I haven’t written a post in a few months. My Mum passed away in April and it’s taken a while to get my life on some semblance of an even kilter.
During the past year when my Mum was extremely ill I’ve barely taken a single photo. There are periods when you enter survival mode and creativity does a runner. I still find myself unable to really pick up my camera or find an ounce of pleasure in my photography. I’m hoping my passion will return, but if not so be it. The worst thing any creative person can do is put pressure on themselves to create because then it becomes a chore and not a joy.
I have been looking back at older images, though, with a critical eye. There are some pictures which I love but realise weren’t edited to their full potential because I didn’t know 4 years ago what I know now. In the words of Maya Anjelou “when you know better, you do better” and although I appreciate she was taking about civil rights and not art, her words still resonate with me.
The photo most dear to my heart is called Time’s Up on Silence. It was taken in solidarity with the millions of women who came forward to speak about sexual abuse and harassment following the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which led to the #metoo and #timesup campaigns. But if I’m honest, I’ve never been happy with it.
It’s incredibly difficult to do good self portraits because you can’t see how the light falls on the subject’s face, what’s happening with the shadows, nor anything else! Which is usually fine if a portrait subject is going to be cut out and used as part of a composite, but when your face is the entire subject the smallest of imperfections really shows.
So I’ve spent a couple of weeks taking another look at my Times’ Up On Silence photo and have re-edited it. Softened the contrast, worked on the shadows as they had a green colour cast, made pores natural and visible but not distractingly so, and spent time working on my skin colour. My complexion is naturally fairly tanned but that does often come across in pictures like I’ve been Tangoed, so I usually find I have to tone down the reds to make my skin look more natural.
I’m happier with the final result. I think!
The reason this image is so precious to me, is that I spent 50 years of my life being silent about domestic abuse, medical gaslighting, sexual harassment and bullying. And now I refuse to stay silent any more, which hasn’t made me popular but at least I’m living free of the burden of other people’s shame which was never my weight to carry.
Through my photography I’ve found ways of expressing my values, experiences, pain and joy. When I’m behind the camera lens there is no-one to silence me. I’m free to just be me and to share me with you.