Blog Photography

When I decided to make this blog a reality it was mostly a trial and error processes. Now that I have been writing it for almost three years I have learnt a lot. As I am not a professional photographer or model and did not know anyone in the industry, when I started creating my own photo shoots it was a rather intimidating process. If you are starting a blog or even already have one and need some help I know how it feels and maybe I might be able to provide some advice.

fave-img_4986-4000x2667

Blogs come in various forms dependent on the content. Ranging from lengthy essays and short stories to full photo/picture blogs. Plain Old Glasses, as is the case for most fashion blogs, relies on a mixture with the text providing the voice and personality combined with media as an addition. The text is personal and something which one either has a knack for or doesn’t however can evolve and improve over time. It is hugely important to creating a unique voice for ones blog with the photography mostly seen as a helpful aid to provide visuals and context for the copy. In my mind, and probably a lot of bloggers’, this is an over simplification. The photos are as important as the text. Especially in fashion blogging as they showcase the very outfits which we are always talking about. As I also see myself as a photographer and in some ways an art director the photographs that I take and use are important to me. There is thought behind where and how the photograph is taken and what it is trying to portray. If you are considering starting a blog that relies on the addition of photography I would recommend you put as much thought into it as your writing. I have a few tips on what I have learnt so far. I am by no means an expert in fact I’d say I am still an amateur myself so I suggest you do, do some research into experts in each field but I find a little chat with someone who still remembers what it feels like to start is helpful.

Below you can find the 5 things which I believe are most important to concentrate on:

  1. Camera

Let us start with the obvious and probably the most expensive thing to consider. Cameras vary in shape, size, price and quality and it is important to consider various aspects before purchasing one. I didn’t specifically go out and buy my one but was lucky enough to have an old DSLR camera available. img_4788Mine is a Canon EOS 7D. It is large and heavy and not the best camera for blogging. It is a very good camera which takes very good quality photos however for an online blog this extremely high quality is not necessary. If you have a camera available try use this as best as you can to start with as opposed to buying a new one. Some cameras are better than others but most can do the job. You will have to understand how your camera will react in different lighting and environments (if you don’t know, practice, youtube and learn). These days even a high quality smart phone camera can do the job to begin with. It is important to ensure high quality photos though so you will just have to be selective.

As far as purchasing a camera there is no specific answer and if there was I wouldn’t be the able to give it to you. You need to find a camera that will fill your needs as a photographer and specifically the needs of your blog. If you are writing about rare birds you will need a different camera and lens to someone writing a food diary. For fashion blogging I’d recommend something light and compatible. You never know where a good photo opportunity will arise and if you can have your camera on you always you should. It should also be quite versatile so you can go from taking a photo of your whole outfit to minute details easily. It should also be easy enough to use that if needs be you can ask the stranger down the street to take a photo but I will comment on this more in a bit.

If you are going to purchase a new camera specifically for your blog I’d suggest you beg and borrow so you can practice with other people. Talk to everyone and do as much research as possible so that you come out with the best camera for you without absurdly breaking the bank because it’s really not necessary.

  1. Photographer

fave-img_4603-2667x4000The next important thing is to find someone to take photos of you. If you really can’t find someone to help you or maybe you just hate people there are bloggers who set up their own shots and use timers and buttons to take their photos (this is a lot of work and costly but possible) or there are bloggers who set up rooms in their houses that are aesthetic and take endless photos in their mirrors. If you have this available it’s a reasonable option although can be limiting. What most bloggers do is rely on one person to take the majority of their photos. Often husbands or boyfriends are pulled into the job (or maybe sought out for the job) and if you are lucky enough to be friends with a photographer then treat them well. What I do is a kind of trade. I have a friend who is a blogger and we take photos of each other. This is common as if anyone knows your struggle of getting photos it is another blogger. For this reason you should probably hone your own photography skills so you at least have something decent to offer.

The more time you spend in the industry the more opportunities you will have to take photographs. You will meet different bloggers hoping to collaborate, designers in need of models and photographers looking for muses. Something you should do, and admittedly I am terrible at, is to mingle at every opportunity that you can. The more people you meet the more opportunities you will get to do amazing photo shoots.

I usually work with fellow blogger and colleague Refiloe Mokgele and take photos of each other. In this instance I worked with a photographer from my university who I met at an event and needed a model.

  1. Setting and lighting

The setting can be a difficult one. When I first started I used to just take photos outside on my street which is okay but not great. If you happen to live on the most beautiful street ever then it’s much better. Finding a good place to take photos that is interesting and not jarring against your outfit is not always an easy feat (especially when you don’t have a car). Luckily Cape Town has more then a few pretty places within walking distance that provide easy photo opportunities including our own campus. I try and jump at opportunities to take photos in unusual places or places I wouldn’t otherwise get an opportunity to go to. I think it’s always good to have a few places that you have tried and that work in your memory banks. It is okay to reuse a venue. If it works it works. Tips I can give is to try find places that have something interesting about them, a fantastical forest, an abandoned building (be considerate of safety), a well-known street, graffiti, unique architecture etc. sometimes you will see somewhere you are not sure about, you should still try it. We have found the most unusual places that have worked. Props are also good, chairs, steps, go carts they help add dimension to the picture.

Lighting is a little more complicated and the first thing you should do is get to know how your camera interacts with light and what kind of setting it has. Midday sunlight is almost never a good idea or patch shade (unless you are going for a specific effect). Try work closer to sunset or sunrise or as in this photo shoot in complete shade. If you are struggling try change the direction you are facing relative to the sun or move in/out of the shade. (I also find that overcast weather can I have quite a cool effect and often use it to my advantage.

  1. Pose

There is unfortunately no manual to this. You can probe through all your favourite bloggers’ or models’ photos and copy their poses but what works for one person may not work for another. You’ll find that different people have a variety of poses that they use that are recognisable to them. They have worked on these poses over time to find what works for them, what’s comfortable and suits their body and style. If you go look at Refiloe, her photos consist of more jagged poses. Harsher angles. Her style is edgy and her images mirror this. fave-img_4747-2667x4000My style is softer and more controlled so my poses are often simpler and more relaxed. If you are starting out as a blogger you will just have to experiment for a bit. Try something and then make sure you look at the images on site. See where you can make adjustments to improve the photograph. Over time you will develop a sort of archive of poses that work for you and are useful in various situations.

If you are struggling you should try cross your legs or move your arms and your hands are a useful tool as well. If you want to draw attention to your make up or jewelry draw your hands to your face. Fake action shots are also good so get caught in a moment. Walk or tie your shoes, fix your hair or put on a jacket. Another trick is changing your level. Sit down or crouch, this improves your shape making it more interesting. Interact with props, cars, chairs, stairs, trees etc. Try and introduce other things into your image to make it more interesting. It also makes the job a lot easier.

  1. Editing

img_4920-2667x4000

The last task is the post-shoot processes. This is as important as the shoot itself. You need to take care in selecting your photos. Don’t take a bunch of really similar ones because they are the most flattering. There will be a pose you like the best so use it but just use it once. Find photos that are interesting and show a variety of angles on your outfit (after all
that is the point). Chose some close ups, some detail shots and I like it when there is an establishing shot. Don’t choose too many. Your writing should still play a part in your post and ensure it works harmoniously with your images.

The editing process is also necessary. Don’t go overboard – and trust me once you get started it is easy to do so. Remember your images should already be good quality and if well-lit should be usable even before production. There are purists who hate editing and these days cameras take brilliant photos but trust me you can take them to the next level with a little brightening and contrast. You can buy high tech editing programs but unless you are earning money from your blog or are going into a career that requires it I wouldn’t suggest it. Your computer should have a built in editor that will be good enough or you can use various online ones from picmonkey to vsco (unfortunately only available on cell phones… cry). Try keep your photos relatively uniform and keep extreme warmth and colour differences to a minimum. Black and white is always a good idea especially if you are not sure of the photos colouring. I like to throw a few black and white photos into the mix but it can still be jarring so be careful.

Overall I suggest you have fun and take it as a learning process even get yourself a book to write down what you learn works and doesn’t. Remember that this is your blog so make sure to keep you in it. Find what makes you comfortable and don’t just copy other bloggers.

Let me know if this was helpful x J

fave-img_4635-2-3361x3652

In this look:

Classic Clubmaster Tortoise Shell Sunglasses – Vintage Lover (the Feature Store)

Red Dress Shirt – My gran’s cupboard

Steve Shorts – Factorie

Tattoo Choker – Grahamstown Market

White High Top Chuck Taylor All Stars – Coverse

All photos by Derick Samo Gudo  (@Derickii)

Newlands Forrest, Table Mountain (Nature Reserve), Cape Town

 

Advertisements

Loving Local

People who know me well will understand that I am pretty serious about my moral compass. I am not perfect but I try very hard to be considerate of other people, evaluate my actions and just generally by kind and helpful. I try consider these morals in my words and actions and I will stand by them to the best of my abilities. I am only human and sometimes do things which looking back I don’t agree with or there are occasions where I make the wrong decision due to ignorance or privilege but my aim is to continuously evaluate and make changes to my life to help me grow into a better person.

fave-img_7087-3000x2000

One of the big difficulties I always have is trying, beyond my individual actions, to live an ethical lifestyle and this is predominantly affected by the produce that I choose to buy and use. This includes everything from food to clothing and much more. Many of this comes with quite a lengthily debate on pros and cons, cause and effect, social and economic situation etc and depending on what is important to you as an individual will determine your own choices and that is entirely up to you. What I am going to talk about in this post is the shift that I am attempting to take in my fashion consumption to make it more ethical and this revolves around buying predominantly locally produced fave-img_7119-2000x3000-edclothing. For me this is something that I have wanted to do for a while and for various reasons have not. There are two main things which pushed me to actually do it and I think they deserve mentioning (so if you feel like you may need a push in a different direction maybe take a look). The first is the documentary The True Cost which was introduced to me by my dear friend Refiloe Mokgele. The film is all about fast fashion and the nature in which it moves and grows. It discusses some of the disastrous effects that this has had both on people and the environment. Most of the ideas you probably would have come across before but I really appreciated how this film looks at the entire process that an item of clothing will go throw from cotton farms to second hand donation and how each process can have different effects. It is absolutely brilliant and anyone who has the time should watch it.

The next was less obviously about fashion but more that general commitment to lifestyle change. This is a woman by the name of Lauren Singer. She is from New York and by various changes in how she buys necessary products she managed to produce only one mason jar worth of disposable waste in 2 years. Lauren was inspired to live a zero waste lifestyle in order to reduce her impact on the environment. She does this through in various forms from using alternative stores to hand making many of her day to day products. You can check out her blog Trash is for Tossers for more information. This is obviously amazing and my next aim is to attempt some of her tricks to reduce my waste. Maybe not quite to zero but at least lessen my carbon footprint somewhat. I hope that one day I can be this conscious of the effects of my life style.

But back to clothing… So my aim from now on is to focus on buying local when it comes to fashion. Of course there will be some issues and I will get back to that at the end but it’s still worth a try. This means clothes that are sold by South African brands but also mainly produced in South Africa. I have thought about this for a long time weighing up the pros and cons and assessing how it will be possible in my lifestyle. There are many things that have motivated me to make this choice but I have decided for the sake of length to talk about the three main motivations that have inspired me to consciously buy local.

  1. Humanitarian effects of fast fashionfave-img_7120-3000x2000

Let me start by defining fast fashion. Once upon a time it was acceptable to own four dresses and only when one was worn out beyond repaired would people replace it. These days that is not the case. The industry is now running at an alarming pace with competitiveness and materialism being its main supporters. This requires the fashion industry to no longer be producing new designs once a season but rather every day with major retailers such as TopShop and H&M changing their store produce every week. This requires clothes to be produced quickly and cheaply. Sales become the norm and invoke a larger sense of power and excitement in the customer and instead of our closets being bare they are fulled to the brink and yet we still desire more. This is not sustainable and has a sinister side to it. This great industry that produces clothing for the customers faster than we can blink, rides on the backs of people who cannot defend themselves.

Now a lot of South African produced clothing is more on the expensive side (which is why it’s a rather slow process for me). Many of the big international brands and even places like Mr Price can sell cheaper clothing because of where their products are made. There are a few countries that are well known for this including China, India and Cambodia and I am sure you all are somewhat aware of sweatshops and garment shops. Here the population is poor and desperate and the labour laws which are supposed to protect them are limited if in existence at all. This means that big companies can exploit these poor people to produce clothing on a mass scale, very quickly and very cheaply. For this to exist, these people work in unsafe conditions, for long hours and for very little pay. Think about if you bought a shirt for R50 it’s a bargain right but how does that tiny amount of money pay for material, transport, business profit and somebody’s salary. Something has to give and that ends up being the well-being of the worker.

Now expensive clothing does not necessarily guarantee workers are looked after and we see this problem often in high street brands however it does improve the chances especially if the item of clothing is limited and hand made. If the product is made in a country with relatively good worker protection then it is more likely that the person who made your clothing wasn’t exploited (now just because its SA does not mean perfect worker protection but our labour court does help). If the item of clothing is made in the country its being sold in this also improves the chances of it being ethical as it hasn’t been sent out of the country purely for cheap labour.

fave-img_7128-3000x2000-ed

  1. The (more) sustainable option

Of course. Those of you who know me will understand why this would be a motivation for me. I have always worked at being sustainable from a young age and it only makes sense that this would be a part of my decision. Now sustainability in the fashion industry is very difficult. There is very little available in monitoring clothing shops in South Africa and so most of the time you cannot know how environmentally friendly the brand you are using is. Some materials are a little bit more eco than others ie natural over synthetic but for most brands there is very little you can do to verify whether they are using clean methods to produce their clothing (this includes things like dumping of waste, chemicals in dyes, the energy used in the processing etc). There are some brands particularly large corporations that have been called out historically such as Zara and Gap and although most of these brands have since “committed” themselves to the environment there is nobody policing or verifying their approach. Fashion designer Eileen Fisher famously said, “the clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world…second only to oil.” The industry is damaging and I think it is very necessary to evaluate how we participate in it.

As I said it’s hard to know how sustainable your clothes are but this is where buying local helps. Brands produced in the country you are buying it in already have a lowered carbon foot print as transportation costs are cut down. There are also specific eco brands around although they are limited. The biggest problem I find with these however is that there is a distinct gap between eco clothes and fashion trends. Eco brands tend to cater more for people who just looking for clothes as a sake of necessity than to be part of the art of the fashion industry. Don’t get me wrong they may have some nice items and as they develop they get better but fashionistas are not exactly their target markets.In general because of an overall lack of transparency from all kinds of brands, it is not easy to be sustainable. Buying local produced clothing particularly handmade clothing, however, is more sustainable than big businesses as they tend to be produced by smaller companies and require less heavy machinery and electricity. Another good option is to buy second hand and in Cape Town the thrift stores are in abundance.

  1. Supporting local

Globalisation has a distinct hold on the fashion industry particularly fast fashion. It makes me very uncomfortable that certain countries profit enormously from the fashion industry while preventing new brands starting out particularly in developing nations from a fair economic chance. It is very difficult for South African brands to boom and still source their products entirely local when competing against corporate giants like H&M or Zara or Cotton On. This is damaging for the economic growth and artistic growth of our own fashion industry.

Clothing and the ability to make clothing holistic is something that’s entrenched in most cultures in our country and if local clothing is supported it creates jobs. For me my country means a lot to me and I feel like I’m kind of stealing from my own people when I’m supporting international brands. I know it is very hard and I still do it but I would prefer not to take the opportunity away from a South African brand if I can. Also can we just reflect on howfave-img_7097-3000x2000 amazing the clothing that’s produced here is? They are beautiful, unique and good quality.

Now admittedly I am at a stage in my fashion career where I have enough clothing to not have to invest in  fast fashion yet be stylish and at this point there is still a lot more of my wardrobe that is not local than that is. Now I don’t need a new item of clothing every week plus I’d rather invest in quality pieces and I feel like I have a responsibility to support local in the process. Most South African and in fact African brands produce really incredible pieces and I always find that they cater more for individuals and  more diverse range of people and body types.

Some notes I have is that it’s difficult to shop for basics (underwear, socks etc) for this there is always Woolworths. Most of their stuff is produced locally and they are pretty good about it. Just check the label to be certain. They are one of our few big local clothing corporations.  If you are still tying to build up your wardrobe and are low on cash try buy second hand (vintage is never a bad idea). Second hand is a form of recycling and the stores are small businesses so still pretty ethical. One of the biggest issues I’ve had is with shoes. Local brands generally have really great heals and a lot of leather shoes which is great and again Woolworths is helpful but I really like sneakers and am trying to build my collection and there isn’t a large amount of locally produces sneakers. Admittedly I am cheating on the shoes for that reason. If I can find it local I definitely will get it local and if you know of any great SA produced sneakers holla at me. Another thing is that this change is really difficult especially if you love fashion. H&M always has clothes I want and MrP has great prices and I have internal battles every time I walk into a store. It would definitely be easier to not care but I believe I have a responsibility to care. One of the good things is it makes me more conscious of what I really want in my cupboard and its refining m style.

