The radio playing 'school bag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning'

Her alarm clock rang before 6am. She walked into our bedroom and calmly whispered "mum, are you awake?" It felt like my eyes had been blasted with sand. Even so, the tone of her voice didn't go unnoticed ...this was the new voice of a Year 7'r.

I sat quietly in her bedroom watching her, with my cup of tea in one hand, camera in the other, a range of emotions bubbling quietly away inside of me. Thinking of how proud I was to be her mum and how honoured that she was allowing me the privilege of photographing this part of her journey. I also had a strong feeling of reassurance right there, knowing she'll be fine. More than fine.

My not-so-little girl started secondary school this week. I could write reams here about the first time we met, gazing into those just-born eyes and imagining this day, not so far away. I can't help think about all the kindly souls with their well-meaning advice over the years.

"Raising babies to children to adults is like a time machine whizzing you through the events, the years, the worlds. Then before you know it BAM, you'll be seeing her off to high school, university, a new life." 

For some time now, she's put her hand up to her face whenever I pick up my camera. She's pleaded with me, I've pleaded with her. Using only my eyes lately to freeze time while she's lost in a game or reading a book, when the artist in me is itching to make that image so much more. Casting my mind back to the last time I was allowed to hold up the camera briefly, just before the last bedtime book had ended.

So we made an agreement, she delivered on a promise, that I could photograph her from bed to door, as she leaves for the first time to her new school.

It's a huge change. These 11 year olds of ours are now off embracing the next adventure in their life. But from where I sat, on my own 11-year-old's bed, watching her tying her tie and combing out her bedhead, she was always more ready for this day than her mother was. I'd be wise take my lead from her...

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.

If grandad was an animal he'd be a buffalo - a photo story

There is no doubt in my mind, how incredibly special a bond between a grandparent and child can be. So when JUNO, a magazine with a natural approach to family life, asked me to explore through photographs what this might look like, it was pure joy, if a little emotional at times, to watch some of these relationships unfold for me.

"Having Grandchildren is the best present your own children could ever give you. They are miniature versions of your children, and though they are like them in many ways, they are wonderfully unique"

I asked each of the children and their grandparents the same questions before the photoshoots began. These ranged from wanting to know what kind of animal they might be, how they make them laugh, to the types of inventions they would invent if they could, to make that other person's life more easy or even happier. Their responses were hilarious, intelligent and sometimes reduced me to tears.

"I'd love to invent a flying carpet so that she could see more of the world in the most magical way"

If you scroll through this post, you may notice one of the children featured is my own daughter, Jeanie. I photographed her with her grandparents, my parents. This gave the project an even stronger connection as I rarely photograph my own family in this kind of situation. I found it fascinating to stand back and observe how they responded to the same questions, scene-setting and guidance I give to other families that I photograph. How are they are seeing me right now?  As a photographer, mother or daughter... which role was most present? It was unusual and quite moving for me to shoot.

"If I was a famous inventor, I'd invent a saddle so that I could ride about on grandpa's back"

It is true that grandparents' roles and the relationships our children have with them are different to when we were children, as well as our parents before us. More households than ever have both parents working outside the family home so grandparents are an integral source of childcare to them. But I find it quite amazing how they balance the must-do's and structure of the day given out by the parents (their own children). To still being able to have fun, step back and enjoy sharing so much with their grandchildren.  We should, without question, celebrate them and this special relationship far more than we do.

"My grandad would be a buffalo if he was an animal. He's big and strong and doesn't let anything stand in his way"

So to Miles, Ollie and Jeanie... thank you for sharing your grandparents with me, each in your own special and unique way...



A photoshoot in the connective and colourful world of babywearing

It was a perfect autumnal day at the Bristol docklands where we'd arranged to meet Katie and her completely gorgeous baby, Juliette. The team at JUNO, a natural parenting magazine, had commissioned me to photograph a feature for their Autumn Extra, which is all about the creative and connective world of babywearing.

I look back and remember placing my now-not-so little baby into a pre-tied sling to go and hang the washing out, breastfeed on the go, even edit the odd photoshoot while she slept contentedly next to me. But the term 'babywearing' as ancient an art form as it is, and the most natural and beautiful way of carrying your child, has become a whole big, colourful world of fabric designs and tying techniques.

I started our day in Bristol faced with wraps in many beautiful fabric prints, surely these can't be turned into safe baby-carrying devices?

Katie of Carry Me Slings offers valuable support to parents new to wearing these wraps and those wanting to try out new sling designs of the already vast choice of options out there. Seeing her in action, twisting and tying these wraps into shape, checking all was safe and secure, it was easy to see why JUNO wanted her as a feature in this particular edition. Watching her apply the different techniques to each wrap ready for the photo essay was mesmerising - we were quiet and still watching her at work. Baby Juliette took it all in her stride as her mother gathered her up in exquisite folds of fabric and settled her into position. Carefree, full of smiles and quite the guru baby-wearing baby.

Watching Katie effortlessly twist and shape these wraps while Juliette sits in them is mesmerising to watch

Not only a sling specialist but more importantly a mother confidently 'wearing' her baby. Listening to Katie explaining the benefits of each sling and watching how Juliette responds to each one is incredible to be part of. So it was no surprise, that when it came to nap time, the right sling for the job came out for demonstrating...

Her little thumb went into her mouth and her eyes became half-closed... "She know's the next wrap I'm going to show you, it's the one she sleeps in"


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Katie and Juliette for Juno magazine Katie and Juliette for Juno magazine Katie and Juliette for Juno magazine Katie and Juliette for Juno magazine Katie and Juliette for Juno magazine Katie and Juliette for Juno magazine Katie and Juliette for Juno magazineKatie and Juliette for Juno magazine