Shits and Giggles

Honey, 19syllables and I have had a day out. We started off at the Royal Academy taking in the erotic nudes of Klimt and Schiele before wandering through the west end to Drury Lane where we grabbed a bite to eat and a bottle of fizz in Sarastro. Little did we know that we hadn’t see the last of the erotic art for the day! But when faced with these toilets we couldn’t not do photos, could we? It’s almost like I had a premonition when I named our WhatsApp chat ‘Shits and Giggles’ earlier in the week!

Sinful Sunday

Who was Albert Ede?

It’s no secret that I love shooting in cemeteries. You can rummage around my site or other people’s and you’ll find many examples me and my friends of getting naked with dead people! Something I often wonder when we’re having one of these adventures is what are the stories of the people who inadvertently feature in our photos? Tonight I decided to find out and with a little bit of rudimentary research amongst free public records I started to build a picture of Albert Ede’s life.

Born in the summer of 1886, Albert was the middle child of Thomas and Sarah. The couple were married young by today’s standards – teenagers. As newlyweds they lived on Isabella Street, which for Londoners, or those who know London well, is the little street just off The Cut where you’ll find lots of restaurants under the railway arches.

Albert’s birth was registered north of the river in Clerkenwell, which may have something to do with his father’s work as a brass molder; the area was a hub for watchmakers. However, by the time of the 1901 census the family were living just five minutes walk from Isabella Street on Cornwall Road. By then Sarah was a widow and 14-year-old Albert was a messenger boy.

The 1911 census tells us the family had then moved to Lothian Road in Brixton. Albert was 24 and single. His elder brother had moved out but his three sisters were all single and living at home. That four adults in their twenties should all be single and living at home with their mother fascinates me. In the early twentieth century this was very unusual. Did Albert ever marry? Without paying for his death certificate I can’t know for sure, but the dedication on this headstone is by Sarah to her son and two years after he died she was buried with him so it seems unlikely.

Albert didn’t live long enough to participate in the 1921 census – the war records show that he died on 25th January 1917, aged 30. He was Private Ede and serving in the Army Service Corp, the branch of the army that was responsible for coordinating logistics, from transport to stationery, food to fuel. He died at home in Brixton and was buried three miles away in Nunhead Cemetery.

I would love to know how he ended up with such a grand headstone when his family’s professions and circumstances would suggest a modest income. I’d love to know what he looked like, his personality, what impact his father’s death had on him, what his relationship with his mother and siblings was like, whether he had lovers.

In a parallel universe where the internet hasn’t delivered up the basic facts of a life lived more than a hundred years ago and where we can’t see that the dedication is from a mother to a prematurely departed son, I like to think of this second photo being one of those lovers visiting their “dear Albert.” Where Maria strips naked in the cemetery to feel as close to him as possible. I wonder what he’d think about his headstone being used in this way?

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

Collaboration

I describe Exposing 40 as a collaboration. My strapline is ‘Friends. Photography. Adventure.’ So I really couldn’t let this week’s Wicked Wednesday prompt go past unmarked. In the true spirit of the word I decided to produce a collaborative post. I chose my favourite photos of four amazing 40-something women and asked them to send me some thoughts to use alongside them. I don’t really know why I was surprised by their words as all four are so generous with their love, but they made me laugh and cry and I now feel a bit of a plum for creating a post that’s one big love in. I hadn’t intended this to be a willy waving exercise! We hope you enjoy our collaborative post!

Honey
Exposing 40 is a force of nature when it comes to collaboration. I was naked in front of her camera the second time we met – although that time, I’m not sure I was the most easy and relaxed model. Since then, it has been so much fun giggling around places with less and less clothing. I know it is an Exposing 40 day when I am making sure I can whip my clothes off in a flash (and whip them back on again-but that is less exciting). One of the brilliant things about photo adventures with Exposing 40 is the combination of amazing ideas that she comes ready with, or thinks of in the moment and the fact that she is also up for any chaotic ideas of my own. The best thing though is that out of a day of outrageous, soul nourishing giggling and mirth, there is suddenly later the ping of amazing images landing in an inbox. It takes a lot for me to completely relax when there is a camera pointing at me, and yet, Exposing 40 knows that I can’t wait for another chance to strip off and cavort for her. I think that is the gold standard of collaboration. The fear is gone (although there is the tingle of fear of being caught) and the joy of creating together shines through. How she manages to get crisp images of giggling models is her secret to tell.