The system is not perfect and goodness me I’m not perfect at sticking to it but I am trying. Wish me luck.

In this look (all South African brands):

Brown Leather ankle boots – Woolworths

Blue Skinny Jeans – Woolworths

Coral Neck Tie top – Good Clothing (Mungo & Jemima)

Classic Clubmaster Tortoise Shell Sunglasses – Vintage Lover (the Feature Store)

fave-img_7086-3000x2000

All photos taken by the talented Cara Richmond (check out her Instagram here) and styling done by yours truly. Photos taken at J.C Le Roux Wine Farm.

 

It runs in the family.

My journey with fashion and my growth has not been particularly easy or defined. And I have written various blog posts over the years about my relationship with fashion. In 2014 (can you believe how long ago that actually is) I wrote a post about why I love fashion and if you’re interested you can read it here. The post basically talks about my own transformation as an individual and how fashion has been more than just this materialistic façade but rather something which is deeply linked to my confidence and surety and plays a really crucial part in my lifestyle. So today I am not going to rewrite this, although I have changed over the last two years, 18 year old Jemma did know what she was talking about.

Today instead I am going to speak about where it came from. Why was I inspired to look to fashion and more importantly work to develop a unique style as opposed to just following the crowd? This is in all honesty due to a lot of elements of my life and the paths that I have taken over the years but I am going to focus on the influence that I got from my mother and my grandmother. Now I don’t dress like either of these women however they have both over the years truly represented themselves and their personalities through fashion and have successfully developed their own styles and this has influenced me to want to do the same. Also their clothes are amazing and I am forever borrowing/taking them for myself as you may have noticed in my various outfit descriptions.

My grandmother was an artist and I think this definitely influenced her style which is full of bright shades and is the definition of co-ordination. I have never met someone more dedicated to colour themed outfits than my grandmother. For as long as I can remember everything has matched in her outfits, in fact when she was younger she apparently carried her miniaturfave-img_1274e Yorkshire Terrier in her hand bag which wore a bow in its hair to match the outfit. It may sound tacky but I promise you it’s anything but, rather I’d say I’ve never met a better dressed gran. Her singular dedication to this style alone is amazing and the fact that she has managed to pull it off for over 70 years now is even more so… And you should see the wardrobe that supplies it… WOW! My gran lives alone and so every cupboard in her house is filled with row upon row of pants and jackets and shoes and bags, and draws of watches and necklaces and scarves of every colour you can possibly imagine. It’s honestly a dream and aside from the day to day casual wear which is predictable and pretty much one outfit, I’ve found among the technicolour these really incredible, possibly random, pieces: a green summer duster coat, a black formal dress, a sunflower kimono, the most amazing pink plaid skirt (that she made herself) and the sweater that I am wearing in this shoot (to name a few). These pieces are incredibly unique and it’s clear that aside from her strict style regime my gran really had a good eye for individule pieces and when she couldn’t find what she wanted she would just make it herself. This makes her truly invested in her style and allows me to feel really dramatically engrossed in my heritage when I’m wearing them.

Today all three of her granddaughters not only show signs of her artistic talent but an obsession with fashion with my cousin even choosing it as her carrier path. Now I don’t know if the others were influenced by her or whether fashion can truly run in ones genes (jeans?) but if anything my granny has taught me these three lessons:

  1. Develop a style that you are comfortable in and which represents you and stick to it. Its incredible noticeable and unique and we see it every day from fashion icons (I mean just look at Kim K).
  2. Always look your best. Now sure as moms always say you are always beautiful no matter what but if you are really devoted to fashion it’s important to make sure that every day you dress well. ie only wear a hoody if it has purpose in your aesthetic otherwise there is no point in developing a style.
  3. Be committed to finding quality items, like do whatever it takes. When you get older and earning more than like R100s pocket money it’s important to start investing in quality pieces, both those that are practical and form important parts of your wardrobe and style as well as statement pieces that will help you really get to the next level… AND IF YOU CAN’T FIND IT… WELL THEN MAKE IT, DUH!

fave

Obviously if the granddaughters learnt a thing or two from their gran, then her daughter got even more influence right? Which is probably why my mom has such brilliant taste (okay sometimes she wears the most random shoes and I just can’t deal but otherwise her style is usually pretty good). I think my mom wishes she had the luxury of cupboard space that my gran does but she does try her best with her walk in wardrobe which is basically un-walkable now (my sister and I try help her make space by substituting our own collections with her clothes).

fave-img_1185

When my mom was my age she was very rebellious, with an I-do-what-I-want attitude, yet a put together and stylish girl and now my sister and I continuously try recreate her outfits from back in the day. I swear if my mom had had Instagram then she would have been queen. The vintage photos we do have available from when mom was at university are definitely tumblr worthy and I am oh so jealous.

My mom and I are very different. She is petit (positively tiny), tanned and athletic and her style back then was very vintage sport with a little bit of feminine ‘hipster’ chic. Today she wears mostly bright colours and patterns. She is a junior school teacher and if you can imagine a cheerful school teacher but with more modern and tailored outfits that would be her. Her style is general casual and easy and her clothes are querky and beautiful. When I go home I generally don’t bother to pack that many clothes because I know I won’t mind living out of hers (I just wish I was smaller so I could wear her pants). My mom has my weakness when it comes to clothes shopping, of not being able to forgive yourself when you don’t buy that amazing shirt/dress/skirt, so most of the time she just buys them (unlike me because you know student budget) and her eye is brilliant. It’s actually much better than mine. She has great intuition when finding pieces that will be really long lasting in her cupboard. You can tell they are really versatile because everyone in the house will wear the same piece of clothing in entirely different ways and it will work each time (oh except my dad doesn’t wear them but if the clothes actually fit him then maybe he would). I remember how sad my sister and I were, when my mom told us that all her favourite clothes from university were stolen once from her brothers car. We were devastated that we had missed out our opportunity with those clothes.

