I’ve been involved in film photography since 2020. I think, like everyone at the time, I was feeling like I had been shaken, rattled and rolled with no say in the landing.
I had just qualified as an intensive care nurse in March 2020 which coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The prospect of being a brand new nurse was already pretty daunting but this was a whole other level. I’ll never forget my first shift on nights, being helped into layers of PPE by my new colleagues, my heart beating a million miles an hour, walking onto the unit feeling very much out of my depth.
I suppose, at that time, my mental health was very poor. I was incredibly low. It felt like a lot had fallen apart and I was feeling very adrift in life. I remember feeling like I needed to force myself out into the world again.
One positive of that time was the connections I started making with local communities that were making a positive impact and I felt drawn in. I had my first 1:1 surf lesson with Sally McGee from Yonder Surf and I was hooked. I’m not a great surfer by any stretch but I started making some of the best friendships through surfing and the water.
During the summer of 2020, I remember going surfing every night after work with my friend and colleague, Emillie, and it just felt so wonderful after being in PPE all day. Creating connections through the water and nature. The bonds the water gave me made it more important to me.
Outside of work and the water, I would walk around with my dog, Obi, and my first film camera (an Olympus Trip) and I really for into how capturing the everyday could be fun. It gave me something creative to focus on that wasn’t work. I would get such a thrill when scans of my negatives would come back from Tanner’s Darkroom and when the photos weren’t totally under or over exposed (bit of a learning curve for me).
I love that about shooting film – learning what works and what doesn’t. Photography also helped me connect with other photographers, who would generously share any advice and ideas on how I could get the best out of anything I was wanting to try.
The idea for this project was something I had tried previously with my friend, Meena, a while back when I was first learning how to shoot portraiture.
I wanted to recreate the shoot but this time involving more women. I met Magda from Karma Coast in my friend Jo’s coffee shop (Regular Jo’s Coffee in Tynemouth) and we ended up connecting over how the surf and water had been a huge positive impact on our mental health.
Our focus was the experience and mental health of women and how the water had such positive impacts on their lives and mental health. Magda was awesome and helped me to get a platform that to connect me with other female surfers and swimmers who would be happy to be photographed as part of the project.
It was both exciting and slightly unnerving. The project was open to all women who loved the water or were part of communities connected to the sea.
The photos were mainly taken at King Edwards’s Bay and a few on Longsands beach. A mix of surfers and swimmers doing their thing as the sun came up with me in the water, wetsuit on so I didn’t get too cold.
I used my Pentax for the colour shots and my trusty Olympus for the black and white shots. The result was a total mix in how some of them came out but that’s all part of it. Tom Bing from Yonder lent me his digital camera and waterproof housing to use which was very cool. Yonder are hugely supportive of people wanting to create in the community. The photo sessions were so fun, photographing good friends and meeting new women in the water, talking about their passion for swimming, surfing and the sea. It was inspiring and invigorating as well as being very grounding and nurturing for all involved.
There were so many other women I would love to have photographed that didn’t have time to before we moved to America.
It would be amazing to continue this project in the future and it’s definitely something I would love to build on.
I feel like since the darker days of 2020, I’ve become part of this amazing sisterhood of women (and men) who empower each other and who are beautifully authentic in their own individual way.
I think it’s these women, the glass half full women, the women who lift each other up, who have no hesitation in being they are, who laugh together and listen to each other with kindness and compassion that has made the biggest impact on me the past few years. They are incredible role models and I admire them all so much.
I’m going to be back home in the U.K. in November and Karma Coast will be hosting an exhibition of my work on the 18th of November.
Everyone is welcome and it would be great to see you all there.
Thanks for reading and hopefully see in November.