First Published, 28th June, 2014
Everybody trains for aesthetics to some extent. Anyone who says they don’t is either lying or already has the body they want. We all care about how we look. This was the main reason I started training in the first place, I wanted to look better. Gradually my priorities changed and I was more concerned about being able to achieve skills and create a stronger, healthier body. But I’m a girl so no matter how much I focus on improving my training I am still paying attention to how it makes me look. I’ve watched how my muscles have grown, how my shape has changed, the parts that have got smaller, the parts that have got bigger, if I’ve got leaner, or if I haven’t. It’s actually pretty tiring.
I used to train in a gym, lifting heavy heavy weight, sweating, and looking about as delicate and graceful as a brick. I saw so many photographs of women looking ripped, and to achieve this they were working with weight, enduring high intensity interval training and really thrashing their bodies. So I figured if I did this then I would not only be bullet proofing my body, I would sculpt it into something that resembled an Olympic athlete… Which is totally what didn’t happen because I ate more than 1000 calories a day and I’m not any kind of athlete. Despite this I still trained hard and I totally loved it. Until one day when I woke up and my first thought was “what’s the point of a burpee…”
Things have changed a lot in the past two years. Although I think lifting is wonderful and will never stop squatting, I’ve changed the way I train, focusing on skills and the quality of how I move my body. I’ve been dealing with my weaker areas as well as progressing with the things I really enjoy. The accumulation of all my work led to my first photo shoot performing handstands.
I’ve never done a photo shoot before and I had no idea what to expect. The photographer was Simon Carter, who I’d met through Cambridge Community Circus. We went to this absolutely beautiful, spacious studio in Newmarket called Love Photo Studio, owned by Vic Beachview. After being shown around I sat in the changing room having my hair twisted into a piece of art followed by make up that make me look like I’d been air brushed with Photoshop. This was all done by hair and make up artist Sarah Pumfrey, who was fantastic. Not being used to being so made up I really didn’t look or feel like myself.
The next part was my outfit, or rather lack of… The idea with these photographs was to focus on different shapes, and to capture the musculature of my body. So I needed to be covered with as little as possible. I felt pretty self conscious to begin with until I did a handstand and kind of forgot about it.
That’s one of the most amazing things about being upside down. You can’t think about anything else, you can only feel. I listen the sound of my breath, and although I am aware my eyes are looking between my thumbs, they focus in and out as if I’m looking through the floor. When I’m in a straight line my body balances in waves, and when I move I feel myself shift through the space around me, picturing my position in my mind. Everything is silent just for a few seconds, even if there is music playing. This moment and this feeling is what we wanted to capture.
Being able to handstand on demand and essentially perform was wonderful. Fueled by apples I kicked up over and over again. My confidence improved the more we photographed. We finished with some head shots which was another new experience since I hate photographs of my face because I either look miserable or smile really unnaturally. I was incredibly lucky to be working with such a professional photographer who made me feel completely comfortable. Simon was brilliant at creating lighting, capturing different angles and coming up with different positions for me to hold. Being an acro-balancer himself meant he understood how to cue my body if I needed to correct my position.
It took nearly two hours of experimenting with movements, poses and angles before we got “the shot”. When I train I find I get my best handstands in the last 15 minutes of the session because my brain can’t think anymore so my body takes over and just does it. It was a position that I hardly ever train, have little experience with and I tried it just because. Magic always happens when I’m totally drained.
Photographer: Simon Carter
Hair and Make Up: Sarah Pumfrey
Taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and m.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 pro lens
And we got something pretty magical.
Going back to why I’ve talked about training and aesthetics. Doing this provoked a lot of thoughts about how the way I feel about myself and my training are so deeply intertwined. There are so many different ways to become strong and to define strength. And just because you are strong it doesn’t mean you can’t look soft and feminine. That might sound obvious but until I started experiencing it for myself I would look at dancers, circus performers and gymnasts and think that because I hadn’t done that sort of thing all my life I could never come close to moving like that, let alone looking like that.
So I’ve looked through the photographs and looked at myself. I train to be strong, I want strength so I can balance, balancing makes my heart sing, and I just want my body to reflect this.
I will probably never be 100% happy with how I look. But…
In this photograph
I think that I look
If you are interested in viewing any more of Simon Carters Photography then check out his portfolio here: http://purpleport.com/portfolio/juggler