An Inspiring Year

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At this time of year, we’d usually be compiling a post about what we’ve been up to over the last 12 months and sharing shoots we’ve had. We just wanted to do something a bit different this year and share work from artists that have really inspired us over the last year. There is work here about being in the inbetween years, documenting communities, family dynamics, generosity within the photography community, illustrations, light chasing, cinematic work, and starting over.

Siân Davey

Looking For Alice

Looking For Alice

When we scroll through Siân’s Instagram feed (that’s where we found her stunning work), we are always struck by the narrative in each post. How she weaves story of her own family life through the squares, and that light, so delicate and painterly in quality. Her work gives us goosebumps. I was a bit nervous when I wrote to Siân the other day, and then a lovely reply pinged into our inbox. One of our intentions this year is to let the people who inspire us know. Siân currently has 2 books published ‘Looking For Alice’ and ‘Martha’ about her daughters. Here’s a link to her Instagram feed is and here’s a link to Siân’s website. We’re sure you’ll feel the same way about her work as we do.

Martha

Martha

Lucy Saggers

Betty’s Baking Day - Lucy Saggers

Betty’s Baking Day - Lucy Saggers

We spied Lucy’s work back in 2017 and were struck by these timeless black and white images depicting village life in Yorkshire. Although Lucy has done a lot of of other work, it was this body of shots, Of Life and Land, that really spoke to us. The use of light and the tender relationships towards the people she’s photographing is incredibly moving. Back in March, we went to see her exhibition of the collection of shots, and we had the pleasure of meeting Lucy there too.

It was hard to pick a favourite, but I think it was a mini series of photographs about Lynne Lynch and Betty Fox. Lynne has been going round to Betty’s to wash, cut and blow dry her hair every 2 weeks since 1976. In this collection of shots about a small community, Lucy has stripped everything back to what matters, highlighting these relationships within a Yorkshire village. Here’s a link to her Instagram feed, and here’s a link to Lucy’s website.

Lynne Lynch washing Betty Fox’s Hair

Lynne Lynch washing Betty Fox’s Hair

Carolyn Mendelsohn

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When we realised that Carolyn’s exhibition Being Inbetween was being shown just down the road from where we live, there really was no excuse, and we would have travelled a lot further to see it. We were greeted by a collection of large format mounted prints, photos of girls in those inbetween years, 10-12. The exhibition explores their hopes, dreams, concerns. All are lit the same and taken with the same backdrop and the exhibition is accompanied by soundscape. We’ve been dabbling with sound in our films and it struck us how powerful the interviews were with the girls as we looked at their photos. The series is ongoing, and there is a book in development. You can see more about Being Inbetween at this link and more of Carolyn’s other work at her website here.

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Gemma Koomen

Ice Skating

Ice Skating

We became aware of Gemma’s work when we saw a little book all about Wild Swimming written by Flora Jamieson and illustrated by Gemma. It sits proudly on our bookshelf. Gemma’s illustrations awaken a childhood nostalgia, I think that’s why we’re so drawn to them. Little scenes play out, and our memories dance. We can hear the crunch of the snow and smell the washing on the line. They are full of hope and light, friendships and adventure. You can see her beautiful Instagram feed here and more of her work on her website here.

Laundry Day

Laundry Day

Natalie Kingston

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We’ve followed Natalie’s work from afar for a while, and we’re constantly blown away by her cinematography. She’s worked on numerous short films, commercials and music videos. We love those tones and the light she captures. See for yourself in her reel here . You can follow Natalie on Instagram here or watch more of her films on her website here.

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Diana Hagues

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Not only is Diana an exceptional documentary family photographer, but to us, she embodies the heart of community within the photography world. She organises meet ups and chat groups, always takes time to answer people’s questions, offers encouragement, and is just a thoroughly lovely person. She takes amazing self portraits too. Her work has just been showcased in the latest issue of Click Magazine 2018 Voice Collection (congratulations Diana!) You can follow Diana on Instagram here and see more of her work at her website.

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Joanne Coates

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A couple of years ago, we bought the Yorkshire Post as we were really drawn to a collection of photos in the weekend magazine. The photo series depicted the life on the seas with a group of fishermen. Jo was the photographer behind the images. As it says on her website, she has a documentary approach to everyday stories, she tells the story of working life. Jo’s Grandad used to fish the North Sea, and through this work, she found a shared connection with him. You can follow Jo at her Instagram feed here and see new project work at her website here.

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Annie Spratt

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Annie’s beautiful work captures the shifts in seasons in the New Forest where she lives, and further afield. Whatever landscape she’s taking, it feels like you’re right there with her. And that light!! She’s particularly generous with her work and she gifts photos every day to be used by the Unsplash community. You can follow her on Instagram here or take a look at her Unsplash page here.

