This has been an amazing adventure.
I have met a lot of wonderful people this year on my travels.
The one thing I have come away with is that beauty as far as DNA is concerned is subjective.
True inner beauty is in the realm of character, the soul and spirit of a woman.
I cannot look at a beautiful woman and say she is beautiful and be disrespectful to a women who doesn't conform to beauty by whatever standard society judges. This project has been about all women and also about me and my relationship to all women.
I discovered that my personality loves all women.
I have engaged a wide cross reference of women in conversation this year. One of my highlight conversations has been with Symply Divine in the image above, Sary in the first image and this lovely lady I met in The Hague.
I have every intention of taking this project even further in 2019.
Stay tuned, it promises to be an adventure.
It has taken just over two years for me to write this reflection on my friend Serenia.
Allow me to share.
I was invited to a party of Wally Holmes in Hollywood in 2016.
Wally wrote the song Rock the Boat, sung by the band The Huges Corporation.
That was a great tune back in the day.
My friend Najee and I went to this party and enjoyed ourselves out back with Jayne Kennedy and Freda Payne. Later that evening, we headed indoors for a little light entertainment. I took a seat next to an attractive lady while another lady stood, took to the microphone and sang Stevie Wonders Loves in Need of Love today.
This lady sang just fine, in spite of my poor hearing, I could make out what she was singing. The lady I was sat next turns out is her daughter, Serenia. I asked her if she was going to sing? She said no, “I am too shy to Sing”. That comment blew my mind; to have the ability and talent to sing and not do so seemed counter intuitive to me. Would you believe, that short conversation would be the start of a two year friendship, albeit through email and Facebook messenger?
Serenia and her mother would visit The Magic Castle - that was the las time I would see Serenia for the next two years. We saw each other again recently here in London and it proved to be an extraordinary encounter.
While I did not interview her for this project my time with her was precisely what this project has been about. Every woman I speak to, engage with and in her case, spend time with, was and is an opportunity for me to look deeply, feel, search, unlock, and probe, just to find the hidden elements that makes each woman special even if they do not want to reveal this magical element about themselves - I consider it my duty as a man to confront this. This process is as much about me as it is about the women in question.
At the end of a conversation my photograph must communicate all that I have discovered.
In Serenia, I was confronted with a Woman who believes herself to be SHY.
I was confronted with a woman who believes she doesn’t photograph well.
So right there, my hands were full.
It did not matter to me because I accepted her exactly as she is and exactly as she isn’t.
Who am I to judge?
Friendship and Rapport go hand in hand.
All I did during our time together was listen, pay attention and created opportunities for her to feel safe so that she could enjoy London, meet friends of mine and have a very enjoyable experience of London.
Which she did.
What did I learn?
At the source of her being is a delicate vulnerable femininity.
Now don’t confuse vulnerability with being weak, Serenia is far from being a fragile women. The vulnerability I speak of is the fear that all women have when it comes to affairs of the heart.
Can I trust you?
Will you hurt me?
Will you break my heart?
I saw a kind and generous women, I saw warmth and friendliness with a vivacious mixture of fun and gaiety. She loves a good Magic Trick.
I kept my promise to do a Photoshoot with her.
Here images turned exactly as I visualised.
How can a photographer transform how a woman sees her self?
Well, it takes an authentic conversation about life, fears beauty, which we had.
Serenia believes true beauty comes of the spirit.
This is the spirit of God that shines through a persons eyes and in their being. She is a great believer in God and considers herself to be a woman of God first and foremost.
Before my camera comes out to play, I must feel that my ladies will trust me, relax and follow my exact instructions.
My lighting and photographic skills will do the rest. All it takes is trust, I said before, my subject gives me the look I am after and they give it to me WILLINGLY.
Serenia gave me the look I wanted.
When I meet a woman and feel an instant connection, I consider it heaven sent. It doesn’t happen often, however, my heart is open for that possibility with every woman I meet. This is how I approached my meeting with Pamela.
We were connected together through our mutual friend Karen Small.
Be sure to check my conversation with Karen.
I had a good feeling about this conversation simply because Pamela’s activity on social media revealed to me a woman who is on the ball and up to a very big game in life.
Pamela is an author; she has just launched her first publication “Loving The Brothers”. When I first heard of this book, I felt an intuitive response to it.
