Nevertheless, She Persisted by Mhairi Bell-Moodie

Mhairi Bell-Moodie’s work, Nevertheless, She Persisted telling the stories of women who have faced adversity is currently being exhibited at Out of the Blue in Edinburgh.

Mhairi worked closely with 25 women who have overcome child loss, domestic abuse, rape, self harm, body dysmorphia, suicide attempts, breast cancer and much more. We spoke to Mhairi about the work and her exhibition….

 

From the series “Nevertheless, She Persisted” – portraits of women who have overcome domestic abuse, child loss, breast cancer, gender and sexual identity issues, mental health issues, rape, chronic illness and much more.

 

From the series “Nevertheless, She Persisted” – portraits of women who have overcome domestic abuse, child loss, breast cancer, gender and sexual identity issues, mental health issues, rape, chronic illness and much more.

From the series “Nevertheless, She Persisted” – portraits of women who have overcome domestic abuse, child loss, breast cancer, gender and sexual identity issues, mental health issues, rape, chronic illness and much more.

From the series “Nevertheless, She Persisted” – portraits of women who have overcome domestic abuse, child loss, breast cancer, gender and sexual identity issues, mental health issues, rape, chronic illness and much more.

DS: Can you introduce us to the project project Mhairi –  why did you start this, what’s it about?
The idea to create a body of work around women came to me in November 2016. In one week, I’d photographed two women who gave me some really positive feedback – both on the process of being photographed and with the end results.  They’d both been going through a tough time (chemo and bullying) and I wondered how I could use my skills as a photographer to help other women feel stronger.

One of the women was a friend of a friend.  Mette ended up being in the project but it was still a few months before I had a fully formed concept.  In early 2018, I researched as many women’s issues as I could think of and contacted several charities asking if they would be interested in teaming up to help me make some meaningful work.  SANDS Lothains, Breast Cancer Now, Edinburgh Women’s Aid and Changing Faces all put me in touch with women who were keen to be involved.  The rest of the participants answered my socail media shout outs.  Before I met any of the women, I told them a bit about myself, showed them my previous work, and explained what I hoped to achieve with this project.  I reassured them that anything they told me would be kept confidential until they decided to commit, and always made sure to give them time and space to think about it before deciding.  It was important to me to spend time building a relationship with the women as they had trustsed me with some very intimate details of their life.

From the series “Nevertheless, She Persisted” – portraits of women who have overcome domestic abuse, child loss, breast cancer, gender and sexual identity issues, mental health issues, rape, chronic illness and much more.

From the series “Nevertheless, She Persisted” – portraits of women who have overcome domestic abuse, child loss, breast cancer, gender and sexual identity issues, mental health issues, rape, chronic illness and much more.

DS: “Nevertheless, she persisted” became something of a strapline in the US last year, is this why you chose the title? How do audiences respond to it here?
I wanted a title which could encompass many stories.  With 25 women involved, it was important that the title was relateable to all of them – and to audiences.  The response to the title was very positive – many of the women said they felt like it fitted them perfectly.  Many of my friends said it was also appropriate for my own journey.  Several people have also commented that the loved the title and that the words have given them strength.  It was great to have such a positive response before I’d even released any of the images.  When Chelsea Clinton tweeted about the exhibition, I saw someone comment that they had never understood the title of her book (She Persisted) until he saw my series and realised the struggles we face.  That really touched me.

 

 

From the series “Nevertheless, She Persisted” – portraits of women who have overcome domestic abuse, child loss, breast cancer, gender and sexual identity issues, mental health issues, rape, chronic illness and much more.

From the series “Nevertheless, She Persisted” – portraits of women who have overcome domestic abuse, child loss, breast cancer, gender and sexual identity issues, mental health issues, rape, chronic illness and much more.

DS: Can you talk a little about your approach visually and how the images help tell these womens’ stories.
The aesthetic of the project ended up quite different from the original idea, but I think I made the right decisions in the end.  Almost all of the women were photographed in their own homes.  My first shoots were wider, including more of their environment.  However, apart from Nicky, whose portrait was taken in her stillborn son’s empty nursey, I found it hard to visually communicate their stories through their envirnoments.  I decided that it would be more effective to create strong portraits and tell their stories seperately.  I asked the women to write hand written postcards with comments on their journeys.  It was important to me that the women had some ownership of the project and I think doing this worked well.