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Joni Burtt

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We can always tell when it’s a Joni shot when it comes up on our feeds, with her images like film stills. Her candid take on her family life is beautiful, and with the words that accompany each photo, she lets us into her everyday life. We love a bit of freelensing in our photography, so we’re really drawn to those dreamy ethereal shots where Joni is using this technique. You can follow Joni on Instagram here, and see more of her work at her website here.

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Alex Sedgmond

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Alex wrote to me a few months back after he’d read my piece in Ernest Journal. We’ve had a few chats since then about our photography, health and light. I always love when a message pops up from him! He has so much integrity. His posts on Instagram really show his true passion, his wanderlust. He’s a kind soul. You can follow him on Instagram here and get stuck into his blog posts and other work here.

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Felicity Keefe

Beyond The Shadow

Beyond The Shadow

For the last few years, I’ve been a bit obsessed by how the Old Masters used light in their paintings and trying to adapt this into my photography. When I was looking for inspiration in paintings last year, I came across Felicity’s work. Her beautiful landscapes allow you to breathe it in, smell the morning dew, feel the cold air, hear the rain or a leaf falling from a stark branch. I love the movement, and of course the light. You can follow Felicity on Instagram here and see her collections and find out about exhibitions on her website here.

The Shifting Dusk

The Shifting Dusk


Here’s to an inspiring 2019. Maybe we’ve introduced you to someone you haven’t heard of yet, let us know! And we’re always keen to know about your favourites. Who’s inspiring you?

Our Photo Shoot

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Last week, Angela (a.k.a. Angela Fenwick Photography), sent us a link to a slideshow of our photo shoot we had with her a couple of weeks ago. We've loved her warm, emotive newborn shoots for a while. Although me and Suze are documenting life with Olive in our own photographs, having this shoot really cemented how we feel about family photography. These images are here for us now to look at, frame, print, thumb through, But in the future, they'll be Olive's to enjoy, and although strange to think about at the moment, then they'll become an heirloom to any family she may have too. These photos are so much more than the paper they'll be printed on. The thought of being on the other side of the camera made us feel pretty vulnerable in the run up to the shoot. Would we look too tired? Would we be really self conscious? I even worried about letting go of control on the shoot and just letting Angela do her amazing work. But do you know, when we were in it, these things didn't enter our thoughts. For those 2 hours we just had time for each other. Time might be flying by, but we're so grateful for that afternoon, and for the moments held in these images.

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Our Birth Story

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

It's 7.30pm on Monday night. The theatre lights are like spots on Suzi as she lies next to me on the hospital bed. I'm sitting on a small plastic chair wearing blue scrubs and we both have oversized hairnets on. We're holding hands. Duffy's on the radio and I have a fleeting thought of 'what happened to her?'. This scene is so far removed from the visualisations we have had about this moment. But as we hold hands, all we feel is an overwhelming excitement to meet our little Olive.

We wanted to share our story, to talk about how we'd seen the birth and what actually happened, and that even though there was more medical intervention than we'd envisaged, we still held onto elements of control. We didn't know a year ago that the first birth story we'd capture would be our own! We took time to think about whether we wanted to do it, but we really wanted this massive chapter in our lives to be documented in photos and in film (more of that soon!).

Suzi wrote a birth plan quite early on. We initially toyed with the idea of a home birth. Our comforts around us, toast and tea on tap, music, soft lighting. But then we worried a little about our cat Delboy getting too close to the birthing pool with his sharp claws. I know this anxiety was probably just telling us we weren't 100% comfortable with doing this at home. So after we'd looked around the Birthing Centre (adjoined to the hospital), this really felt like the perfect option. We now had a place to visualise when we thought about the birth. The midwife that showed us around was lovely and she told us about little things, like photographs, that we could bring from home, and it made us feel much more comfortable.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

As the weeks passed, we clung onto that thought. Our consultant advised that we should be thinking about induction, but as Suzi had had a healthy pregnancy, we wanted to wait longer. We reached our estimated due date of 31st July. We were both on tenterhooks waiting for any signs that Olive might want to make an appearance. We tried to keep active and get out for short walks. Days and nights passed. It was a strange feeling, between two worlds.

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During the nights, any movement from Suzi would spring me bolt upright in bed, but there was no sign. Suzi and baby were being monitored every couple of days. The friendly faces of the midwives welcomed us once again at the maternity assessment centre. They were so reassuring, but these trips were taking their toll. We know that Olive was just taking her time, but every day past the due date went by so slowly. So, over the weekend, Suzi made the decision to be induced. Our bags had been packed weeks before and were already in the boot of the car. We grabbed a bag full of snacks, and just as we were doing a check of the kitchen and topping up the cat's food, we noticed the fairy lights in a clump on top of the stereo. We remembered the midwife in the birthing centre saying we could make our room look cosy and homely, so in the bag they went. We had a last check around the house and both felt so excited about the next time we'd be here.

