Hello and welcome!  I am a portrait photographer based in North London.  I absolutely love what I do which I hope shows in the photographs that I've taken. I shoot predominantly with natural light at your home or on location which gives my images a very personal and natural style. If you're looking to book me for business headshots, please take a look at my dedicated corporate and personal branding page. I hope you enjoy reading my blog and looking at my photos, if you would like to make a booking please call me on 07527 711 967 or drop me a line HERE.  

40 OVER 40 Zoe Lyons

September 13, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

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#14

Zoe Lyons

Comedian

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In an attempt to make my teenage son crack a smile or two, my husband and I booked tickets to see Micky Flanagan at Wembley Arena.  I'd been really busy leading up to this and hadn't realised that there would be a support act on, so when Zoe Lyons appeared on stage we settled in for a bonus half hour or so of comedy.  None of us were familiar with Zoe's work and I didn't hold out much hope of the teenager getting on board, but a few seconds into her routine and all three of us were cracking up.  In fact, at one point the teenager actually wiped tears away from his eyes.  She is hilarious!

She spoke about all kinds of things including her struggles with alopecia (she's an ambassador for Alopecia UK) her midlife crisis and her experience with the menopause.  And as she launched into her final joke (which had my son and I doubled over in hysterics) all I remember thinking was, I need this woman in my project!

I googled her the next day and liked everything I read about her.  Her willingness to speak about her alopecia has helped so many other people going through the same thing and her hilarious take on the menopause and midlife in general is keeping a lot of women in the same boat laughing!

I couldn't believe she answered my instagram message saying she'd love to take part in the 40 Over 40 project. We had a brilliant session down in Hove where she lives, and she was generous enough to allow me to take photographs of her with her wig (Wiggy Stardust) which thankfully she no longer needs to wear. 

Thank you Zoe for being part of this, and for not batting an eyelid when I asked you to squeeze in sideways between two beach huts and strike a post. You're the best.

 

Zoe Lyons by Jenny SmithZoe Lyonsby Jenny Smith

 

You’ve been very open talking about your alopecia which will have helped loads of people, do you mind sharing with us the events leading up to it?  Do you have any words of wisdom for other people going through it?

I first had alopecia when I was a kid at about 10 years old. That was triggered by my parents separation and moving away from where we lived in Surrey to Scotland. I found the whole thing really stressful and my hair loss has always been linked to stress. My hair grew back and I only had occasional small patches through my adulthood until this most recent episode where I ended up losing 80% of my hair. Again it was triggered by stress, lots of things, the pandemic and its impact on work, menopause and things that I had been struggling with mentally for years.It was a really tricky few years and I could feel the stress in my body like electricity and I just knew I was going to lose most if not all of my hair. I watched it disappear down the plug hole over the course of about 10 months. I have to admit it was totally devastating at the time. To feel crippled by the depression and then to look in the mirror and to see that I no longer even looked like myself was quite the challenge. Everything felt out of control and so the only thing I could do was attempt to take back some control, to own it and to talk about it. Sharing my experience with alopecia helped me as much as anyone else who felt less alone by my talking about it. Alopecia is an unpredictable condition, it can be very different for everyone so my advice would be to firstly to get a proper diagnosis. I am now an ambassador for Alopecia UK and they are a brilliant charity who have lots of information. It’s more common than most people know so don’t sit in silence, reach out and get some help.

 

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The menopause took me completely by surprise with symptoms I had no idea were anything to do with the menopause.  What was your experience like?  

I joke that my menopause arrived one weekend unexpectedly. I went from being fine to having 30 hot flushes a day. I genuinely thought the heater in my car was broken. I went straight on HRT, I had a big telly job coming up and I thought I cant be bursting into a sweat every few minutes. I take a low dose and it helped right away with the flushes. There are of course all the other symptoms that come along, the brain fog has been pretty bad and then there is the itchy skin and those days of absolutely no energy or motivation. At least we talk about it now, my mothers generation really did have to grin and bare.

 

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Thankfully we see way more female stand-ups now, certainly compared to what I saw growing up.  What’s your experience been like being a woman on the comedy circuit?  Has it changed much since you started in terms of women in comedy?   

