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Providing a Safe Haven

“I have looked at them many times and they have sent my imagination into overdrive as to what could be.” Karen

Could you choose not to live your authentic life. How would it feel to be 60 years old and to still be trapped in the wrong body, living a lie? Why might someone choose to do that? What if you had a business, a wife, children and grand children and you knew that to live authentically may destroy your family? Would you be brave to protect them or braver to live as you needed to?

Would you spend your life wondering what it would be like to live as a woman, knowing that you are a woman and pretending to be a man? Gender is a performance we act masculine or feminine. It must be very painful to act all day every day. 

Karen came to me because she wrestles with these choices. She found my website and read about my work, she got in touch to find out if I was trustworthy and sensitive. Could I provide a make-up artist who would respect her privacy. Could we let her become the woman that she is and photograph Karen so that she could take those images home and think about her life? She asked me to post this blog. 

Many transgendered people live this way, many “come out” at the Sparkle weekend in Manchester each July. But if you cannot face hurting your family you can come to me for portraits and to see your authentic self. It may stir your imagination too. 

Sam’s Diamonds, Women Surviving Cancer in the Northwest.

I recently began to work with Samantha Lewis of the charity SAM’S DIAMONDS who believe that, “We create a united front against Cancer, allowing women to feel empowered, moving forward with their lives and making the most out of every day.” My friend Louise has breast cancer, she is not my first friend to face this illness. Who of us has a family untouched by the disease? It seems ironic that her Mother-in-Law, Nydia Testa was a famous Professor and scientist who lead a team at The Christie and has also had cancer. 

SAM’S DIAMONDS offers support and a shared understanding from women in the same position. The group gives that all important reassurance and peace of mind that allows women to look forward to the future. They have decided to commission a series of portraits to tell their stories and celebrate their lives. I jumped at the chance to work with them after recently photographing a client who has had a pioneering breast reconstruction by surgeon Siobhan O’ Ceallaigh. I like to tell stories and particularly stories of women who overcome adversity. 

So a Calendar Challenge! Firstly I need to meet Sam on Tuesday to listen to some stories. Then work out how to photograph them so that a diverse group of women are represented. Finally through research and pin boards and mind maps I will work out a vision! As I am shortly to complete my series on Trans Women this new project comes at just the right moment.

Celebrate Your Inner Goddess

How do you expect to feel if you have to battle breast cancer? Terrified and angry? I know my breasts are not all that defines me as a woman, but I find them very feminine and I love having them. Susan Bullows came to me for a portrait shoot last week, she wanted to celebrate surviving breast cancer. She wanted her make-up doing by Artur Biernat, she wanted to celebrate being 60 years old. I thought she was rather magnificent! Susan has the wisdom that comes with age and when I lamented that so few mature women want a portrait, she went one further and said, “Now we have done some for my family to show them I am well and happy, I want to do some for me.”

So Susan asked for some topless work, and I love doing nudes! Wow, when a woman feels comfortable in her skin and wishes to celebrate her real body. A body with scars, wrinkles and the stretch marks that come with having two sons. This is what we should be sharing with our daughters – that a woman does not need to be sexualised and that she may love and accept her body. That the body tells a story and its narrative is vital.

Susan met a fabulous “ray of light” in Siobhan O’Ceallaigh, who is a plastic surgeon who reconstructed Susan’s breast using tissue from her own body rather than silicone. 95% of surgeons are men. It took another woman to help Susan to feel whole again. Looking at this image I am struck by how it perhaps took another woman to see the need for the gift of reconstructive surgery. You can find Siobhan at Wythenshawe Hospital in South Manchester and the Spire Hospital in Manchester too.

Be a wise woman like Susan, celebrate the real you!

Be Authentic.

Allie x

The Getty Images Gallery Exhibited 2017.
The Lloyds of London Exhibited 2017.
“Intimate Portraits” Published in America by Joyce Tenneson.
British Photography Awards 2017, Short List.
Magnum Photography Awards 2017 “Highly Rated.”

Be part of “Best Emerging Talent” (LensCulture), you just don’t know whose wall you might end up on!

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