A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it – Edward Steichen
Every writer needs a photo, right? But how do you portray the essence of what you do – who you are – in one shot?
What I do is many different things: performer, writer, educator, content creator. I work with young children mostly but also parents, teachers, musicians, animators, designers and, hopefully, commissioners. My photo needs to speak to all of these and more. To convey what I hope I bring to my work with and for children – which is, at its heart, warmth.
And then I met Julia.
She came to my flat during lockdown to take photos of my Mum for an exhibition she was creating for Camberwell Arts Week called Shielded about people who’d been shielding during Covid.
The photos were startlingly good and were on display until recently on the railings outside Denmark Hill Station in South London.
I asked Julia if she would take some promo shots of me in Ruskin Park, which is close to the station and round the corner for both of us. The trees were just starting to turn but there was still warmth in the sun; the light was soft, autumnal.
We’d talked about what I wanted the photos to encapsulate and Julia suggested keeping things simple and playing. So I brought two outfits and one prop – a soft toy cat to symbolise both my work with young children and my name, Kitty.
We walked and chatted – then found a quiet place in a glade near the pond. I was nervous but Julia was patient and encouraging; she asked me to think about the children I teach, about singing and making music in the open air as I do in so many nurseries and outdoor settings. I told her about the animated preschool series I’m developing with KingBee Animation; about its characters and settings, its songs and stories that celebrate nature and wildlife. I found myself cuddling the toy cat and thinking about what soft toys give to children – comfort, familiarity and, yes, warmth.
Click, click went the camera and we were done. Julia sent me the photos the next day and I chose two to be my publicity shots – one with the cat and one without. They’re both beautiful and I am so impressed with Julia’s work, not only because her photos are amazing but also because she is able to find the heart and truth of her subjects.
The great art photographer, Edward Steichen, said, ‘A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it’.
Thank you, Julia, for putting me on the other side of your camera.