My conversation with Pamela revealed a very passionate attempt to shine a spotlight on abuse and the impact it has on women, men, families and the black community.
A Celebration of Women Through Conversation has never been about beauty in the conventional sense. It was important to me to engage in conversation with women and actively look for and uncover the beauty in each woman I share time with.
With Pamela, I could see, feel and was inspired by her gentle, compassionate energy. At the same time, I also felt a powerful stand for correction - she doesn’t suffer fools or tolerate nonsense. She values connections with others; her authentic expression is particularly important because of the challenges woman, especially black women face in how they should present themselves.
Here is woman who fully embraces the beauty of being a Black Women.
Pamela’s beauty is worthy of celebration to me. It is the simple fact that she has a powerful consciousness about what being a Black Women means to her.
Hairstyle, clothing, a nod to her African Ancestors, mindset, attitude, a non compromising stand against confirming to stereotypically accepted attitudes about how a black woman must conduct herself in the arena of work and life.
Identity is critical to this conversation because how Pamela sees herself and chooses to express herself will have direct impact on how you then respond to her.
For me, I found her vibe truly enchanting. I had flashes of Wakanda and Black Panther going through my mind during our conversation.
I asked Pamela what does beauty mean to her?
“Beauty isn’t skin deep. You can look stunningly beautiful but how you treat yourself and other people tells me everything I need to know about you”.
That was her reply and I got her stand and her humanity in this moment.
Take a look at her photograph.
What do you see?
How do you feel about what you see?
I see confidence, approachability mixed with tender vulnerability which creates a feeling of........welcome to my world.
This is Pamela.....x
I am very happy to welcome my friend Elvyra.
She is my friend.
We met through her son Valentino, who is also my friend.
Our friendship has been going strong since 2009.
When she agreed to participate in this project, I felt and knew she would be a wonderful addition to this conversation, I was not wrong.
Elvyra comes from Lithuania and has made London her home.
The word inspiration is perfect for her because you she left behind her family and friends coming to England and not being able to speak a word of English. Whilst working she attended school to learn to speak English - her English is perfect.
Why am I so inspired by Elvyra?
As we spoke and shared our lives, I was deeply moved by her story and vulnerability.
She shared stories of her life growing up in a large family of brothers and sisters. Her life was not easy, it was a testing ground for her identity and self expression.
We all have challenges in life and it would be easy to blame life. Please consider this; life is on our side, life happens FOR US not AGAINST US. Who we become, is the point, how we choose to live in the face of our challenges shapes our humanity.
Elvyra is a woman who embraced life and discovered her power and will to live life on her own terms.
She runs her own business in London; a gorgeous coffee shop, people love her, her coffee shop is a haven for the local community of North London. Her personality radiates warmth and compassion for others.
Look at her photograph.
The instant I created this image I was STUNNED.
I was excited for her to see the image on the back of my camera.
As I was directing her how to pose, she fell so NATURALLY into this position and I caught this moment. It is beautiful and communicates confidence, approachability, a subtle hint of vulnerability and yet, I can feel her will, courage and strength of character. A character born out of trials and confronting life.
Now, when she saw the image on the back of my camera, she looked surprised, delighted and slightly shy.
Why I thought?
It occurred to me that seeing herself like this, in this split second, caught on camera, made her feel, IS THIS REALLY ME?
Yes it is Elvyra, take it from me.
I have photographed enough people to know when someone is not being real.
She is real, authentic and lovable.
What do you see looking at her image?
How do you feel?
When I asked Elvyra what does beauty mean to you, she told me “it’s all inside, beauty is inside. Trust is very important to me”
Beauty = TRUST
Right there, you can see her expression in the world, Elvyra is all about trust and rapport. Yes, she is a very beautiful women in terms of her DNA composite and yet her inner beauty goes deeper, if she trust you, you have friend, you have a confidant, you have an extraordinary champion in your life.
This is a gift and treasure beyond price.
I came away with something of value. It occurred to me that this project is all about exposing women to their deeper beauty, they must see and feel inspired by who they are.
We cannot see ourselves as others see us, the camera doesn’t care, it will record the truth and or lie. Either way, the final image will reveal the “truth” of either the “truth or the lie”.