After the first part of the induction process, we settled into our room on the ward. I'd set up the fairy lights at the end of Suzi's bed. At this point, we want to talk about hypnobirthing, and how it became an integral part of both Suzi's and my journey in the run up to birth. In the months leading up to this moment, we had had training with Divine Hypnobirthing in Hebden Bridge. We can't recommend Sophia highly enough. It helped us so much to give us the space both physically and mentally to remain relaxed, calm and in control. We both put what we had learnt into practice over the coming hours. 

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At 3pm in the afternoon, Suzi's waters broke. It wasn't quite as dramatic as I had in my head, but I remember this intense excitement we had that we were one step closer to meeting our Olive.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

And then a couple of hours after this, Suzi's contractions started.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

They intensified quite quickly. Olive's heart rate was a little faster than it had been, so we were taken down to the labour ward to be monitored. I set up the fairly lights in the corner of the room and dabbed a few drops of clary sage on a tissue.

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The midwives through the night commented on the relaxed atmosphere in our room. Suzi asked if the birthing pool was free. I think we both probably knew that Olive wouldn't be born here, as we still had a way to go, but just seeing Suzi in the water, and knowing that this was a big part of her birth plan, it filled my heart. I brought in our blue tooth speaker. Stevie Wonder and Sufjan Stevens drifted into the dimly lit room.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

After about an hour, the midwives recommended the next stage of the induction process, and Suze was hooked up to a drip which delivered syntocinon. This made the contractions much stronger.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

Inside, the sounds consisted of beeps and heartbeats, and trollies being wheeled in the corridor. Outside, I noticed night was slowly giving into day, the blue dawn light was creeping through a gap in the curtains.

Toast and tea came, and our midwives changed shift. The next few hours seemed to pass in a haze. Texts to and from anxious parents, cups of Costa tea, gas and air, back rubs, brow mops, hand holding and repeat.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography
yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

At 3pm, 24 hours after Suzi's waters had broken, the doctor came to check on progress. There hadn't been much change and it was the first time that a Caesarian section was mentioned. For the next 4 hours, Suzi remained calm and focussed, but her energy was really being zapped.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

7pm came, and after more checks, Suzi agreed that a C-section was the best option at this time. And we really hold onto this feeling that it was the best for both Suzi and Olive.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

So here we were, Suzi lying calmly next to me and me sat on my blue plastic chair at 7.30pm with my scrubs on. Everyone in theatre had their place and role, I think I counted 12 people. They were all entering their names into the hat before we told them that she was going to be called Olive! The screen went up, Duffy was warbling on the radio and then suddenly one of the midwives said, 'Oh, I can see some hair!' A beat later, at 7.56pm, this beautiful scrunchy eyed, wrinkled little wonder was lifted into the light. Our first glance at our gorgeous Olive.

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They quickly wrapped her in towels and helped her with her first couple of breaths, then we heard some snuffles, and a cry echoed around the room.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

One of the midwives brought this little towelled bundle over to me whilst the doctors were stitching Suzi. I just held our little miracle in my hands and a tear dropped from my cheek onto hers. Her eyes were still so scrunched up under those big spotlights. During the pregnancy, there was one song we sang to baby bean bump throughout. I started to sing the first line of it, and Olive opened her eyes wide open and looked straight into mine. After our hug, Olive was placed next to Suzi and they just looked deep into each others eyes. Blimey, there were a few tears right then.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

Suzi and Olive were wheeled into the recovery room. I took my scrubs off and went to join them. The midwife had put a little woollen hat on Olive's head and she lay next to Suzi breastfeeding. Those little content sounds from under that little stripy hat led to yet more happy tears. Me and Suzi held hands in that brightly lit recovery room and we felt how perfect that moment was.

yorkshire photography family photographer yorkshire portrait photography Sarah Mason Photography

Sometimes, there do seem to be some judgements and pressures around pregnancy, birth and feeding. We know in our hearts that we made the right decision for us at that time, felt fully in control of the situation and our choices, and we let go of any of those visualisations we had had previously. Thank you to our wonderful NHS for looking after us so very well, they really were incredible.

The last thing that came out of the case when we arrived home were those fairly lights. They really were a calming cosy source for us over those hours in labour, and for the subsequent week spent in hospital. We know they're just a string of twinkly lights, but just having them there in the room with us was really significant. We're going to hang them in Olive's room, so when she moves in there in a few months, she'll have them to make her feel cosy and comforted too.

Photo by the lovely   Angela Fenwick Photography

Photo by the lovely Angela Fenwick Photography

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