As a portrait photographer I photograph faces almost daily. Over many moons in this field I’ve noticed a pattern: almost every time a woman arrives make-up free, ready for the artists to do their job, she apologies for her face. “You’ll have to forgive my face - I’m not wearing any make up” seemed to have become something of a standard opening line at the beginning of such a large number of my shoots. It wasn’t long before I was noticing this in day-to-day life, too, and on more than a few occasions I found the same words tumbling from my own lips. We’re not talking about particularly insecure individuals, nor are we talking about people who usually cake themselves in products. There seemed to be some unsaid rule that unless women were wearing make up, we were somehow below par.
Naturally, there had to be a photographic project in this.
I grew drawn to the idea of reversing my usual set-up for photo shoots. I’m most often found creating pictures amongst wild and untameable nature with a beautifully made up model. This formed the basis of the concept behind The Garden. The idea was to create an entirely fake 3D flower garden - the floral equivalent of a made up face - and photograph the bare faces of women amongst it. My plan was not to persuade women to go make up free forever, neither was it to suggest that make up or the work of make up artists is any less wonderful than we know it to be. I was merely curious to see how this reversed photo shoot would look aesthetically and to put it out there that a make up free face is nothing to apologise for, but something to be celebrated. The project was announced, with the promise that the images would be edited overall but no facial retouching would take place besides removing what was impermanent (a pimple, a stray eyelash…). Twelve women came forward and, over a period of twelve weeks, in twelve sittings, we captured The Garden.
Thank you to Louise, Alice, Jessicah, Bexie, Anna, Charmaine, Kitty, Emma, Lara, Danielle, Laura & May letting me photograph your beautiful faces for this series. Also a big thanks to the lovely folks at Shropshire Cat Rescue for loaning some of the smaller flowers, and to Anne, Barry, Molly, Joanne & Charlotte for joining the backdrop painting party!