Friends. Photography. Adventure.

Whitechapel Smile

I have been so excited about taking this photograph! It was really important to me that the first person who I photographed for Exposing 40 was this friend. Call me sentimental.

Yesterday morning. Tea and toast in a sunny kitchen, catching up on gossip. Then: “Darling, we are going to the bathroom to photograph the scar where you came out of Mummy, you can come in if you want.” My God, my friend is the most laidback cool mum. Her son is a dream.

Footsteps pad down the hallway towards us and a face appears, bearing very important news: “Auntie Catherine, this is a Roman warrior.” A few minutes later: “MUMMY, there’s a bee in the kitchen.”

It was funny and perfect and I will hold the memory close.

The Whitechapel Smile is what my friends (her husband is not just her husband, he’s my friend too!) call her caesarean scar, in an affectionate nod to the hospital where their son was born. When we first chatted about photographing her scar she described how she once hated it but now thinks of it as being part of the “rich tapestry of my life.”

We talked about it yesterday. She touched on her issues with the physicality of the scar – the lip it’s created that’s visible through swimwear, the fact that underwear slips down and gets caught uncomfortably in the ridge. But more interesting were her reflections on how motherhood had changed her relationship with her body.

That relationship had always been a close one – it wasn’t disassociated from the rest of life in the way some people separate their physical and intellectual selves: “I really inhabited my body, I was aware of it.” Childbirth changed all of that. Nearly four years on she says it’s only really in the last six months that she feels really in touch with her body again, that it is once again becoming an expression of herself and her sexuality.

What’s happened in the last six months?”

“From 30, when I looked in the mirror my feelings about what I saw were all about not looking as good as I once had. I felt like I was fading.”

She was driving as we chatted and glanced away from the road to me.

We are aging really well you know. We both look bloody good for 40.”

Eyes back to the road.

Now, when I look in mirror I don’t see what’s gone I think ‘bloody hell you look good for your age.’ Forty feels like a turning point.”

Thank you for yesterday, my glorious friend.


  1. HappyComeLucky

    This is so wonderful. Your friendship, your relationship with each other, the sharing of her relationship with her body and of course the stunning image. This is true beauty.

  2. silverdomuk

    Thank you SO much for posting the beautiful photograph.
    Silverdrop and I do what we can to promote body positivity on our blog, and thid is another great example of it.

  3. The Shingle Beach

    “Now, when I look in mirror I don’t see what’s gone”.
    This. THIS.
    I didn’t see what I *had* for years, except in a usually negative light.
    This image, these words, they speak about us being in the present and enjoying it, and our selves, and that is worth our weights in gold.

  4. theotherlivvy

    I may have said it before, but your posts are always so inspiring! I am in awe of your friend’s relationship with her body, it’s so positive and confident.
    And your photo is just amazing – I love the use of the mirror and the unfocused background. Her scar is literally the last thing I noticed when the rest is so beautiful. Xxx

  5. Kilted Wookie (@Kilted_Wookie)

    It’s a lovely tale and a beautiful photo. Thank you.

  6. Marie Rebelle

    This is a beautiful positive post, the words and the photo. I love to read about the friendship between the two of you and her acceptance of her body and the ‘rich tapestry of life’. Beautiful!
    Rebel xox

  7. KaziG

    Gorgeous! I totally understand the “losing touch” in early motherhood… for all intents and purposes you really become a second-class citizen in deference to nurturing that child. Glad she found her mojo again 🙂
    ~Kazi xxx

  8. Oleander Plume (@OleanderPlume)

    The photo and story left me feeling warm and wonderful! Scars of childbirth are beautiful, but I can understand our shyness to show them off. Love you and your friends attitudes about, well, everything!!!

  9. Sex Is My New Hobby

    Great photo, great story, great attitude!

  10. lovelustlondon

    She really does look good, not just for her age…she looks great, full stop. Such a happy story.
    O x

  11. Charlie

    A lovely positive post and an image of a beautiful women!

