The idea for this has slowly been germinating for nearly four years. I have known Susie for about 20 years. In 2019 she rang me to say that the photographer that she had booked to photograph the "Snowball" had decided to get married that day. Could I do it? I had not shot an event like that before, I had photographed weddings and parties, so I though - give it a try. It was brilliant fun! People all dressed up in their ball gowns, best suits etc. I took hundreds of photos and had a fabulous time. I had a little idea, this idea then grew when I was asked to photograph the Perfectly Pink Ball in 2022. The speeches that were made, the powerful emotions that were on show, all got me thinking again.
I have given a number of vouchers for photoshoots, as raffle prizes, which raised a good amount of money. But I wanted to do more, not just for fundrasing, but actually for the people concerned.
A few days later, it popped into my head. My superpower is photography, particularly portraits. I thought that if I could make someone feel better with a photoshoot, that would be powerful.
Eventually, a few days later I had collected the necessary courage and emailed Lexi at the Worcestershire Breast Unit Haven (WBUH). The doubting voice in me said, that she would think I was bonkers! However, after a few days I got an email from Lexi, saying that she thought it was actually a good idea. A couple of weeks later I went to the Unit at Worcester Royal Hospital, and had a very productive chat. The various people who run and look after the Charity, also had to approve of the plan. We also had to have a name! After what seemed ages, I got the good news that everyone thought that this was a good idea. Also, someone at the charity came up with "This is me". My son then added "the collection"
"Everybody knows somebody"
We all know people who have had cancer, my Dad died from bone cancer, a secondary cancer, after the prostate and lung cancer, he got from smoking for most of his life. I have read that initially, a diagnosis of cancer is all consuming. I know, painfully, that some poeple don't survive it. But a lot do, and as they recover slowly from the deep physical and emotional scars, they are left with, some people really struggle to retake their place in the world. The purpose of "This is me, the Collection" is to help you find, what all the trauma has taken away from you.
The purpose of the shoot is to make you feel confident. The how, is by making some beautiful images of you. The where, is a venue of your choice, the when is for us to decide together.
Confidence would seem to be a nebulous concept, we know when have lost it, or not got it, but its much more difficult to say that we have some. Self image does seem to be a very important part of confidence. This is the bit I want to help with. Between lockdowns, during 2021, I did a photoshoot with a lady. She'd had a lot of knocks (her husband had died) and felt quite down. For reasons she could not quite put her finger on, she replied to a post on social media, from me, asking for models. I spent about 4 hours with her and made about 400 or so images. I sent them off to her. She replied, promptly and said thank you. A few weeks later I received another email from her. She said that I had changed her life, that she did not know that she looked like that, that she looked beautful! It made me feel proud (and slightly relieved) and very happy. Seeing yourself on a screen is an odd feeling. We look at people who are maybe famous, or otherwise considered beautiful and form an opinion. When we see ourselves, we often find it much more challenging. This is a photo of my Mum, taken a year or so before I was born. She would have not accepted that she was classically beautiful. However the photo shows something, that maybe she could not see, that she was truly beautiful!
Its a cracking photo, I think taken in 1956. I take a lot of images using this pose.
Making a beautiful photo, is not chance. There is a process. I feel a huge number of people are very anxious about having their photo taken, because its snapped in a few seconds with no planning or preparation, most often on a phone.
The first part of the process is that you have to trust me. This is not chance either. I need to get to know you a little, even for just a few minutes, before the shoot starts. We will have emailed and/or chatted on the phone. Study my portofolio, to see what sort of images I take. When we do meet, its coffee first. I'll explaIn the outline of the shoot. If we haven't already planned the venue, we will work it all out now. Are we shooting indoors or out? Probably a combination. What lighting setup do we need, how much space have we got versus how much we need. As the minutes tick by, I will try to make you feel relaxed and confident about the shoot. I am very good at this!
Part of your preparation is to prepare several changes of clothing, maybe a change to your hair, hats, scarfs, sun glasses and anything else we can think of! We might have planned to use more than one venue! This is called planning and preparation!
Gradually we will make a few images, review them together and see what needs to change, if anything. I often have to change the lighting and the backdrop, as sometimes the colour of the clothing clashes with the backdrop or the colour of the lights. As we move through the shoot, change the clothes, the lights, the backdrop, the venue, we relax and the images get better and better. After a couple of hours we will be producing proper world class portraits!
We will have lots of little breaks, for coffee and to review the images so far. It can be very tiring being in front of the camera, so we will need energy boosts and time to relax between each section. These are defined by the clothing changes.
Some people like to have a friend to help them with clothing changes, hair and makeup etc. There is also a chance that the friend might bring some Prosecco or something!
The Venue can be anywhere. I can make the images in your house, in the park, in the street or wherever. I went to Oxford in May to do a study day. All the shots were made outdoors, they were beautiful! We can use more than one venue, however we don't want too much travelling time between venues. I have a portable lighting setup and a selection of backdrops. My favorite backdrop is black, I also have light grey, a speckled grey, and a pure white one. We can of course use whatever is around as a backdrop. Not all backdrops are made equal!
It takes between two and four hours for a decent photoshoot. The first hour is setting up and getting to know each other. Three hours is probably about optimal, not too long or tiring, and a good amount of time to make the images. I have retired from business and so I can do the shoots pretty much anyday of the week. The morning has the very slight edge over the afternoon. Sometimes the evenings are fabulous because of the light, weather dependent of course.
This is Susie Coleman, I have photographed her on a number of occasions. She is one of the worlds most wonderful people, and very beautiful. She has done a huge amount to help the Worcestershire Breast Unit Haven, by raising tens of thousands of pounds. She has also been very encouraging and helpful in getting, This is me, the collection, going.
I will give you, completely free, your favorite five images. You can then buy, should you wish, as many more as you would like. All the images will have "light touch" editing, and the extras will cost £5.00 each. I will take a fee to cover travelling etc, the profits from this will then be given to WBUH. An important principle of this, is that the shoot should not cost you anything, other than your time, which, is in fact our most precious commodity.
I hope that you feel able to contribute to the collection, and that in doing so, it makes you feel good about yourself.