Mary is 85, originally from Ireland. I chat with Mary every time we meet on my daily walks around Castor Bay. She was born in 1936 to a Catholic family of eight children (Mary was number five after four boys). Mary’s mom had to find a job when her father died and she taught orphans in a monastery. She wanted to be a teacher, but eventually found a job in a large department store in Belfast where she met Mary’s dad. Mary’s dad was an active member of the IRA (as you would) and when the conflict with the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 monarchy (God Save the Queen) ended, he became a policeman.👮♂️ “Those days women lost their jobs when they got married”. Mary wanted to become a nurse 👩⚕️ so went to England to study “it was free because the English government wanted the Irish girls to become nurses”. After getting married, Mary and her husband immigrated to New Zealand when she was 22. Knowing how to use a typewriter, Mary found a an office job when arriving to New Zealand. Five years later she had three kids who all live here. “Life was simpler then”, she says. “You would grow your own veggies in the backyard”. People need to move to the countryside. She apologised for holding the ☔ umbrella to protect from the rain.
I was determined to photograph the gargoyles that guard the Notre Dame cathedral in the heart of Paris. My first attempt failed when the guard said no more visitors for the day. My second attempt failed because the guards went on strike! This photo was taken on my third attempt to see these stone-monster marvels! Some of the gargoyles laugh, one spits, others look bored, feed on prey or they grimace. Standing stoic and proud, these mythical birds and hybrid beasts are eerie witnesses to history. Catching a personal glimpse of these silent grotesque creatures was one of the highlights of my visit to Paris, and well worth the 387 steps climb to the top when the cathedral is restored and opens to the public again. This one is actually a Grotesque. Gargoyles are the ones that spout water from the roof. These awesome creatures were added during the reconstruction of the church in the 1840s. When the Nazis invaded the country during World War II, the gargoyles stood strong, withstanding a four-day German siege on the church. This print was awarded Bronze medal at the NZIPP Iris Awards!
I struggled with identity,
I still do, but I’m learning.
I’ve always struggled with mental health issues and after going through multiple violent trauma and being Passed around a very flawed mental health system, a few years ago finally I got diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which is 110% a completely misunderstood disorder to say the least.
It can affect multiple aspects of your life and is different for everyone who experiences it. For me, my sense of self and emotional control and thought patterns are mostly affected.
Which means I can be very reactive to situations, sometimes more than what’s accepted by others and always more than I wanted to.
My thoughts can get mixed up because there are too many, or I have one thought that does not leave my mind and it can become an obsession.
Knowing who I am as a person and what I want can also be challenging.
I teach children’s yoga and mindfulness as it was something that helped me when nothing else could and to hopefully set up our kids for an open minded self-accepting future with skills, tools and the ability to cope better with the roller coaster of our emotional stressful lives.
I like to model so I know exactly who to be at that moment.
I find it freeing, almost trapping myself in a ‘character’ or a ‘setting’ you could say.
For a short period of time I know what to do, who to be and how to do it.
I said yes to taking part in this display of beautiful women for the chance to feel like I am exactly who I am meant to be for a short period of time.
To empower other women to feel like they can be themselves not just for a short period of time but all of the time,
To feel beautiful and strong, ugly and weak, put together and messy all at the same time because that’s what life is and we should be so fucking proud of it.
You can’t have one without the other.
You may not be able to have everything you have ever wanted.
But you can have your own slice of perfection and that perfection is you.
‘Faces of Humanity‘ is a documentary collection with little or no changes to the actual scene. I asked people to look straight into my camera, so these are not candid photos. The strength of this series is in giving viewers a rare opportunity to connect with people in their natural environment. This diverse group of people serves as a timely reminder that, despite our many cultural differences, we can unite as a community through the power of photography.
This is a celebration of our shared values: hard work, the importance of family, and caring for each other as humans. I hope that through these photos viewers learn more about people with different backgrounds from around the world: Ruanda, Morocco, Tanzania, Cairo, Jerusalem and New Zealand. The show offers opportunities for people to contemplate, absorb, and increase their awareness of the complexities of human experience. Each photograph reveals an individual with a story that has shaped their life.
We connect with others by making eye contact – reading their expressions, feeling their emotions and getting a glimpse of their souls. I want viewers to form meaningful connections with these people: to see them as human beings, not simply subjects in front of a camera. I purposely created portraits that allow viewers to make direct eye contact with each person, so visitors can form emotional connections with these individuals.
