The Introvert Library | branding photography | storytelling for small businesses

The journey from meeting to photographing is an important part of my process

When Alice first wrote to me asking about some branding photography, I was pretty taken by how much she gave of herself in that first email. I knew that she wanted the feel of an old and beautiful library with lots of warm wooden paneling, that she’d prefer to communicate by email rather than in person for the time being and that she was dreading her first professional photoshoot!  

Alice is The Introvert Library, which offers all sorts of resource to help introverts create lives that work for them, completely individually for them. Being one herself, a hugely creative one at that, I learned to see how amazing she is at communicating her needs, desires and almost how warrior-like she is at coming out of her safe space and into new territory to achieve what she wants in life. It’s no surprise that this is one of her talents, how she shares this process with the people she coaches.

The journey from meeting to photographing is an important part of my process, in fact possibly more important to me than that point of clicking the shutter. I know this already in my personal projects as they often span over several months, so it becomes about those stories that develop and connect along the way. This was very much the case with Alice and me.

Discovering Sessions House in Usk was like lifting our mood board from the wall and giving it life in one place

We explored possible locations between us, I got brave by asking someone I hardly knew some pretty direct and personal questions, and she got even braver by answering them. We got to a stage where it was the most natural next step to actually talk in person, by this point we knew stuff about each other that only friends know.

Discovering Sessions House in Usk was like lifting our mood board from the wall and giving it life in one place. A beautifully restored historical courthouse, connected to Usk Prison via an underground walkway. Where previously, those standing in the dock, would quite likely be escorted via a now-blocked up tunnel directly underneath.

Learning of the infamous trial which took place there of leading suffragette, Lady Rhondda, added to the spice and seemed poignant given that 2018 celebrates a 100 years of women getting the vote. Now the building hosts civil ceremonies, away days and conferences, it also has a room there which holds the largest collection of Victorian books in the country. 

We spent a morning in theatrical shafts of natural light. Conjuring up juror’s findings and hearing the judge conclude with a hammer down of certainty. Mostly it was a day spent exploring Alice’s creative vision, to enable her to honestly and uniquely share what she’s got to give others.


documentary photo project by Jo Haycock

A year photographing Newport Women's Aid

“Sometimes I still hear him talking in my ear but these days I say, no chance mate, no more.”

When I was first approached Newport Women’s Aid some years back with a project idea, I felt strongly about telling a real story through photographs. One that showed a different side to the usual images depicting despair and bruises, normally used to illustrate domestic abuse. I wanted to tell a story about empowerment and choice, about how a group of women there had fearfully but courageously walked out of their 'safe' and secret domestic war zone to break that secret. To honour themselves with a new beginning.

Like a lot of people, I mainly thought of Newport Women’s Aid  as providing a helpline and refuge in a time of crisis.  This is true, they do. However, I quickly realised that there was much more going on behind the scenes to support them further into a safer life, beyond that first crucial phone call.

"He keeps sending me parcels in the post” said a woman who left her abusive partner the year before. “One came from Amazon – it felt like he was back in my house again. So I told myself, it’s only a book, he can't hurt me anymore.”

The Freedom Programme was devised by Pat Craven, and is now used by many women’s aid centres as a weekly rolling programme. Each session covers the typical personality traits of the perpetrator. It’s a chance for women to drop in, listen, realise and share their own experiences. When I joined them for my first session, I became completely overwhelmed at how brave these women really are.  Being faced with a list of traits connected to their very own abuser, and watching the realisation dawn upon them, was such a powerful experience. It was incredibly humbling to be part of.

I didn’t take my camera out of the bag during these early sessions, I just listened, acknowledged, then quietly went off to sit in my car afterwards to reflect some reality of what they'd actually gone through. I can only now admit here, that I sat in the privacy of my car and sobbed... partly in disbelief and frustration that this happens, but mostly for their bravery, for the new life they’re determined to find.

documentary photo project by Jo Haycock

“When I said I was going to leave him he locked me in my room” said one women during a Freedom Programme session. “Then it was my birthday and we had some mates around, so I waited until they all got really drunk and fell asleep. That’s when I left” she added, “I walked out and came here, that was my birthday.”

During this year-long project, I joined in many Coffee Morning workshops. Not your typical coffee morning I might add, these involved self defence lessons, yoga classes, even discovering the art of origami. These were mindful, connective and most importantly, safe and creative spaces for them to explore themselves and become the women they know they really are.

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Over time, these amazingly strong and beautiful women started greeting me with hugs and wise-cracks about how they see life these days – we even had an impromptu ‘book club’ one morning and discussed Fifty Shades of Grey while decorating our cup cakes. 

It was a euphoric moment for me as a documentary photographer, that these women knew I was there and felt safe with me being among them. I was trusted.

Some of these women are still with their abusive partners, but the light and laughs that these workshops bring give them another focus, a release and place to meet up with friends.

The women here are not the only ones affected by domestic abuse. Their children suffer too, with equal loyalties between both parents. Huge behavioural challenges and struggles with expressing what they feel and what they can do with these bottled up emotions.

