Folly

Our laughing entwined
With the chatter of magpies
Folly unconstrained

@19syllables, @JediHamster100 and I went down to the woods this week. So much fun! “What Amazons we are!” said Haiku on seeing the photos. She and I below by Jedi Hamster; Jedi Hamster by me is over here! Haiku above is by @19syllables.

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Sinful Sunday

Shinrin-yoku

Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term that translates as forest bathing. It’s a practice that promotes the calming and restorative benefits of spending time in forests and participating in activities that keep you in touch with nature.  I can confirm that a walk in the woods with Molly Moore, with plenty of gossiping and giggling and occasional stops to get naked is indeed rejuvenating!

Molly wrote a great account of our day out for Wicked Wednesday a couple of weeks back – read it and see more of the photos here. Thanks for a fab afternoon, lovely. xx

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Sinful Sunday

 

 

Fuck me and marry me young…

Snow on the river and two by two

Took a lot to live a lot like you, I don’t

Go there now, but I hear they sung

Their “fuck me and marry me young”

Some wild idea and a big white bed, now

You know better than that, I said.

Driven Like The Snow, Sisters of Mercy

I bloody love sentimentality. And if the precursor to sentimentality is getting drunk with my oldest best friends in the world then, bring it on. Which is how I recently found myself promising to get some Goth into Exposing 40! So here you are my friend, a little Sisters of Mercy, a lot of kohl and the long black velvet gloves I wore to my 18th birthday party. The Manics-inspired fishnets shot will follow soon, I promise…

Dark 1  Dark 2

Dark 3

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Look At Me Now

You may recall, back in May my friend wrote Behind the Camera and some of the Sinful Sunday regulars left some typically encouraging and beautiful comments. My friend loves this project and has taken a few of my photos but at the time didn’t feel ready to share her own or be ‘judged’. Judged is a loaded word, frequently used pejoratively. I knew this was a word that couldn’t be applied the Sinful Sunday community, but I understood what she was getting at.

Last week she was judged. In the most appalling way. Within a work context, in a ‘professional’ meeting, people saw fit to make comments on her weight and appearance and align this to work performance. Even writing this is making tears of anger prick behind my eyes.

Her response? A spur of the moment message to me, and THIS. Photo by me, words by her. And I’m so proud of her. Do your best Team Sinful Sunday – judge away…

Look at me now

I’ve never invited your comments, your opinions, but you gave them to me whether I wanted them or not.

You made me sad, angry, ashamed, and you made me want to hide myself.

But look at me: strong legs, capable arms, glorious breasts.

What’s your judgement of me now?

Look At Me Now

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1995

Early in July, before Molly announced this month’s vintage prompt, I was rifling through old negatives trying to find a photograph I could remember taking some twenty years ago. What I found instead was a set of images I had no recollection of taking.

“It seems I have taken naked pictures of you before.”

 “No! I sooooo don’t remember that!”

The photos are hilarious and on the whole pretty amateur; a shot of my friend’s lovely legs ruined by a clothes horse in the background; us trying (and failing!) to look moody sultry rock star-ish. But I love these. The tilt of her neck in the first one suggests contemplation and makes me wonder what she was thinking about. In the second the definition of her back and the nip of her waist is beautiful.

The bundle of vest just at the bottom of the second shot hints at a shyness about getting completely naked. In fact, I am pretty sure this wouldn’t have been the case – it’s more likely that we just weren’t thinking about the aesthetics. Although I wonder what we would have thought if someone had told us that in twenty years’ time she’d have turned around so I could capture her Whitechapel Smile?

Turn     Straight

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A Date With My Past

LettersI revisited my past last weekend. Did I time travel? As near as feasibly possible I did, yes. I am moving house soon and am currently dismantling my home of 11 years, deciding what comes with me and what goes. Shoved at the back of a cupboard, untouched for the whole time I have lived here, and in reality much longer, was a box of letters. A very large box of letters. In fact, all of the letters I received from the point at which I went to university aged 18, to my mid-twenties.

I read every one of those letters. I read from 6pm on Friday evening until 1am on Saturday morning. I was on the sofa again by 7am and read through the day. I returned from the theatre at 11pm and folded the last letter away at about 2am on Sunday morning. I am sure those letters bought joy, comfort and some sadness when I received them, but reading them 20 years on in one intense sitting was a truly hilarious, heart-warming and eye-opening experience.

We all know teenagers and young adults are a seething mass of uncontrollable hormones, right? We probably all remember when the benchmark of a good night was whether we had ‘pulled’ or whether the current object of our infatuation was in the pub. But my God, I didn’t realise how ardently we articulated this. Sex, it turns out, was the constant topic of conversation.

There was the urgent and hilarious: “I am so horny I nearly crawled across the bar and asked the hot barman to give me an orgasm”, “I am such a seething mass of hormones that I want to rip the clothes off every man I see”, and one letter from a friend on the occasion of me losing my virginity, “now you know how amazing sex is you’ll be gagging for it all the time, eh?” Poetry they are not.