In sharing this portfolio, I encourage viewers to show empathy: to accept others and to recognise the value of cultural diversity. We would all experience an enhanced sense of community if we took the time to appreciate interactions which allow us to discover the world beyond our familiar boundaries. We are all wonderfully unique, yet, at the same time, we are deeply similar.
I am presenting these photographs in timeless monochrome, to ensure consistency and flow of the series amidst the chaos and clutter of the busy environment. The portraits are crisp and sharp, to allow the details to inspire the imagination and to evoke emotions. My aim is to create an authentic portfolio of diverse individuals in a foreign land. My goal is to tell their stories using a clear narrative style and enduring quality.
Trigger Warning: Discussion of physical & emotional abuse.
This comes as a surprise to some people (sometimes I reflect back in total disbelief – it’s easy to think it wouldn’t happen to you) but this time 5 years ago I was trying to leave an abusive relationship. Over the space of 12 months I had made multiple attempts to leave. I couldn’t tell you why I’d go back each time, only that the general belief, held by all parties was that it was all I deserved.
How did I end up there? I was an intelligent, strong willed young woman who had very clear views about domestic abuse & those who inflict it. But, although I didn’t really acknowledge it, I was, at that point in my life very alone. I had few close friends, and this was complimented by a distant relationship with my family & not much in the way of self-worth.
I was so desperate to be loved, to be chosen, that I ignored the early red flags (I called myself difficult & needy instead). He charmed me – nice dinners, a holiday, buying me clothes etc. But when he moved in with me, things started to slip, slowly at first.
I remember the first time we really fought. A neighbour called the cops. He played nice to them & angrily blamed me for it later. If I had only not gotten upset, he wouldn’t have gotten angry at me. I cringe now when I think of how I grovelled & apologised to him.
Every fight we had would cripple me with shame & self-hatred. I was reading every article I could on healthy relating. I went to therapy to try and isolate the problem in myself so I could cut it out & patch myself back together. I thought if I could fix myself, he would stop getting angry with me. If I could just stop being difficult, he’d stop cutting me off, refusing to talk to me for days at a time or kicking me out at all hours of the morning.
But you can’t fix a relationship by yourself, and you can’t heal yourself in order to stop someone else hurting you.
It took him two years to hit me. The first thing he did after he whacked me was tell me it was a mistake & to not tell anyone. And I didn’t, not for months. Not until well after I finally got out.
He only hit me once. I wish I could say that that was because I left, but it was because he seemed to prefer other tactics – dragging me over furniture to kick me out, holding me against the wall by my throat, once he even picked me up and physically threw me onto the concrete outside, amongst other things.
I list all these physical things, but in honesty, those things were secondary to the verbal & emotional abuse & the scars it left.
I still experience emotional flashbacks, triggered by any number of things – some identified, some which take me by surprise – in which it’s as if I shift into a dual existence, with the memories & emotions overlaying reality like a double exposure photograph, and my mind will react to the Now as if it was the Then. It’s exhausting & confusing and sometimes lasts for hours.
I still get panicky if someone misunderstands me and sometimes if people react in a neutral, emotionless manner (especially in a romantic relationship) my reflex response is fear. Its frustrating & difficult, I often feel sorry for those who have had to deal with me in my darkest moments.
I wish I could be more upbeat about it all, and say I’m now a happy, confident woman with a loving husband & a house full of animals but recovering from these kinds of things is a long & difficult road. In saying that I’m slowly healing. I’m in therapy &n the progress I’m making, uneven as it is, is leading me into a world where I can be vulnerable with others, feel safe expressing myself & enjoy authentic connections with a selection of truly wonderful friends.
I also have a career as a personal trainer & pole dance teacher. I love my work and am hugely passionate about creating a safe space for others to get in touch with their bodies, express themselves & explore their physical potential – all things I found immense value in as I was putting myself back together.
I don’t have any advice for those affected by abuse that isn’t talked about more articulately elsewhere. Removing yourself from abusive dynamics is never as simple as it might seem from the outside, and it follows that advice that works for one person won’t work for another. All I can say is – try to hold onto your Self, in whatever capacity you can & when you are ready to make the move, you will know. The road out is tough, but every step is worth it.