Learning to smile again


This month I was lucky enough to work with a new, upcoming Manchester based photographer, Alex Ward. You may have seen some of his snaps of me on my social media.

The shoot was a very new but exciting experience for me, but also one that brought its own personal challenges.

Before we started photographing my face we sat down to talk about what I wanted out of this, which got thinking a lot about my relationship with my face.

Yes, I know that sounds very weird. But I’ve had a strange relationship when it comes to taking and then sharing photos of myself. I rarely post them on Instagram, and if there are any on Facebook with friends I’ll be pulling a face – never smiling.

Besides not being the biggest fan of the way my face moves when I smile, the lines and the accentuation of my nose. There’s actually an underlying reason for my dislike of my mouth and teeth in an upward formation, that I only really realised whilst talking to Alex on our shoot.

When I was younger, around the age of 5 till I was 9 years old I was a right little poser. Ask any of my family members and they will tell you the same. Get a camera out and I was ready. But this wasn’t because I loved the attention,but because I was so used to having my Grandad shove a camera in my face. Got to capture those special childhood moments ay pops.

I used to complain a bit at first but I’d eventually give in and smile. Pull a funny face or two. Then the next thing you know I’m parading down the garden path like I’m on a catwalk. – I have the photos to prove this but they are staying very far away from the internet.

My Grandad became one of those typical grandparent with hundreds of photo albums dedicated to me, and in turn I started to associate photography with him.

I was 10 years old when my Grandad passed away and it hit me hard. Deaths in the family always affect people, and I’ve had to experience a few family deaths, but his really pushed me back.

Photos for me became very personal because of the connection I have with them in reference to my childhood. After my Grandad died years would go by before a new photo of me would be taken let alone shared.

I’ve never really thought about it properly until this month but since he died I’ve rarely let anybody take photos of me. I turned into one of those “if you put it on Facebook I’ll delete it” people when I don’t like a photo.

My profile photos tend to be years old. I have 3/4 photos that do the rounds on my social media profiles. Even in our flat there’s only one photo of me on display from my graduation – which also happens to be one of the very few photos I have with my boyfriend of 4 years.

The idea of taking a photo of myself, let alone having somebody else do it was alien to me for 11 years of my life. It went from being the norm to just never happening, and even when it did I rarely enjoyed it or liked the result.

As much as I enjoy photography myself, it has always felt weird having somebody take a photo of me since my Grandad died. So you can imagine how nervous I was to book the shoot with Alex, let alone go through with it. But I put on my big girl pants and got on with it.

It was a very strange experience. Standing in an alleyway with somebody I’d just met taking photos of me staring blindly into the distance. No doubt we got a few passers-by looking our way. But as the night went on it got easier, and surprisingly I opened up, and overall enjoyed the experience.

The shoot itself was something that I was originally just doing for this blog and social media stuff. But now I look back on it, I was actually doing it for me. I just didn’t know it until after.

I needed that extra push to come out of my shell, and that’s what this shoot did for me. It opened me up to the idea of taking photos of my face again – and sharing them.

It helped me to realise that despite the fear of looking silly, the lack of confidence or paranoia of not being “pretty enough” we should be capturing moments of our lives. Just like my Grandad did with my childhood.

It’s made me see just how important it is to have these photos. These snippets of my life. Things I can show my children. Personal moments I can share with you lot on this blog, as well as a new profile picture.

With my social media life, this blog and my career path in the media industry I need to open up a bit more. I want to open up more. My life isn’t just about tea and brunch. It’s about me and what use is it if nobody ever gets to know and see me for who I am.

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© Emmi Bowles

Photos by Alexander Ward – Website | Instagram

Credit: Alexander Ward - www.justemmi.com


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