums before, but because I wanted her to love them after...I wanted to make her proud! I needn't have been worried, cause she did it all for me, all I had to do was click the shutter. You can read her amazing blog post about the shoot here.

After Laura blogged about her experience, about how she was terrified to get the shots taken but during and after, she felt more amazingly than she had in years, I got a string of emails come in. Emails upon emails from women who were blown away with Laura's story, who were completely terrified, who had such low confidence, and felt this was something they could do to gain control of their bodies again. I felt shocked, I did, cause I thought I was one of the few that felt that nervous and ashamed of their body...I wasn't. These women all felt scared, down, worried, ashamed, not good enough, all the things I feel all the time. And yet...I couldn't believe these wonderful, beautiful strong women felt like that!

Another lady I took photos of not long after Laura was Megs of the blog Wonderful You. Now, what can I say about Megs...well, she said it all in her blog post. Megs is downright, obvious to anyone, in the hell can she have confidence issues?? Well, it just goes to show, cause Megs was completely terrified to shoot with me. She knew she wanted to...kind of, but man was she scared. She did though, and once again, like Laura, was so glad she did. And so was I :) She has become one of my best friends, as beautiful inside as she is out...and I'm glad I was able to show her just how beautiful.

An email I wasn't expecting not long after this was from Calum McSwiggan, none other than Laura's best friend. I don't know why I didn't think that men could have confidence issues, and yet here was Calum saying the same as the women that messaged. Now I'll admit, being naked wasn't as much of a problem for him, but he was just as worried and critical. It was definitely a learning curve for me as well, shooting guys isn't quite as simple as shooting the ladies...there's one key appendage that is a little harder to hide ;) 

Some of the amazing women I have taken photos for in the last year have kindly let me share some of their images. Most if not all of these women were scared, they all were nervous and worried how the images would come out, but they were all amazingly brave, they put themselves out there and allowed me to capture them, every single beautiful part of them. I actually can't thank them enough, they all taught me that if you are confident with your body, if you own it and put yourself out there, you are incredibly beautiful and wonderfully sexy.

I got to a point this year, thanks to all those I have taken photos of, where I decided I would accept who I am, and in doing that I did feel more confident. So many different shapes, sizes, colours. Tall, short, blonde, red head, smaller, bigger...we are all beautiful and I DON'T CARE HOW CHEESY THAT SOUNDS, it's seriously true.

This is the beautiful Genna McWhinnie - Scottish born, London based artist, feminist, and body positivity advocate, who wears red lipstick, swears like a heathen and spends way too much time on tumblr when she really should be making more art. 

The stunning Lissie Wood

The breathtaking Shannon Seale

The amazing Abigail Lovick

The wonderful Ruth Wall

The brilliant Anna Hafsteinsson

The bloody sexy Emma Gannon who wrote an amazing blog post about our shoot here.

What I have learned from all the Confidence shoots I have done, all the stories I have heard and amazing brave women I have met, is that we need to own and accept just how beautiful we are. The media can force feed us ideas of what they thing is ideal, they can show us endless images of models and big hair and piles of make up, but the thing that is most beautiful about all of us, is how unique we all are! We got the tiny, minuscule chance to survive, of all the sperm and eggs YOU were created, you need to lap it up now, celebrate exactly who you are, the eyes, the hips, the boobs, all of it! If we believed in ourselves more and realised just what we've got, then maybe we would believe that we truly are just beautiful.

Thank you to all the ladies and gents above, you have made my year. And I truly hope I can shoot more and more, because with each one I do my belief in the beauty of humankind is knocked up a notch. x

If you are interested in booking a shoot, even if you're really really scared, drop me an email and let me know :)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Thoughts in ink.

I have been thinking recently about my motivations for taking self portraits.

The ability to create is a fascinating thing and I think the reason I am often fascinated with art and the things people can produce is largely because of how the aspects of each individual person can create something entirely unique based upon that persons thoughts. I think it’s the reasons I like doing self portraiture, even though it is something that a lot of people don’t understand, is that for me it’s about exploration. Sometimes that exploration results in, what some would say, fairly mundane or uninteresting images because on that particular trip there was less I was discovering or less I needed to emote. Whereas some explorations result in a far more expressive and honest images and that is usually when I am going through something specific or a time in my life when I’m exploring something in my mind. I think that’s why my self portraits often show a lot of fragility because that’s the underlining aspect I explore most within myself, and probably one of the most common aspects of myself.

My self portraits help me, they allow me to remove myself to a certain extent, because if I’m dealing with something it allows me to be open on my own and do something! I’m creating and keeping busy, and it almost gives me purpose, and it’s a way to vent. I do struggle sometimes, I get very inspired by places, so in terms of that I completely adapt how I confront the light and elements, light being the most important to me and that often does reflect my mood and what I’m trying to say with it, but as a whole I’m not conceptually driven. It’s not a concept I’m trying to communicate, it’s a feeling, and that can become quite tedious, because if I go out to take some self portraits, on a trip of exploration, it’s often in dark times so often similar emotions will come out. I've been told, that it can be quite boring and not very experimental or that I don’t push myself, my art or my photography and I do understand where they’re coming from sure, I do want to push myself and be more interesting and find better ways of communicating that, but at the same time I’m never going to stop just going out and shooting! Some asked me, well if that’s the case, that I produce work that is similar to the last, then why do I share it? Well it’s because, it’s a unique image in itself, even if does share a familiar feeling to previous ones I have done, it’s still unique and that’s something I completely love about photography, maybe one of the most important things, it’s that moment in time. You can’t recreate a moment in time, everything about that time will be different to the last. The air will be different, the light will be different and even if I felt similar, I still would have felt different and it was a complete moment captured, so if I took it and edited it, there must have been a reason for that. And why not share it I guess?

It’s not a self indulgent thing necessarily, it’s in my veins to create, so when you want to create, an aspect of that is to share and I don’t think that’s narcissistic. It’s not a pride thing, that I’m proud and want to show it, though sometimes elements of that exist, it’s more about putting something you created from nothing out into the universe! And that can go for more than just photography, it can go for a thought, to a piece of writing, to a piece of music.

It’s ironic really, I think I have found that musicians I know have questioned my motivations for my self portraiture more than anyone else, but music as a complete whole is self indulgent! Their thoughts and ideas are communicated through music usually if not entirely about them and their experiences and what they've done. Very few songs will be about something completely unrelated to them, and if those songs were to exist then you probably wouldn't be able to relate to them as much. I like honestly, I value honesty and I think that’s what I like to do with self portraits. I think that’s what musicians like to do with songs. I can’t take an experience I've been through in my life, say falling in love, I can’t take a snapshot of that and use it to show my struggles in an art form, whereas musicians can, they vent, and are able to almost directly draw on that and write about it and express themselves through it, which is completely therapeutic and I can’t do that directly. Whereas with a self portrait, partially I do it as an escape, and partially I like how through it I can still express my state, my emotion, it’s not sometimes obvious, it’s not a picture of me screaming or pulling my hair out, but it’s my mood, it’s where my head was when I took it, and that will always be reflected in the image.