When they dim the light, let's begin.

I can honestly say that I am so relieved that the new year has begun. 2010 was the year that nearly finished me off in so many ways, but also one which towards the end, grew with new ventures, new friends and new hope towards the end. It was a year which took me a step closer to my dreams, but also plunged me into an emotional nightmare where abrupt endings melded with lingering chaos and apathy, followed by a resolve to plunge myself deeper into my work than ever before, and then to just... stop. A proper crash and burn.

Film negatives on the x-ray board. Nerdcore.
2010 started as it meant to go on; painfully. Having managed to expertly avoid slipping over in the treacherous ice and snow which a London winter brings, I destroyed my ankle on a puddle of water in the studio that I worked in. I couldn't put any weight on it for two weeks and at the time, lived in an attic room, three flights of stairs away from ground level. And then it was limping around on crutches for a while after that. I discovered that I am hopelessly uncoordinated, and took to bunny-hopping around the streets of London with one crutch in hand to help with my pitiful balance. It was a complete disaster, but one which if nothing else, gave me time to think about my options for moving forward with my photography. And so I decided that I was going to hand in my notice, find some part time work somewhere, and start pushing my freelance work forward again. It was the impetus that I needed, but one which has left me still unable to walk in heels for longer than about 20 minutes without wanting to cry. Not that I was ever that good at walking in them in the first place...

Poundland kite. £1. Sort of flied. Ish.

February was the month where it really did all start to disintegrate. It's difficult to explain without explaining everything, so I won't go into any sort of detail. But it seemed to switch my mind into a very robotic fight or flight mode; and I thought that I was choosing fight. But what I was actually doing was burying everything and just throwing myself into my work.

Jane Hallam.
I was still debating what to do with regards to my job in the studio, when on a whim after a bad day, I decided on the spot that I was going to hand in my resignation, and made the appropriate phonecall before I could change my mind. It was stupid as I had no financial back-up and no job to run off to, but with a months notice, I had time to get everything sorted. And somehow I did. I found a part time job working with a charity agency where the hours were as flexible as I wanted, and I was convincing myself that everything was ok.

I was trying to fill every second of my life; if I wasn't at work, I was shooting, if I wasn't shooting, I was editing, if I wasn't editing, I was working. It was endless. But I was a bundle of nervous energy, and was trying to force that into something creative rather than destructive. The dress above is actually just a curtain that I knotted around my wonderful friend Janey. It's basically two pieces of fabric held together with knots and bulldog clips. But it worked...

March was also the month where I met Geoff for the first time. It was a meeting of pure luck on many levels, because although neither of us knew it at the time, that chance day together was going to massively change the direction of both our lives forever.

Barley Massey for Oh Comely.
April was when everything shifted again. I had managed to find myself doing some freelance work with a new magazine called "Oh Comely"; the content didn't really inspire me all that much, but it was a welcome distraction, and a promising confidence booster as I felt as if I was starting from scratch again with my contacts. 

The biggest impact though came from an email informing me that my relationship was over. It was horrible. The same evening, he arrived, took all of his possessions and walked away. I understand why. I even tried to rationalise it to the three amazing girlfriends who turned up with cake and wine as soon as they heard. But it didn't make it fair, as the reasons for why everything crumbled were out of my control. But it was this act which made me realise in a very real sense just what a state I was in, and all the work in the world wasn't going to distract me from the nightmares that I was having when I could actually get to sleep, or the feelings of panic which I felt whenever having to pass through central London. It provoked me to do something which I should have done three months earlier,  and although it wasn't quite a line drawn under anything, it was certainly a much needed full stop. I could pause and cry. Up until that point, I had been keeping everything together, but only so far as grains of salt being held together by bubbles. Slowly they were all popping, and the salt was beginning to spill. In a way, I needed something to unbalance me so drastically, because it made me square up to the emotional wall that I was pressed against, and realise that I couldn't just ignore everything anymore. I needed to deal with what I was trying not to feel.