It was quite hard when I first started on the circuit. There was still very much the mentality that women couldn’t do stand up, that women weren’t funny. I was often introduced on stage as if I was a speciality act. What made the experience more difficult was that promotors only ever put one woman on the bill. You were always the odd one out and as a result the audience saw you like that too. Thankfully the circuit is a very different place these days. There are so many fantastic women on the circuit and there is so much more diversity in comedy.

 

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This project is celebrating women in midlife and beyond - what positives are there for you being the age we are now compared to when we were younger?

I’m 51 now and I am only just beginning to feel like I properly fit my skin. I see my break down during the pandemic as a bit of a gift now. It has allowed me to reconnect with myself and change behaviours/ thought patterns that I had carried through the first part of my life that just weren’t doing me any good. I am very happy to be this age, I am very happy to be here and I am very happy with my new, now curly, hair! I’m excited for the future may hold.

 

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My podcast welcomes hormonal anecdotes from women (menopausal meltdowns, hot flushes, PMT, etc), do you have anything you’d like to share? 

Women need to keep exercising into menopause to stay strong and there is now lots of research that shows that lifting weights is good for us as we age. I started doing CrossFit a few years ago and I really love it. I have found though that my hormonal clumsiness can get quite bad. My coordination is all over the place so this week at the gym I managed to smack myself in the face while attempting a clean and jerk. It made a proper clanking sound, I was so embarrassed and I woke the next day with a real shiner. I am weirdly proud of it. I’m keeping fit but you need to give me a wide berth as my movements are largely unpredictable. 

 

What advice would you give your teenage self?

Don’t sweat the small stuff and it's mostly small stuff. 

 

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I think it's fair to say that our hormones have affected us all at some time in our lives be it puberty, PMT, pregnancy or the menopause.  If that's you then check out my podcast, Dear Hormones, hopefully it'll make you smile. You can listen to it here.
 


40 OVER 40 Kate Muir

July 23, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

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#13

Kate Muir

Journalist and TV Producer

 

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I am so excited to introduce you to the next woman in my 40 OVER 40 project.  This is Kate Muir.  She's a journalist, documentary maker and author and is on a mission to educate anyone who will listen about women's health.  

If you watched the ground breaking documentaries with Davina McCall about the menopause and contraceptive pill then this is the woman you have to thank for it.  She'd never even made a documentary before but was so spurred on by the complete lack of reliable information out there that she decided to take matters into her own hands.  She and Davina have played a significant role in the huge increase in women taking HRT, medication that has personally saved my sanity and quite possibly my marriage.  What a woman.

Her book, Everything You Need to Know About the Menopause (but were too afraid to ask) is out now in paperback and she has a new book all about the contraceptive pill coming soon. 

Read on to find out more about Kate and see the photographs I took during our wonderful session together, including one of her gorgeous dog, Skye!

Thank you Kate for being part of this project.

 

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Can you tell me how the menopause documentary came about?  What was your own experience like?

The documentary came out of my own peri/menopause disaster eight years ago, which was not just a car crash but a full Thelma and Louise off-the-cliff experience. In particular, I had no idea that 1) not remembering ordinary nouns and 2) having heart palpitations and anxiety attacks at 4am could be cured almost instantly by taking hormone replacement therapy. There was very little information out there then, and nothing on the safer profile of body-identical transdermal HRT, plus the mental health aspect of menopause just wasn’t talked about enough. So I decided to make a documentary, never having made one before. We got turned down twice by broadcasters and third time lucky, Channel 4 came on board. After the production crashed in lockdown, I asked Davina McCall if she wanted to present. We had an hour-long conversation about both our menopause experiences while she was driving home, and by the time she parked, she said: “Yes. I’ll do it!”. We made two documentaries, and since the first one came out in 2021, a million more women have gone on HRT in the UK, not just due to us, but a massive, rising menopause movement.

 

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Are there any stories from other women that stand out in your mind since researching the menopause?

The first story I heard, which made me make the documentary, was from Dr Louise Newson – who was sorting out my HRT – and she told me about one of her patients, a nursery school teacher, who was diagnosed with “treatment-resistant” depression in her forties. The teacher also had symptoms like vaginal dryness and urinary tract infections, but those weren’t picked up. She was given various anti-depressants for a year, and when that failed she was diagnosed by a locum as bi-polar and sent as an outpatient to a mental hospital where she was given 12 sessions of Electroconvulsive Therapy, ECT, on her brain. Afterwards, she became completely agraphobic and couldn’t leave the house. After seven years of struggling, she Googled hormones and depression, bought a motorhome so her husband could drive her safely to see Dr Newson, and got HRT. A week later, her hormonal depression started to lift and she walked her dog for the first time in years. I was horrified at the lack of knowledge around hormonal depression, and I decided to write a book too.

