The Photographic Journey to here

Namaste Friends,

Thank you for your patience, my processes paused as I noticed my reaction to world events. More disruption all over our planet: shifting political power, weaponized economics, ongoing pandemic, severe weather events due to climate change, and civil unrest in so many parts of the world… my heart has been heavy, my thoughts have been with those who are suffering.

However, in honour of those who do not currently have the freedom to continue to do the things that need to be done, and who instead must get on with the most important work of survival, I shall get on with the tasks before me…

Before enlightenment – chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment – chop wood, carry water.

Zen Buddhist proverb.

“To lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself”

Simone de Beauvoir

I started looking for myself in places where I knew I’d seen me before. I thought perhaps there would be clues left behind, or perhaps I’d get lucky and find I was still there.

In yoga. I saw my shape, my body, the crafting of age telling a story of it’s own.

In the garden I saw the crone, smiling as she welcomed me home. The witch standing close behind, ever sultry and full of sass, came first from private moments and then out into the world to play.

She reminded me of the desperate attempts the maiden had made to keep herself relevant, to hold on. To find good in the mistakes she and the child had made, instead finding grace in the lessons she learned, from all the times she fell.

I started to see more than the context and form. I started to see the way the different settings inspired me to hold my body or angle my head. I started to notice the different types of energy that flowed through me as I felt the sun on my naked skin, warmth in places that had never been warmed, changing the colours of my body, the tone of my hair.

I started seeing myself in the conversations that came from sharing the images. The therapist, the teacher, the coach, the nurturer, the healer.

I had lost myself in the trauma, not just my own, in fact by then my own had retracted and retreated to the peripheral of my mind, perspective taking hold. Now the storm had passed, I had rested and I started feeling ready.

This was me creeping back out into the sun to play. After too many years of turmoil, after spending far too long dwelling in the shadow of social expectations and dominant gender norms. After realising that I needed to choose to live ‘my best life’, that I needed to wake up and do the thing I want to do, the things that bring joy and love to me, my family and the world.

The images show a clear release and outward expression, the energy and playfulness abundant in moments of total liberation, uninhibited in my experimentation. Both joyful and irreverent in this moment of re-claiming and re-awakening the sovereign being within.

In these moments I was breaking trauma bonds with people central to my narrative and my identity. I was reclaiming the story of my body, what it means to me, how others saw it,  how I see it, the stories I tell myself about size and shape, colour and texture. I was ignoring expectations for how a woman of my age and professional standing should behave and enjoying every moment, embracing the abundant freedom of being as authentic in my anger as I was in the exhilaration of the release.

Crazy cat lady.

Cranky old hippie.

Crackpot yogi.

Oddball. Weirdo….I’ll take them all.

The first album of this project, some might say, ‘somewhat like the first pancake’, exposes my naivety and ignorance, as a model and photographer, and also as a woman who brings beginner’s mind to the things she does, willing to fail, make mistakes, be ‘good enough’ to make a start and learn and grow in the process of becoming rather than waiting to share perfection, which she may never attain.

The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action. 

John Dewey

Through the process of taking nude selfies and sharing them online with other people who identify as nudists and/or naturists I stumbled, very awkwardly, into a safe space for identity work. And found a community of people asking similar questions to myself, ‘why is society so hung up about nudity, with people seeing them?’. And as I experimented with different styles of photos, imitating others, coming up with my own crazy ideas, seeking inspiration from my environment, I started to see the different things that make up my identity the different parts of myself; and the things I have never shared before.

While I looked very outward facing in the photos, this was a time of deep introspection. I’ve always been comfortable alone. And this time and space I have given myself for this project has been like a retreat for my soul. A practice, a journey and a reflection, integrated into a process of un-learning and re-emerging.

The body is not a thing, it is a situation: it is our grasp on the world and our sketch of our project.

Simone de Beauvoir

May all beings everywhere know freedom from suffering,

Namaste.


One response to “The Photographic Journey to here”

  1. Dear Simone/Shari, it’s good to hear from you again. I too feel the anguish of the war in Ukraine. I knew Putin would invade, since the US/NATO refused to consider Ukraine as a neutral, demilitarised zone, insisting that Ukraine should one day join NATO, on Putin’s doorstep. He may well have invaded anyway, but NATO would have called his bluff. Now it’s too late. We have to accept that some people are born evil, and crave ruthless power. Ukraine needs all the help it can get, before it is overrun. I have donated to UNICEF and the British Red Cross disaster fund.
    I am touched by the response of Poland and other neighbouring countries, to the dispossessed refugees fleeing Ukraine, and the bravery of their men, fighting for their country.
    Peace is a blessing that most of us take for granted. I hope we have peace soon.
    Love and mercy, Dave

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: