When I was 19 I met a woman who had won the lottery. I was on my way to camp for the second year running feeling a bit more travelled and mature than my first year. I had a whole University year under my belt, exams completed and the excitement of the summer before me. Similar to the previous year I was on various flights to get from New York to San Diego – the cheapest way possible I’m sure. The tiny plane I took from New York to Philadelphia was one of my first on such a small 12-seater plane, but ultimately was just another adventure for me. Then things took a little bit of an interesting turn when I got to Philly. There was still 2 hours before my flight to San Diego and I didn’t have to worry about my luggage because it got ‘lost’ again between Edinburgh and London and was making its own way to San Diego separately from me. Ironic.
Almost two hours later, after not doing very much other than sitting where my flight was supposed to board, I was confused as to why there was no one boarding our plane that was supposed to take off in less than 10 minutes. So I wandered to the information desk to enquire as to why no one was boarding only for them to tell me it was boarding and I’d been sitting in the wrong place. Cue mad fast crazy running to the correct gate only to watch as the floating tunnel was pulled away. That feeling of shock, heartbreak and not really knowing what I was going to do washed over my like a tidal wave because the realisation that I had less than $100, no bank card and no way to receive any kind of money from my parents to afford a plane ticket, was huge. With that sore frog-in-the-throat pain you get when you’re trying not to cry, I walked over to the service desk with not a clue what I was going to say or do. As I stood there, motionless, I started speaking to this elderly woman whose flight to San Francisco had been cancelled. I can’t really remember what she was telling me other than the fact she was going to visit some of her Grandkids. I think I managed to tell her that I’d missed my flight and I was on my way to San Diego to work at Camp. We talked for at least half an hour and I started to feel better – she was such a friendly lady and so American to me. I mean that in the nicest way, her accent and her demeanour were completely different to my own Grandparents and I could only attribute that to her being American. So as we neared the service desk I thought I would be fine and hoped for the best regarding getting another plane ticket. But then as I was called forward I opened my mouth and all the tears and none of the speaking came out. So this kind old American lady steps forward to say I’d missed my connecting flight to San Diego. After some talking the women on the other side tells me not to worry because many flights had been cancelled that day and they were putting everyone up in a hotel they would just do the same for me. She then handed me the hotel reservation, gave me a $10 food voucher for dinner at the hotel and my ticket for a plane first thing the next day. I was a bit shocked. Although I was trying to remain positive beforehand so many different things could have happened in that situation and I’d somehow managed to get on a flight at 7am the next day.
I then waited for my new friend, who was also staying at the Hotel – I can’t remember what it was called, I’m sure it was along the lines of a Best Western – and we made our way to the shuttle bus area for the bus to take us. I couldn’t thank this lovely lady enough for helping me, although I think I tried quite a lot. After waiting for what felt like forever she announced we would get a taxi, but I hesitated because I knew I wouldn’t really be able to afford a taxi. Then this lovely lady turned to me and said It’s okay sweetie, I’ll pay. I won the lottery. I was gobsmacked. I’d never met anyone who had won the lottery before and the most surprising thing to me was that she didn’t act, or look, like she had. She wasn’t decked out in really fancy clothes or carrying the most expensive suitcase. Everyone’s had that conversation where they talk about what they would do or what they would buy if they won. I always thought I would buy the more expensive clothes and have the more expensive things, things I couldn’t currently afford. But she went on to tell me how she had paid off her children’s mortgages, college tuition fees and started funds for her Grandkids so they could live more comfortable lives when they grew up. She also had enough to retire early, pay off her own debts and travelled to visit her family whenever she could.
Ever since then I’ve always wanted to be able to do the same thing for my family too, so we could be more financially comfortable. The other thing I took away from meeting this women was that kindness goes such a long way and going the extra mile to help people out really doesn’t take much. I’ve tried to implement indiscriminate acts of kindness towards other people in my life when I can and it’s always much more rewarding than you can imagine. Perhaps not initially, but you always get a return on it somehow. There are so many people in this world that take for themselves and do everything to try and help them that they forget that letting someone queue jump if they are running late and you have loads of time doesn’t take much, or helping someone out when they look lost is really lovely. Put yourself in their shoes.