Carley and her new husband.
I of course came to this conclusion at a time when I couldn't really let myself stop though; May was a busy month with more work for Oh Comely, a wedding day to cover for one of my old college friends and a whole host of other bits and pieces to shoot. It was also the time when I had my second meeting with Geoff, one which almost didn't, and probably shouldn't have happened as we missed each other, batteries dying and so on. Yet close to 11pm, he picked me up from a friend's house in his giant blue van, and somehow, over the course of the night, I disclosed everything that was in my head to him, this man who I barely knew yet felt like I'd known all my life. It was disconcerting and amazing at the same time; any sane notion went out of the window, and a week later, he had drove back to London from Northampton on a trip via Wales (!) to pick me up to accompany him, for me to get a train back from Northampton later that day when he drove back to work, only to then decide to come and drive to London again to pick me up, and take me back to Northampton that same night so that we could spend the weekend together. All of this amidst a rain drenched proposal in the middle of a street in Wales with a cat shaped ring which we'd both spotted minutes before; it was perfect (although reconsidered and somewhat swept under the carpet once sense had set in months later).

Chantal Carr / Bettie Wishes.
Fully loved up, photographic adventures led myself and my "assistant" to the beautiful beaches of Broadstairs in Kent where we were shooting a selection of pin-up images for our friend Chantal Carr. Making the most of the sunshine, I managed to turn from invisible, to milk bottle to lobster despite my factor 50! And then finally, I turned into a three year old once the shoot was wrapped, jumping into the water with my dress billowing against the waves. Soggy and contented, we then sat on the beachfront with the sun dipping, eating chips with cheese, a perfect end to a wonderful working day.

Suzanne Latham
July and August saw me running back and forth between Northampton and London. Truth be told, I was mostly coming back to the Smoke for photoshoots and the odd skip around Camden and East London. But it was very much a time for planning; sorting out tax stuff, setting up work for the weeks and months ahead, and generally just trying to sit still for a second and get my head together. I think emotionally, I was still on pretty shakey ground, and found myself wanting to come back to London less and less. I had a whole host of fashion TV shows at my fingertips, a rapid boil kettle, and a never ending supply of tea, not to mention my own personal viking whisking me around in some sort of strange, domestic bliss. My laptop was turned on to work, but my brain was quickly melting into a puddle of goop. It was all complete and utter avoidance, and I was filled with sadness upon hitting the motorway back to the city. I didn't feel at home in Northampton, but I'd created my own little world within the confines of his house, and for the time being, I was more than happy to stay within that.

Big Bum Jumble.
Luckily August pulled me out of the bubble. It dragged me out of my pyjamas kicking and screaming, shoved my camera firmly back in my hand and scribbled red lipstick and eye liner back over my face. Even if I didn't feel like me, I at least looked a little more like me; less like a 1980s housewife, and more my usual bad hair in ballet pumps.

I had received an email out of the blue asking me to contribute some work towards a small exhibition in a space just off Brick Lane, so haphazardly threw something together in a blind panic. I literally got it framed hours before it needed to be hung. That was enough to focus my attentions back onto my work though, and just like that, the Photogeek had returned.

First up was Big Bum Jumble, an amazing jumblesale of which somehow, I was coerced into walking in their fashion show. As the photographer, luckily there was no photographic evidence of my shame as I shudder to think what an idiot I must have looked. But it was a boost to be asked, and the photos which I shot on the day were sold to Diva magazine, in a strange but lovely twist. I really felt like I was getting back on track when I saw the two-page spread.

I was also lucky enough to get involved with what became affectionately referred to as 'Mo Crack - an event called "More Crackers Please" which was a fundraiser for Ladyfest, and involved shooting karaoke stills all day as people sung along to Le Tigre's Keep On Livin'. Again, somehow I was talked into performing and there exists a video of me singing and *ahem* dancing (read: flailing arms and desperately hoping that my dress doesn't slip down any further). I was going to link to it, but after finding it on YouTube, I managed to get 20 seconds in before deciding that some things are just better left to the imagination. And then bashed on the head repeatedly until forgotten. But it has to be said that the people who organised it were awesome, as were the people who took part.