Battles born out of immature emotions colliding with maturing sexuality are faithfully charted. An 18-year-old friend casually drops into conversation that her ex is using her handcuffs with a new girlfriend, before describing in exhaustive detail a ‘he said, I said, I stared out the window and pretended not to hear him’ exchange. I recall being frequently annoyed (jealous?) at her bragging about her sex life. I expect when I read that letter 22 years ago I rolled my eyes at the mention of handcuffs before devouring the more familiar territory of drawn-out teenage drama. I read it with more compassion this weekend.

Then there’s my worried Mum writing during my first week at university, encouraging me to use my thick duvet, including recipes for “tasty but cheap” meals, and then at the very end casually dropping in the brand name of her pill – “better to be safe than sorry”. I didn’t grow up with my Mum so never had the period or first boyfriends chat with her. I imagine this sudden concern for the potential impact of a horny 18-year-old experiencing independence for the first time was deeply mortifying for me at the time.

And there were letters from boyfriends demonstrating such maturity that I would welcome them now. One received from a 20-year-old telling me what our relationship meant him, but also explaining that with the heartbreak of his first love still fresh in his mind he didn’t want anything very serious right now. I do remember receiving that one. I also remember my flouncing hysterical response and the look of hurt on his face as he rushed out of our favourite university haunt, and I am embarrassed. Reading it now I see integrity, kindness and respect and the subtle bear with me message. I have no idea how much time he took writing that letter but it has taken me 20 years to appreciate it.

I don’t know what made 18-year-old me squirrel away those first letters and then faithfully add to the pile for some seven years. And I don’t know how they then escaped the inevitable purges that have come as a result of living in eight flats in the intervening two decades. I am very glad they did.

Wicked Wednesday

Twenty years hotter…

Oh, is this the way they say the future’s meant to feel?

Or just 20,000 people standing in a field?

Pulp, Sorted For E’s and Whizz

A friend’s Facebook notification popped up this week. “20 years ago today three cute 20-year-old girls were hurtling their way to Glastonbury in a VW Bug. They slept in a tiny brown tent, had all of their stuff nicked, but had the time of their lives.”

Damn right we had the time of our lives. And yes, we may have been cute in a young sort of way, but as the flurry of questionable old photos that followed showed, 40 whips the arse of 20. We’re significantly hotter now, and much much more sorted!

Ladies, in response to our reminiscing I promised you a Glastonbury-inspired photo, so here it is. Not sure this shot will ever replace the ubiquitous ‘hot young woman in wellies’ shot that adorns most front pages at some point during this weekend…

A friend wanted to create a trippy feeling photo to bring out the festival vibe. I love it, but *think* I prefer the original. What do you think?

The Making of The Great Exhibitionist

I enjoyed writing the story of my escapades with @Fdotleonora in New York Public Library and the ‘making of…’ theme carried through to Whitechapel Smile. People seemed to enjoy reading these little insights so I will continue sharing the fun of Exposing 40’s collaborations…

I’d had my eye on taking a picture in my local park since last summer. As I took breaks from my desk, or cut through it on the way to the pool, I would eye up its nooks and crannies – stone archways, wooded areas, an ancient maze with its escape gate, DINOSAURS! I actually had it in mind as a location for a friend whose picture I enjoy taking occasionally. I probably banged on about it a bit too much, not being very mindful of the fact that however lacking in inhibition someone is, getting up at 6am to take all their kit off in a London park might not be their cup of tea.

It turns out it’s mine.

Sunday’s photo has been on my list since before I even set up this blog, a recce shot snapped and the words written way back in early February when I was still fresh from the adrenalin rush of my ‘tits in Tiertgarten’ photo. Mid-February round a pub table and Exposing 40 was born; that night I asked my friends to take the photograph. Ever since, we’ve been waiting for a suitably sunny morning to coincide with the weekend when the runners and dog walkers would not be out quite as early as in the week.

Or so we thought.

Striding towards the park, shortly after 6.30, clutching plastic beakers of tea, it’s hard to ignore the number of people out and about. “There won’t be as many in the park,” I muse out loud, aware that I am trying to reassure myself more than make conversation. We’re bleary-eyed but excited. Three of us had chatted energetically the night before about our own personal responses to this project and the thoughts and feelings it’s throwing up as we more keenly think about our own self-image and relationship with our bodies. Ideas were born for future photographs. For me and for them.

Into the park and down to the arches. A jogger passes. We glance at each other. “What are you doing? Go back to bed you fool!” says L, not loudly enough for him to hear. I start to strip off, grabbing the sarong I have brought in case a quick cover-up is called for. My back is to the park so I don’t really have a clue what’s going on behind me. I trust my friends completely.

M: “raise your arm,” “arch your back,” “turn a bit towards me,” “stick out your chest.”

