I write this on a train to Oxford, zipping home to my Mum’s for a weekend in the family cocoon. Last week was difficult, slightly out of control; one of those weeks where life tests your mettle. There’s been no time for photography so I sit here as the Oxfordshire countryside races by, scrolling through my photo stream for something appropriate.
I love this photo. It’s imbued with happy memories. Taken down at Christchurch Meadows at the end of last summer, it was never intended to be more than a quick flirt to a lover. Hastily taken on an iPhone, my friend chortling as she looked out for walkers, me trying to frame it so I captured the studious boys reading in the background, but not an unflattering double chin. It was hilarious!
But don’t you find that out of laughter and exuberant behaviour sometimes comes reflection and seriousness? I can’t remember how the conversation evolved but I know I told my friend about this crazy thing I’d started doing in the last couple of months – posting naked pictures anonymously online. I told her about the words I wrote to go with them, little pep talks to myself as much as anything. If she wasn’t the first friend I told about these photos, she was certainly one of the first. And she was definitely the first to get involved in taking a photograph.
We moved to a pub on the river where we savoured the last rays of sun over several glasses of wine. The conversation flowed, vulnerabilities were shared. We talked about the relief that comes with casting aside the assumptions of how life ‘should’ look in favour of living the life you want. How we found a stronger sense of self as we hit the business end of our thirties.
Looking at this photo today I smiled at the memories. We may have ending up having that conversation anyway, but there was something about the pure fun of taking the photo and the surprise and amusement in her eyes that I was even doing it that changed the tone of the afternoon. Walls came down a little. I wasn’t to know then where my baby steps were taking me, or that the genuinely enriching conversation she and I shared that evening would be the first of many similar ones I’d enjoy with friends over the months to come as a result of Exposing 40.