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Hole in One

We’re in the last week of February Photo Fest and my final theme is sport. Yesterday I kicked the week off (and marked the fifth anniversary of my blog) with a naked run in the woods.

Today we have the turn of another photo I’ve been itching to share. This golf tee/ball/club combination has already made an appearance a couple of times over at The Other Livvy’s place but today it’s being gripped between butt cheeks not lips. Today the golfing play has moved to Honey’s bunker but I’m sure you’ll agree it’s another hole in one for these props!

Sinful Sunday
February Photofest

Hole in the Wall

Here is the third and final (for now!) photo from my day out with Missy. As regular readers know, it’s very rare for me to show my belly – I much prefer to focus on my arse and legs, which I approve of much more! – but I really love this shot so here I am turned towards the camera for a change.

Sinful Sunday

One more time…

I’m on a train. The plan was to spend the three hours to North Wales working out my finances and how to pay for £7000’s worth of work to the outside of my house that’s needed next year. Then Exhibit A tweeted this and suddenly I had a much more interesting diversion. 

Happily, a notebook that carries everything from plans for travel adventures to what I spent on carpets and paint also has a list of everyone I’ve ever fucked (more on that later). I flicked to the page and running my eyes up and down the list I realised there was no way I could pick just one. So here’s four.

D: I wouldn’t give him the title of first love. First love has a sweet comforting ring to it and people’s tone frequently shifts when they speak about first loves. But he was the first man I fucked. April 1st 1994, and while I wouldn’t call it love I was definitely a fool for him. Three years older than me and, to my mind, unspeakably cool, I’d been crushing on him for a year or more by the time we fucked. I can’t remember much about the sex that night (I was just relieved to have got it over and done with, being the last in my close circle of friends to reach that milestone) but I can remember details from the months and years after as we hooked up while at home for uni holidays. He was unreliable and a total slut (which 19-year-old me could neither understand nor cope with), but he was arty and intense and bloody exciting. He’d push me into other people’s garden walking home from the pub, we fucked in graveyards and secretly in other people’s bedrooms at parties, he pushed me onto the kitchen floor at my parents’ house and bit my tits until the dog came to interrupt! We’d talk about photography and music for hours. He also casually and without fuss removed a tampon the second time we had sex; to this day I still say the occasional silent thank you to him for being the man who normalised period sex from the get go. I can’t remember the last time we fucked, but it would have been at some point during 1996. Twenty years on, oh my God, I totally totally would. 

N: This one is tricky. I don’t know if I would actually fuck him again or whether hindsight just makes me wish we’d had more adventures when we were together. N has been my one big big love to date, the guy I lived with during my early/mid twenties. There was so much good about us and so much not so good. For all the love and intensity, common ground and fun, he definitely didn’t bring out the best in me. To this day, a hangover of what I became in that relationship makes me shy away from ‘big love’. We met through a mutual friend when we were 23 and the attraction and chemistry was instant. He was the first man to make me come with his tongue and I still remember how bloody surprised and elated I was. The sex was always amazing – the kind where occasionally the emotion can overwhelm you and leave you choking on tears, not because anything’s wrong but because everything is right. Even when our relationship was on its last legs and during the very last time in a hotel room in Paris, sex still rocked. One of my current frustrations is I am only now exploring things that I wish I had in my twenties and early thirties. I get cross with myself that I wasted so much time. When I think back to moments N and I had I wish I hadn’t got shy, giggled and wriggled out of the (badly tied!) restraints in that hotel in Chester. I wish that instead of always fucking to the sex scenes in mainstream movies we’d watched some decent porn together. I wish I could tell younger me to not worry so much, that these are not odd things to do and to just get on with it!

