Amber was a kindred spirit from the moment we met. I’d always been a huge fan of her work, and had a huge girl-crush on her jewellery (and her tattoos), so having the opportunity to not only meet her in the flesh but spend the afternoon drinking wine, playing with crystals and taking her portraits in the wilds of Nashville, Indiana – was kind of a dream come true.
Looking back at these images – and indeed all of the images I took in the States, I am struck with awe and humility at the way these women placed themselves into my hands. It takes courage to open up to someone new – to allow the masks to come off and let the heart be known. Especially a stranger from Australia, who comes toting a weird accent, terrible jokes and a camera, who fumbles over her own words, drinks a little too much wine if it’s offered, but will do everything she can to make you feel a little less awkward because she knows only too well how excruciating the process of being understood is. How sometimes we want to be not just seen, but known by someone who just…gets it. And god, I get it.
I’m never sure what people expect when they turn up for a shoot. I haven’t been shot by too many photographers myself, so I’m not sure what the ‘official’ process is (is there one? I have no idea). But I know my process and I trust it, and I can tell you that almost all of what I do is in the connection between artist and muse. The idea of having your vulnerabilities excavated and exposed to the light with no previous interaction is crippling, particularly if you have an aversion to even being photographed to begin with.
It’s often why I rarely raise my camera within the first 15 minutes, preferring to sit and chat, or go for a walk.
Find the light, find common threads, common ground.
Amber and I spent most of the afternoon sharing stories. She showed me the places that were most sacred to her, rusty leaves crunching underfoot as we explored hidden sheds and slivers of late afternoon light. We laughed like children. I threw away the plan and let the light guide me. Layer by layer, she let me see slip deeper into her. I didn’t want it to end.
I never do.