The 3 L's

Please People, Can We Stop Using The Term ‘Real Women’?

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It’s been a lovely afternoon for me, spent meeting with a friend over coffee. I couldn’t help but overhear, however, the conversation taking place between two bushy bearded men two tables away. It seems I have a hyper-sensitive radar in regards not only to the mention of my name, but any reference to me whatsoever – in this instance, I was simply ‘nah, mate, the other one’.

We were being assessed. Luckily, not with numbers (I hate that. Why do guys have to label us with a mark out of ten? Could their way of expression any attraction – or lack of – be any more degrading?) Instead, they were comparing us to the standards of beauty of today. That’s when that term came into use… ‘real woman’. According to Santa’s Hipster son 1# and Santa’s Hipster son 2#, I’m a ‘borderline real woman’ because I have a bum, but according to his friend.. ‘nah mate, she’s not a real woman, she’s too thin, mate, too thin, I like real women.’

Excuse me, I can vouch that I am a real woman, and I can also say, with confidence, that I am not hovering around an imaginary line between womanly and… whatever the alternative is. Boyish? Butch? Barbie? I see myself naked on a daily basis, and trust me, I’m all woman.

Of course, the bigger issue with this conversation was the fact that we were being so casually evaluated in the first place.. I’ve heard men hold similar conversations in front of the meat aisle in Tesco. ‘Mate, steak tonight? What d’ya think of this one?’ – ‘Nah mate, look at it, that’s barely a steak at all – it’s a borderline cold cut! The only thing that’s good for is being slapped on a sandwich!’

I’m not about to start complaining about being picked at by men, however. I frankly can’t even muster the energy to do so. But I can muster the energy to complain about that term, because this isn’t just a degrading term used by men who see woman as objects to be assessed, and used, and disposed of, but it’s a part of the forefront of our society. It’s used in our magazines and on our TV shows and in our day-to-day debates as we compare ourselves to others. Suddenly it seems that in the ‘quest’ to force the fashion world to accept ‘plus sized’ and curvier women rather than sticking so stubbornly to their size-zero ideals, everyone has in the process developed this obsession with what is and is not ‘real’ or ‘natural’. Is that not counter-productive? Everyone has been calling out for the fashion world to accept all shapes and sizes, and yet we’re all too willing to decide for ourselves what is natural. And that just makes it ok for guys to then do the same.

Is it not about time that we adopt a cultural attitude that is accepting of all shapes and sizes? Take me and my friends, for example. Yes, I’m thin, but I have a bum and boobs . Take a look at my friends: anonymous friend 1# is thinner than me, and she really doesn’t have any curves at all, while anonymous friend 2# would be described as curvy, anonymous friend 3# is a full time plus-sized model and anonymous friend 4# has a perfect hourglass figure the we all can’t help but envy. (PS, those friends may be anonymous, but they know who they are and they have agreed to be mentioned here… just in case the rest of my friends real this and wonder.)

These are our builds, our natural figures and regardless as to how well or how badly our diets are going, our shape never changes, the only thing that changes is how squidgy the top layer is. Equally, while we all know that most models work hard to keep in shape, working on every inch of themselves until they are a sculpted masterpiece of perfection, it’s ridiculous to say that they are not ‘real women’ either, because they are there, they exist – I’ve seen enough famous models pass me in the street here in London over the years; Kate Moss and Lily Cole and a strew of lingerie models, and I can tell you, Photoshop or no Photoshop, they still look as stunning and slender as in their expansive portfolios. They exist and therefore they are real.

So please, can we stop referring to women as ‘real’ or ‘not’? Because last time I checked, it was definition enough to be a real woman purely to exist in all our fleshy goodness and to have no dangly bits between our legs… etc.

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Meg’s Collection

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It’s that time of year, when students are struggling with repeated all-nighters to meet their big deadlines. No, we weren’t all like that, some of us spent the entire semester pulling all-nighters purely because we wanted our final work to be perfect. Meg, a University of Derby fashion student, is one of those students. Just look at the detail that has gone into these laser-cut designs… beautiful!

I was the lucky photographer who she selected to photograph her collection. It was a beautiful day for a photo shoot, and as we had chosen Wollaton Hall, a stately home in Nottinghamshire that is open to the public (and a spot where I have worked before with a University of Derby fashion student, as well as for one of my own personal shoots), we had quite an audience, members of the public lining the various benches that surrounded the greenhouse, watching us work, complimenting our gorgeous model sisters. The sun was shining, perhaps a little too harshly, but we made do. Thank god for reflectors.

Besides a small incident with a bee somehow getting trapped in our model’s trousers (all was well – none of us have ever laughed so much in our lives!), everything went without a hitch. A shout out has to go not only to my lovely assistant, Gem, but also to Meg’s boyfriend, her chauffeur who stepped in as a second assistant when we were experimenting with spontaneous ideas. It was such a great team to work with.

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Katie Stainer Jewellery

Tasha 1#

 

I really enjoy collaborating with talented individuals; designers, makeup artists, models. I love to see how others look at the world, and to be inspired by them, and hopefully, I inspire them in turn, and if I see evidence of that, it’s just the best feeling.

This particular shoot was focused around the jewellery and accessories of the amazingly talented Katie Stainer, whose portfolio and online shop can be found here. I’ve always adored origami, though my skills in that area are limited to cranes and boxes, and the occasional fox, so you can imagine my envy to see Katie’s beautifully folded, waterproof jewellery, all made from vintage books and decorative paper. After far too long admiring her collection, we turned our attention to the task at hand.