Shame my poor mom often gets left with only half of her nice clothes because my sister and I literally go through everything debating which one of us gets to wear it more. My mother clearly knows what she’s doing and much like I learnt from her mom I also learnt a few things from her:

  1. Comfort is everything. My mom has a job and kids and a day to day life that she spends running up and down. She loves style but has to be practical and comfortable in what she wears otherwise she can’t fully participate in everything she has to do. Fashion can often be this thing we think is singular but rather it needs to be incorporated into your everyday life and it’s important to understand this and think about it when getting dressed in the morning. You need to think about the functionality of your outfit when going into the day ahead.
  2. Think versatility. As mentioned before my mom is the absolute boss at picking items of clothing that not only work for every member of the family but work with many of the other items that she owns and can be worn on many occasions. I think you get better at this over time but it is something to try think about when buying clothes.
  3. Something I didn’t mention before was my mother’s love of patterns. Unlike me she hasn’t started clashing patterns but she does really appreciate a statement piece and in almost every outfit she is either wearing patterns on her shirt or skirt or pants or even just a scarf. She likes to have fun with her clothes and doesn’t take it so seriously which is something I definitely need to learn.

So maybe fashion was actually something I was born with or maybe I’m just super lucky to have these women to teach me and obviously also provide those oh so beautiful collections of clothes that I can’t yet imagine.

fave-img_1204

In this look:

Canvas Shoes –  PnP, these shoes have been with me for a while and I am sad to say I may have to say goodbye to them at soon.

Orange Corduroy skirt – My mothers (are you surprised?). Oh my gosh this skirt is high wasted and has not one but four pockets. I wish they still made clothes like this.

White collared shirt – Woolworths

Black sweater – this was my Grans, also she created the embellishment herself.

All photos by Refiloe Mokgele. Check out her blog here.

Stressed out

5 tips to dealing with stress and anxiety

fave IMG_1015e edit
Note the “monkey” bites on my left hand

2016 is the Chinese year of the monkey but for me it’s been the year of anxiety – weirdly fitting as I can sort of imagine my anxiety personified as a monkey, climbing all over me and jumbling up my thoughts.

When I look back on my life I don’t distinctly remember being overly stressed but I think this is more because in comparison to what I feel now nothing equates. Of course I was stressed before but I used to thrive on it. Stress was the very thing that allowed me to succeed in the overwhelming academic world that I threw myself into. And as therapy tells us “stress is healthy”, it is necessary to our survival, it’s what allows us to get through specific situations that are threatening or high pressured and in matric it allowed me do three extra subjects and pull dorky little Jemma up her academic ladder. In my first year of university I surpassed all my friends despite experiencing massive grief and upheaval but all of a sudden 2016 just threw all that away. Stress was my comfort but turned into my enemy and I didn’t-don’t understand it all. It doesn’t make any sense, I am stressed when I am happy and sad, when I am busy and relaxing and sometimes I don’t feel any stress at all at the most random moments. The worst part is I feel like it is changing who I am.

IMG_1066editThis monkey is pulling at my hair and scratching my body and all I want to do is curl into a ball and give up. And that isn’t me but that’s what I have done. Not in everything – unfortunately some parts of our lives or not negotiable… but my blog has suffered. My blog which I have loved and adored like it was my child since the day I started it… I just abandoned it.

I love to write. I love to write what I feel but the thing about this anxiety is that I can’t. I don’t know what to say. I want to describe the way it torments my very soul but I don’t know how to. Now it’s like there is a pipe with all the words and topics and ideas that want to come out of me but right now there is this block in my pipe and it is this post (which I have written and rewritten for months) and until I say it and feel it and start to comprehend it than nothing else is said. This stress has silenced me in more ways than just this blog and for me that is terrifying.

So today I am reaching out and finally being honest. I have just started a new semester and I spent most of my month holiday contemplating how to deal with this. I am studying engineering after all and what our lecturers always tell us is that engineers are problem solvers. Anxiety is not so straight cut that the solution presents itself in an ordinary manner but by introducing certain things into my life I am trying to give myself a fresh start and deal with this front that I find myself facing

Here are 5 tips that I have found helped me when dealing with stress.

  1. Be positive

IMG_1068 editThis may sound cheesy but it’s true. Being positive about yourself, your life and those around you can be hugely influential on your general attitude and trust me when I say stress is a lot worse when you are upset. The mere act of telling yourself that everything is going to be okay is hugely reassuring and it helps you to realise that its true and most things in your life will turn out just fine.

When you look in the mirror be as vain as possible. It’s okay. We are taught that humility is important which is true but it is important that you acknowledge, even just to yourself, that you are great. You look great. You do great things. Because until you realise this you will doubt yourself and then you will stress. I am not saying that is full proof (I mean if it was I would never stress) but it does help.

Focus on your achievements. If you are feeling overwhelmed or like you are going to fail, think about everything you’ve done that you are proud. The little things and the small things because they are all important and it’s easy to get weighed down when you concentrate on the things you can’t do, or think you can’t do but when you look at what you can do and what you have done and how you’ve achieved in it for yourself then you’ll find that even the things you felt you couldn’t do are possible.

