I think I first met Anabela maybe 10 years ago now. She’s an incredible local artist whom I recently was lucky enough to persuade to participate in my project, Change which documents women/non-binary folk who are currently experiencing peri-menopause or in the throes of full on menopause and is a subset of my umbrella #documentary #portrait #photojournalism project, Womb. Part of this particular project adds an audio element to the photo essay segment because it’s my aim to emphasize the need for broader, wider, deeper conversations surrounding aspects of our health.
Anabela only entered peri-menopause some 7 weeks ago. We talked about our moms, being moms to sons, when we first began our periods, hot flashes and other symptoms, breastfeeding, seeking medical help for the symptoms and the current social and political climate that increasingly seeks to challenge reproductive rights, access to reproductive health of women/non-binary people. Since Trump entered presidency a year ago, it has certainly felt like more anti-choicers, homophobics, transphobics, misogynists, MRAs have become emboldened in their attempts to shout down the voices of #women, #BIPOC, #WOC and #LGBTQ2S people and silence, even censor our experiences and perspectives.
The current political and social climate has likely been a catalyst for the fact that the recent March supporting the rights of Women and Non-Binary people was the largest yet seen for Waterloo Region. It was personally heartening to witness and document the pushback by so many in our communities against those who would trample our rights. Anabela and I also talked about the rise of the #metoo movement and what actual ‘witch hunts’ involved (misogyny) and whom they actually targeted (women). You can listen to our conversation while you browse her photos below. (I apologize in advance for the sound quality of our conversation which is less than ideal, but still worth a listen.)
Before I close, I want to add the wall Anabela surmounted on my behalf to come sit for me. She’s extremely private and she warned me, but as I snapped away she appeared to me to become visibly uncomfortable and I felt compelled to ask her again if she was okay with the shoot, despite the fact she’d already signed the release form indicating she would be. Her frank response that she actually hates having her photo taken made me break up laughing. It’s something I get because I loathe it myself and much prefer to be the one wielding the camera versus its subject. But her depth of generosity was clear as she continued: she says because she is an artist (and, I might add, an exceptionally talented one), she wanted to support my art in any way she could. I cannot emphasize enough how much of an absolute gift this photo session was to me and I hope she will see in the photos below her intelligence, sardonic wit, dry sense of humour, her depth of strength and character along with a unique, expressive beauty, which she carries inside and out. The conversation we shared, too, was enlightening for me. Without Anabela and others like her willing to open up themselves even when it’s against every inclination to do that, photographers like myself couldn’t do the work we do on our projects. I can’t say enough how much it’s appreciated.
So my sincere thanks goes out to all my participants thus far who help to put a dent in the taboos surrounding open discussion of our bodies and our health. And my heartfelt appreciation to Anabela for the enormous gesture (and obvious personal sacrifice) she made by entering the fray. Even though her eyes are among her best, most photogenic features, I include a couple of photos in which she blinked because she did in almost every second photo, which caused us no small amount of hilarity during the shoot! Ultimately, I hope she won’t close her eyes to how stunning, open and honest a shoot resulted and that she will be as empowered by each photo I shot of her and the conversation we shared as I am and I hope, no doubt, others will be. (Click on any photo to enlarge.)