I was a writer first. Creating new worlds after bedtime, my handwritten words lit by torchlight beneath my blanket. Pouring my young heart into my diary on the long, bumpy bus ride to school. Writing was my outlet and an escape for all I felt. I was a little girl who had felt more deeply than little girls should, with an imagination as big as the universe.
Mine were always the stories read by the teacher to the class. Soon the children asked if I could write stories to be read to them every week and I did with great joy. As I read aloud I could feel their bright, hungry eyes on me, tasting my words. My favourite teacher gave me a box of chocolates to eat while I wrote stories and told me sincerely that she couldn’t wait to buy my first book. In that moment I knew I was born to tell stories.
Then I picked up a camera. In the beginning my little sister was my muse. We ran in the tall grasses in our Mother’s backyard, chasing the sun until it slipped past the fence. When I photographed her she came alive, hair sunlit gold and sky eyes. With her I captured tiny moments of purity that could have slipped away forever. I was the decider of which moments to let live and which to let die. I was thirteen and I’d found out how to stop time.
My passion for photography quickly grew to obsession. I saw life through a viewfinder. In those days I was using my Mother’s point-and-shoot but it didn’t matter what I used. When I was shooting everything was perfect in the world. The camera gifted me fearlessness and meaning. I could see the way light fell, the softness of someone daydreaming, the way sunlight changed colours through the day, the length of a shadow.
I was channelling stories into my images. I’d fight with my brother and retreat to my bedroom with my camera, trying to capture the hurt and anger I felt. I’d fall in love and spend the afternoon exploring the streets, finding hidden beauty through the lens and basking in the glow of being alive. I lived in a still world teeming with wonder.
I began sharing moments I found beautiful online and others found beauty in them too. There I fell in the deepest of love with a photographer writer boy named M who lived on the other side of the country. The love encompassed me absolutely. It had a power like nothing else I’d experienced.
For my birthday I unwrapped my very own camera and I wept. As I held it in my hands potential ran like electricity up my arms. I knew my single Mother would have saved most of the year to buy me that camera and I wanted more than anything to make her proud.
With a ‘real’ camera around my neck I became serious. My passion was like an instinct, it burst out from my chest like it had a life of its own. I scouted kids from school and the street to photograph. I skipped school to shoot and teach myself all I could about photography from the internet. I entered my first photography competition and won. Every night I slept with my camera by my side.
I kept writing, sometimes I even thought of myself as more of a writer than a photographer at heart, but photography had become my identity. Most of my short stories were morbid, shadowed by a history of abuse and broken families, but there was always spirit and strength in them. I’d swap stories with the boy I’d fallen in love with and I’d read the stories he wrote me until I knew every word. My feelings for this boy I had never met were total madness, but this is the way I had always lived. Pouring my entire self into my obsessions so that the rest of the world fell away in silence.
After a while I was hardly attending highschool any more. In the online world people understood my work, but at school nobody cared. I lived in two different worlds. I failed my photography class. I told the school career councillor that I wanted to quit school and travel the world as a fashion photographer and she laughed at my naivety. She left me with a list of university courses and I left in quiet, determined confidence. The unbreakable belief in myself that has brought so many of my dreams to reality.
One night my lovesickness for M became unbearable. After years of longing I borrowed my Mother’s credit card and booked a flight leaving the next day to finally meet the real him; not pixels but flesh and blood. That first week I loved like love was all I was. I felt bliss root deep into my bones. I was lucid, high on our love. I flew home, left school, packed my things into a suitcase and flew back to live with him. We became inseparable.
After a few weeks without a home (relying on the kindness and couches of strangers) we rented a tiny apartment in the city. Here we photographed and wrote together and lay in bed all the morning tangled up in each other. We didn’t have a lot of money but we always laughed that if love was a currency we’d be rich. We fought as fiercely as we loved. Lightness and darkness were tangible and we were artists who appreciated it all.
I won a prestigious photography award, bought new photography gear with my winnings and was signed to an agency. We were flown to New York City and I shot a campaign for Diesel. I was this giggly sixteen year old with a team of twenty at my command wondering if this was all just a crazy dream. My photos were on billboards in Time’s Square and the ads I shot ran in most of the fashion magazines. The fashion industry sucked me in, I lost my mind and found it again on the way out.
I always wrote in a journal so beginning a blog didn’t feel so strange. I shared my photographs and my thoughts in my space, in a kind of disbelief (that I still feel) that anyone would ever actually read it. At its peak I got over one million hits a month and people sometimes recognised me on the street, but to me it never felt like a big deal. I wouldn’t let it.
When we moved out of our Melbourne apartment we lived all over the world for a while, sometimes together and sometimes apart. I was an adventurer, collecting experiences and feelings like colours to paint with. The funds from our online store kept us fed and moving. I stayed mostly with other artists I’d connected to online. At times my life was a movie. When I was travelling free like this I felt alive.
Then I yearned for a real home and we found the perfect place in the clouds overlooking a lush forested valley in the Blue Mountains. It was cold up there so M lit the fireplace often and I made hot coconut pumpkin soup and we huddled bareskin under the covers. We daydreamed longingly about having a baby, a little us. We were still being flown all over to shoot and I will never forget just how good it felt to come back home to that fairytale home in the mountains.
M sowed seeds in our garden and they sprouted and grew along with the baby inside me. I was nineteen with a ripening belly and a swollen heart. I gave birth to my sweet Alba in a warm pool in our home while the morning fog rolled by outside and she was and is more perfect than I could have ever dreamed. My moonflower unfurled to the light.
As a Mama I stopped daydreaming about making it big and instead I daydreamed of ways I could make the world a better place, to use my power to promote goodness. As M discovered permaculture, I discovered plant-based diets and we blossomed under the influence of our new passions.
When we said goodbye to our mountain home we moved to a place on the coast with friends. We lived and laughed and learned and travelled some more. We moved inland again with my auntie and her three girls. M growing gardens wherever we went, me singing in the kitchen while I cooked homegrown foods to nourish us. Quietly feeding the creative fire in our souls.
Alba grew from a wide-eyed baby to a cheeky, bright toddler, the light of our lives. Often found munching on leaves from the garden, thanking our chickens for their eggs, giggling with my little cousins and drawing. She has visited four continents and counting, at home all over the planet.
Then M and I split as lovers and our hearts broke but somehow when the dust settled everything fell into place. We packed our things into suitcases and for now we live life on the road again. Right now we’re in Indonesia, still a family but finding our own feet. Giving back to a world that has given us a life of colour and never-ending growth.