This is one of those stories that at the time didn’t feel very significant, other than meeting someone who had won the lottery. But every time I think back to that situation I realise something new or take away a different understanding. I’m glad it’s one of my little stories, one of my life lessons.
– Ellie x
Let’s talk about music; today I want to share two very different videos. Both I currently love for very different reasons. The first is Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood Video – from her album 1989 – and I absolutely love it! Girl Power on point and the story of the video is so creative and well produced. I think I watched it at least a dozen times when it first came out. It’s such a good song for working out to, or for feeling empowered by or simply just dancing around your house and feeling awesome. I love Taylor Swift!
The Second is by Train and it’s their new video to Give It All – a song featured on their latest album Bulletproof Picasso. You’ll notice that it’s a dance video, and at first there was a little part of me that was skeptical towards there being another dancing video, it seems to be the popular thing right now. But I watched it because I love dance and movement and I was so pleased I did because it’s such a beautiful video. It’s completely different from the likes of Ed Sheeran and Hoozier who have also produced dancing videos lately. So I was happy to see that. The video was released during mental health week, and carries the underlying message of loss, healing and letting go. To me, and in a completely different way from Swifty’s video, I feel empowered by this video; I love dancing, it makes me want to photograph dancers.
– Ellie x
I’ve been having a body confidence crisis of late. Which is strange for me. I’m not claiming that I don’t have any body insecurities, but overall I’m generally happy with the way my body looks and is and I’ve always tried to stay pretty positive about it. I have stretch marks, but I’ve accepted them and curves but I love them. But at the weekend I decided to go holiday shopping. I was only looking for a nice new dress, I do love a good dress, and some shorts and some sunglasses. The sunglasses were easy, I found some mirrored black and pink ones in Topshop. Sorted. My inner girly-girl was happy with the pink, even if they aren’t prescription.
Next, came the dress. Upon finally making it through to the changing rooms with no less than 6 items I started undressing. And I notice that my tummy is looking less than desirable. And then overall I am looking less than desirable. I try on two of the dresses and don’t even make it to the shorts. I’m going on holiday in two weeks and all I can think about is that stupid advert ‘are you beach body ready?’ I adored how women were standing up against this ridiculous ad. I honestly didn’t think it would affect me but CLEARLY it went deep into my subconscious. Bloody advertising. Bloody standout yellow.
The thing is, I enjoy being healthy. I like living a healthy lifestyle and looking good. I enjoy running. I also enjoy running so that I can definitely eat my cake at the end of the day. I have the biggest sweet-tooth. But, and I’ll hold my hands up to this; I just haven’t been healthy recently. I’ve wanted to be, but not enough over the building life stress, career stress and well, London stress. Stress is not a great feeling and ultimately it was the voice at the back of my head going ‘no, it’s been a really long day and you walked up all the escalators at London Bridge so we’ll run tomorrow…or maybe the day after’. And ‘absolutely you should have another piece of flapjack, 8 pieces is totally fine because they are really small’. I know it all sounds like excuses, and they are. But I’m trying this thing where I’m being nice to myself. It changes you. So I’m letting myself have some excuses and yep I’m not going to look fabulously toned on holiday but you know what does it really matter? The point of my holiday is to relax, and get a nice tan, and read a book and NOT stress.
I found the above quotes, on pinterest obviously, and I think they are excellent. We should work out because we love our bodies, because we want to be better for ourselves. We can be so quick to point out our flaws whilst forgetting our good parts. I feel that as long as you are working out in some capacity to remain healthy then you are doing well! Choosing to be fit and healthy is a lifestyle decision. My body is amazing and after some good old hard work it will also look amazing. I think we would all have a much better relationship with our bodies and fitness if we worked out because we loved our bodies with no negative connotations attached. Mind set. Powerful thing.
p.s. Here is a link that you should also have a read of for some body confidence.