J: I was dating J for around eight months two years ago. He was lovely and kind and thoughtful and intelligent. And he had a tiny cock. I mean so tiny you couldn’t really see it in his hair if he wasn’t erect. To use his words, he wanted to ‘warn’ me about this (happily with no sense of shame or embarrassment) and he made it clear that sex with him wouldn’t really involve cock. That partnership taught me a lot about assumptions and understanding what can give me pleasure and taught me about a whole different aspect of body positivity. He was one of the most confident lovers I’ve had and with him I had the most intense mind blowing orgasms of my life. I’ve always known my arms were one of the most sensitive parts of my body but he somehow made them feel liquid. I still think about the magic he could weave with his tongue and fingers and if I find anyone who can tell stories as filthy and hot half as well has he did I’d be very very happy. We came to an abrupt and premature end because of unreasonable and controlling behaviour from his primary partner which I wasn’t prepared to accommodate, but I still miss some of our moments. 

K: K is a friend. A good good friend. I’ve had more open and honest conversations about fantasies and kinks with him than any other friend or partner. We once shook on a plan to go to a sex party together if, by an agreed date, we hadn’t found a partner to go with. On a few occasions we’ve rolled drunkenly into bed after a crazy nights out, but never really been sober enough to get our shit together in any coordinated way! He has a special place in my heart though, not least for breaking a significant drought a few years back and for, at the grand old age of 40, giving me another first. It was over a predictably drunken dinner at mine he encouraged me to write the list I’ve been reading on this train journey. He expressed envy at a threesome I added to the list. “I’m 40, I should have had a threesome by now,” he said. “What’s on your ‘I’m 40, I should have done that’ list?” he asked. “Anal,” I answered, not missing a beat. “Well we can’t sort my threesome out tonight, but we can tick yours off,” he replied. So we did. Brilliantly spontaneous and perfectly relaxed. He lives in another country now and is gloriously and deeply in love. As sure as you can be of anything, I’m pretty certain there won’t be any drunken fucking again. But it doesn’t mean I don’t wonder what a lazy sober afternoon in bed would have been like. 

So those are the four I’d revisit. But if I really really had to choose just one, it would be D. But it’s all in my imagination now so why limit myself to one? 

Flesh and Bone

(What are you afraid of?)
And what are you made of?
(Flesh and bone)
And I’m running out of time,
(Flesh and bone)
And what are you made of?
(Flesh and bone)
The Killers

I loved this week’s Wicked Wednesday prompt! Oh the joy of the shuffle button. I read the prompt on Sunday night, shortly after arriving in Tbilisi for a week-long  shoot. The song it threw up for me was Flesh and Bone by The Killers. Oh I so wanted to write something thoughtful and meaningful for this. It somehow felt like ‘flesh’ and ‘bone’ should be significant in the context of a body positivity blog. Flesh (fat) for obvious reasons, but more so because of ‘bone’.

Bone. Skin and Bone. “She’s all skin and bone”. The negative language that exists around very slim, slight or androgynous women is something that I absolutely think should be talked about and addressed as part of the body positivity movement. Body positivity narrative is something that, at the moment, seems to be ‘owned’ by those of us that are more flesh than bone, but are very slim women not equally vulnerable in the face of ‘perfect’ bodies? And men, too. Why is it OK to build a whole insulting advertising campaign around the Mr Muscle caricature? This train of thought will go somewhere soon and if you want to add your thoughts or images to it then do shout – this isn’t an area from which I can speak from experience! But not this week. Work wins!

I promised Marie I would try to meet the deadline, secretly knowing my schedule meant there wasn’t a fucking chance. But sometimes it’s better to be late to the party than not turn up at all, so at 6am this morning, on the treadmill, I started wracking my brain…

Graveyards. Of course. I love graveyards. The peace, the history, the loss, the sadness, the mystery, the amazement of long lives lived, the sadness at lives cut short, the awe at being in the presence of greatness when stood in front of a famous resting place, even if they are just bones by now. I first started photographing graveyards in my final year at uni when there was a huge one at the end of my street. That was 1995. I have photographed so many graveyards since, in many countries around the world. My first naked shoot in a graveyard was 20 years on, though. Last summer. My flesh. Perched upon the memorial to someone else’s bones.

Flesh and Bones.