  12. sweetwomandirtymind

    So lovely & accepting! Your friend sounds awesome.
    For years, I was one of those women disassociated from my body. I’m finally learning to love it & inhabit it fully.

  13. Logan

    That is a really cool pic! It’s revealing, and yet it’s not. The tension between those two extremes is wonderful.

  14. Molly

    Oh my I have so much to say….
    1. I love the story, the interaction between her child, the open communication with no veiled emphamisams being used is wonderful. Here comes a piece of advice though which will make you chuckle. My daughter was born by C section (she is the younger of the two) so my son, who was nearly 4 at the time was well aware that Mummy had an operation to get the baby out. It was only a year or so later that, through a comment he made about someone else having a baby at home and who cut her open that I realised I had failed to explain that babies can arrive through other channels. I did correct my mistake.
    2. I can totally relate to the way she felt about her body although I found that with my second child that it was a much shorter process and I felt back in touch with my body within weeks whereas with my son it had probably been well over a year.
    3. This is an absolutely stunning image. I LOVE how you have used the mirror to create a frame around her and you have the depth of field just right that keeps her sharp but still blurs the background
    4. I can not wait to see more of your work and this project

  15. Chintz Curtain (@ChintzCurtain)

    What a beautiful, beautiful post and what a beautiful, beautiful image. I loved reading this for so many reasons but the thing that really shines through is the wonderful relationship you have with your friend. Gorgeous on so many levels. And I absolutely agree that our scars and marks should not be seen as flaws or imperfections but, rather, markers or waypoints on the maps that are our lives. Jane xxx

  16. Miss July

    Your friend is gorgeous!! I really love her scar. It tells a beautiful story while allowing her to completely accept herself for who she is.
    Great job capturing such a beautiful, sexy, friend.
    xxx Miss July xxx

  17. bigmissnaughty

    fantastic ode to women. I love my still visible “lady lines” or stretch marks even 18 years later x

  18. rebeccablackwords

    So feminine and so beautiful. I loved this post. Thanks x

  19. sub-Bee

    Firstly, that is a stunning composition! Secondly, I love scars, I love running my fingers and tongue across them and I love the stories behind them! Fantastic post on body positivity, it’s a really difficult hurdle to cross.

  20. Sweetendirty

    A very beautiful scar. Also, she looks damn good for 40! 😉

  21. Malin James

    This is gorgeous – the post, your friendship, the woman, the scar, the image..all of it. I’m so happy I got to read it. 🙂

  22. mariasibylla

    This is so wonderful!! I love how you shared your friendship with us. Your ease with each other and with her son is such a joy to read. As for the photo, absolutely stunning! Your friend is gorgeous! To be honest, if I didn’t know she had a scar, I’m not sure I’d have noticed right away. I love the way the mirror is centered in the frame and her body is off-center, Revealing just enough. Really thoughtful, wonderful photo and post.

  23. 39goingon40

    Did anyone else notice the duck feet on the mirror?? I loved the humour of it – not taking herself too seriously. Was this intentional, I wonder? Looks (and sounds) like you really had fun with it!

    • Exposing40

      It was a lot of fun…we’re looking forward to the next one! ?

  24. tabitharayne

    Oh how utterly wonderful – so glad I got to see this! Thank you for tweeting it today x

  25. sara hamilton

    This is a beautiful photograph, I’d love to know how you came up with the idea of framing it in the mirror. It a beautiful intimate piece of writing as well. I love the detail of the car journey, most people avail of the lack of eye contact when sitting side by side to share intimacies that would be too hard to share if you were making eye contact, but here your friend specifically turns to make eye contact with you. It’s a great post on many levels , thank you

    • Exposing40

      It was the model’s own idea! She was thinking about how she’d like the photo to look one day while having a shower and looked down and caught the reflection. So for this photo I had less creative involvement and was more the button pusher! Xx

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