  1. Do exerciseIMG_1032 edit

I never thought I would say this. From a young age I have hated sport but exercise is not always sport so if you aren’t a sport person like me join a gym, or a dance class or do kick boxing etc (it’s enjoyable but doesn’t have that complicated team/competitive dynamic of sport). Do something that you commit to once a week that has nothing to do with your academics and your personal life and whatever else is stressing you out. It’s actually pretty encouraging. It is a form of growth that you can observe which is only ever positive and it takes your mind off life. It’s also super healthy and along with this, eating healthily is also really good for you and beyond the physical. Being and feeling healthy has a huge effect on your mood and your energy. I am not super good about it (chocolate is still my weakness) but I try and stay away from fast food and general junk food as much as possible. I eat a lot but it’s good for me and it makes me feel light and happy and like I can take on the day.

Its also a good way to use up any negative energy. Eg: instead of feeling terrible about your ex or that test you didn’t do so well in, take it out on going for a long run, or working it out in a dance class. You will always feel better afterwards.

  1. Do the things you love

This is really important. I got to a stage where I was so stressed that in my breaks from my work I would just sleep or lie down and literally do nothing or have a panic attack and I completely stopped doing things that I loved. I stopped writing, I stopped drawing, I stopped exploring and reading beautiful words and this long list of things that make me really happy I just stopped doing. I felt like I didn’t have time to give up. It felt like I was doing this balancing act and if I did anything that wasn’t work everything would fall. This was a false idea. Doing things that I love was a relief and made it easier to concentrate and even enjoy the things that were stressing me out. These breaks in which you just allow yourself to be you and to deeply enjoy it are hugely beneficial. This includes spending time with friends, love and support has this amazing effect on your mental well being.

IMG_1090 edit

  1. Talk about it

Tell somebody what you are going through. Find someone who you trust whether it be a friend or a family member or even just a professional and talk to them. Tell them what you are feeling. Be understanding, nobody actually fully knows what your individual situation is and sometimes that idea can be overwhelming for others but it does help to get it out of your system and hearing other people share their own experiences can often be quite comforting.

  1. BalanceIMG_1017edit

This is probably the most important. You absolutely need to work for balance. Yes, do the things you love and exercise but in moderation. It doesn’t help at all if you do all these amazing things to make you feel better but leave off your work till the last minute. Be organised and try manage your time because if you can deal with your work properly and get enough sleep you shouldn’t be stressed at all but doing this is notably very hard and I’ve met very few people who actually achieve it but you do need to learn when to prioritise work but also when it can take a back seat (but at the same time don’t jeopardise your future)

My last words are to be brave and work hard and believe in yourself. It’s very very difficult and don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do it. It takes time and nobody is perfect. Let yourself grow and give yourself room to tumble because we all trip up once or twice.

I really love beautiful quotes because the power of words to convey something meaningful has always inspired me so I will leave an African proverb below.

“However long the night, the dawn may break.”

 x J


In this look:

All photos taken by Refiloe Mokgele, check out her blog All Zuri, and as she says I look like mother nature. I loved how these photos came out. I really love wearing big scarves that just wrap around me and my long skirt and I have had a bit of a love hate relationship but we back on at the moment. I feel a little bit like a princess but at the same time I feel kick ass and strangely aloof. Like I could do anything in this outfit (hence why I wore it to leadership training earlier on in the day). Also I know when we are little we hated this olive green in a crayon but now I am totally in love.

fave IMG_1019 edit

Black maxi skirt – Woolworths

Green polo neck – my mothers cupboard

Patterned scarf – my grandmothers (clearly fashion is in my genes)

Flower patterned platforms – H&M

Pretending to be gold necklaces – Factory

Clock ring (please notice how amazing this is) – vintage

P.S. still rocking the pale vampire vibes.

IMG_0875 edit

Burning the bra

The process of reclaiming my own body

No I didn’t actually set fire to my undergarments (do you know how expensive those things are???). What I have done is begun the process of rediscovering power over my own body which sure means that occasionally I make the conscious decision to leave off that component of my underwear made for my boobs but burning the bra means more than just disregarding a specific item of clothing. In fact I believe that to be a rather materialistic look at the whole idea. Burning ones bra is probably the most symbolic idea of feminism. It’s about reclaiming what it means to be a woman as defined by women. Bras, boobs, faces, hair… all these things, the societal views and conventions, have been prescribed to us by men. And that just ain’t right.

saithen
Photo by Sai @Saitheninja

I don’t know how this transformation started. For those of you who read my blog regularly, you’ll know I’ve been a feminist for a while now but despite my strong ideals I haven’t necessarily been practicing what I preach. I still looked at male adoration and approval as something important and I let the confines of this judgement impact my life. This also includes the judgement that my female peers inflict on me. Women can be really horrible to each other. This is a clear fact and something which most of us have experienced in our life. I strongly believe that much of the judgement we place on each other and the bullying mentality has been entrenched into the way we interact with each other from the male dominant society we find ourselves in. We put each other down to improve our own place and also to a degree we actually follow, even worship the social norms that we live in to the extent that we judge those who do not conform to it.

_PFC6247
Photo by Jian Yi Song @jianlovespandaforevs ft my fashion pair Fifi

I was definitely worried about other people’s perceptions of me and how I fit within social expectations. I think I learned that in school. In school you need to fit in to succeed. Any kind of individuality was a façade probably for marketing and to keep our parents happy but we all knew that in truth you had to be a clone to fit in. Sure the mould would change and evolve but in the long run it’s a uniformed cloned place. In university there isn’t as rigid of a structure to enforce this but I still held fear (and still hold fear) of my peers. We have an immense power over each other.

By letting this dominance and patriarchal defined norms control me I felt like I was letting myself down. I was giving in to everything that I stood against. And trust me just raising your voice and standing up for your rights as a woman or any other marginalised group is breaking social norms.