L: “you’ve got about ten seconds,” “that dog walker is staring,” “Ok, STOP. NOW!”

I feel far calmer than I thought I would. The sun feels warm. I am enjoying myself.

ShadowArchways done we start to explore other ideas. M decides the park is getting too busy and the giant rhododendron bush is a bit too scrubby for me to walk across the grass and disappear into it as she planned. Then we inadvertently interrupt a drugs deal while scrabbling round an overgrown terrace. Enough. Time’s up.

We walk towards the spot where we plan to have fizz and pastries. We chuckle at a bloke doing self-conscious lunges in a flat cap. Then we look ahead and see the sun shining perfectly on the stonework ahead.

“You’ve got to do it,” says M.

I do.

Flat-capped-lunging-man can’t stop staring.

That photo will follow in a few weeks. In the meantime I give you another arches shot. I was going to post this alongside Sunday’s image because we decided we liked them equally but somehow when posted together they detracted from each other. Did I make the right choice on Sunday or do you prefer this one?

*we now have a black and white version too!


 

Behind the Camera

My Twitter profile describes this as a “body positive photography adventure for friends of all shapes & sizes. Some behind the camera, some in front, some provide ideas.” Completely unprompted, this has just arrived in my inbox. I am blown away. But for the record, I disagree with the first bit…

Let’s get the sob-story stuff out of the way first.

I’ve always known I wasn’t pretty. A school photographer implied it when I was 13 and my mother confirmed it for me not long after that by telling people at a family gathering that my older sister had been a beautiful baby. When I asked if I’d been beautiful, she told me I’d been ‘funny-looking’.

Never fish for compliments, boys and girls, you might just find an old boot on the end of your line.

Anyway. As a result of trying to be more pretty I’ve experimented over the years with a selection of unwise make-up products, awful clothes, and no-sane-person-would-willingly-choose-this hairstyles. My clothes size over the years has fluctuated between a size 22 and a size 14 (the black coffee and cigarette years). I’ve got weird teeth. Honestly, I could sit and tell you every single thing that’s wrong with my body and my face and I could probably also tell you every fat-shaming comment that’s been directed my way. Some of them are even in French, ooh la la.

But that’s as far as the poor me diatribe goes.

What I don’t have in looks, I more than make up for in personality. I have a brain. I have a wicked sense of humour. And I am creative.

As soon as C told us about Exposing 40 I started thinking of photographic concepts. For other people rather than for myself, although I did have an ill-advised attempt at some selfies in a pair of spike-heeled sex-shoes. I’ve been reading the blog avidly and am marveling at how stunning all the photos look, and the precious stories behind them.

I’m not planning my own naked photo yet. I don’t feel comfortable yet with the idea of being a) photographed and b) judged. But this weekend I’ll be up at 6am to art direct what is sure to be a gorgeous shot. I have sketches aplenty and more ideas than you can shake a stick at.

I may not be a beauty, but I’m a fucking goddess when it comes to creating something beautiful.

Whitechapel Smile

I have been so excited about taking this photograph! It was really important to me that the first person who I photographed for Exposing 40 was this friend. Call me sentimental.

Yesterday morning. Tea and toast in a sunny kitchen, catching up on gossip. Then: “Darling, we are going to the bathroom to photograph the scar where you came out of Mummy, you can come in if you want.” My God, my friend is the most laidback cool mum. Her son is a dream.

Footsteps pad down the hallway towards us and a face appears, bearing very important news: “Auntie Catherine, this is a Roman warrior.” A few minutes later: “MUMMY, there’s a bee in the kitchen.”

It was funny and perfect and I will hold the memory close.

The Whitechapel Smile is what my friends (her husband is not just her husband, he’s my friend too!) call her caesarean scar, in an affectionate nod to the hospital where their son was born. When we first chatted about photographing her scar she described how she once hated it but now thinks of it as being part of the “rich tapestry of my life.”

We talked about it yesterday. She touched on her issues with the physicality of the scar – the lip it’s created that’s visible through swimwear, the fact that underwear slips down and gets caught uncomfortably in the ridge. But more interesting were her reflections on how motherhood had changed her relationship with her body.

That relationship had always been a close one – it wasn’t disassociated from the rest of life in the way some people separate their physical and intellectual selves: “I really inhabited my body, I was aware of it.” Childbirth changed all of that. Nearly four years on she says it’s only really in the last six months that she feels really in touch with her body again, that it is once again becoming an expression of herself and her sexuality.

“What’s happened in the last six months?”

“From 30, when I looked in the mirror my feelings about what I saw were all about not looking as good as I once had. I felt like I was fading.”

She was driving as we chatted and glanced away from the road to me.

“We are aging really well you know. We both look bloody good for 40.”

Eyes back to the road.

“Now, when I look in mirror I don’t see what’s gone I think ‘bloody hell you look good for your age.’ Forty feels like a turning point.”

Thank you for yesterday, my glorious friend.

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