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Not even me. You got a dream you gotta protect it. When people can’t do something themselves, they’re gonna tell you that you can’t do it. You want something, go get it. Period” – Will Smith (The Pursuit Of Happiness)
I’m at that stage. You know, that stage where a lot of my friends are coupled up and on their way to marriage, homes, mortgages and babies. I was on the phone to one of my best friend’s last night and she was telling me about her home DIY projects. I’m experiencing what you might call imposter syndrome. My life is in a very different place. That is not a bad thing. I only just turned 26 and also, ps. Let’s start with my life is my life. I think what saddens me is that there are many people who manage to make you feel bad/inadequate for where you are in your life and what you are doing. Everyone has a different journey.
The media has a huge influence on society, dictating what it thinks we should or should not be doing at a certain age. This is not to say that because my life is completely different from some of my closest friends that their lifestyle is wrong either. I broke up with my boyfriend in late December and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I missed the day-time sex, dinner dates, someone who would always be up for eating cheesecake at midnight and joining me for mass coffee shop hang outs. It would be glorious to have all that back. And of course one day, maybe in the next few years(?) I would love to have babies and a house and a partner whom I was in love with. My company will also be more developed. But as excited as I am for all of that and for that stage in my life I am in no rush. I’m currently living life, from country to country with my camera; building my company, photographing couples, brands and probably enjoying twitter a little more than is necessary. But that is my life, that I do not need to apologise for or feel guilty because it’s not following social norms. I’m thoroughly enjoying living my way, designing my own lifestyle. I’m really happy, and although some things don’t always go to plan isn’t happiness where we want to be?
I’m writing this as a slight reminder to myself, a story for how my life is currently and to you. Because how and where you live your life and whatever you are doing career wise, whether it’s similar to mine or completely 180 degree opposite, if you are happy that is all that matters.
– Ellie x
JK Rowling has this quote “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might not have lived at all. In which case, you fail by default”. She gave this as part of her speech to Harvard Graduating Students. My Mum sent me the video; I’m hugely in to inspirational and motivational quotes and speeches.
I will put my hand up and say I’ve failed a few times. I never used to be comfortable with saying I’d failed because no one likes to think of themselves as a failure. And then after failing, for what felt like the millionth time, my mind-set did a little pivot; I realised that failing at something doesn’t make you a failure. And that failure is not the opposite of success.
I took the above photo at the second ever Wedding I photographed. This time last year I was about to shoot my first ever wedding, and I remember it so well. The venue was in a museum, and there were over 400 guests and four photographers. It was the first time I was working with Mark and it felt like this was my test to see and prove that I was good enough. (footnote: in hindsight, I probably didn’t go into this first job with the right mind-set). I had been looking at Mark’s Wedding portraits, flickr, pinterest and all the other blogs and wedding magazines I could get my hands on. I was nervous. I had planned the shots I wanted to get in my head, charged my camera batteries and went to bed early the night before. But nothing could have prepared me for (second) shooting a wedding than actually doing it.
When I looked back over my photos that evening I felt so utterly crushed and disappointed because I felt like I had failed hugely. I barely had any good photos. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t really matter because I was the bottom of the food chain of photographers. I was helping the other photographers out with equipment and shooting when I could. But I wanted so badly to produce beautiful photos and it didn’t happen. The failure of my disappointing – to me – shots felt debilitating. But here’s the thing about failure; it hurts and it will hurt. But you learn. Failure helps you to move forward, to re-evaluate, reassess if you own it. If you realise that it’s not the be all and end all and next time you will do better. Don’t ever let failure consume you so that it stops you trying again. A good friend of mine once said to me “Allow yourself one day to feel sad/disappointed/angry whatever. But once that one day is over you continue; you keep working, keep trying. You will try and fail and try and fail and then one day you will get it. But don’t ever give up the trying”
I can happily say that after my first wedding my photos improved massively. I learned from my experiences, and what I felt were failures, and improved. The cycle continued in a fail > learn > success sort of pattern. Success isn’t a straight line. And failure isn’t the opposite of success, it’s a key ingredient to your journey.
– Ellie x
The other day it occurred to me that it was almost a year since I stepped on a plane to go and work with a photographer I’d been wanting to work with for three years. Never meet your idols I’d heard somewhere. I don’t really agree with that statement because I think when you meet people you are inspired by you get more inspired and it’s an amazing thing. I think the view of never meeting your idol stems from the idea of you have this elevated perception of who you think they are as opposed to who they actually are.