The project has taken me on my own journey.  I’ve been affected by all the stories and the women have become very important to me.  They trusted me with their stories and I felt a huge responsibility to share them respectfully.  Because I worked with each woman one-on-one, they weren’t really aware of the scale of the project or the other stories.  It was really rewarding to see them support each other when I started sharing their stories on social media.  They have all said how honoured and privileged they are to be part of something with so many other strong women.  I think many of them women didn’t know their own strenghts when I first met them, but I have really seen them grow in the few months I’ve known them.  It’s been a rollercoaster ride for all of us and I’m delighted that the project – and the women – have received so much support.

From the series “Nevertheless, She Persisted” – portraits of women who have overcome domestic abuse, child loss, breast cancer, gender and sexual identity issues, mental health issues, rape, chronic illness and much more.

 

 

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us Mhairi and congratulations with the exhibition.

Nevertheless, She Persisted telling the stories of women who have faced adversity is currently being exhibited at Out of the Blue 30–36 Dalmeny Street, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 8RG until 18th May 2018.

www.outoftheblue.org.uk

See more of Mhairi’s work here

 

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Seedbed – new work in progress

Document Scotland was delighted to receive support recently from an organisation called Seedbed, which supports projects with start-up funding. The support has allowed two of our photographers, Sarah Amy Fishlock and Sophie Gerrard to each undertake a small project looking at different aspects of land use in Scotland, with a view to developing the work into a broader and wider series of Document Scotland projects over the coming months.

Sarah’s project focuses on community gardening in Glasgow, exploring how urban gardeners engage with the land around them and the social and cultural effects of green spaces in residential areas, while Sophie’s work introduces us to a number of young farmers based in and around Edinburgh and The Lothians, exploring their unique landscapes and every day working lives as well as the financial, logistical and industrial challenges of working in an ageing industry.

Document Scotland are extremely grateful to Seedbed for their support and look forward to sharing the completed projects.

© Sarah Amy Fishlock 2017, all rights reserved

 

© Sarah Amy Fishlock 2017, all rights reserved

 

Cameron, East Lothian © Sophie Gerrard 2017, all rights reserved

 

East Lothian © Sophie Gerrard 2017, all rights reserved

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Last chance to see

Photographing conflict and post-conflict arenas is one of the most interesting sub-genres of documentary photography.

There are many different approaches which make for outstanding viewing. From the monumental landscapes of Donovan Wylie and Simon Norfolk, depicting the theatre sets of war to the late Tim Hetherington’s claustrophobic and intimate moments with the dramatis personae, there is barely a facet of modern conflict which is not explored and exploited by photographers today.

In ‘Legacy’ Scottish artist Roderick Buchanan focuses on post-Troubles Northern Ireland and uses two Scottish flute bands to demonstrate the current and historical links between the peoples of the two territories. Using simple, striking portraits on the one hand and film footage of re-enactment scenes and marches on the other, Buchanan produces a tableau which invites us to examine our own links with the Troubles and our attitude to history, conflict and memory.

As Buchanan states: “My proposal was to make a portrait with grass-roots activists who had lived through the Troubles, processed the Good Friday Agreement meant for them, and who continued to march and stand up for what they believe. As both bands say about themselves, ‘We’re still here’.”

Although chilling to look at, there is something almost charming about the men depicted. The faces are earnest, determined, hard and unforgiving, but there is something almost comedic about them too. These are men you could meet anywhere in Scottish society and you wouldn’t presume that they could be so passionate about a cause which most people regard as a hangover of a bygone age of pugilism and insanity. But these are the men (and boys) of the Parkhead Republican Flute Band and on the other side the Black Skull Corps of Fife and Drum and they mean business. You walk away from the portraits casting a glance back to make sure they aren’t actually following you.

‘Legacy’ by Roderick Buchanan is on at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh until 16th September 2012. Admission free.

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