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Katie is a very down-to-earth character, the sort of person who nonchalantly folds a book into a headpiece as a spontaneous photograph idea that one of us threw out there, chatting about her favourite novels and TV shows as she did so. Therefore, she wanted equally down-to-earth images, free of over-edited, perfected models who had been pinched in, smoothed out, polished and slicked to perfection. Therefore, we chose to work with Tasha, a girl who is naturally stunning in her own right.

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Our studio was makeshift, but wonderful, consisting of draped fabric pinned to the wall, alongside a wall of glass that allowed plenty of natural sunlight. While lately I have found that I spend more and more time in a studio space, I always try to find a space with large windows such as this one; I will always prefer the use of natural sunlight over makeshift lighting any day, and even when I do find myself turning to Profoto or Lasolite or Bowens for a helping hand, I try my best to recreate sunlight as closely as possible… unless I’m going for something completely dramatic, of course, such as during this shoot.

To top off the shoot, Katie was kind enough to give both myself and our team a necklace each from her collection, which I took as a sign that she was definitely happy with how our shoot turned out in the end.

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Phone Box Fashion

Jessie Phone Box 2#

 

Earlier this month, I moved into my first proper house, albeit a student house, shared with two lovely fellow students and friends, but it is cosy and homey and much nicer than most of the flea-infested monstrosities that we looked around last spring during the all-important house hunting. It took me exactly two days to notice the rusty old phone box that lies on the main road between our house and Derby city centre, and about ten days to then organise a photo shoot focused around the phone booth.

We’ve all seen countless red phone booth photo shoots, mostly featuring twee, vintage, stereotypical English wardrobes. I wanted to break away from that mould, and so I collaborated with model and dancer Jessie, to create something which I hope has succeeded in being just that little bit more edgy. We decided to restrict the colour scheme, allowing the phone box to do the talking, with just a pop of red lipstick to tie it all together. I admit, a small part of me wondered how well Jessie’s hair colour would suit the bright red box – would auburn and red clash? – but no, it all ties together nicely, doesn’t?

A touch of blue was added to our shadows in post production, and voila. I for one am extremely happy with the results. It’s amazing how many dancer’s poses can be achieved in such a confined space! A big shout out has to go out to Jessie for one that, for her constant stream of ideas and creativity.

Jessie Phone Box 1# Jessie Phone box 5#

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Model: Jessie Jing

MUA: Razwana Kausar

Styling: Emma Styles & Jessie Jing

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Wuthering Heights

Quote of Inspiration

Model: Ieva

MUA/Hair: Emily

Styling: Emma Styles
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As much as I love travelling, I really adore the local beauty of the Peak District, especially at this time of year, when the heather is blossoming in a beautiful sea of purple, as far as the eye can see. The smell is wonderful, the view is wonderful, the bees are a nuisance if you’re as nervous around them as I, but it’s worth the worry.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to put together an editorial shoot for Prototype Magazine, with a self-chosen theme of Wuthering Heights; a favourite book of mine, which I had recently re-read. Prototype is a small, independently run magazine, and so I thought it best to work with a small, intimate team to match the overall feel of the publication. I myself acted as stylist, with the lovely Emily working as both our makeup artist and hair stylist. Our model was the gorgeous Ieva. It was a wonderful day of exploring Hathersage, in the Hope Valley, and the surrounding countryside, laughing, picking flowers, very nearly falling off cliffs in my case… it was worth it. The shoot ended in almost getting stranded in the middle of no where, and an hour sitting in the rain, but again, it was a great day.

My location was only somewhat inaccurate for a Wuthering Heights themed shoot; while Hathersage’s heather fields are not the moors surrounding the Bronte’s home village of Haworth, Hathersage village was visited by Charlotte Bronte, and is thought to have inspired her when creating and choosing locations for Jane Eyre, so really, I simply borrowed a location from one Bronte sister novel for another. Bonus fact… it’s also the alleged burial place of Little John – as in, Robin Hood and Little John. His gravestone (which is actually marked, ‘Little John’, lies in the local churchyard, and you can decide for yourself whether or not the legend is true).

You can see the final images in October’s issue of Prototype Magazine, available here.

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KC and the Village

KC 1#

 

Derby is an interesting place. Yes, I have lived there for long enough now (if you’re counting it as my ‘official address’ since I took off across Europe), and I’m tired of this city in the same that that a wanderlusting nomad like me tires of every city, but there are a few spots which I never tire of.

One of them is Darley Abbey, a tiny village on the edge of Derby, though it is still very much within the city, like a little pocket of history buried right under our noses. Few people that I know have discovered this wonderful spot, or at least, not until I introduce them to it, and the moment I found it myself, I knew that I had to arrange a photo shoot there.

KC 2#

 

Together, my model, KC and I pieced together a wardrobe that we felt simultaneously clashed with and matched the setting perfectly, being edgier than the quaint English village, while blending our textures, patterns and colour schemes to suit the chipped paint and bare brickwork, adding a few pops of colour here and there; primarily KC’s amazing hair colour.

I’ve come to really enjoy taking on the roll of stylist, or in this case, co-stylist, as well as photographer, though of course I’m more than happy to hand over the reins to someone more knowledgeable and experienced than myself. While I think its important to collaborate with as many creative souls as possible, it’s great to flex my own creative muscles with these personal shoots, to experiment and discover new talents, and learn new skills. While I’m not about to start referring to myself as a stylist as well as a photographer, it’s great to create my vision through other – or additional – means.

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