A New Perspective 

I have a job that frequently shocks me, regularly inspires me, and usually ensures I keep a reasonable perspective about the things that bother me in my own life.

Yesterday I was working in a community that would casually be called the “poorest of the poor” by policy-makers, the media and charities alike. It’s on the outskirts of a bustling city and exists to collect and hand sort the rubbish the city and its growing middle class produces. As cars race past on a gleaming highway a few hundred metres away the rubbish arrives by horse and cart.

I spent the day at a community library that gives children who don’t go to school the chance to read, learn, and play. A group of friends were identified to feature in the short film I am making. Two interviews down we beckoned the third girl towards the camera. A cocky, confident, and funny nine-year-old, she’d been enjoying herself while we filmed the group activities, but as her moment in front of the camera arrived she shrunk back from us and her shoulders hunched.

“Are you ok?” my translator gently asked.

She shook her head.

“What’s the matter?”

The translator’s face fell.

“Because I am fat and I am not beautiful,” she’d whispered back.

There was a sharp intake of breath from the whole team. This week we’ve interviewed migrant workers who haven’t seen their children in 15 years, visited sweatshops where people sit at sewing machines for 18 hours a day, and filmed illegal night markets that provide some people with their only source of income. Somehow this little girl’s insecurities shocked all of us more than any of that. We’d been expecting the rest and knew it would be bad. We hadn’t expected this.

We would have been saddened to hear those words from a nine-year-old anywhere in the world, but somehow it seemed even more shocking to hear them in this community. But why? Just because she is poor and living a life we find hard to comprehend, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t have the same worries about how she looks or isn’t vulnerable to the same images as nine-year-olds at home are.

I can’t say I had previously assumed people in the communities like this one didn’t care about their body image because until yesterday I hadn’t actually given it any thought. But if asked I would probably have muttered something along the lines of ‘more important things to think about’. That seems patronising now.

But there are more important things to think about. A little girl born into poverty and unable to go to school shouldn’t be worrying about how she looks on camera. No more than a nine-year-old in a nice family home in a richer community should be taking pictures with a ‘slimming selfie app’. We live in a world where body image is a primary concern for little girls, whatever their circumstances.

The growing body positivity movement is heartening and thankfully it’s not just restricted to women. Projects like Kate Parker’s Strong is the New Pretty and the great A Mighty Girl initiative are helping adults think about how they support girls to think differently about themselves. I wonder if these responses will cut as deep as the images that make girls think poorly of themselves have?


Care Bears

Born in 1974, I was the target age group for Care Bear mania, which struck in the early 80s. Each teddy came with a love heart stamped on its bum. My aunt gave me this little keepsake on my birthday. “I don’t know what you’ll do with this,” she said, “but I thought it was cute.”

This week I decided what to do with it.

Love Heart


Glimpse: Part two

I’m a sucker for a cute circular story and I find it very hard to resist telling them when they occur.

Last Sunday I wrote about influence. Later in the day Maria Opens Up posted Glimpse. Now, I don’t mind admitting I’ve had a crush on Maria’s work since Pencil Skirt when she not only quoted the mighty Pulp but also managed to channel a great Boudin image.

In Glimpse, Maria referenced her own influence – a poster she had seen in Amsterdam many years ago. She spoke of an image “filled with pink and violet flowers except for a woman’s breast and part of her face.” One of her own photographs revealed a tantalising glimpse of leg from beneath her covers.

Well there’s no face, but two images came to mind: one from a shoot a while back that also gave me my profile images, and another, taken on the same morning as my own Boudin-influenced image, used last week.

So here they are: influence and inspiration at play again, right here in our own community.





I have regressed 20 years. In the best possible way.

Guy Bourdin1995: Photography students, assessed on our production logs as well as our final images. A tutor presses us to think and write about how the work of others is influencing our own. We try to resist of course, believing it to be a waste of time, distracting us from the importance of our own burgeoning portfolios. The arrogance of youth. I pulled that production log out of a cupboard recently and smiled at crispy ticket stubs, quotes scribbled from commentary on gallery walls, clippings from magazines.

2015: In the middle of life and no real attention has been paid to my own photography in twenty years. Travel photography I am proud of and better-than-average snaps of life events, but no real thought about influence or a bigger narrative. Until now. Suddenly I find myself scouring Pinterest for ideas, popping into the Photographer’s Gallery between work meetings, handwriting ideas as neatly as possible in a beautiful notebook.

And through the lenses of others I start to rethink myself. Those beautiful Brandt nudes? Wonky boobs and flat nipples abound. Breathtakingly beautiful? Hell yes! So many photographers around the world today mounting their own inspiring projects celebrating myriad shapes and sizes. A wealth of ideas informing how I will photograph friends who’ve asked to participate in this project once summer comes and I am working less.

This week’s photo was meant to be a take on the Guy Bourdin shot above, but the hands and I were 40 minutes late checking out of a hotel and I couldn’t find the image online quickly enough! It’s not exactly what I had in mind because the idea was to frame and focus on an aspect of myself I care less about, but actually they ended up being covered up anyway. My body-negative evil twin says I win there! But I think I might prefer it this way anyway: I love the photo and ‘influenced by…’ is so much more thoughtful than ‘a copy of…’

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Free the nipple, or whatever the hell else you want…

I drafted this post on Wednesday evening while a little bit hungover and as a result it’s probably a bit wordy for a Sinful Sunday post – sorry! – but I still wanted to post it!

I was reminded this week of a conversation I had with a friend the day before I first posted to this blog. I’d just shared with her my idea of turning my anonymous involvement in Sinful Sunday into more of an adventure for friends; how I was excited by the prospect they could get as much out of this as I had.

“I am a bit worried about the flowers,” I said, referring to the header on my site, “I am not sure if it’s sexy enough.” “No,” she said, “they’re perfect, they stop it being too intimidating.”

I know what she meant. It can feel intimidating posting revealing photos of yourself online. For some of us there’s a vulnerability in exposing ourselves, whether we point the lens towards our insecurities, our fantasies, or our intimate moments. For most of us, I expect, that vulnerability diminishes quickly in the face of the wonderfully supportive Sinful Sunday community who each week take the time and care to respond to each other’s posts with thoughtful words of encouragement, celebration or a simple ‘fuck, that’s hot’!

Which is why it is so sad when an individual is intimidated not by their own insecurities but by spiteful people who have nothing better to do than gossip, judge and be mean. Busy thumbs spewing out a trail of nasty tweets can quickly undo what weeks of participating in this meme have done to build body confidence. That happened to @charlieinthepool last week.

Elsewhere there’s been much international coverage for the #freethenipple campaign after an Icelandic MP posted a picture of her breasts to Twitter. She, along with thousands of other women and men who took the same action, was standing up in support of a 17-year-old who was subject to online bullying as a result of posting a picture of her chest in protest against social media censorship of women’s bodies.

It saddens me that acts of courage, whether at a very personal level or as a bolder statement against corporate censorship, are ‘rewarded’ with hate. Kindness and empathy are the greatest human qualities, offline and online. The words of support for Charlie from the Sinful Sunday community last weekend showed that kindness does thrive online, as have the actions of those who rallied behind the young woman from Iceland.

Bullies, try as hard as you want but we’ll just carry on, getting out our ‘offensive’ tits, cunts, cocks, bellies, bums, thighs and whatever the hell else we want to, whether it’s to make a political statement, as a body positive expression, or for the pure exhibitionist thrill of it.

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