Maria
When I visited the UK for Eroticon ’17 I knew one of the main things I wanted to do was go on a photo adventure with Exposing 40. I long to take outside photos when I’m on my own at home but for some reason, I’m paralyzed by fear of being seen or getting caught. But when I was with Exposing 40 I felt like I could easily whip my kit off anywhere and the fact that we were together was a magical form of protection. Partly because we were having so much damn fun and partly because I knew that Exposing 40 could talk her way out of any legal or awkward public scrape we might encounter. We took our photos in the loveliest overgrown cemetery, there were sometimes people only yards away, but I felt secure and confident and had the time of my life. Having my photo taken by her, specifically, gave me new eyes to see myself. A pose or angle that I normally would have cut if I were taking the pictures of myself suddenly became beautiful because I was seeing myself, my figure, through her eyes. I felt beautiful in ways I hadn’t before. The other thing I love is that she includes non sex blogger friends on her blog. I am still intensely private about mine at home, so seeing her open up to let people in that way is lovely. And something I am still aspiring to. What breakthroughs could be made in my long-standing friendships if I opened up to them about this aspect of my life?

@19syllables
On our recent daytrip to the seaside Exposing 40 and I made getting a shot for the Sinful Sunday diptych prompt our mission. A diptych is often described as a matching pair of images, but this is not true. The two parts of diptychs are never matching; they are always different but together tell a story. This reminds me of our friendship. Exposing 40 and I are two things that that complement each other, not a matching pair. We have chosen to structure our lives very differently. I am married; committed happily and whole-heartedly to one man for decades (and forever), in what looks from the outside to be a relationship constructed on the traditional, establishment model. Exposing 40 has crafted a more unorthodox, non-monogamous structure for herself which is bespoke to her preferences. She is also actively and joyfully child-free, whereas a central, defining and love-filled part of my life is that I am the mother of four. Sometimes it feels as if the media would like women like us to pitch ourselves against each other; the traditional against the bohemian, but we’re having none of it. She is resolutely happy for me, quick to celebrate my family’s triumphs and console me through inevitable bumps in the road, and I only feel admiration for her choices and the way she conducts herself. Honest to herself and those she connects in a way I have not encountered close-up with anyone else before.

Tabitha
I have always struggled with body confidence – my photos for Sinful Sunday are always carefully curated, 99.9% being trashed. I was so nervous when Exposing 40 approached me for a photo. What if she indeed exposed the truth I felt about my own body? She didn’t, she exposed the beauty I didn’t believe was there. I am so grateful. I love even more when we do a shot together, giggling as the timer goes off. Just lovely. Being photographed by Exposing 40 is thrilling beyond belief- not only at the time where, for that naked half hour your world vibrates with the excited buzz of possibly getting caught – to the moment the photos are sent through. To be photographed from angles you never see of yourself, being able to recognise yourself through another’s eye. To look at a photo somebody else took and not be horrified. It is liberating, exhilarating and has changed every walk I now go on. Now I’m always scouting for the next Exposing 40 location. Thank you my friend, you’ve changed the way I see myself – it’s actually life changing x x x


Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

Muse

“I am my own muse, I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to know better.” Frida Kahlo

I’ve written before about meeting two wonderful women in 2016, naked and on stage at a life drawing class at the WOW festival. On a cold (although little did we know what weather was just around the corner!) Saturday in January we headed off for an outdoor adventure. Here’s the first photo from that day out. Just look at this fabulous Frida Kahlo jacket and awesome silver DMs! If you’re based near Bath and want to check out where my friend got her awesome jacket visit this shop.

Sinful Sunday

When Love-Affair Friendships End

This time last year I’d just been dumped. Not quite ghosted but not far off. In the year since it happened I’ve trodden the well-worn post-break-up path; there’s been shock, disbelief, ‘what did I do wrong?’ wondering, looking at their social media feeds, sadness, anger and bitching. The only good thing about it all is that I haven’t been going through it alone. You see, I wasn’t dumped by a lover, I was dumped by a friend and Jedi Hamster and Charlotte Brown were dumped at the same time.

The screen grab opposite is the message that dropped into our WhatsApp group (and yes, don’t judge, we did also have a separate for-spoiler-avoidance GBBO chat!) and then ‘xx left’. Just like that. Actually, probably not ‘just like that’. In hindsight the signs had been there for a while: subtle and not-so-subtle silences that would smart; an air of disapproval and judgement; casual criticism of things we’d always enjoyed together that felt like a point being made; and sometimes just undeniably mean behaviour.

But why am I using this language? Isn’t it a bit relationship-y? Well, yes, but in the last week I’ve discovered a new label – love-affair friendships. I picked it up in Rosie Wilby’s Is Monogamy Dead? In it she references the “impenetrable fortress of female friendship”, speaks of how “intense non-sexual trysts between women are common” and ponders whether “a world beyond the oppressive binary of relationships being either sexual or not, might be the richer and more vibrant one.”