 

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What menopause myths have you heard?

That “menopause is a transition that goes away”, when in fact your hormones never come back and your body remains depleted forever, unless you use HRT. Even if you don’t want to use HRT or can’t because of an underlying condition, this massive change needs some extra care, with improved nutrition and exercise. Herbs will never take the place of hormones. 

“HRT causes breast cancer” – there is a small increase in breast cancer risk on the old oral HRT made with synthetic progestins, but NO increased risk of breast cancer has been shown with the new body-identical estrogen and micronised progesterone. 

 

What words of wisdom do you have for other women entering their menopausal years?

Get wise. Don’t trust the headlines. Go to trusted sources backed by the latest science like the free Balance menopause app or website. And once you’re sorted, remember that menopause is about metamorphosis, not misery. I used to feel like a clapped-out banger when I was in perimenopause, and now I’m on body-identical HRT (estrogen, progesterone and the hormone women make most of, testosterone) I feel like a Tesla – level every day and full of energy. 

 

The new documentary and book focuses on the pill - what surprised you the most when researching this topic?  What advice do you have for women and girls thinking about going on the pill.

Again, the mental health aspect around the contraceptive pill – so many women just putting up with “feeling a bit flat” or real depression. We did a poll of 4,000 women and non-binary people which showed that 57% were worried about their mental health on hormonal contraception. What women need to know is that each pill type affects every woman very differently, and each synthetic progestin in the pill has different effects, so swapping over is really worthwhile – or trying a coil if the pill doesn’t agree with you. I’ll be explaining that in detail in the book. Don’t just keep calm and carry on. Also, The Lowdown is a brilliant contraceptive review website.

 

Kate MuirKate Muir by Jenny Smith

 

During our session you told me about a injection for men’s contraception that is being trialed, can you tell us more about that?

It’s basically a temporary, reversible vasectomy. They inject some “Vasalgel” gel into your vas deferens – the tube from the testes – and it hardens and blocks sperm but not liquid. When you want to be fertile again, the gel can be dissolved. It’s in human trials in Australia and going before the Food and Drugs Administration for further trials in America. It will be a chance to share the contraceptive burden.

 

What more do you think needs to be done in terms of menopause awareness?

Doctors and medical students need better education, and women need to be aware that body-identical HRT has a long-term protective effect on their bodies, far beyond just stopping menopause symptoms. It helps prevent osteoporosis, which one in two women get over 50. It lowers the risk of cardio-vascular disease, colon cancer, joint pain, Type 2 diabetes and dementia. A recent study in the British Medical Journal linking HRT and dementia in Denmark was mis-reported in the press – the study was on the old oral HRT with synthetic progestins and not the new, safer body-identical kind. Such an important distinction.

 

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Personally I’ve never felt better since turning 50, what positives are there for you in terms of mid-life?

I don’t care what anyone thinks of me, and I’m on a crusade to change women’s knowledge around their own bodies and hormones, be they on HRT or the contraceptive pill. Also, I’m having a fantastic time with a new partner and a new career. 

 

What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Be honest, not polite, when it really matters.

 

Anything else you’d like to share?

Get a dog

 

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Thank you so much Kate for being part of my 40 OVER 40 project.

 

I think it's fair to say that our hormones have affected us all at some time in our lives be it puberty, PMT, pregnancy or the menopause.  If that's you then check out my podcast, Dear Hormones, hopefully it'll make you smile. You can listen to it here.
 


40 OVER 40 Dr Shahzadi Harper

December 12, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

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#12

Dr Shahzadi Harper

Menopause and Women's Health Doctor

 

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This project is all about celebrating women from all walks of life doing wonderful things in mid-life and beyond.  After experiencing quite a rough time when my perimenopausal symptoms started, I am naturally drawn to the women out there who are banging the drum for greater menopause awareness, and Dr Shahzadi Harper is one such women. In fact, she's probably been on the campaign trail longer than anyone and has helped countless women navigate their way through what can be a really frightening time.  

