Photo series and text by: Olivia Ema
1.) As a black women, we are subject to so many bombarding views as to how we should look, how we should act, what we should tolerate, and unfortunately for me I tried and I tried to conform into these ideologies, in school I lacked self-confidence, further perpetuated by the men that came into my life and again further made clear in my university days. I was blessed to witness my demise and my downfall, I was blessed to swing on the other side of the pendulum and see what lack of self-love looked like on me.
2) I looked inwardly, I turned to God. When there was no other alternative when nothing seemed to give me that fulfillment- Men, alcohol, friends or family. I turned to myself. and from then on in my life flowed like a river. So nourishing, I never died of thirst again, I never relied on anything again. Self-discovery never looked so fun and I never felt so alive with the opportunity to build myself up anew. Although I never acknowledged it in the beginning, what I was doing piece by piece was figuring out my purpose and who I was, It was a lonely journey, I prayed for my husband to come, I manifested a boyfriend, but the journey of self-discovery never took a back seat.
3) Somewhere along the lines, I stumbled on photography. My dad bought me a camera in secondary year 9 school after I’d requested one for a school trip, but I used it to document school days, where I didn’t fit in at my all girls school, my camera was ticket to move in close and communicate with my peers, to hang around and take some photographs. My camera allowed me to document the fun, and the great joy that came after, uploading it to Facebook and tagging all my “friends”. But photography later on in my life looked more like a saving grace, I wanted something to do. After searching within myself for a hobby I remembered photography and coincidently (FYI I don’t believe in coincidences) I so happened to be working in Currys. I invested almost £400 on a new SLR camera, the first and best investment in myself, ever.
4) Photography is an extension of myself now, something like a third arm. Photography came back into my life when I realized I was worth indulging in. Self-love is self-indulging, and oftentimes we see that as a negative but I believe there is a peace in it. Society teaches us that in order to be good enough we have to be something other than who we are, self-love teaches me that I am already good enough so I show gratitude to myself. When I am stressed or over thinking and I do my necessary remedies and introspections, I recognize that I want nourishment so decide to feed my soul. Who knows me better than I know myself? It is a journey, I have still got a lot to learn and sometimes I regress back to damaging old habits or I discover areas where I can comfortably see sabotage but now I know where to turn to. It’s not easy, but if I don’t look after my inner being who will? When you recognize yourself you start to respect your needs and wants and out pours. Self-respect can trickle down into every aspect of your life. Getting in tune with who you are is one of the single best things you can do- we cannot control the people and things around us but we can recognize and change ourselves so that we are consciously growing into our better selves.
5) Being introspective is slowly starting to permeate into my photography. I’m starting to learn what my eyes draw to, I am learning about what I want to capture and show the world. And I think it’s coming full circle, I want to capture self-love, I want to capture peace, I want to capture a different kind of beauty and I want to show the world that you can be happy and comfortable in your uniqueness, that it’s okay not to fit in or want what the majority seems to want. I want my photography to touch people to the point of embracing who they are. I have been drawn to people and attitudes that I never really see in magazines or in mainstream media. I want to get into fashion photography but I am not the ‘sex sells’ photographer I am the ‘love yourself’ photographer, the ‘being real is beautiful’ photographer.
6) Through my work I want to persuade people to embrace the gifts that dwell within them, they may appear invisible at first but don’t give up on yourself in place of a fake somebody else because being you is extraordinary as cliche as that may sound. My photography allows me to learn about myself and not just the taking pictures aspect either, it is the journey of wanting to become a great photographer that is teaching me so much about myself, and that is my self-love and it won’t take a back seat to anything.
7) My challenge to you is to look within yourself, write down the patterns or where certain behaviours came from, write about the good days as well as the bad, your ideas and goals, have fun with yourself, learn about what interests you, sign up for a class, do whatever makes you laugh, but remember to always look within.
Olivia is a London based photographer and visual artist. She feels it is her duty as an artist to inspire through her visual creations by capturing and creating images that she has never seen before – oftentimes black women owning space in a way that is authentic. Her work spans from digital collages to fashion and fine art photography, she resonates deeply with each and every aspect of her art as it draws reference from her philosophies of self-love and personal discovery. It is these philosophies that make sharing her work a pleasure and joy.