"I'm a boy that came to the Hands Off group and I enjoyed it. I hope you enjoy it like I did"

documentary photo project by Jo Haycock documentary photo project by Jo Haycock documentary photo project by Jo Haycock

The Hands Off group is an emotional and bonding journey for mothers and their children spanning ten weeks. It gives each child the chance to voice their own feelings in a space that’s nurturing and encouraging. They deserve their own empowerment, and watching them make wishes for the future and write letters of hope for the next group, reminds me of what a safe and grounded childhood I had. They all deserve this childhood. Grown from this, Newport Women’s Aid now give preventive workshops to target-aged school children, to help guide them to know what feels right and wrong when forming relationships.

Anonymity for most of the women and all of the children that I photographed has been crucial, but building up relationships with them was even more so. Their hands became their portraits to me as they created and worked together. Whether it be making a giant mosaic piece, or their legs being photographed as they learned some self-defence moves and practiced yoga. I photographed them from behind in the refuge, was careful not to show any distinctive tattoos or body markings of those that weren't ready to be identified before being ready to face the world once more.

I will feel forever privileged that they’ve let me share a part of re-building their lives.

documentary photo project by Jo Haycock

"yes means yes and no means no"

Being part of this community project saw me introduced to a more world-wide movement. To educate and give a united voice to what still happens across the world in terms of violence and abuse against women. One experience saw me joining the annual Million Women Rise march in London. It's very much a peaceful and creative protest with women and children gathering from all corners of the world, walking through centre London singing their chants and holding high their colourful banners with some very clear messages to the world about their future. I've taken part in it a few years running and more recently taken my young daughter to experience. 

I'm proud that the legacy of this project continues for me. I get to use my craft and take part in awareness days and conferences, to help to visually tell how far a journey these women have journeyed. These are events that continue to create and educate, with survivors' stories at the heart of them. Most importantly, it continues to open my eyes wider still, especially as a mother to a young girl, to the responsibility we all have in raising strong, aware and compassionate children. In educating them to understand what what a healthy relationship should look and feel like, one step at a time. 

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A day in the life of the Williams family

It's always a privilege to be invited into a family's life for a day and have that opportunity to tell their story as it happens. In an honest and unique way, using their home as a heart, with it a backdrop which weaves into their lives. This was no exception for Mandie, Rhys and their girls. I don't think they'd mind me sharing that the last few years have been quite a challenge. In terms of a buying a rundown house with plans to renovate, with plans changing to building a new one from scratch instead - these journeys are never plain sailing, but as Mandie tells me "yes it was a test at times, but it also deepened and strengthened our relationship and the girls were amazing throughout."

Spending time with their girls, you'd think they've always lived there, which is exactly how a family home should feel. I sampled home made cakes hot out of the oven and watched a gymnastics show in the garden. Got introduced to the entire toy community (one of which was a very special senior bear belonging to their daddy) and, much to their parents amusement, we had the grand idea of filling every stair with every fluffy toy they own... so we did.


Photographing families in their allotments

My green fingers extend to planting modest amounts of bulbs each spring, putting some herbs into pots and mowing the lawn when it's my turn. So learning from some expert gardening families here has been a wonderful experience.

"Our allotment was an anniversary present from Duncan’s dad as he didn’t know what else to get us. Though he’s regretting it now as we’ve won first prize in the Best Allotment competition at the annual show for the last two years"

I was asked by JUNO magazine to contribute a photo feature about families and their allotments for their 50th edition. I spent time with three families and got to live a little part in their green fingered world for a day.

"Our parents and grandparents were keen gardeners, it’s something we’ve both grown up with. We kept a small vegetable patch in the back garden, but when the girls came along it competed with a trampoline, slide, ball games and the guinea pigs. So we put our name down for an allotment and within six months we were given one to do with as we wish."  George

Not only did I get to learn a few gardening tips for myself. I also learned of the best places to hide, trees to climb, the best raspberry bushes to eat from when no one's looking and discover the places where most worms and wood lice live.

"I like to read here. After I’ve done a few gardening jobs with dad, I’ll sneak off and find somewhere to sit with my book." Laura

Their allotments have become a way of life and a place to escape to. We all too often get bogged down with day-to-day routines, not seeing the end of that 'to do' list, and for new families it can be quite challenging to re-establish identities after having a baby.

"As a first time mum, it can be tough finding some time for yourself, but this has become somewhere I can do this. When Emily was tiny, I’d walk over from our house with her in the pram and would let her sleep as I quietly got on with some weeding. It’s such a peaceful place, it gives me space to think." Nickala

One day I walked into a family BBQ celebration being held in the middle of their plot on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Surrounded by lush fruit and flowers, spades put to one side and the summer house doors wide open, as sausages sizzled and the bottle corks popped. With John being a keen gardener nearly all his life, his wife Sarah, children and grandchildren are used to joining him in his allotment kingdom.

