Photography by Ashlee Marie Photography. Words by Lian Flick.
‘Bishop John has asked to see you.’ I feel a swell of excitement in my stomach and try to discreetly brush away my tears. I fly down to the headmaster’s office where I find Emma waiting, looking like I felt. All day, our peers had been summoned like we had just been, and all day, they had returned to class with the news they had been appointed Prefect of Music, Chapel Prefect and of course Boys School Captain and Girls School Captain. By dinnertime, all the positions had been announced and my despair set in. On that day, more than anything I coveted those three red stripes on my school blazer that signified my position of leadership. Finally invited into the inner sanctum, we are told the field of candidates was of extremely high calibre that year but that we had earned our spot alongside the other school leaders and therefore had been appointed general prefects.
From as early as I can remember, my parents told me I could do anything and be anything I wanted. Lately, there’s been some negativity around this sentiment; specifically, are parents setting up their children with unrealistic expectations and raising a generation that thinks it’s a given to be a self-made millionaire by twenty-five? I don’t recall if my parents added the requisite ‘if you work hard enough’, though for me it wouldn’t have mattered, it’s in my DNA to work hard. Due to my parents’ message, I grew up fully believing I could be whatever I chose to be. Due to my nature, I knew I would strive for academic and professional excellence. Due to my upbringing, I was armed with a sense of self-confidence and self-belief.
There has been movement of late (and past if you’ve been paying attention) towards empowering women (and men). I was fortunate that I did not grow up thinking about empowerment in terms of gender. My goals were my goals because they were mine, and it didn’t even cross my mind that my gender would keep me from realising them. However, as I got older I realised I would have to make some choices. When I graduated from university, I had to decide if I would follow my boyfriend to the city where he landed his first job, or if I would wait and take my best opportunity, wherever that took me. As I progressed in my career, I had to decide when (and if) I wanted to press pause to have my beautiful daughter, and then I had to decide when it was right for me to take a step back from full-time motherhood and resume my professional life.
As a person, I want to be limitless. I so badly wanted to be a school leader, I wanted to get good grades, and I wanted to be popular. I wanted to get married, I wanted to have a family, and I want to be successful professionally. I want to be soft, loving and sensitive, and I want to be fierce, strong and respected. I want to be unafraid of showing the world who I truly am. I want to be the full person I am meant to be.
So what did I do? Exactly what I wanted. I followed my boyfriend and married the love of my life. I’ve worked in two professions that were both my first choice. I have a gorgeous daughter. I’ve been my own boss. I cherish my family and friends who lift me up, inspire me and allow me to be myself. I am surrounded by empowered women. Who know who they are. Who are self-confident and happy in their life choices. Who are holding the reigns of their life.
Now it’s time for me to teach my daughter and leave her with the tools she needs to live a full and beautiful life. Sadly, not everyone is as fortunate as I have been, and some people will never be able to make simple choices I take for granted. I hope that in bringing her up with her eyes wide open, in championing the individual voice and the fact that there is much more to each of us than what’s immediately apparent on the surface, in highlighting the brave who show the world who they are and not what they think they should be, that she in turn will pass the message on.
So what does an empowered woman look like? First and foremost, she is whoever she wants to be. Because that’s the thing about empowerment, no one way is the right way, no one way is better than another. My way was not empowered because of what it was, but because it was my choice.
She knows who she is.
She’s confident but sensitive, feminine but strong.
She trusts her instincts and isn’t afraid to make bold choices.
She embraces the special things about being a woman.
She has fun.
About the photographer
1: My business is located: I am based in Brisbane, Australia. I travel to all areas of Brisbane for work and am happy to travel anywhere for the right opportunity.
2: My photography work is: I was originally a family and portrait photographer but I am travelling in a new direction — fashion editorial, boudoir and fine art photography — as this is where my passion truly lies: creating an amazing work of art.
3: I was inspired to become a photographer by: I have always loved pictures. Not just a still photo but moving pictures as well. I have very fond memories of going to the video store when I was young and thoroughly enjoying every bit of the experience. Most kids would be begging their parents to leave, but there I was, roaming through every section. Kids, comedy, musical, martial arts. Oh yes, I borrowed The Three Ninjas, Breakdance and Oklahoma many times in my childhood, as well as all the Shirley Temple movies, which I loved because I thought I looked a little like her.
I saved all my birthday and pocket money to buy my first film SLR camera when I was fifteen, and I was already planning to buy a 70–200 mm lens. I had the opportunity to complete a Certificate IV in Photography when I was seventeen, but my heart was not yet ready to commit to the art form. It wasn’t until my husband began studying an Advanced Diploma in Visual Communication at Design College Australia in 2012 and I really envied his projects that I was more keen than ever to learn more. I was twenty-three weeks’ pregnant when I decided to do my first photo shoot, and I can still remember how alive and accomplished I felt on the way home. I knew from that moment that this is what I am meant to be doing. Creating art from one still moment in time!
4: I find the inspiration for my photography in: Honestly, I find it everywhere. Every time I go for a walk I see a location and a vision will come to me. Sometimes every detail and sometimes only half the image. My husband and I are unable to just sit back and enjoy a movie, and if we are at the shops, we will constantly stop and mention things like how nice the light is. I have always loved writing but I am much better at short poems than novels as I tend to have a great idea for one chapter but never a clue for the rest. Photography allows me to capture that one chapter and leave the rest of the story to the viewer’s imagination.
5: My dream photo shoot is: I have actually just completed my dream photo shoot by collaborating with Novel Collective. A horse, flowing elegant skirts and dresses, a hat for that bit of sophistication and beautiful golden light. I suppose a movie star that I am photographing in character for their upcoming film would be the next best thing.
6: The photographers I admire most are: I love edgy and contrast plus character and the late Richard Avedon had the perfect balance of these qualities. Peter Coulson has a similar style and Brooke Shaden is a fine art photographer who inspires me not only with her pictures but also her passion for life.
7: My next project is: I am actually going to be doing another fashion shoot with a horse but this time on the beach so I am very excited about that. I am also working on a collaboration with my husband, which is going to be amazing!
8: I am reading: I just finished Gone Girl, which I found wickedly addictive. I have been watching the television series The Walking Dead, so I’ve bought a new book called Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison, which I felt went with the theme of my reading of late.