This project is all about accessing the truth, supporting my ladies through conversation so that they trust me and themselves enough to just surrender and allow their natural expression to shine through. My skill as a photographer will do the rest - immortalise an authentic expression forever.
This is a beautiful thing to me.
Thank you Elvyra, you gave me a wonderful gift. xxx
Please welcome Teresita to this conversation.
My friend Karen introduced us and she represents my first conversation with someone I have just met.
Yes, we met today and took off, no barriers, nothing in the way as far as I was concerned.
Consider this, meeting someone new can be intimidating and uncomfortable for a lot of people. Given the fact that this conversation is a celebration of women, beauty, and everything else that may come up in conversation, man, that’s a BIG conversation to engage in for two people who do not know each other.
Well, my approach to every person I meet is to greet them with an open hand, an open heart and an open smile.
This is magic, it works.
Rapport is at the very heart of this project.
Rapport = Trust
Trust is the access to deep and profound sharing - to share freely without fear is the pathway to connection, acceptance and relatedness.
Teresita comes from Venezuela and has made London her home, she works in the very specialised field of Health & Wellness.
As she spoke and shared about her work supporting others, I could see her inner beauty of compassion, love, contribution and service. Her choice of career is an indication of her spirit of compassionate generosity.
Our conversation about beauty was easy and flowed effortlessly.
When I asked her what does beauty means to you, she responded by saying, “beauty to me is about kindness, happiness compassion”. She elaborated by saying, “compassion is important, I would put this as number one”. When she said that, I could understand her nature; she is a women who genuinely cares about the well being of others, how could she not given her choice of career?
I really admire Teresita because her life now as she put it, has been full of upsets and yet she chose to deal with it head on. With courage and determination, she discovered her true worth and reconnected with her self love, now she is the access and catalyst for others to have this same experience for themselves.
I really enjoyed meeting her, I found her energy and expression light, friendly, a subtle hint of vulnerability mixed with a hard core foundation of spiritual strength. This is quite a formidable women and yet dare I say, truly LOVABLE.
Look at her photograph what do you see?
When I sent this image to her I asked her, what do you see?
She said, “I go straight to the eyes. I see something I never really saw before and it’s wisdom and deep sense of knowingness and knowledge”.
The camera doesn’t lie, how can it? It’s a black box with a hole in it so that light can enter and capture the pure authentic truth.
My conversation with Teresita opened the door to her heart so that she would feel safe in allowing me to see and capture her truthful expression.
When a woman allows me this moment to see her like this, I consider it gift, a privilege.
Thank you Teresita xx
This is my dear friend Laura.
She is an extraordinary human being.
We first met at The Magic Circle. Being both professional magicians we share a deep love for our craft and bringing joy and happiness to others.
If you experience Laura’s show, you will feel her deep desire to make you happy.
We spoke at length today.
Our conversation covered, Magic - being a woman in a male dominated craft, Beauty, Life and being real. I listened deeply to her sharing, her vulnerability impacted me deeply. She always wanted to be a Magician, study Magic and learn from the best.
Her story was full of personal challenges, I was impressed by her courage to fight back. Her determination and commitment saw her join The Magic Circle and then she was able to fulfil her dream.
She had to find her own way, this meant saying “NO” to situations that no longer worked for her. This decision meant taking the road less traveled.
At times in our conversation I saw my life in her story. It takes courage to take a stand for yourself, Laura did this and embraced an aspect of our craft that really got my attention.
One day, she rang me up and said, “Hey Mike, I am studying Sleight of Hand Card Magic”.
If you know anything about me and my work you will know that Card Magic is my first love, this is my self-expression. Laura was serious, she applied herself to this very difficult branch of Magic and has become a terrific voice and presence for women in Magic.
This is beautiful because she has her own show called "CHEAT" and presents an evening of Sleight of Hand that is fantastic.
Laura London The Magician is a delightful experience.
Who is Laura the Woman, the beauty beneath the pretty face, the dynamic attention grabbing RED hair?
This is what I was actively listening for and searching.
I found her.
Look at her photograph.
I love it, do you?
I see someone confident, approachable and yet there is a subtle hint of uncertainty or vulnerability.
This to me is endearing.
I also sensed from being with Laura a deep desire to love and be loved.
I asked her, what does beauty mean to you?
