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!

The Last Supper

Last night I had dinner at the City Art Gallery in Manchester. I was photographing a networking event which included a tour of the works of Sylvia Pankhurst, mixing up being a guest and earning my supper! The curator took us through the art work of Pankhurst and I remembered why she was my favourite of the family. She embedded herself into the lives of working women and drew them. At the time poor women were rarely the subject of art and her work has a documentary feel to it as she drew for hours in the factories. She was using her “voice” to create a record of the lives of disenfranchised women. 

I have been asked to do the same this year. Sparkle- The National Transgender Charity - saw my photography work and asked me to work with them as an ally. I record the narratives of trans women and they need a voice. Another woman to speak out in support and challenge prejudice and misconceptions. I have agreed, at least until mainstream society can listen to trans women themselves.

The women I sat down to dinner with were also fighting for a fairer world. Sally Penni is an award winning barrister who promotes diversity, Libby is a judge and a feminist, Justina is a merchant banker who is developing ethical investments. We were all passionate about creating a better and fairer world. Although our work differs we are all actively engaged in changing the world. Some days we do grand deeds and on others tiny acts of rebellion and kindness. 

Tiny acts performed daily add up. Try it! 

Using Format