I wonder how many of you are nodding along to that as I was when I read those words. I’d wager that many women reading this will recognise some of their friendships in those statements. Not all of them. We can ‘just’ be mates. But it’s undeniable that many (most?) of us have a handful of ‘food for the soul’ friendships that aside from the physical component can feel as intimate as the relationships we enjoy with our partners. Are those friendships more common between women than men? I don’t know!

So what was our group was like? Well, we were funny as fuck, obviously. We were so funny we decided we needed a shared Twitter account to give life to our musings and observations. That was bollocks and lasted about a month – in jokes are rarely funny to the outside world! But while the belly laughs were good, we bonded over far more than our ability to make each other laugh; all of us single, childfree and with complex relationships with our families, we recognised ourselves and our hang-ups in each other’s experiences and responses. Some of our chats about body positivity and sex probably sowed the seeds of this blog. Jedi Hamster came up with the name Exposing 40!

Should friendships like this last forever just because, for a time, they felt so significant? No, of course not! I have often thought that there’s excessive pressure for longevity and commitment placed on female friendships and an assumption of loyalty that is rarely expected of male friends or sexual partnerships. A few years back a sociologist from the University of Utrecht in the Netherland founds that on average we ‘lose’ 50% of our friends every seven years. I can believe this. Lives evolve, circumstances change and we meet new friends through jobs, travels, volunteering, new lovers.

But there’s a difference between the natural ebb and flow of ‘of the moment’ friendships and the fracturing of the ones that help shape us. And there’s no recognisable prescription for getting over those. No automatic right to mourn. If I split up with a partner and needed a cry or a bitch, that would be perfectly normal – people know how to rally for that. Break up with a friend and want to talk it out? There aren’t the same social norms around that.

But how does all this fit with a book about monogamy? Doesn’t monogamy refer to lovers not friends? Well, you might think so but Rosie explores monogamy in the wider sense. The jumping off point for her book is a survey where she poses a series of questions to help her unpick respondents’ views on monogamy and what counts as infidelity. Now, if you’re a deeply scientific person concerned with credible representative samples, then look away. Me? As a twenty-something PR who felt her cheeks burn when interrogated by a journalist about the ‘80% of Welsh respondents’ and then had to confess that the Welsh contingent in fact numbered 10, it should be said that I am not averse to a wafer-thin bit of evidence if it provides a good hook for a story. And this book is full of good stories.

If you’re endlessly fascinated with human experiences, emotions and behaviours then ignore the sample size (100!) and just soak up the stories. Through 49 pithy and anecdote-driven chapters Rosie explores what monogamy really means. If you’re not in an open relationship what counts as cheating, kissing or falling in love but doing nothing about it? Do our needs for emotional security and physical intimacy need to be found in the same person? That’s a lot of pressure for one person. If our lives are a rich tapestry of different people with whom we enjoy different connections, are we all a bit non-monogamous?

As the book is winding up she talks about the issue of language and muses that “if we don’t have the words for a particular type of loving relationship, we can’t talk about it and it remains invisible.” Like I said above, I hadn’t heard the term love-affair friendship until a week ago. I don’t actually need my friendships to be more visible in the literal sense of the word – I play a pretty open hand as far as talking about the friends that really matter to me goes! But taking that label to reconsider certain friendships was an interesting exercise.

Was our friend wrong for wanting out? No. No more than a partner would be wrong for ending a relationship if it no longer brought joy. But I also know exactly how she would have responded had a man behaved towards us in the way she did. What are our responsibilities when we decide a friendship has run its course? There’s no blueprint for ending them. But just going dark leaves a bitterness that’s sometimes a bit hard to swallow, even if the collective moaning sessions are therapeutic.

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

Night Fall

“The sky grew darker, painted blue on blue, one stroke at a time, into deeper and deeper shades of night.” Haruki Murakami

I might be more excited about posting this photo than any photo I’ve done yet. This is my amazing friend of almost three decades, looking out to sea in the North Wales town where we grew up. She had two vodkas before and about five afterwards, but how amazing does she look?! 

This photo has obviously had the colour and contrast pushed in the edit, but not quite as much as you might imagine. The clouds were moody and the sky a deep inky blue with just the faintest patches of light left. The real luck was that the beachside fishing tackle shop had forgotten to turn its fluorescent strip light off and the light through an open window was bright enough to light my friend from behind. 

Sinful Sunday