In her own words, she said, “ Beauty is kindness, passion and love. True beauty is reflected in your soul. Smiling at others even when you are having a bad day, complimenting someone and meaning it, most importantly being the best person that you can be”.xxx
This expression by Laura reveals her true nature - she has retained her youthful childlike spirit of love, freedom, adventure and the perpetual quest for happiness.
In the face of life and all its drama, she generates the smile on her face first.
This smile is her gift to the world and what follows is the real magic of her generous happy spirit. If you ever meet her, be as equally generous in how you respond to her. This symbiotic relationship is what keeps Laura engaged with life, love and the pursuit for happiness.
I am happy beyond measure to have my dear friend Denise contributing to this celebration of Women and Beauty.
Take a moment and just be with the gorgeous stillness she exudes in her image.
What thoughts are going through your mind?
Honestly, how do you feel as you look at her image?
As soon as I saw this image on the back of my camera, I knew I had captured the magic moment, that magical expression.
What I find fascinating about this project is the simple fact that I have no idea before hand what that expressions will be like, all I know is, I will feel it during the shoot.
Denise gave me this moment and expression and it touched my heart.
It is simple.
We spent the afternoon talking about our lives; we shared openly about the challenges we were dealing with. I shared about my mother and my current situation being deaf. So we got profoundly related to each other. We understood each other and our respective worlds.
To share so openly with her was easy for me I simply love her. She is the mother of my best friend Julian. From the moment I first met her, she was open, warm inclusive and I just felt a big part of her family. This has been the beauty of our relationships for close to 20 years.
Denise understood the context of this project and her point of view about beauty was simple. In her own words, she said. "Beauty for me is a warm feeling I get from others".
Think about what she has described – “a warm feeling I get from others”. This landed on me very powerfully. I interpreted this warm feeling as one of feeling safe in the company of someone. This safety allows for the possibility to relax and share openly.
Warmth, openness, stillness, vulnerability, love and a generosity of spirit are the beautiful virtues I experience from being in Denise’s company.
This is the beauty I look for in people, in women, this is the beauty of the spirit and soul. This is the experience of Denise you will have if you have the pleasure of being in her company.
One thing creates the other; a warm heart seeks out and responds to other warm hearts.
This is the will of the living force and it is at work perfectly in Denise.
Thank you for reading.
I am very happy to welcome Rosie on board in this celebration of Women.
I first met Rosie through our mutual Friend Martina and I could feel her warmth and humanity. I experienced her as being friendly, open and willing to engage.
When I asked her how she felt about this project, she replied; "I wanted to support this project because I felt it would be uplifting for women".
I was really happy to hear that; I could see and feel right away what was important to Rosie. My conversation with her revealed a women who is passionate about being someone who can inspire and uplift others.
Rosie comes from the USA and is in the arts - she teaches Acting to students and right away, I could see a massive contribution being made to others.
We both come from the arts, with me being a magician, I could completely understand her feelings about her career choice, being a creative and the exploration that comes from travelling, seeing the world, learning about different cultures and what our respective art forms can teach us about ourselves in relation to others.
In Roise, I sensed a women exploring and celebrating her life, open to new experiences and learning about this voyage of self discovery.
One question I always ask is; What does beauty mean to you? she respond by sharing "Beauty to me is the light within soul. True beauty is when we see that light in each other".
I am amazed by the different ways in which this concept of beauty has been expressed by the women I have spoken to so far. Rosie's reflections reveals to me a deep spiritual insight and belief that we are all beautiful, we just need to open the eyes of hearts and see deeply into each other.
When you read that Beauty = LIGHT, what comes to mind?
For me, I am present to Rosie's joy of life, her willingness to be genoruse in sharing herself, being open and fully self expressed.
Take a moment and just be with the image I created of her.
Do you experience her beauty as Light?
I will leave you to decide.
For now, I am grateful that I have met Rosie and spent time in her company. Our conversation was short, however, I got the point about her and what beauty means to her.
One more thing; I asked her how does she want people to feel when they see her photograph, she said "Happy"
I am very happy to share with you my Celebration of Karen.
First things first.
Karen and I first met through our mutual friend Carol Pyke. I remember thinking at our first meeting how bright and illuminating her energy was and is.
When we met today, this was our first meeting and opportunity to get to know each other. Thanks to social media, we have shared messages backwards and forwards so it had begun.
