Anna’s journey of self love has been a long and painful one. But, it was important for her to do. Her destructive side almost destroyed her until she found recovery. “In the beginning of recovery, it was as if I had to emotionally bleach out everything I thought I knew about life and myself and what I could rely on and rebuild.” It was important for Anna to have a group of people that would understand the process she was going through. Now, it’s time to meet them.
“This photo is of a beautiful friend of mine; her name is Kuchenga and she’s a writer and transgender feminist. Kuchenga always inspires me to remain true to my sense of self and identity, no matter how much pain or loneliness I may feel. It is not for anyone else to define us. She is a supporter of trans rights and Black Lives Matter which is so important. I don’t believe there is enough focus on the empowerment of black women and women of ethnicities other than white.
I prefer to shoot in a location that is comfortable to the person I am photographing. When people ask me what they should wear for a shoot, I often say something that either reflects them or is special to them. For this reason, Kuchenga is wearing a dress that belonged to her mother. She has created such a soothing space to call home, surrounded by books and music and empowering messages, I felt as though I was walking around an extension of her soul.”
“This photo is of a wonderful woman named Eve, although I’ve always called her Evie. She has known my family since I was six months old, so for 20 years now. Evie has the innate strength I spoke about before. Through everything she has faced in life, she remains the most loving, caring woman. She doesn’t judge anyone and I will never be too old for the kisses and cuddles she’s given me since I was a child.”
“Natasha is known by so many people as being the most exuberant, radiant woman. I call her the sunshine lady! I felt a shot of her smile, which is so infectious, would be the best way to capture her. Natasha and her energy are timeless and, to me, black and white adds a timeless quality to a photograph.
Tash is in recovery with me and her strength, love, determination, gratitude and immensely positive outlook on life is something everyone can and does learn from! Tash is London’s most fabulous bus driver. Her uniform shows just another epic aspect of who she is.”
“Caragh is my spiritual Mother. She was the first person I ever met in recovery, the first to hold space for me as she taught me to help myself. I have learnt so many things from her and with her, it makes me emotional just thinking about it. There aren’t enough words to describe her!
‘Behind every powerful woman is a broken one’, Caragh herself came up with this saying. Abuse as a child, grooming, sexual and domestic violence, addiction, death, every horrendous thing you can think of has been a part of Caragh’s story, but today she encapsulates what it means to be a truly empowered, successful woman with strength personified. I would not be alive today if it wasn’t for her.
This photo was taken in a room where the sunlight was streaming in through the window, yet leaving shadows falling around anything not directly in its path. This happens to be a metaphor for the light that Caragh is and the darkness she is no longer surrounded by.”
“This photo is of my mum. It was taken in a chair in the front room of my childhood home where my parents have lived for over 30 years. I experienced difficulties with my mental health throughout my adolescence and during some of my worst periods I would sleep all day and be awake all night in a continued cycle of self destruction. My mother is a nurse specialist and often works until late at night. I was disconnected from everyone during that time, such was the isolated nature of my mind. There were moments however where I would be wide awake late at night and my Mum would just be getting home from work. For an hour or so we’d sit and watch something interesting on the television together, like ships in the night passing each other for a moment in the middle of the sea. The lights were always dimmed at this time, just like the lighting of this photograph and she’d be sitting in the same chair this was taken in.
It was important to me to get her hands in the picture too. My mum left her home and family up North to travel to London alone when she was 18. She became a midwife and then went on to become a specialist in Women’s Health which is what she does now. Her hands have delivered babies, have held hands of other women in pain; they’ve baked her renowned carrot cake with us as children; they’ve stitched labels onto uniforms and costumes for school plays and they were the last hands to hold my Grandpa’s as he died.”
“The woman on the left is named Juliette; she is sitting with her daughter Poppy and her mother. Three generations in one shot, it was a privilege to take. I’ve known Juliette for four years now. She’s been part of my life all the way through my recovery and someone I look at like an Auntie.
She is timeless; ageless. When I was really struggling in my early days, she’d send me positive readings each morning and if I was upset around her, she’d hold my face in her hands and tell me it was going to be OK. Juliette has opened her heart and home to so many people of all ages and backgrounds; whether you’re famous, homeless, euphoric or in pain, she welcomes you. Creative in every aspect of her being, from her professional work to the words she writes about her children. ‘That’s what happens in recovery; people crack open your poorly heart and fill it with love’, is what she has always told me.”
“This is Tula. She’s 20 and a friend I made through Instagram. Her son is a blissfully happy little boy called Bjorn, who is five months old. This photo was taken at the incredibly special home she and her partner have created for their tribe of three in Hove. Tula had a long and painful labour and the chair she is sitting in was where she first fed Bjorn moments after he finally arrived.
Tula was diagnosed with endometriosis and adenomyosis when she was 17, two conditions relating to the womb, causing immense pain and at times affecting fertility. By the time she was 18, Tula was told the older she got the less likely it would be for her to conceive a child. She tried for seven months with no result, but two days after buying a little blue cardigan at a car boot fair she found out she was pregnant. The physical pain of her condition intensified after her son was born, but Tula has created one of the most magical little souls and is a truly special mother. I find it so empowering to witness a young woman of the same age creating a life with her son and also to see Bjorn grow so much everytime I see them. He has her smile and Tula continues to prove that being young does not reflect on your ability to be a mother.”
Frankie and Scarlett
“The relationship between a mother and her children has been of core importance to me for years in many ways. There is something about mothers who have experienced immense pain in their life, the bond with their children is so raw and full of never ending depth. It is a powerful experience to capture this.
Both Frankie and her daughter Scarlett embody what it means to be unapologetically real; they are all heart and soul. ‘Part of the same crazy supernova we landed on this sphere and exploded through life together, repelling and merging’ is something Frankie wrote about Scarlett. Frankie is also a stunning photographer; I see her as a big sister, part of my tribe of spiritual family. I feel at home when I go to spend time with them at their home in Bristol.”
“This is my Nanny Rose; she’s the closest thing I have to a grandmother as both of mine died before I was born and she’s known my family for almost 15 years. She is the second oldest of 10 children; we grew up in Ballina, County Mayo, in Ireland. Her older sister Maura died two and a half years ago, she too was immensely special to me, I see her as my Guardian Angel.
Nanny has looked after children all her life, from her siblings, her own children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and other families’ children. She only has 7% of her sight left, but has never allowed that to stop her from being independent. She embodies love in every fibre of her being and when she looked after me as a child when my parents were working, she taught me things I will always remember; that it's better to love than to hate, to never go to bed on an argument and that whatever happens in life, it’s how you approach the situation that matters.”
“Jasmin has an aura about her that is far beyond her years, yet still retains the innocence of childhood. I held her at three days old and have adored her ever since. She may be only nine years old in Earth years, but I count her as a true friend. We have afternoons together, go shopping together and she’s kept me going through some of the darkest times in my life, simply by being herself.
There is not even a whisper of unkindness about her, she has compassion for everyone. When she was five years old she said to me, “I love you all the way out to space where the gold is.” I have never forgotten it. That quote inspired the idea of photographing her with a gold and heart balloon. It just so happens that the day this photo was taken a star collided with another, showering space with gold. Serendipity some might say or perhaps she always knew; it wouldn’t surprise me.”