J&R1
Photo by Max Spies @maxspies ft my fashion pair Fifi (edited by me)

Anyway I thought it was time I started to physically interact with my feminist ideals. I told myself “don’t care what they think”. Which is undoubtedly easier said than done. It’s taken a few tentative tries and some plunging necklines to get going but I am starting to gather steam. I still have insecurities and worries but I am learning to ignore them and sometimes it’s actually fun. You have the freedom to not worry about your body image at all. One of my biggest insecurities has always been about my legs particularly the stretchmarks and cellulite which exists on my upper thighs. I basically never wear shorts or short skirts but now I can actually wear that playsuit which is cute and I’ve wanted to wear for ages and the only thing that held me back was fear. Now I don’t care so much.

This means I can buy some damn cool skirts like the tight, short, vintage, first-Thursday find that I recently bought. I wore this to our instameet and admittedly I was worried. People would be taking photos. Recording in detail my every flaw. And I was baring my legs to the world. But I ended up proud of the photos and rocking the look and I felt like a bad-ass super fashionista.

Another ambitious result of this was the nose ring.

AHHHH SHE HAS A NOSE RING WTF!

Calm down. The world hasn’t stopped moving. It’s just a piece of metal.

J&R
Photo by Max Spies @maxspies ft my fashion pair Fifi (edited by me)

Because of the silly stereotypical nonsense that people buy into, nobody was expecting calm, quiet Jemma Richmond to pitch up with a ring in her nose and a septum at that. I saw my friends eyes bulge out of their heads. From some I got positivity. They thought it was cool. I was told it suited me, called a rebel and lit. From others, particularly the people I care about most, I got negativity. I was told it was ugly and horrible. Some people threatened to stop talking to me altogether. Now granted I knew it wasn’t expecting it to be everybody’s cup of tea I didn’t expect such negativity. Most of this was resolved through conversation but it was still jarring.  I could also feel peoples open judgement. Random people would stare at me possibly considering what I was doing with it and openly wearing their opinions on their faces. I have now realised why people who wear septum rings are such badass humans. It forces you to build this resilience and confidence. Like yeah I made this decision and I like it so screw you.

_PFC6255
Photo by Jian Yi Song @jianlovespandaforevs

Trust me I am not nearly the fearless woman that I one day hope to be but I am getting there. I encourage everybody reading this to try it too. You don’t have to get a nose ring or stop wearing a bra but when you look in the mirror and shy away from something because of your insecurities, take a deep breath and pretend it isn’t there because trust me if you don’t see it others wont see it either.

Confidence is truly the most beautiful thing a woman can wear.

What I am wearing:

Skirt – First Thursday vintage

Shirt – stole it from my gran

Lace bra – cotton on #lookmomnopadding

Shoes – Pic n Pay

Nose ring – Lovisa

Hat – Somebody elses

March Instawalk (28)
Photo by Winston Sussens @starqphotography (edited by me)

X J

PS. before you have a fit… the nose ring isn’t real. It’s not something I want to permanently have in my life but rather an experimental process which on a student budget is cheaper to do if it’s fake.

Enjoy your weekend.

PPS. the photos were all taken at FashSocs (me and fashion pair Fifi’s society at UCT) instameet with IGersUCT. Go check out all the photographers emails because they are cool.

12829379_439536149588323_3361631640452228954_o
Photo by @halfandhalve ft my fashion pair Fifi

 

Breathing Space

Taking a break from life and blogging

I was on holiday for almost three months and I wrote one blog post. I had time and space to think and I kept quiet. I haven’t forgotten about my blog though and after a year and a half of writing it I am certainly not going to give up.

Then why? Why did I step of the writing planet for so long?

It isn’t that I ran out of things to say. No,I have a long list of topics I wish to write on. It was more so a loss of steam. Effectively I needed a break. Not necessarily from my blog as it stands but from everything . To me that statement does sound ignorant and not well thought out but last year was a long year. It was filled with emotional extremes all over the place.

I spent a lot of time in my school career trying to figure out who I was. I had this desire to know myself, my morals, my ideals etc. I left matric with this certainty about who I was. I am not about to tell you that I have lost all of that in the space of a year but the changes that have effected me this year have forced me to develop this ‘Ideology of Self’ way beyond what I could have ever have thought before. I have changed, for better or worse, I have grown as person. Partly due to the people in my life. Their impact or absence. And partly due to events and expectations.

Last year also came at a pace. Work, relationships, ideas and social development all required constant attention and movement. And there was never really much time to look back and appreciate or digest everything that had happened. So when the holidays came I decided to force a stop. A pause in my life. I once told a friend of mine that when bad things happen you cant curl up in a ball stop because life doesn’t just stop and although my step into darkness may have irritated some people, possibly even some of you – my readers – it was an opportunity that this holiday allowed. An opportunity that I may not have for a long time and I cannot explain to you how much I needed it.

I spent three months not writing, not reading and not communicating. Three months without maths, without hard work and without thinking. I spent three months rejuvenating: physically, mentally and emotionally… and it worked.

Now I am back. I am not going to make any promises as this year looks to be fuller than the last one but I will write whenever I can because I cannot not.

x J

Photo taken by my old friend Katya check out more of her stuff here

Writer’s Block in Joburg and the Insufferable Heat

I am home, home after one whirlwind of a year in Cape Town.

I am back in Joburg, the city that will always hold my heart.

FAVE IMG_2574
Traffic in Newtown

Now it’s time to relax and appreciate a period of calm.

For me a holiday has always been a period of catch up, not the DSTV kind but rather everything that I didn’t have that much time for before. Things like reading, writing, art and blogging…. None of which I have done (except for some sporadic watercolour experiment that may or may not have worked out).

fave IMG_3100 edit
Photo by Cara Richmond

I am blocked. My creativity, something which I actually like about myself, has sailed off in the wind and taken its own holiday, or possibly has otherwise melted in this dreadful heat.

