My Mum’s death taught me something which would change the course of my whole life.
They say you never get over the death of your Mum, and I don't think I'd want to. My mum died 10 years ago today. Wild. Unfathomable. That such a force of life and energy could not have been here for so long, and that the world just carried on spinning. Lots of you have travelled the journey with me and will be as shocked as I am at the passing of time. You have watched me crumple and fold and reshape myself over and over again these last 10 years. Building and reaching and changing and holding tight and digging my fingers into all of the life I could get my hands on.
As we began to plan the funeral, something I had always disliked, became an aching sinkhole that no one could heal.
My Mum battled with her weight her whole life. My image of the fridge when I was a child is filled with Weight Watchers charts, punishmentspiration, calorie counters and scales. Food was labelled as “good” (small / tasteless) or “bad” ("naughty" / enjoyable). I remember her saying she was happy the chemo and the mouth ulcers were finally “keeping the pounds off”. My Mum loathed living her life in a larger body. She did everything she could to punish it into a shape that she deemed worthy of love.
Whenever anyone got a camera out she would shriek shame or rage and sometimes both. Or she would pull a silly face until they gave up. She would she wave the lens away and shout about how much she hated how she looked in pictures. And on it went.
So that when it came to designing her Order of Service I could not find her. I could not find my Mum. All I had was picture after picture of a cross looking woman swatting away the lens or mouthing that she didn't want her picture taken.
Her body image issues stole my Mum from her daughter; because I do not have photographs which show her fun and her energy and her light and her playfulness and her joy and her oh-my-goodness-how-much-vibrance-in-one-place. I don't have any of that.
I started taking pictures of people who struggle with their body image to boost their confidence and to help their self-esteem. I started working with people who were living life through the moments which we are not meant to find beauty in: divorce shoots, miscarriage shoots, chemo shoots, menopause shoots - all of this life and tenacity and courage and what could be more beautiful and worth celebrating?
I also wanted to do this for the ones we leave behind and for the ones who come after us. What if we were able to teach the next generation that there is a whole lot of worthy in all we go through and unique beauty to be found in every moment? How different would the world look? How different would it be if we were the last generation to sabotage our own joy because we don't think that we're good enough? What if it stopped here?
I ask you to think about this next time someone asks to take your picture, or you think about a booking a photoshoot. Rather than when you are a different shape, or if you felt happier or if you had more time, or maybe not just after lockdown or this year has being hard or... What if your photos served as a legacy to honour that all bodies are worthy? What if you standing in your light empowered others? Because it does. It really does. If my Mum had seen more bodies which looked like hers celebrating their lives she would have been more confident about being seen by others. In her body. In her shape. In her glory. In her full, full, brimming full life.
Maybe you could be part of the turning of this tide. Maybe it could stop here.
So thanks Mum. It's been a hell of a ride without you, but you're still guiding me, and I really do feel like I am finally finding my true path.