IMG_4818 (2)

Wicked Wednesday

 

The Whole Picture

A couple of weeks ago over lunch with a friend I found myself gently pulling his leg about some rather dashing black and white head shots that he’d had taken for work and shared on Facebook. After the initial ribbing passed we started talking about how truly hideous it is having this type of professional work portrait taken. Butt-clenchingly awful!

‘Being photographed naked is far easier than having a head and shoulders shot,’ I said.

And I wasn’t joking. Being photographed naked is liberating and fun. Whether you’re stripping off in your local park at 6am with some of your closest friends, tramping through the woods giggling and gossiping with a new one, or indulging in more drawn-out intimate performances at home, there’s a huge sense of freedom in whipping your clothes off and trusting yourself to someone’s camera.
Sometimes I come to these shoots with ideas, other times I am happy to relinquish creative control, especially with people like Molly and The Photographer. Being photographed by such talented individuals is a privilege and for me part of the experience was trusting them and revelling in the anticipation of seeing what they had done. Opening the email when these sets of photos arrived was as exciting as unwrapping a present.

The challenge for me though can come in selecting and posting the images. Not always, of course. When I saw what my friend who I asked to rope and photograph my legs had done I had all the ‘wow!’ and couldn’t hit publish fast enough! But like many of us I have edited, cropped and discarded my own self-portraits when in them I have seen imperfections I don’t want to share. What do you do when it is a photograph someone else has taken? Especially when the whole point of your little collaborative project is to get people thinking differently about bodies and beauty. When Molly sent me her edits she asked me if there were any I wasn’t comfortable with before she published them. ‘Yes,’ said my internal voice. ‘No, I love all of them,’ was my response.
EXP40-3When Molly posted her selection I couldn’t keep the wry smile from my lips. The photo I would have trashed was the one she selected as a favourite. While my eye had gone straight to my left breast and the inverted nipple that makes me cringe, Molly had pointed out the sunlight on my face and described me looking relaxed and beautiful. After reading her words my eyes zoomed out and I chose to focus on the smile playing on my lips and remember how glorious it was lying on the branch in the summer warmth, looking up at the dappled light.
IMG_3186I shared this anecdote with The Photographer. ‘If you don’t let go of the image you will self-criticise,’ he replied. I revisited some of his photographs. This one, cast aside because the lens had caught me scrunching at the same poor berated nipple, trying to get it to stand to attention. Again, I zoomed out. I chose instead to see elegance in the lines and shadows, shoulders that are more defined than I had thought, hair I love and most of all it really really makes me want to have my neck kissed! ‘I can’t really believe that’s me,’ I said. ‘Well it is you and beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ he replied.
IMG_4868How true. I was reminded of this photograph I took of Exhibit A in the summer. I love this photo. I love how the lines of the balcony and roof draw your eye to what is a great arse, enviable legs and handsome back, and I love how he looks both strong and vulnerable against the harsh rooftops and with the city in the background. It’s a photograph that makes me want to reach out and touch him. He didn’t want to use it on his blog and I got a bit whingy, saying much of what I have written above. “But what others see or appreciate in our body is not the same as what we see in ourselves,” was his calm response to my slightly huffy messages.
At the time I just couldn’t understand why he didn’t see it as a photo to celebrate, yet having now reflected on my own response to images people have taken of me versus what they have seen in them I can see he is completely right. We simply don’t see in ourselves what others see in us.
Look At Me NowI chatted to my friend who I photographed for Look at Me Now and My Favourite Shirt. “I’m still a little surprised at myself that I did it as it was initially a terrifying idea, but actually it’s been very liberating. There wasn’t really anything that I didn’t like. Actually that’s a lie, I wish I’d worn better knickers and had taken my bra off earlier so I didn’t have a mark on my cleavage.” Seriously, is anyone looking at the knickers or the bra marks when they look at these images?! I know I see only a confident gorgeous woman whose image is married with powerful words that tell a story.

