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On Being Free (lance)

Being Brave for £100 a Month!

18 months ago I became freelance. This shot was the shoot that kicked my butt, an image from it hung in the Getty Gallery in London (with Martin Parr) and another went to America. I awoke one morning and had an unstoppable need to leap to a new life and freewill on an adventure. I had just done something spectacular and surprised myself by producing work that was good enough to hang with great photographers. Do you let those moments pass you by? Fear change? Am I brave because I felt scared but did it anyway? A client’s blog caught my attention this week, she was watching a TED talk,

“… of one of the influencers I follow, Harriet Minter,  stopped me in my tracks and challenged my thinking. She was delivering a TED talk titled “Proceed until Apprehended” which broadly lands the message that as women we often wait to be invited or seek permission to do the things we want to do rather than jumping in feet first and chasing the dream.” Jodie Salt of The Violet Society. 

I too sought permission and hunted for people who would support me but in the end I chose all alone, because those close to me dislike change and made me feel fool hardy. They asked what if I failed, was it wise to give up job security and a pension, was I prepared to pay the price of freedom? Well yes I fucking was - because I did not want to give up my dream. I think that people who stop dreaming die a little bit everyday. 

So my husband pays the bills, we are safe and money is quite tight. My photography business is like any new venture - money does not pour in and the first 18 months have been lean. Running a business costs money, in my first tax year at least I was not in debt - WIN! Of course it was wise financially to stay in my job but my comfort zone is a dull place. I kind of figured that with my dreadful abusive childhood I deserved a chance to find out if I am worthless or maybe with more. I wanted more. I had a nine week solo show this summer,  I’m doing ok.

There are many things that I gave up: days off; buying clothes ( all my T Shirts and jeans have holes in); my beloved horse riding; coffee that is not home made; eating out…….. all of life’s little luxuries. I barter for yoga,  and a few beauty services; and a walk with friends is free. I am determined to remain independent and write a few things off as expenses but it is okay to do without for a while. I am hoping to rejoin the capitalist society I actually live in soon though. Charging my worth is the next step - now that I have realised my worth that is!

The link to Jodie Salt’s blog is below - just in case you wanted to be brave in 10 steps.

The Value of Everyday Life

When I photograph the everyday of your family life you like it. Mums and Dads tell me that they have never seen their family like this - they are caught up in this busy life and had no idea how special and intimate it feels to see their family captured so lovingly. A Dad recently told me that, he “loves the dishes on the draining board, it is the real us and feels like our normal life is valuable.” I enjoy the challenge of following you around your home and using my artists eye to find the light and composition and meaning in the story that unfolds. I am working on an art project at the moment, maybe you’d like to take part? Or maybe you’d like me to shoot you privately with no obligation to make these photos public? Either way get in touch, I’d love to know what makes your family special! Have a look on my website. 

Emmerline’s Pantry

Tonight Emmeline’s Pantry Celebrate a Year of Growth.

This work is called “Hidden Faces” - one day the women in these images will be proud, visible and they will not need my photographs to speak for them. They will have their own voices.

My social conscience tells me to be kind and authentic so a few times a year I give a charity a days work for free. Once I needed help too. Some grass roots charities need this, paying for luxuries is difficult for them until they are more established. But- are bespoke photographs a luxury? Charities care about marketing their brand and telling their story and I believe that stock images are not good enough, too generic. The story of a business should be personal. This is a story of value.

A picture is worth a thousand words - what do the images here say to you? Emmerline’s Pantry helps the most vulnerable women in society, those who have escaped domestic violence or human trafficking. Some have been shackled and 27 organisations in Manchester use the pantry to help these women build a new life. They have grown from helping 40 women a month to 40 a week. If you feed a mother and give her hope she can care for her child. I too am a mother and survivor of abuse. I am now an award winning photographer who has exhibited at the Getty London and just had a nine week solo show. I know that I did not achieve this alone and I needed people to believe in me. 

I Spent a marvellous morning with Karen Wilson who runs the charity.  We had to protect the women by not showing their faces.  I actually really loved thinking on my feet that day. I shot in an unexpected room due to a sewage leak and loved capturing these women and their children. The edit that afternoon was a tearful one for me though, I had seen such bravery and hope in that room and was aware of the context of the charity’s work. I find these shoots are humbling work and maybe that is the point: to see how far I have come and to help a charity to tell its story so they can stay open and grow. 

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