Yesterday I went to my favourite yoga class with Amanda Riley. She began by stating that the focus was “grounding” and we began with the feet. To be grounded is to feel solid, strong, and well-balanced, in body and in mind. Yoga offers an opportunity to root down, creating a firm foundation from which to grow to be free and joyful. This is a great aim. To stop living in one’s head and to connect to the core self and achieve balance. It normally ends in tears for me. I adore my root chakra, but after 45 minutes of grounding I got upset. When we have a history of PTSD yoga can activate a trauma response, we are pushed out of our safety zones. The key is to push this gradually. In class wanted to disconnect for sure, but I stayed on the mat until the tears came. Amanda keeps a safe space so I’m never that bothered by crying and I popped out for a break. The mat can be a good place to feel a trigger and to try to break an old fight or flight pattern by returning to the breath.
Can grounding grind us down? Well I do struggle with balance and we should ground before rising but I struggle when I get trapped anywhere. Try sticking me in an MRI scanner or doctor’s waiting room and the urge to bolt is strong. If I stay I will begin to shake. This is PTSD. Yet place me in an operating theatre with a camera and I’m chilled, lucky as I’m working for the NHS at the moment! The issue is not the room, but the feelings of being powerless and trapped and knowing something will hurt. Many of you will know this feeling too. Childhood trauma is something we carry. I cannot escape it and yet the irony is that my body screams “run” when I need to remain. It can precipitate a flight or a fight or a freeze or flashback. Thank goodness this is a rare occurrence for me now. Yoga and therapy help.
Sometimes my fight with grounding is that I prefer to fly. As a child I had my, “head in the clouds” to escape, now I’m much more likely to use my superpower as a creative technique rather than as a refuge. Trauma can facilitate super powers if we find a way to begin healing. I do like the floating off, it is my pleasurable and creative space. I see images and this is where I see new work in photography for me too. The dreamlike state before fully waking or when meditating is bliss and when my imagination is untethered it sees new ways to make photography projects or just a glimpse of an idea to explore.
When I’m shooting I am barefoot, if you have sat for me you will know I don’t do shoes. I love to spread my toes and feel the earth, or floor. When I hold a camera the shoe confines me, you may notice that I focus on my breathing and find somewhere still inside of myself so that I can fully be present for you. Magnum Photo said my work has, “A lot of heart and empathy” and my mentor Aj always insists we must shoot from the heart. This is my process and the yoga and portraits are one and the same to me.
I’m making new work on how we heal from trauma, whether it is physical, or mental pain - the body keeps the score. Get in touch if you want to.
If you want to know more, click the link to the article below by Susi Wrenshaw from Glamour Magazine.
A friend asked me this question recently and I wonder how any woman does not know they reality of sexual and workplace abuse. I was brought up in the 1980s when women had to obey and honour husbands and fathers, where hitting children was commonplace in the home and schools, where women might go to university but still needed to study “domestic science” at school to be able to cook and sew for men and children. Where I boycotted needlework classes because I wanted to do woodwork and it was not permitted for girls. I ended up in the Headmaster’s office a few times asking that the school obey the sex discrimination law of 1975. The head said my handwriting looked like loose knitting.
My first work experience before university : at ICI doing some admin in the office. Taking the post trolley around the men in suits in the office it was common to have my bum groped. I asked the other women for help and they told me not to be uptight, they all do it.The men were having fun, I may have asked one to get off me. It did not stop the “boys” feeling me up though.
University: the study of dead white men. Tedious.
The Dull Summer Job: not very sporting to refuse the affections of my boss. Fired.
Finals: Studying in the library for long hours in the Eng. Lit. section wondering why a barrister kept seeking me out to sit opposite me and masturbate. Told staff who said they had no idea what to do. Phoned police, saying no matter where I moved to he found me, and had done many times. The police arrived and a plain clothed woman officer said sit there if you can, so I can catch him in the act. Success. Red handed. The other students looking on in horror as he stood up with his fly undone wearing handcuffs. Then it got harder for me as the police prepared me for the court case, you will have to answer,
“How many men have you slept with?
Any history of mental illness?
Under your jeans what colour was your underwear?
Why did you not stop him?”
I had not realised it was me who was on trail.
He refused to turn up to the court. The rumour, (I had a spy), in the chambers was that a woman had got hysterical. Nice promising young barrister is Martin, doesn’t need this. My sister had it worse because she worked at a fancy big legal firm and they sacked every woman who spoke out - until the 2000s when they allowed women to become lawyers that is. It is 2022 and the BMJ just published a report on women surgeons and sexual harassment in the workplace.
So seriously why did those women not take Prince Andrew to court?