Being in each other’s space today added to things and I can tell you, she and I were both congruent in our being and sharing.
My experience of Karen was just delightful, her spirit and expression was just as open, bright and welcoming.
I had no agenda in terms of where our conversation would go. I just surrendered to the process and trusted myself to let it flow.
What came out was fascinating.
I discovered a woman who is on a mission. Her purpose is to empower the lives of women. She is a professional Life Coach and is out to make a difference.
Just in this conversation alone, I could see an aspect of her inner beauty - she has a very compassionate and generous spirit. She is the kind of lady who will not stand by and ignore someone suffering.
Think about that for moment as you look at her photograph.
There is no doubt in my mind that Karen is out to share her love in the world. This shows up in how she interacts with people and shares herself.
During this conversation, I was studying her face - this is what I do as a Photographer. I am looking for the best way to capture the authentic expression. I could see the photograph I wanted to create in my mind.
As we spoke and shared, I could see and feel her natural energy and spirit. I felt a lot of humanity coming from her.
I asked Karen what does beauty mean to her?
In her own words; “beauty means to me coming from the heart”.
Read that again...
Coming from the heart presupposes that we actually feel something, about a person, an issue, anything that we are dealing with.
Coming from the heart could also mean expressing the truth.
For Karen, coming from the heart is all about the expression of love.
She was very clear when I asked her about having her photograph taken.
I asked, “what do you want people to think and feel when they see your image”?
She responded emphatically; “LOVE”💜
I ask you all to take a moment and just look and be with her image that accompanies this blog post. Allow yourself to be still as you look and feel.
I knew instantly when I saw this particular shot on the back of my camera that this is the one. This is the shot that communicates everything about Karen and how I experienced her today.
I see beauty in terms of her DNA composite - the energy and spirit oozing from her eyes is just too gorgeous for words.
The camera doesn’t lie - my technique was simple - one Camera, one Lens
Nikon 50mm 1.4
Shot wide open to defocus the background. I knew I wanted Karen to pop off the screen. All the “Visual Weight” is on her face and authentic expression.
Photography is a very powerful medium for capturing and communicating an idea.
My idea is to capture the truth about women.
The truth as I see it and as I experienced it in Karen is that all women represent the possibility and expression of love.
The expression of love is a choice.
The expression of fear is also a choice.
My conversation with Karen today inspired me with hope. I hope that all men can look beyond the surface DNA beauty of women and actively seek and celebrate their feminine power.
In celebrating that feminine power, women can trust our masculine power to hold that sacred space.
Thank you for reading; I hope it leaves you inspired with a new perspective on beauty.
Allow me to introduce to you my friend Catherine Love.
We first met at one of my show when I was performing in Brighton at a Fund Raiser for our mutual and departed friend Lynn Hazleden.
We have been friends ever since, thanks largely to Social Media, however, our connection has been rooted in deep friendship, respect and love for each other.
When I started this project, I knew I wanted Catherine to feature, because if you read any of her post on Facebook, you will experience truth in her words. When you meet her in person, she is 100% congruent in her offline personality and self expression.
Today, we met up and enjoyed a wonderful conversation about Beauty.
These conversations always, and I mean ALWAYS open up further dialogue around relationships, family, childhood. At times it can get quite confronting. With Catherine, I experienced a woman who has had to endure a quite a bit of challenges in life.
I asked her how does she cope? in her own words; "I try to find something to laugh and smile about”.
Right there, you can see a woman who has a very positive relationship to life.
As she said to me today; "Life doesn't happen to us, we happen to life".
My experience of Catherine today was one of joy and reverence for life. She has reached a point in her journey where she recognised that she has been the creator of all that has occurred in her life. She now is walking the path of reclaiming her identity and celebrating herself, her family on her own terms.
Look at her photograph above.
What do you see?
The energy her exudes, would say she is sad, resigned and cynical about life?
As soon as I created this image in camera, I knew this was the look and expression I wanted from her. We both discovered something, she cannot help smiling. Smiling is Catherine's unique and default gift to the world.
How can you feel sad when she drops one of those smiles on you? No way.
This is Catherine Love, love by name, love by nature and this authentic expression of hers is a wonderful gift to the world.
We are blessed to have someone in our world who is so generous in sharing this part of themselves with us.
She is my friend and I am proud to call her my friend.