‘My Angel’ began in August 2008. It started with a single spontaneous shoot, that went on to span a whole year. It became an unplanned record of the beauty and the unexpected pain and loss, pregnancy can bring.
This small and very personal project is dedicated to its subject, my best friend Sharon Simmonds. Sharon had originally agreed to be my first ever nude model, at a time when I felt I had reached my own limits with photographing myself. I had planned to create a series of harsh fine art nudes, set in the woods surrounding my home, contrasting her skin with the rough bark and undergrowth. However, the night before the shoot, Sharon broke the news to me that she was 7 weeks pregnant, and when we left at dawn the following day, everything in my head had changed. ……
That morning it was as though the earth knew, and the sunlight that fell on us was different and somehow magical. It would mark the beginning of photography becoming a far more powerful force within my heart, and allowed me to experience a whole new connection with the person I shared it with. Tragically, 3 months later Sharon lost the baby, and I lost my mother. At first I couldn’t bear to look at the pictures, but Sharon maintained she would always cherish them, as they were the only record she owned of her unborn child.
Soon after she fell pregnant again, and we agreed to complete the cycle with pictures of her in the later stages. Sadly she suffered another serious problem in her 7th month, and only just managed to pull through. By now I began to realise that pregnancy was difficult, painful, and frightening, and is a journey for all women. Three weeks before she was due to give birth and was strong enough to leave hospital, we decided to try and capture the emotions she had been through. A far cry from the typical pictures of soft focus expectant mothers, I wanted to attempt something different that would be honest and reflect her story.
Once again, just as before we set out at dawn, but this time I took Sharon to an abandoned road. She was almost naked, and the cold landscape was ghostly and devoid of life. In the distance the occasional car passed casting soft halos, and shadows that stretched to our feet. We shivered and laughed, and watched in stunned silence as a deer walked straight across our path. As the sun rose, its warmth crept over our skin, and we recalled our emotions of the summer before. The joy we had felt, now reinforcing the relief that this new life in her belly stood for something we could both look forward to, after a year of pain. Overhead the dark clouds of the dawn broke, and the mist melted away to reveal the reality of her near naked body. In those final moments she threw her arms open, when I shouted ‘how do you feel?’ and I cheered as she flung her head back triumphant at last, and laughed, and shook, and shouted back at the sky……….
These are the days I will be forever grateful for having captured a life in such a way, it is precious, and an awakening for my soul.
This series will always be so special to me, and I am so thankful the pictures are of her. For she is someone who had saved me many years before from a terrible time in my own life, and that is the reason why I have always called her ‘My Angel’.