Do you have moments of joy, peace, contentment? Do you know someone who is comfortable in their skin? Maybe you are thinking this is too difficult in a world of pandemic, climate change and rancid government where only the rich can afford heating! But, if you are a seeker of a life well lived, with ease and meaning ,would you chat to me, or send this to a friend? After 2 years looking at the trauma and darkness of domestic violence I am interested in how we heal and I have been experimenting upon myself. You do not need to have experienced domestic abuse, though all humans may experience darker days, grief or pain and it can transform us. I’m trying to find those who know how find happiness! Maybe in an activity, in a love, in work, in nature?
I am drawn to these people, the alchemists who speak of a journey but see no ending just a work in progress. We chose different destinations. When a person knows suffering they have an opportunity to learn compassion. Even when we heal and transform, the shadows stay hidden in our bodies. The body keeps the score, the heart may be torn, the shoulder burdened. Seek the light to carry the darkness with ease.
My images are a showcase of moments, life and emotion distilled into one frame. To depict a person’s breakages and make something wonderful from fracture. Honouring transitions and allowing change and growth to exist in the frame. Breakage and repair are part of the history of a person, rather than something to disguise. The repair is literally illuminated. A visual record of mends and seams, a photograph celebrating repair or rebirth.
If you click on my “About” page you can see my artist bio and a short film about my work.
Get in touch with your thoughts.
- British Journal of Photography 365 Winner 2021
- Julia Margaret Cameron 2021 runner up
- Royal Photographic Society International Award shortlist 2021
- BarTur Awards shortlist 2021
- AOP Emerging Talent Finalist 2020
- Photo London 2020
- BJP Portrait of Britain Winner 2019
- BJP Portrait of Britain finalist 2017
In my portraits I seek the transformation - the people who take risks to begin again. They rise. The unlucky fall back into old patterns and the comfort of old habits. Some though attain a growth. I am drawn to these people, the alchemists who speak of a journey but see no ending just a work in progress. A few feel trapped and unable to move on though they long to. We chose different destinations. When a person knows discomfort or suffering they have an opportunity to learn compassion. Breakage and repair as part of the history of a person, rather than something to disguise. A visual record of mends and seams, a photograph celebrating repair or rebirth. Honouring transitions and allowing change and growth to exist in the frame.
This winter I’m looking for those who feel they have grown during covid, those who feel they took time out to learn about themselves or who found unknown strengths. The women who took a course or took up yoga, or reached out to another. Model for me, I will gift you a print as a thank you. That way you can put it on your desk, in the hall, by your bed to celebrate the moments you are awesome and a personal journey undertaken.
Manchester based UK. Sessions in December/ January. This is not a sales pitch (I know some ask you to model and then try to sell you prints). Portrait sitting and tfp (time for print = you give me an hour and I give you a print). Explore my website and portrait commissions, your image will be used for marketing purposes here : https://alliecrewe.myportfolio.com/portraits
“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.” – The Alchemist
I was sent to photograph *** by a domestic violence charity in Bolton. She had survived a murder attempt by her ex partner and had a very wise soul. At the end of our shoot she had a message for me, about healing. It was uncanny as I had uttered her words 24 hours before admitting that I needed help to heal, to photograph healing and transformations. I knew the darkness but sought the light. In her job as a healer she knew how to open a door for me. I love to research and had ploughed through psychiatry books and lectures on trauma but I love experiential learning. If I could feel healing, would I be able to see it in others when holding my camera? I lept on her table. We cannot do it all alone and she was offering to teach me. I think she is wonderful and gifted!
In my portrait series on domestic abuse I seek the transformation - the people who risk all to begin again. They may lose a home, family, a social standing, a job. They walk out on their beliefs and values. There is often a breakdown. They rise. The unlucky fall back into old patterns and the comfort of old habits. Some though attain a growth after trauma. Many speak of the work they put into transition, I am drawn to these people, the alchemists who speak of a journey but see no ending just a work in progress. A few feel trapped and unable to move on though they long to. We chose different destinations. When a person knows desolation and suffering they have an opportunity to learn compassion.
My images are a showcase of moments, life and emotion distilled into one frame. Each image expresses many things, each has a surface story yet is also open and ambiguous, to be read differently by each viewer. To depict a person’s breakages and make something wonderful from fracture. Honouring transitions and allowing change and growth to exist in the frame. Breakage and repair as part of the history of a person, rather than something to disguise. The repair is literally illuminated. A visual record of mends and seams, a photograph celebrating repair or rebirth.
Photo of my friend Isabel as the series is hidden until it exhibits in spring 2022 with SICK! Festival and SafeLives.