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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18 Again

Exposing 40 is a photography project and the images we take and have taken of ourselves will always be the primary focus, whether they’re images that celebrate what we love, confront what challenges us, or reveal what excites us.

But stories and anecdotes that provide the backdrop to the project will emerge.

Last Saturday I spent the afternoon with one of my oldest friends. We met more than 21 years ago on our first day at university. Over the following three years we spent many hours together in the dark room, ‘dodging and burning’ to manipulate our images, long before the days of digital. We hopped on trains to London to visit the Photographer’s Gallery. Hours were spent poring over the work of Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman, Man Ray, and many more, seeking inspiration…

Guy Bourdin at Somerset House was our destination last weekend. Sexy, provocative, beautiful, funny photography. Walking around I shared the idea for Exposing 40. Her excitement was immediate. Back at her house books were dragged down from the shelf and once again our heads were together, talking through ideas. By celebrating 40 we’d become 18 again.

Later in the week I texted her with an idea for a photo:

‘Does the corset you wore to the first year May Ball still fit you?’

‘It does. Fab idea!’


‘I’ve been thinking about how to photograph my caesarean scar. It’s ugly but it’s now part of the rich tapestry of my life.’

And that’s really the essence of this. Friends coming together, celebrating beauty and reinterpreting bruises.