Coming home hasn’t been the refreshing break I expected. Sure there are aspects that are great. I get to see people who I have missed but other than that I feel suffocated more than ever before. Mostly it’s due to the weather.

And I know it’s just weather, and I can’t honestly do anything about it but it’s starting to get to my head.

These are my issues:

  • It is too hot. Point blank. This is not normal, in fact it is a heat wave linked with drought and suffering that doesn’t bring prosperity to the land in general. It’s suffocating and in fact the need for water increases along with a desire to preserve the liquid as it rapidly disappears which is just conflicting.

    fave IMG_3075
    Photo by Cara Richmond
  • I’ve never liked summer. As a pale person even the glimpse of sunlight turns me bright red. It’s bad for my skin and it makes me feel sweaty and disgusting. My hand bag’s contents have completely been made over with the addition of permanent deodorant, suntan lotion, even after-sun. My hair is limp, my skin is shiny and horrid and the heat makes me drowsy and uncommitted.
  • “Summer body”. I already suffer from selfdoubt in my body image and this year has bought many conflicting emotions about how I should and shouldn’t look and how I should or shouldn’t feel about that. Every day I stand in front of the mirror and imagine myself with a new body. With a better body. In Cape Town it’s possible to pretend. It’s cold and rainy and layers are ones best friend. And layers my dear readers are the best tricks that I have to covering up and making myself feel better. And now I’m here and it’s too hot for such things. I mean I only own one pair of shorts so you can imagine just how I feel every day trying to keep intact my fashionable image well trying not to turn into a walking talking sweating tomato (with unattractive legs).
  • The pollution. With the lack of rain and drenching heat the infamous Johannesburg smoggy sky sit lower than ever and I can’t breathe. For those of you who don’t know, I have asthma and in Cape Town my lungs feel freer and healthier than they’ve ever felt and so returning to the smog my lungs are no longer used to it and every breath I take hurts.

    FAVE IMG_3054
    Photo by Cara Richmond
  • I am lazy. The heat has put me in a lethargic position where I sit and do absolutely nothing. I achieve nothing. I am creatively blocked. And yes I do blame the heat. The heat is overpowering and negative and I don’t know how to deal with it. This puts me in a positon where I am unmotivated to do anything other than sit on my bed and send snapchats.

BUT I still love Joburg. The heat sucks but that is temporary. I am glad to be back in the city that moves, that excited and that is full of energy. MrP (Mr price clothing) ran an Instawalk recently (a walk dedicated to creating relationships within the IGers community and showcases the environment you’re in. it gives those involved an opportunity to practice and share the art of photography) through Newtown in Johannesburg CBD and on a whim we went. It was amazing. Better than anything I’ve seen in Cape Town because it felt real. FAVE IMG_2640 editSure Newtown is a developed area aimed to renew the city but it’s impossible to mask the reality of Johannesburg and the harsh beauty that it exist in. It’s far more tangible than any other city in South Africa and photographing it was possibly the first push I needed to start appreciating my city again. I have been so stuck and hidden by this heat that I had forgotten what I longed for coming home.

FAVE IMG_2550

These are my loves:

  • It sounds strange but the only way you will ever move towards a solution is through conflict and discussion. Johannesburg is consistently struggling through conflicts. There is never complete complacency in this city and that’s what keeps it moving forward and maintains inspirations.

    FAVE IMG_2763 edit
    Photo by Cara Richmond
  • This city is large. I can drive for two hours and not have left the hustle. Johannesburg sprawls on and on. It’s like a never ending blanket that encapsulates you and holds you in its grasp. It’s difficult to escape the city but luckily I don’t want to.
  • I won’t pretend to say that Johannesburg is the most colourful city. Cape Town is bright and clean and has walls painted over in different colours that make it bright and exciting. But it’s a show. In Joburg the colours appear dull but they have depth and as an artist that excited me more, that means more than anywhere else I’ve ever been.
  • I’m a (wannabe) civil engineer so I love buildings. My family has a deep history with buildings in this country and this city and I am attracted to the structure of Johannesburg. Whether it be the beauty of the skyline and the sheer size of the buildings themselves or the pushing of boundaries with architectural design or the structure of the movement itself. Joburg never rests and you could be caught in a traffic jam at any time of day but there is a chaotic and uncensored order. It’s angry and it’s passionate and it keeps this city on its toes.FAVE IMG_3106
  • The people (and their clothes). People in Joburg are the most ambitious people I’ve ever met. The reason this place always moves is because the people always move. This is a place where success is possible. It you want peace and prosperity go the winelands if you want competition and fame come to Johannesburg because this is the place where dreams come true.

Thank you MrP for a fantastic walk and for reawakening my excitement for this city.

FAVE IMG_2834 edit
Photo by Cara Richmond

I am on a mission to take down this writer’s block which cam along with art block and fashion block. You can see in my current expression I’m hot and bothered with slightly skew glasses (because hiding behind colour glass that is basically the size of my face is my specialty). My dungereese is kind of my go to look for summer (find my blog on exactly that here to find out more on how I style it). and the rest of my outfit is a hope that wearing the colours of summer might somehow let me blend into the surroundings and hopefully cool me down ever so slightly.

In this outfit:

Sunglasses – MrP (last season)

Pastel top – H&M

Denim skirt Dungarees – Cotton On (last season)

Shoes – H&M

FAVE IMG_3070
Photo by Cara Richmond

To my readers. I’m struggling a bit with my writing and my style lately but I’m trying to improve that and I hope to see you again soon with interesting (and better, more creative) blog posts.

Have a good festive season.

X J