Cultural curator Janine Francois and her team put on a listening party event for Solange’s critically acclaimed album A Seat At The Table, which spoke to me and so many other women of colour on the frustrations, complexities and emotional landscape that we have to navigate daily. I wanted to capture a feeling of feminine unity and celebration that this album made me feel…
I’m just wrapping up the final images of a portrait shoot, photographing the inspiring team at Synchronicity Earth; a UK registered charity based in west London who provide a framework for enlightened environmental giving, globally, with the aim to grow the amount of support available to high-priority conservation action around the world. As well as having a team of highly-skilled and experienced individuals in subjects like marine conservation, ecological degradation, investment and even racism, they also support creative campaigns that bring awareness to environmental issues in artistic ways such as their Biophillia campaign featuring the grafitti mural artist Louis Masai.
It was a pleasure to chat to them, ask them silly questions as well as pick their very knowledgable brains about the ecological plight we face, organisations like this are so necessary.
So onwards with the exploration into movement… I discovered 5Rhythms about three years ago and only recently took my irregular practice a little deeper. 5Rhythms in my own words is, superficially a form of freestyle dancing, and deep beneath that- an intricate system of movement meditation mainly comprising 5 types of ‘rhythms’; Stillness, flowing, Staccato, Lyrical and Chaos, founded by the late, Gabrielle Roth.
And after dipping my toe into the practice and bouncing between episodes of cringey-awkwardness and full-blown ecstasy(!), I finally felt ready to learn a bit more, and I got in touch with one of the main teachers of this method in London, Christian De Sousa from Dancing Tao. Here’s some shots from a recent collaboration with Christian and the core Dancing Tao team.
The final leg of my journey was the Indonesian paradise island of Bali for the Bali Spirit festival – another ‘yoga’ festival, but also with other movement-based healing practices and activities like Breathwork and Ecstatic dance. Quite a different atmosphere from India, very westernised and dominated by Americans and Australians. Put it this way I didn’t need to worry about if I was wearing too little clothing anymore!
I had the best time, hanging out and meeting so many interesting people. And as a lone female traveller I felt completely safe, which is not something you can say about many places in the world I think. I was having such a lovely time that I decided to change my flight and stay for another 2 weeks (I know, what a diva! Apparently it has a name – the ‘Bali Effect‘). This meant I could actually explore the island after having been living and breathing the festival for a week. I documented the festival and also got to work with some yoga teachers out there, as well as visit different parts of the island and absorb some tropical paradise vibes before flying back to the UK.
Take me back!
My next stop after Rishikesh is in Goa, where I have come to hang out with my friend Daniela Olds, london-based Rocket and Yin yoga teacher launching her first yoga retreat. Set in a chilled out Goan beach village, it is a welcome respite from the craziness of north Indian travel! Rocket Yoga is a very powerful and dynamic vinyasa practice, and Daniela also incorporates some graceful barre sequences into the practice too. A strong morning practice was complemented by daytime trips out and about and gentle evening yin classes. In Yin yoga practice there is no pushing, you allow gravity to do the work of opening up the body in various seated poses which are held for about 5 minutes. Much to my delight we were staying here during Holi festival, so we had our own colourful celebration on the beach with our new friends managing the hut we were staying in. It was so. much. fun. Check out the snaps.
A year or so ago, during a period of increased emotional stress and anxiety I started spontaneously doing yoga again. Having only dabbled over the years, this time yoga seemed like the only way to deal with what was going on and I immediately got absorbed by this new world of inner balance and Lululemon leggings. On a mission to dive deep and learn more I decided to explore some yoga festivals around the world, in particular in the UK, India and Bali. I wanted to visit the ‘home’ of yoga. I wanted to do it like the Indians did. So I took myself to Rishikesh, north of Delhi for the annual International Yoga festival, packed with my camera and a press pass to document and practice.
Nothing could prepare me for the intensity on the senses that India bestowed on me. It wasn’t exactly an easy trip, but I definitely got what I had asked for, an adventure, and an immersion into and history of yoga. I found a teacher who’s style seemed to fuse martial arts techniques with the science of the body that the yogis have come to perfect, and who’s practice had me weeping in profundity. I listened to one of my favourite spiritual teachers speak (Mooji- who hails from Jamaica via Brixton, representing!), and I explored the area around the sacred River Ganges in the foothills of the Himalayas where there are an abundance of ashrams and meditation centres to help you ‘find the guru within’. A few snaps from the journey…
Part of the work that I do involves working with youth organisations/young people to explore identity and politics using the medium of photography, to re-imagine something or to articulate a campaign.
I was recently commissioned by Autograph ABP to mentor artist in resident Heather Agyepong on a piece to be exhibited in ‘Too Many Blackamoors’ by The Missing Chapter Collective. Focusing on British history and the visibility (or lack) of women of colour, Heather’s exploration began with an interest in Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a princess from west Africa who, after some unfortunate life circumstances was brought to England and presented to Queen Victoria as a ‘gift’. Queen Victoria developed a fond relationship with Sarah, and her presence in British history brought up memories and questions to Heather’s mind about belonging and experiences of racism.
I supported Heather in refining the visual statement in each shot, composing and lighting the set and stimulating the raw, realness of emotion she had felt first-hand and imaginary as Sarah Forbes Bonetta, fusing the two to develop a common experience, and some wicked portraits.
A reflection by Heather the artist can be found at Gal Dem.com.
‘Too Many Blackamoors’ was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The exhibition opens on 14th January 2016 at Rivington Place, Shoreditch, London.
Over the past couple of years I have worked with a fantastic organisation called Uprising Leadership who have been running a programme with teens called ‘My Voice, My Vote’ in London, Luton and Bedford, inspiring them and bringing the tools for them to be able to talk about and promote the issues that they care about, and ultimately get young people into politics. I would usually come in on the campaigning-part, working with each group to visually articulate their message in a strong, eye-catching way. Here are a few of my favourite campaign images over this period, as used on their website and social media.
For the ‘My Voice My Vote’ website click here.