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Courting Controversy

Last night I went to the City Life Awards 2019 as my exhibition “You Brought Your Own Light” was nominated. Ever since I found out about the nomination I have felt like I had already won - to have work short listed is a win for me. Yet last night I was shaking when the nominations were read out, it’s a bit like the Oscars, they do the five nominated and then Andy Burnham announced the winner.

Of course Bee in the City won. I knew that would happen as the winner was chosen by popular vote and the Bee Trail was a terrific game in the city with families and tourists. Absolutely a no brainer! Trans women are not a game. This morning I saw that the group ReSisters Unite have defaced many statues all over the country including Emmerline Pankhurst’s statue in Manchester. Thank you Joni Grace Indolent for removing that one - hope somebody took the other three down in my city too. 

Conservative feminists and a right wing religious group believe that trans women are a threat to society. To photograph trans women in a manner that explores their humanity and dignity is a controversial act. LensCulture recently described my work as, 

” A terrific body of work. These images have a lot of heart and empathy….these images are, in some sense an account of love and are timeless in that sense. They do not judge, in fact they celebrate in a gentle and accommodating way.” 

I do not judge, I work at being kind and gentle. The trans women I meet have become friends, they have suffered and they forgive. They sit for me and I ask for their souls. If my work goes, “beyond the surface” I have looked into the hearts of these women and captured human stories. I do not mind if others see trans women differently but I will continue to photograph these narratives and challenge hate.

If you’d like to be a part of this portrait series get in touch x

Taking My Clothes Off on Instagram

Would you post a shot of you in your underwear or bikini on social media?

I wonder why we do that? I wanted to show off my “yoga toned bikini body” and it felt like everyone else did it and as I shoot lots of nudes I wanted to experiment. So how did it make me feel? Unnervingly I loved it. I felt proud of myself, sexy and thought, “Woah -I’m like all of the other babes out there!” This is a new feeling. 

My clients loved it too. They felt I was now the same as them, exploring my sexuality publicly and staking a claim for body positivity.  Man did I feel validated. Yet is this type of image really a sexual revolution? My daughter took that shot and I had messy hair and no make up on - extra points to me!

As a feminist I do not like the way that men are often judged for performance and women for our “looked - at- ness”. So much of feminine identity is bound up in appearance and conforming to ideals of femininity: slim, hair, make-up, sexy clothing. We perform womanhood armed with our MAC palette and GHDs. 

As a female photographer I try to challenge this male gaze - do I dress you like a porn star, cover you with make-up and then add props that have a touch of S&M, ask you to lie whilst I hover over you? No, you can get that type of shoot elsewhere. My artistic references are from paintings not Play Boy (or 50 Shades of Grey). I strive to let you explore the nude form, the real you. Of course I will book you hair and make-up if required but the pleasure is in showing you the beauty within you. The image here is from a series of nudes for a cancer charity. This woman has accepted her altered body ( though I suspect that we all have to work on self love everyday) and I wanted to show her power. She is not a sex object, yet to me she is utterly gorgeous. My bikini shot was not on this level. 

So many of my emotions conflict, it’s fun / no it’s demeaning / I like it/ but I shouldn’t. Being a woman is complicated, I don’t have all of the answers yet and in some ways I find the contradictions fascinating; ying and yang. In my personal life and work I am exploring femininity. Trans Women - yep a whole story there too!

Okay you can click to my Instagram account on the link if you really must see that bikini shot! Remember you have to follow me to peek! 

The Inner Child

DID YOUR PARENTS SEE YOU? Did they love you? Thoughts by a photographer on the broken bond between parents and children. How was growing up for you?

My childhood was one of fear and unhappiness. My father is a narcissist and a bully, my mother is silent. Does a part of me seek their love, still? When I work with ordinary families I am curious, in awe of their love, comparing their present to my childhood. I find I look at the children a lot, they all seem so perfectly imperfect and interesting and I feel they need to see themselves how I see them. I see beauty and wisdom in young ones. They remind me to be humble. 

I photograph families and some is commercial work, some are personal projects. I have been thinking about why I have chosen families as a project this year. The photo here is one I made this week  to try and construct memories and my feelings. What does it say to you? Photography is essentially about the act of observation, so what am I hoping to witness when I photograph you? I do not capture reality, truthS - yes plural. I feel that if I photograph people they are ephemeral - I witness a moment and then it changes. We are not static. During a shoot you may feel happy, sad, have a disagreement, make -up. You see there are lots of versions of you and they are all true in that moment. 

So if you are in the photograph so am I. I have a history, beliefs and I will react to you during a shoot. When my work exhibits I say - that is my soul on the wall. To make something meaningful and “artistic” it is necessary to pull my heart out and think about me. This week I went home, back to my childhood. I thought it is a new year and a new project ” Where should I begin?” With myself. I need to think about where I am in the frame before I look at you. To separate us - where do we join and separate? Am I telling my story or yours, or both? To build some self awareness is my way. 

If you have decided that I am barking; pause. Why do wedding photographers do weddings or newborn photographers do babies? If they answer, “Because it’s lucrative!” ask whether you really want a shallow person to capture your most intimate moments. Thought not. Maybe someone who reflects about her work will produce images of you that feel real and validate you and your relationships. 

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