"I’ve always loved my horticulture, it’s been part of my life since I was 16. I love the great outdoors. When I’m not here, Sarah and I will often be walking the Welsh coastal path. I’m also keen on my wildlife photography, particularly birds." John

We can all get excited by the latest piece of technology and scientific breakthroughs, or saddened by some of the current global news, maybe a few of us out there are planning the next big leap into a brand new adventure? I'm sure these families, with their busy lives, are no exception. Which is why I found this photographic project so grounding. As they've gone back to, or newly discovered the simple and rewarding, yet hardworking lifestyle of gardening. And they do this, quite seamlessly, all together.


owain and thomas

I spent a magical Sunday morning with this little man and his baby brother. Though a most unusual event occurred, as halfway through our morning, just as he was showing me his favourite game and some school certificates for amazing work... he left, just vanished. Suddenly I am face-to-face with Spiderman. Now these strange things can sometimes happen with no explanation at all. The next thing I know Spidey is bouncing on the bed, spinning webs around his brother's toys and generally saving the world, as you do when you are that kind of superhero.

"Mummy, can she (that's me) come back again tomorrow for a sleepover?" said Owain. By my reckoning, this has got to be the most heartfelt testimony to date. I have since told his mummy that I'd be delighted to, but only if he lets me raid his dressing up box next time!

 

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martha's dancing heart

Martha was born on the 10th of January 2015, checking into this big and beautiful world a whole five weeks earlier than planned. It was an emotionally charged journey for mum and dad, Michelle and Rick leading up to her birth, with regular hospital visits until this gorgeous little lady was able to come home some weeks later.

Michelle and Rick, along with Martha's big brother Will have decided to raise £10,000 for the Children's Unit at the University of Wales Hospital by her first birthday. Without the love, support and care from the Unit, things may have turned out very differently for this family.

I asked Michelle to write some words about her journey to meeting Martha and how she came to launch Martha's Dancing Heart...

On the 23rd of December I went for my routine 32 week check-up with the midwife, I'd had an amazing pregnancy and felt really well all the way through. I was looking forward to Christmas then welcoming our new baby girl in February.

The midwife did all the regular checks and all was fine, she then said she wasn't required to listen in to the baby's heart beat anymore, unless I asked her to. She was smiling as she said it and I laughed and asked her to listen in.

It quickly became apparent that all wasn't quite as it should be - our little girl's heart was beating twice as fast as it should and it wasn't long before I was in the hospital hooked up to a monitor having fluid pumped into me.

I was kept in overnight as they tried to stabilise her heartbeat - it was 240 bpm (a normal rate would be 100-140) - and allowed home at 8pm on Christmas Eve on a cocktail of heart drugs, needing to come back to the hospital daily for ECGs.

The next three weeks are a bit of a blur to be honest. Christmas came and went and new year passed with me regularly staying overnight at the hospital. The heart drugs I was taking were slowing my heart, but having little effect on our baby.  By Jan 9th my heart rate and pulse had fallen very low, so the consultants decided the safest option was an early delivery by c-section the following day.

On Jan 10th 2015 our daughter, Martha was born and diagnosed with a condition called PJRT ... it's a type of tachycardia and is basically an electrical short circuit in her heart. It's a condition that is rare in babies and needs to be controlled with medication.

Martha was cared for by the amazing staff at the Neonatal ward of University Hospital Wales, and the staff of the Children's Heart Unit for Wales, After four weeks we were able to take her home. She's now doing fantastically well, and we know that without the love and support of her hospital angels, she could have been very poorly.  So we want to say a huge thank you by fundraising in lots of different ways throughout the rest of 2015. We want to be able to donate at least £10,000 to the Children's Unit at UHW before Martha's first birthday.

We'd love your help and support xxx

http://www.gofundme.com/nt8b0c

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when mum and dad got married

Traditionally, a wedding day is about two people starting out in the world, but what is particularly lovely here is that this was a true family wedding, they all got married together.

The happy couple have had five children together and everyone had a starring role as bridesmaid, page boy, best boy and ring bearer. They got to watch their mum and dad get married in a sweetly simple almost eloping fashion. All this happened in a beautiful old registry office in the heart of Brighton. Between the usual daily breakfast mayhem, which included the two family cats and their five new born kittens, there was a trip to the hair salon for a few and a last minute game, in between getting dressed, on the X-Box for the others. Although it was a day planned and day of celebration, it was like it fitted snuggly into a normal Thursday afternoon, and the clock stopped for a short while in a busy family's life.

 

Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography

Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography Jo Haycock Photography


we're going on a bear hunt

The all time classic children's book, We're Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen was chanting through my mind as we tramped across fields and followed tracks lined with tall and thickly woven majestic trees. Brandishing a strong long plastic sword and armed with many snacks fit for a bear hunt, a young knight named Griff led us deep in to the forest in search of his bear friend. His faithful fair maiden sister, Anwen took control when times got hairy. Swinging off fallen branches and large boulders in her bare feet to help her little brother reach victory and glory. When the going got tough, tickling each other seemed to keep up spirits on this gritty journey.