 

Shahzadi is from working class Pakistani heritage and is passionate about making sure women from all cultures are getting the right information.  Studies on the menopause have predominantly been done on white women but it's important to note that women from certain cultures can present with different symptoms.  She explained to me that women from the Indian subcontinent, for example, tend to present with vaginal dryness, body pain and fatigue.  Japanese and Chinese women tend to present with shoulder stiffness and chills rather than hot flushes.  The menopause is much more of a sensitive subject in these cultures too which means less women coming forward to seek help.  Shahzadi says it's absolutely vital that doctors understand this too.  

 

When I arrived to take her photographs, Shahzadi was still in her (rather beautiful) robe. She looked so stunning in fact, that I asked if she'd consider leaving it on for the session. I'm so pleased she said yes as I feel these photos show a wonderful relaxed side to her character.  What a beautiful woman on the inside and out.

 

Thank you Shahzadi for being one of my 40 and fo answering these questions.

 

In your experience, what are some of the biggest differences/challenges ethnically and culturally when it comes to the menopause?

 

The biggest challenge is firstly the awareness or lack of awareness around it and then the stigma. The hush hushness especially in some cultures where the value of a woman is based on her fertility. 

The word menopause needs to just be normalised so when women of whatever social class and ethnic heritage hear it they know what it is and know they can seek help. I worry so many women are suffering unnecessarily because they don’t understand what’s happening to their bodies and are fearful of asking or seeking help.

 

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You must hear all kinds of horror stories form women suffering the affects of menopause and not feeling supported or understood - any that you can share that might help other women reading this?

 

The number of stories I have of women who have just been putting up with symptoms and then finally come and see me and start treatment is huge. They are always so pleasantly surprised at how much better they feel once they're on the right treatment.  They so often regret wasting the last few years; I hear women saying I must’ve been miserable for the last five years, I think I must’ve been angry for the last five years, I feel like I’ve missed out and lost years with my children, my children used to say I’m not fun anymore.

 

I’ve had a situation whereby one woman was fired, because she could not remember the information that she was meant to present, and as she was in her probationary period she was let go. I’ve had another woman say I wish I’d come to you five years ago, because then I wouldn’t have left my job and currently I’m working for the woman that I trained.

 

Dr Shahzadi by Jenny SmithDr Shahzadi Harperby Jenny Smith

In your capacity as a women’s health doctor you are helping so many women get through the often debilitating symptoms of the menopause. But what has your own menopause been like and how has it been being a single mum through this time?

 

My own personal perimenopause journey, has been up and down - filled with loss of my father and a break up - I have experienced fatigue, which I mistook for depression alongside anxiety and brain fog. The brain fog frightens me as my mother develop dementia under the age of 60. I was really keen to start HRT sooner rather than later. Also, I couldn’t afford to lose my memory, literally as I am the breadwinner in my family because it’s only me and my daughter. So if I can’t work then, I lose financial freedom so managing my payment for sooner rather than later before falling off the cliff of menopause was really important to me. Also being single, I didn’t want to fade into the background. I felt I had a lot more living to do, which I do now.

 

What more still needs to be done to support women in the menopause?

 

Menopause Needs to be part of everyday language.  Start from school so it’s normalised. At school we get taught about puberty, pregnancy but also we should be taught about menopause. It is a natural stage of life and also something every woman will go through, and everyone of us will know one woman or another, so we should have an understanding.

 

Once we have children growing up, normalising menopause then hopefully we will lose some of the negative narratives of itchy, bitchy, sweaty women who are past it! 

 

Dr Shahzadi by Jenny SmithDr Shahzadi Harperby Jenny Smith

What advice would you give your teenage self?

Believe in yourself!

 

The Me Too campaign rocked every industry. What has your experience been of this as a woman in medicine?  How if at all have things changed since you first started out?

 

It’s helped to highlight and call out the sexism and harassment women get day in day out including in the medical profession. I think it’s been a really positive movement and made men stop and think - we women are equals! 

 

Dr Shahzadi by Jenny SmithDr Shahzadi Harperby Jenny Smith Photography

 

So many women worry about looking older - far more than men do.  What are your thoughts on the ageing process?

I think it’s natural for women to feel fearful- society is still very much looks based. I’m not anti ageing, but it can be hard - seeing the physical changes. Women are still very much judged on how they look - we live in a very visual society and ageing women are seen very differently to ageing men.  Personally what I’m afraid of is loss of health and mobility and mental capacity. 

