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Take the picture.

I’m not photogenic.’ 'I’m not in shape', 'not wearing makeup', 'I feel fat, ugly’…old…

These are all things I’ve heard from women I’ve photographed. It’s something I heard from a friend just today.

I've heard all of these from women I found radiant and desperately wanted to point my camera at, and been refused for all of the reasons above.

Hell, I've said it myself.

I’ve heard jokes, but really admissions of fear, asking if I’ll photoshop out some body part, some undignified line.

Photography is vulnerable. It’s an intimate exchange of trust. It breaks self image wide open. . I know that feeling. That the shape of you is wrong. It’s the feeling that is wrong, not the shape. And the more I hear it the more I understand that it’s rarely, truly coming from the core being of the person in front of me. It’s taught. We are taught to pick ourselves apart. Yet each time I hear some version of 'let me hide', it’s still jarring.

Each time I see someone try to smooth their face or hide a stretch mark or ask ‘is this part of me ok’ I want to scream ‘ok according to who!?’ Who is it that made the decision to say that the lines that make up our bodies and the way we move through the world is unsuitable to be seen? The we are too strong, thin, wide to be acceptable? Which is it? Skinny fat? Fat fat? Lean? Muscular? Which one do we pick? How often do we hear ‘dress your age?’ Which is really code for, hide. Hide some part of you. Hide that you have lived.

I wish in those moments that I could give these women my camera eyeball. For lack of a better word. I want to be able to hand over the part of me that can see how the light reflects off the side of a cheek bone. The radiance of the lines around a genuinely smiling gaze.

The curve of a waist, of a stunning hour glass figure, the owner of which has been led to believe is not ‘flat enough’ to be beautiful.

The tiger lines, on the stomach of a woman who created life. LIFE!

Scars from surgeries, accidents.

Evidence of strength, of loss, of survival.

Proof that we exist.

That we inhabit our bodies.

That we move through the world.

That’s we’ve loved, lost and most importantly, lived!

As women, we are often the gate keepers of culture, of image, and we are also its harshest critics. I wish I could offer my eyes, my photographic vision, the image I see - of how beautiful every woman I’ve photographed is. How do I convey that I’m in awe? How do I translate that, so that you can see in your deepest minds eye, what I see? How do we support one another, into seeing our favourite versions of ourselves and stop shaming ourselves for not being the versions we think we should be, without knowing who’s idea that version actually is? When did the critics appear? I could go into how consumerism is designed to make a one size fits all so it’s easier to sell things to us, and so ultimately the goal is to make us all fit what’s being sold… but ugh.

What if instead I talk about Radical self love? Radical self acceptance? - if love feels like too strong a word. I’d like to lend out my photographic eye. The one that sees the beauty, and hand that eye ball over, to every person I’ve shot with, or am yet to have in front of the lens. I pick my subjects carefully. Diligently. Because I see their beauty.

I’ve yet to meet anyone with not enough of one thing and too much of another on the shape of them. Ive taken hundreds, thousands of pictures over the years… and yet. I’ve yet to meet someone, anyone, who’s body, truly, doesn’t fit.

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