I’d met Mark once before, in 2011. I’d been following his blog since the beginning of 2010. I found it on a search for photography blogs looking for inspiration and guidance on becoming a photographer. He ran an internship for aspiring photographers and each intern had their own mini-blog on what they photographed and what they were learning. I retweeted a lot of the blogs, although I definitely had favourites. I did this for about a year and then got a job in New York for the summer. At the same time a good friend of mine was studying at Georgia Tech University and I decided after I’d finished my employment that I would go and visit him. So I did. But a week or so before I visited, and in a moment of confidence, I tweeted Mark and asked him if I could grab a coffee with him to ask about becoming a photographer. I wanted advice.
Skipping over the meeting, because I can’t remember exactly what happened, he then invited me to shoot with him and some of his interns. We were going to shoot at the river I’d seen him take other interns. That was hugely exciting. Even just to learn and observe one of my favourite photographers was something but getting to shoot with him? I ended up staying 10 days in Atlanta, 5 days longer than I had planned for. We did another shoot at an old car museum, I met his wife and left with an invite of returning if I ever wanted to work with him again.
Three years later I stepped on a plane and went to work with one of my favourite photographers. Being blunt, it was completely different to what I expected. Completely. We photographed 30 Weddings in 6 months. We photographed events, gatherings and I learned more about myself, my style and my mentor than I ever thought possible. And it was hard, that whole living in another country, in a new state where I knew no one blindly following my dreams and my heart until it all ended. I’ll stand tall and say I believe some things happen for a reason. I’m not convinced about fate. I think it makes people lazy. I like being in control of my life and my decisions without them having been ‘foretold’. I worked with Mark for a much shorter time that I thought I would. But I think when we stopped working together it was the right time to. I learned more from him than I will ever be able to say and I like to think he learned a lot from me too. He is still one of my favourite photographers, he is bloody amazing and still from the other side of the world inspires me to push myself to be better and try new things.
What astounds me, on this day: one year exactly since I flew to Atlanta, is that everything that occurred last year was the result of one ballsy tweet and the domino effect. That’s a bit mind-blowing. It’s the little things that often turn into the big things. Don’t ever not ask for what you want. And to my mentor; thank you.
Morning! It’s Monday, and it’s bank holiday Monday! If you have today off, my piece of advice would to be enjoy it. We live in a culture where everyone works really hard, it’s great in some ways, we want to do our best and be the best we can but often at the expense of properly resting and relaxing. So today friends, let yourself rest.
Even if you are off but have a mountain of work to do, take breaks and go outside for a walk. Take a bit of a longer lunch and rest. You’ll be better for it. And if you are completely off then go and enjoy it! Today is your day for you! For once I am trying to take my own advice and I’m going to relax and grab some brunch with friends.
Today I wanted to talk about writing. I write in a journal as well as writing a blog. It was always something that I wanted to do when I was little; I would begin but not really continue for very long. I would often try with holiday journals, I have these really old journals that last for a week or two. I obviously really liked the idea so there are usually entries for a few days after that become more and more sparse until they’ve stopped and then I’d try again at a later stage.
I starting writing regularly when I worked at summer Camp in San Diego. My working summer’s were fantastic yet full and writing helped me gather my thoughts. This was the start of me writing more regularly. I don’t write everyday but I do have days where I pour all my thoughts, feelings, ideas, happenings and future goals onto pages after pages whilst drinking coffee. I find it hugely cathartic and really helpful for reflection. And I just really like the idea of documenting my life, my story. You know that scene in Love Actually where Keira Knightley’s character goes to Andrew Lincoln’s character’s house because she wants a copy of her Wedding Video? And after playing only a few minutes of the video she soon discovers that Lincoln only filmed her. Lincoln embarrassingly mumbles ‘…it’s a self-preservation thing’ and then rushes out.
I think everyone likes self-preservation in different forms. But it is really interesting to sit down and read journal entries I wrote when I was 13, to be able to think back to my life back then. I know that in another 5-10 years, or even in a couple of years, it’ll be interesting to look back at how different life was.