After Jeremy died I didn’t look at myself in a mirror for a whole year. I couldn’t bear to see the sadness in my own face, to see the dead look in my dull eyes and to see the grief that was consuming my whole body.
And, getting in front of a camera was almost unthinkable for me! Jeremy loved taking photos and over the 19 years we were together he took thousands – and many were of me – both at work and play. The day he died I completely lost myself. My confidence, my self-esteem, my very being… all shattered. A year of complete grief, reclusiveness, loneliness followed. When I started writing my book, Always With You, in my second year of mourning, I began turning a corner. And when it came to publishing the book I needed a new author photo and so I turned to my friend and professional photographer Sian Tyrrell for help.
So in June 2018 (nearly 2 years after Jeremy died) I faced a camera with apprehension. But I had nothing to worry about. With Sian’s guidance, support, love, friendship and talent I not only got through the session but had fun, gained confidence and began to open my heart to new beginnings.
Seeing photos of myself – with nowhere to hide – seeing the person I had become…and accepting this new person… and new life…was a process. In fact, it’s still something I work on today.
Over this past 14 months I have had the opportunity to have photographs taken by Sian for various things including a very special Anniversary Tribute in my red wedding dress and a Golden Girl shoot for Women’s International Day and of course the photo that would eventually grace the cover of my second book Online Dating @ 40.
But, as my confidence grew I realised I wanted to challenge myself and do something completely out of my comfort zone. I also wanted to challenge Sian to do something that she had not done before. And so, I began to toy with the idea of doing a semi-nude photo-shoot – all very tasteful of course. But, the photo-shoot had to have a narrative…there had to be a story to it. And so over the months, together with a make-up artist and hair stylist, we conceptualised three very distinct stories – all created from one photo-shoot – and using white saris as the main item of clothing (or draping!).
The first narrative was based around widowhood. You can see the photos and the story behind the photos HERE.
The second narrative was based around the story of the Devadasis who were temple dancers by day and prostitutes by night – and formed the history that was entwined in Bharata Natyam – the Indian classical dance style I had learnt as a child. (Photos and blogpost will be released in September 2019)
The third narrative was based around creating an old, mouldy statue! I know, I know! It was weird (but quite simply wonderful!) (Photos will be released in November 2019).
There’s something hugely inspiring when a group of people come together to create a vision whether that be in dance, photography, on screen. The energy created, the camaraderie shared, the excitement experienced is really special!
And today, I once again feel confident, empowered and positive and ready to face the future. The photo-shoots have been a big part of that – and I’m hugely grateful to Sian for that.
If you are struggling with your self-esteem or confidence then I urge you to think about having a photo-shoot with a sympathetic photographer. For me, it’s been a huge blessing and hugely empowering. You might find it does the same for you!
Photographs: © 2019, Sian Tyrrell @siantphoto for The Powdered Lens @thepowderedlens
Make-up: Declan Scammell @declanscammell for The Powdered Lens
Hair: Charlotte Silvester @charlie.silvester.hair for The Powdered Lens
Photograph Model: Shalini Bhalla-Lucas