Is there a conclusion to this post? I don’t really know. It is really just a collection of observations and snapshots of thoughts and conversations. But if I were to draw anything from the time I have spent reflecting on the experience of being photographed and of photographing others I would say that if we were less inclined to zoom in on the detail of what we don’t like when we look at photographs of ourselves then we would be far more likely to value the whole picture in the way we do when we admire and celebrate others.
 
 

Awesome Arse

Wednesday was naughty netballer, today is awesome arse. I may not be tired of the photography but my title tank is running on empty. Day seven of sports week is baseball and for your viewing pleasure may I present the wonderful Exhibit A.

As you might expect from a sports junkie like EA, he had some pretty fab ideas for my sports week prompt. Some of which haven’t even been taken yet so who know, maybe there’ll be another sports week next year? As someone who truly thinks golf is the most boring game in the world I didn’t expect to have my mind changed but with some expert positioning he even managed to make that game super hot. One of the photos is being used for Kayla’s next Masturbation Monday prompt.

Then he knocked it out of the park with this one. I must confess, until a couple of days ago I was intending to use that photo because it’s so amazing I wanted it on my site too. But I was overlooking a couple of others we shot at the same time so in the spirit of sharing as much of that day’s productivity as possible, here’s a new photo for you to admire.

February Photofest

Check Your Melons

Well, I enjoyed my Sound of Music week, but now it’s time for something new.

This week’s theme is inspired by an exhibition at the Photographer’s Gallery called Feast for the Eyes – The Story of Food in Photography. I went along to a private view with @19syllables. Being a private view there was wine – bad/good for our easily ignited silliness factor! – and by the end we had brainstormed a whole list of food-based euphemisms for body parts and thus this week’s theme was born! Strap in folks, it’s going to be silly. But also sexy!

On a more serious note, a few years back a breast cancer awareness campaign in Canada stickered melons in supermarkets and encouraged shoppers to check their melons. Have you checked yours recently? If not do it right now! And if you need any help with technique check out this great video post from Tabitha Rayne.

February Photofest

400 Weeks

Semi serious trigger warning: if those ‘end of decade achievement’ lists that were doing the rounds a few weeks back made you feel shitty then I suggest you move on from this post!

Usually when I write for Wicked Wednesday I’ve got something to get off my chest. Whether it’s a rousing post about body positivity, reflective pieces about affairs of the heart, the occasional takedown or little odes to the joyful bits of my life, there’s usually been a few sentences bubbling around in my head for a few days before I start writing. This week nothing of the sort! But I wanted to write something for the 400th week so last night I found myself googling ‘400 weeks ago’.

Four hundred weeks ago was Tuesday 29th May 2012. ‘I wonder what I was doing then?’ I thought. I flicked back through endless screens of my Outlook calendar and found that I was at home in North Wales watching the Olympic torch pass by the end of the road where I grew up. Wow. Thinking back to that summer, when we were such an open happy country is almost too painful to think about as we face our last 48 hours in the EU. How much has changed? What a different country and world we live in. I started to wonder how much has changed in my world in the last 400 weeks. And it turns out, quite a lot. And when I see it written down, it makes me feel fabulous. And we all need to feel fabulous every so often.

  • I set up my business, nurtured it through the baby years, kept it alive during some difficult toddler times and this week, at six and a half years old, our total invoiced amount went over £1,000,000. Not huge numbers for some businesses but for our little two person band they’re figures that make me (us) so proud.
  • I threw off the cloak of, if not total celibacy then a very dry patch, and dived headlong into a world of joyful sex and dating and in the process learnt (and continue to learn) so much about my body and emotions.
  • Through the joyful dating I discovered non monogamy and the place in relationships that best suits me, giving me the opportunity to build connections with people while also maintaining my independence.
  • I set up this blog and what a ride it is. Hundreds of naked photos and thousands of words later and I’ve been photographed by professional photographers, stood naked on a stage in central London and had my own work hung on a gallery wall in New York. It’s changed the way I think of myself and it’s helped other people change how they see themselves. But best of all I have met the most amazing group of women who I really can’t imagine my life without.
  • I trained for and ran two marathons and raised nearly £11,000 for two charities.
  • I had an epic 40th birthday party where I hired a whole pub and 120 friends and I feasted on mini burgers and cheese and got through gallons of Prosecco.
  • I bought my flatmate out of our co-owned flat and turned the bland space into a home and workspace that I love so much and that’s been the scene of many wonderful social gatherings, sex adventures and comedy photo shoots.
  • I embarked on (and achieved) a crazy travel challenge to visit all the EU member countries before we were no longer members.

