Mindfulness has been widely spoken about over the last few years. There are videos, articles, classes, all sorts of resources that try to teach us, human beings, to recover our ability of just being in the moment. I was born in the early 70's and looking back I can clearly see how much rhythms have changed. How demanding the rhythm of today' s society is being on most of us. Even in South Wales, which is not an overly urban area, in which the rhythms are somehow slower than in more populated areas, this is very noticeable.
Over the last 2 or 3 decades we have become increasingly used to accumulate not only things, but also activities. We live in a rush to make our time both productive and significant, but the truth is, we are so busy rushing between all the activities that fill out our days that most of us feel exhausted rather than more accomplished. And worse, too many people are haunted by the constant sensation of not doing enough, of always failing at their multiple roles. We're so busy doing and achieving that many of us forgot how to feel. How to stop and connect our senses back to the world around us. We, as a society have disconnected ourselves from nature and from the simple flow of life.
And it was within this context that many people have been realising something is not right. Something very essential is missing, and that something might very well be simplicity. Going back to just being us. Returning to nature. Remembering the natural world around us and be again, part of it.
When Harriet and I first discussed our photography session, her main request is that the session would somehow illustrate her connection to nature. She told me that this connection is something she had been working on recently and it's an important part of her. I'm a mainly outdoor photographer and part of the reason why outdoors will always be my first passion is that for me nature is also essential. I crave outdoor time and I feel very blessed for all the natural beauty we can find around this area, be it the wonderful woods around Llanelli and Swansea, be it our wonderful coastal beauty. We chose Penllergaer Valley Woods for this shoot and a bit out of luck, we ended up doing it during the short bluebell season.
What I first noticed about Harriet was her calm. A calm that was not only on the surface, something that went much deeper, it came from within and radiated from her. Photographing her was in fact photographing a sort of beauty that was in perfect balance with the nature around her. Somehow, in this busy world where many of us are fighting to recover the ability to just be, she seems to have mastered it. As she stood there, in the middle of the bluebell woods, her beauty came not only from her physical features but also from inside, from a particular way of flowing with the moment, of being, of not trying to achieve being anything but herself.
One of the first aims of this project was for the women taking part in the photography sessions, to celebrate themselves in whichever way they wished to. We are complex beings with different aspects of ourselves coming together to make a whole, and I am in awe of the variety of approaches this project has allowed me to take so far. Each one of the women involved brought something different with them. Something special. Something that them alone could have offered.
Harriet brought a beauty that fits in the environment around her. A strength that comes from some sort of inner peace she seems to carry with her. An easiness of being, of being whole and present and accepting whatever life has to offer. She didn't seem actively aware of her own beauty, but she didn't seem fully unaware of it either, she just was. I look at her photos and for some reason they take me back to the 60's and the 70's. They look natural and fresh and they are the essence of what I look for when photographing people: simplicity, truth, personality. I want to take photos that show not only what people look like but also reveal a bit of who they truly are. Without words. In images. And I hope I have managed to do so with Harriet.
Disclaimer: All photos taken in the bluebell woods were handled carefully so as not to disturb these beautiful flowers. Where it looks like Harriet is standing right in the middle of the bluebells is rather an illusion created by perspective. We used the paths between the flowers at all times and never stepped or damaged the bluebells. Bluebells are a protected species and picking them or stepping on them is strictly forbidden, so please, if you go to appreciate their beauty, always be respectful of that!