 

Anything else you would like to share

Don’t let age or stereotypes hold you back!

Thank you so much Shahzadi for being part of my 40 OVER 40 project.

 

I think it's fair to say that our hormones have affected us all at some time in our lives be it puberty, PMT, pregnancy or the menopause.  If that's you then check out my podcast, Dear Hormones, hopefully it'll make you smile. You can listen to it here.
 


40 OVER 40 Ngozi Fulani

November 29, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

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#11

Ngozi Fulani

Founder and CEO of Sistah Space

 

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Introducing the wonderful change maker Ngozi Fulani.

Back in 2020 in the midst of lockdown I launched a project called Front Door Photo to raise money for victims of domestic violence.  The topic has always been close to my heart ever since a friend took her own life following years of domestic abuse.  As a result I have always kept a keen eye on the charities out there doing their bit to help women and children escape such horrors.  This is where I first came across Ngozi Fulani and her charity Sistah Space who support victims of domestic abuse in the African and Caribbean community in the UK.

A shocking 86% of African and/or Caribbean heritage women living in the UK have either been a victim of domestic abuse or know a family member who has been assaulted. And yet there is no dedicated refuge for these women to go where their cultural differences will be recognised. Ngozi and Sistah Space are fundraising to correct this and you can donate to that campaign HERE

I am so delighted that Ngozi agreed to be part of my 40 OVER 40 project. Please read what she has to say about her charity and what more needs to be done to support these women fleeing terrifying situations in their own homes. 

Thank you Ngozi.

 

What is Sistah Space and why did you set it up?

Sistah Space is a charity dedicated to supporting African and Caribbean heritage women and girls affected by domestic and sexual abuse. I attended the court case of a woman called Valerie Forde and her 23-month-old daughter Real Jahzara (Baby RJ), who were tragically murdered by the ex-partner of Valerie in 2014. Valerie had reported her perpetrator Roland Mckoy’s threats of burning her and their children in their house to the police weeks before the murder took place. But the police had been utterly dismissive of the information she had given them of her perpetrator and without any follow up on the report, the threat had been negligently recorded as a threat to property rather than a threat to life.

This tragic event highlights the need for organisations like Sistah Space to continue to tackle the issues, injustices and mistreatments of African and Caribbean heritage women and girls experiencing domestic and sexual abuse.

 

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Tell me about your PHD and why you’re doing it

The PhD research is the study of Valerie's Law and looks at the barriers to black women reporting abuse.  Valerie’s Law aims to provide mandatory training for the police and other government agencies to have basic knowledge on how to support a black woman affected by domestic and sexual abuse as we have not been given the same consideration and support as other races.  As with every culture, the black community has a plethora of colloquialisms, languages and customs within itself that have to be acknowledged and understood in mainstream institutions to better protect black women fleeing violence.  Without a basic understanding of these cultural differences it's impossible for police officers and service providers to make sure black women are equally protected in the UK.


 

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Tell us about the shelter you’re raising money for.  Why is it important for women of African heritage to have their own shelter?

The campaign for a refuge for black women has been going for over five years. There are no safe spaces for black women specifically (Not BAME) run by and for domestic abuse survivors. We often experience stereotypes which impacts us and our ability to access services and support negatively. We are often asked to show our bruises when we report abuse, but it is important to remember that there is always bruising, however, it is not always physical. At Sistah Space we make sure that cultural factors are really understood.  Sadly there are many cultural barriers and biases in existence and we make sure to remove those so that every person who walks through our door is given equal support.  

The police often use white-british standards to risk assess black women in violent situations. Bruises on black skin are not as visible as on white skin and the police need to be educated in this very simple thing. 

 

 

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How can people get involved with Sister Space?  

You can get involved with Sistah Space in a number of ways. Volunteering, donating (financially or donations of brand new items for our shop) by attending Valerie's Law training, by promoting the work we do. The list is endless.

 

Describe yourself in three words.

Wakanda, Women Kings

 

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Thank you so much Ngozi for being part of my 40 OVER 40 project. You are a living legend, making a difference every single day to so many.  

 

I think it's fair to say that our hormones have affected us all at some time in our lives be it puberty, PMT, pregnancy or the menopause.  If that's you then check out my podcast, Dear Hormones, hopefully it'll make you smile. You can listen to it here.
 

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