This list makes me so happy. I’m going to remember I wrote this and when I’m disgruntled with life and love, having a bad body day, feeling too lazy to exercise or I’m skint because a client hasn’t paid I’m going to look at this and remind myself of what I got done in 400 weeks.

Congratulations Marie on your 400 weeks and thank you for keeping a fab bit of the community going. Here’s to the next 400 weeks!

I wonder what the next 400 weeks holds for me? Who knows. If someone had shown me the list above on the 29th May 2012 I’m not sure I’d have believed any of it. Except the epic 40th party. Definitely not Brexit.

But things I hope will be on the list would be:

  • Hopefully the business will have turned into a more self-sufficient teenager and I’ll only need to look after it three days a week.
  • I’ll have had and continue to have lots more joyful dates and sex adventures, especially more threesomes, group play and organised parties. And rope. And wax. And photos of all of those things!
  • Another marathon.
  • I’ll have visited 100 countries before I’m 50.
  • I’ll have had an epic 50th party.

Those are the things I’ll work on. The rest I’ll leave to chance and opportunity. But I’ll grab a couple of glasses of fizz and tuck one under my arm as I go!

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

If you’ve got it, flaunt it

I haven’t done a massive amount of flaunting over the last year or so. I’ve been here, of course, but if you look closely there’s been a lot of subtly lit photos like Swishy and Out of the Darkness, silly photos like It’s a Piece of Pisa and many many photos of friends. But until the photo outing with Missy where I started to feel a bit more like flinging my arms up in the air like I just didn’t care and letting it all hang out I hadn’t really put all of me out here for a while.

I could make a big deal of this but I genuinely don’t think there’s any point. Life is about seasons and for every season where we feel on fire there’s one where we feel a little bit like the flame isn’t catching. There’s literally no point in overanalysing it. For me, a knee injury in 2018 knocked running on the head and that was followed last year by five months of severe vertigo which made even walking or focussing on my computer screen problematic. Through that run of bad luck I got a bit fatter, I got a bit less confident in my body.

While I genuinely believe that losing your mojo every so often is just part of life, it doesn’t make it any easier to rationalise when it happens. I’d settled into a place where I’d started to measure my own attractiveness by my physical achievements so finding myself forced into a slightly more sedentary zone was tough. While I welcomed the emergence of Lingerie is for Everyone I didn’t feel very able to engage in it because I didn’t like that my own lingerie wasn’t fitting anymore!

So what happened? I don’t know! The tide turned and (inexplicably) the current dragged my mojo back into shore. Suddenly, rather than feeling sad that my lingerie doesn’t fit, I just bought the next size up and realised that I still look amazing. I’ve bought new running shoes and I’m raring to go. I have two 10ks and two halves booked. I’m only in the first week of training but the energy and enthusiasm I feel for the plan that’s taped up in my office is making me so happy and I already feel sexier and more confident in my body. This may be not be a commonly held opinion, but I genuinely believe that a good pair of running shoes are hotter than heels. And look how flexible I am? Why did I think this body was inferior?

Lingerie is for everyone. Sport can be for many. Bodies are remarkable. I’ve got it so I’m flaunting it.

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

New Year, Evolving Me

“New Year, New You.” What a load of bollocks that is. I threw that notion in the bin many years ago. And I haven’t made a New Year resolution for as long as I can remember. If I were to make one related to this space it would probably be to stop writing Wicked Wednesday posts on a Thursday one hour before the deadline. But I also know myself well enough to know that Marie will get at least five messages from me this year saying “oops, I missed the Linky tool by 10 minutes.”