The Second Floor Studio Promo.
The end of August brought with it an interesting, well timed, once in a lifetime chance. It was a risk on so many levels, but somehow, me and Geoff ended up with The Second Floor Studio. This was a real chance for Geoff to own his own business, and for me to work harder and really push forward with Fashion Loves Photos. It was insane; but the timing was key. And brevity was very much our watchword. Geoff had already quit his job and just finished his notice to move to London to be with me, we were looking for somewhere to live together and the studio had an attached flat, and his house had just sold back in Northampton, which gave us the initial capital to fund it. We ignored the fact that we'd only been together for months, as it just felt as if everything had come together so we did some research, put together a plan, and took the plunge. Is it easy? No. Is it stress filled? Yes. Is it working? Almost. I think by the Summer, this might have been the best decision that either of us have ever made...

Mister Joe Black.
October started with me ignoring my impending birthday, running off to photograph Blood Red Shoes for The Fly, and being whisked off to a Mac Pro event (the make-up, not the apple) with the lovely Al Pillay. Although the highlight was seeing my beautiful Binky from Pearls and Swine, and working on a shoot for her with the delightful Mister Joe Black. This shoot was exactly what I needed; something which allowed me to suspend belief with traditional fashion or portraiture, and to just become lost in a world of glittering antlers, sequined masks and teacup fascinators with hands creeping out of them. I was covered in glitter for days after, and loved it!

 Vintage Vixens.
November saw the weather take a drastic turn outside, but the studio was constantly sizzling with a stream of beautiful ladies waltzing in out. Kat Kolinski showed off her wardrobe of handmade, vintage reproductions, which ranged from her stunning coat, to two piece suits and dresses, whilst Chantal Carr got into the Christmas spirit by shooting her cards with us, proving that presents aren't the only thing that you want to find in stockings this time of year.

Jasmine Alexander.
Towards the end of November, I was lucky enough to be commissioned by Diva to shoot a really interesting woman, jewellery designer Jasmine Alexander. As someone who is cited to be the Vivienne Westwood of the jewellery world, I knew that this was going to be a project which I could really afford to be creative with. The shoot was interesting, as the final outcome was nothing at all like what we had initially discussed. The original idea was to shoot something quite regal, which showcased her work and also involve her beautiful dog to inject a feel of the real persona. However, 200 photos later, I decided to finish with some darker headshots, and they resulted in a beautiful, intimate gritty portrait of a woman who I honestly think will be all over the fashion press this year.

I also seemed to find my way by accident into The Sun newspaper courtesy of Lauren Ding at The Pocket Rocket which was a massive shock, especially as the text with the image was a controversial guest post which I'd wrote in anger at a response to "straight-size" models being used for "plus-sized" advertising campaigns. Fun and games indeed.

Looking back, it's been a really strange year. The worst year of my life in many respects, but with a promise that 2011 will fare better. Already I've got a series of interesting shoots booked in for January, which range from burlesque superstars, Black Swan inspired neo-goth and pin-up, all mixed in with a series of b-movie fun and nose-cone styling. It's a lot to take on, but for the first time in months, I'm slowly finding my inspiration again, and it makes me feel so excited. I still need to find myself of course; it's silly to assume that things change just because a few seconds tick over, and the last digit of the year moves up by one. Yet despite that, there is something reassuring about it all being over. It's a chance to take stock, look ahead, and move forward. All of which I fully intend to do.

Although it comes a bit late, I don't think I would have got through this year without some of you reading this. Even if you didn't know it, friendships, distractions and inspiration have all been key, and I feel very lucky to be starting this year surrounded by good people. 

Happy new year everyone! x x

(And here's a few more photos that I've really loved this year...)

Big Ben, Christmas Eve.



The lovely Carl Morris.

The Boyfriend.

The Boss.

The Minx, Natalie Booth.

The amazing Al Pillay.

The Rock (Hero) Band.

Jane Hallam.

AKA Brutal Red.

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