52 Portraits of a Stranger: Hannah.
So back in December, I decided to do a project for 2017. I wanted to do something that would have impact, would connect me to others, make me feel vulnerable and inspire not just myself but others too. I wanted to do something powerful. So much of photography is storytelling and connection and its actually something that puts a lot of people outside of their comfort zone. I like being uncomfortable, it means I am growing.
'He/She with the highest capacity for discomfort rises the fastest'
So I came up with 52 portraits of a stranger. Its simple each week throughout the year I will take the portrait of a stranger and ask them to make themselves vulnerable and share something about themselves. The challenge for me (as well as connection) is I can only choose one photo. I put the call out and Hannah got in touch.
(Just a little note: Writing makes me uncomfortable. I worry a lot about upsetting people with what I write, but I strive for authenticity daily so apologies if this clumsy but it's honest and I will only improve if I keep trying and sharing. Another reason for this project.)
So today I headed to Surrey, feeling nervous, questioning whether I was capable of being responsible for someone else's story at this level of one on one.
I had no need to be nervous, we walked up to the woods behind Hannah's home and she shared with me a life changing story. A few years ago, a short time before Hannah's 19th birthday she had an accident.
Hannah had been backing her young horse, all had been going well and smoothly for a while and then for some reason one day, her mare started having a bronc. Hannah from what she can remember says she went down the voluntary dismount route after sitting through the worst of it. Either way, she landed on her feet. Great, that's how all of us horsey lot want to land. And then she was kicked in the face and chest.
Half a tonne of animal kick you in the face and chest while having a strop is no small matter. That's a life changing type of accident. People who haven't been around horses or don't have a love of them genuinely can't understand why we put ourselves in this position for this very reason.
I am not going to go into the gory details as they are actually totally irrelevant but what followed for Hannah was 2yrs of various procedures to repair the damage to her mouth and nose.
For many young women of her age, that would have been it. Many would have chosen to hide away from the world, let alone get back on a horse. Hannah was back riding and at work 11 days later. She even went out for her 19th birthday. Not for a second did she allow what had happened to stop her from enjoying the things she loved.
Yes, she told me it was hard, people stared, she was in discomfort and she had to accept what had happened. But instead of feeling sorry for herself she feels now this is one of the most positive things that has happened to her.
She realised how many people loved and cared about her, she realised how the superficial bullshit fed to us on a daily basis is actually bullshit, we aren't just skin deep, she decided to go to University to study Zoology and very soon she is going to study a year in Alaska. Stuff she genuinely believes wouldn't have happened if she hadn't of had her accident.
She chose to have the strength to be brave and continue enjoying her life despite a pretty traumatic experience, one that would have knocked a lot of people down who would not of rose again for a long time. That takes courage and vulnerability.
So it was a total joy to take Hannah's portrait today and to hear her story. I left feeling inspired.
I hope you like the portrait Hannah xx