One thing I have done every year since 2011 is spend the time between the family Christmas commitments and back to work on the first Monday in January reflecting on the year gone by, what went well and what didn’t and how I want to evolve myself. This habit was born out of my switch from employment to self-employment and the fact that I was missing the structure of the annual appraisal process. I know – weird! You’re meant to hate appraisals and 365 feedback but I bloody love it. I was missing the opportunity for structured reflection when I came across an article from a self-employed man who every winter took himself off for a week of solitude, self-appraisal and personal goal setting.

Now, every year during this period I reflect on the whole year and the whole me – both personally and professionally. When you’re self-employed boundaries between the parts of your life blur even more significantly than they do for anyone in our ‘always switched on’ culture. Also – to state the blindingly obviously – when you are your own boss you literally have nobody else to blame for your professional frustrations. Yes, of course there are influencing factors like clients being dickheads or moving budgets or natural disasters that change a whole schedule, but essentially you control your own direction and change what you want and need to.

This annual process of review has helped me spot trends in my work patterns and make peace with them and I have adjusted my personal life accordingly. Sure, I’d rather not have to work 12 hour days for most of the winter but now, rather than see that as a burden I see it as banking time. So when summer rolls around and work goes quiet it would literally not occur to me to sit at my desk trying to create or chase work. I down tools and head off for photo adventures, lazy lunches and gallery outings. I feel absolutely no guilt for this and I shrug off the ‘lucky you’ comments because I can’t be arsed to waste time explaining why I deserve this. And when it’s 11pm in January and I am still at my desk I remind myself that summer is coming.

This period of reflection has also helped me spot the trends in what causes me stress and what creates joy. The process of observing myself means I know myself so much better than I ever did. I absolutely know there are some things I have to have to be my best me. To be me at all, actually.

I can’t not travel. I have always loved travel but actually I now know it is more than something I love to do, it is my red thread. Without a trip planned in and something to research, work towards and save for, all the hours and the work stress can seem without purpose. For me, there is no energy like the energy I feel when I step off a plane and smell a new country.

I have to cook. In cooking I relax, I daydream, I nourish myself and it feels good. I am not a ready meal snob (you do you!) but for me personally I find the idea of shoving something in a microwave like my meal doesn’t matter because I am only cooking for one genuinely soul-destroying. And cooking for and with people and sharing meals and many bottles of wine around my dining table is pretty much the clearest way I have to express love.

I have to take photos. That used to just be travel photos and photos around London but clearly in the last five years that has evolved into this project, which is now such a big part of who I am and the friendships I have.

Finally, I have to have time alone. If someone had told me a few years ago how much I would grow into myself through the simple process of living alone and wallowing in peace and solitude I would not have waited until I was 40 to live alone.

When I started this annual process of reflection I started setting goals alongside it. Not resolutions, goals. They were fun things to work towards – volunteer at the Olympics, have more sex, travel to all the EU countries. But in recent years they started to get more specific – read 30 books, run 500 miles, walk 500 miles and walk five hundred more, visit 24 exhibitions, write two posts a month and take a photo every week, two new recipes a month. At first this was fun but every year I was upping numbers and creating more targets. I am a completer finisher so saying I will do something and then not doing it causes me huge stress but the targets I was setting myself were not being mindful of my work patterns. The process had started to eat itself and I had started to put myself under constant pressure to ‘do’ all the time. I was forgetting how to just be.

So this year I will be more light touch. I will travel, I will photograph people and places, I will cook for me and those I love, I will read, I will write, I will wander round galleries, I will train for a 10k and a half marathon (both booked), I will continue to nurture and be committed to my most important partnership, I will explore the opportunities for kinky fun with friends I trust, I will do some new dating because I feel like soaking up the rush of NRE. But this year there will be no numbers because numbers stress me out.

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

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