Fighting Hate with Love

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It has taken me a long time to write about this. I thought that if I talked about it here I would be fuelling the negativity. Now I realise that by talking about it I have the power to turn it into something positive. Words can hurt but they can also heal. I know this will be rambling, but please hear me out.

I may be known for my photography and my blog but at my core I am still just a 22 year old girl from a small town, no better than anyone else. No amount of exposure has made me any less sensitive or any less capable of making mistakes. I’ll never be good enough but that is what growing as a person is all about.

I was a teenager when I started my blog. It felt like a digital home that I could fill with all that I loved. The things I saw and felt that set sparks off inside me. Back then I didn’t know the ways in which it would shape me, the ways it would change my life. In so many extraordinary ways but in a few darker ways too.

My first taste of the dark side of blogging was a phone call late one night. It was a woman on the other end and she told me my boyfriend would leave me, people only liked my pictures because I was young, I was ugly and I deserved to die. I couldn’t sleep that night, I could only cry. I couldn’t hate anyone, not the men who’d abused me or the girls who’d teased me cruelly at school. Yet here was a total stranger whose voice dripped with hatred for me, and I was caught wondering if I deserved it.

The more I blogged the worse it became. I received hate-mail thousands of words long. Then websites filled with anonymous haters. In those first years I took it all to heart, labelling people’s issues with me as my ‘flaws’. I thought if I was good enough no one would hate me and so I needed to fix myself. I even felt guilty that who I was had caused people to feel so negatively. So I wasn’t quite as cheery or loving, I toned down my writing and confidence and I didn’t share as openly. It didn’t matter if I had good intentions or genuinely wanted to make the world a better place. Every time I shared anything my head filled with countless judgemental voices, picking it all apart.

I knew reading all the hatred was making me depressed but it was so littered with lies and assumptions I was afraid if I didn’t clear them up people would believe them. Words have influence, even when they aren’t true. When I became a young Mother the judgement grew uglier. People said I should have Alba away taken from me. Girls became my friends to try to get ‘gossip’ out of me and it became harder to trust people. When they contacted my friends and my family with rumours it was bleeding into real life and that frightened me.

I was embarrassed that I let it get to me, I am embarrassed even sharing this. It feels like I am looking for pity but I am not. I always felt like I was being weak. After all, didn’t I know deep down that all I had was the present and it only had to affect me as much as I let it? Didn’t I know that every single person could be torn to pieces, that not one of us is perfect? Didn’t I feel how much support and love surrounded me? It is a sad thing that if we don’t fight it, darkness can be heavier than light even when the light is so much greater.

I decided to stop reading the hate. I thought, let the lies and the gossip be. The people I want in my life will be able to see through it, and will give me a chance. I am not my past and I embrace my failures, they have taught me even more than my successes. If I am secure in who I am and the decisions I make, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else says or thinks. I do my best and be my best and that is as much as I can do. Have trust in me.

One day I was staying with my friend Zelda in LA. Her Father is Robin Williams and all her life she has had to deal with negative attention and gossip. She said to me “You don’t need to post about your life Nirrimi. You’re a photographer. You have a choice to not make it personal.” She was right and her words have stuck with me for years. It made me think about why I did blog the way I do. Why I choose vulnerability.

When I stopped posting solely about my photography and started sharing my thoughts an interesting thing happened. The emails I received were no longer short messages from people saying they loved my work and asking what camera I used. I began getting intense, deep letters from people who told me my honesty and perspective have had a lasting impact on their lives. That my words had gifted them courage to follow their dreams or that I had showed them the beauty in the world they had overlooked. My life lessons became theirs too. They are my reason.

I don’t feel angry at anyone who has set out to bring me pain. I know it sounds very ‘hippie’ but I feel like I do love everyone, because I know we’re all the same. We’re all making decisions based on the experiences we’ve had, all wanting to be loved and understood. I like to think that the people who do and say cruel things anonymously online aren’t fully realising the hurt they are causing the people they attack. As though they think we’re not as real as they are. There are many ways to justify hate but at the end of the day it is still hate. I feel that if you wouldn’t say it in the real world, don’t say it online.

Strangely sometimes I am grateful for it. It toughened my skin and helped me to let go of a lot of my ego. I remember reading the hate one day and thinking “if I didn’t know myself, I might not like myself after this” and that realisation made me question the way I felt about everyone. It made me think twice before I spoke badly about another person.

Though I have almost quit a few times, I have kept on. I don’t know what the future holds but I know I will always want to use the skills and time I have to do good for other people. I may not be solving world hunger or climate change, but it is something. I can give more and I will. This world (both real and online) is filled with too much darkness and it needs more light.

I have written this post as a call to action. Whenever you see unnecessary negativity or hate online or in real life, speak up against the hate with loving intention. Let’s make the world a kinder place.

Thank you for reading. I’m grateful that I get the chance to share my side. Here is a silly little video I recorded, filled with ‘ums’ and not at all eloquent (seriously, I can barely watch this without hiding behind my hands). But, hey it is me!

  1. Romande

    Hi Nirrimi,
    You’re very courageous to keep going and not give up. I really don’t understand people wasting their time and going so far to be mean. I really love your blog, I’m reading it for a long time now and it gives me a lot of inspiration and courage. I really want to take pictures as good as you and that’s a dream to become a good photographer later; even if we have nearly the same age.

    I’m sorry for my english if it’s bad ! People can be really rude, I know that too, but there’s a lot of people who like your art and your poems. ♥

    Lots of love!!
    Romande

  2. Robin

    Hi Nirrimi, thanks for your wonderful viewpoints. You are a real inspiration, not as some god or magic person or something one could never really relate to, but just as ‘you’, a human being like all of us. Your realness, patience and love are refreshing and you are absolutely beautiful. Much love from The Netherlands <3

  3. allira hendrix

    Hi Nirrimi! I just cannot fathom how people can spend time creating negativity out of such a loving, positive, creative and heart-warming blog.I was a mother at 18 & now as a mother of 4, homeschooler, creative, university teacher & lots of other things, I have finally left the ‘teen mother’ label behind. But I remember the discriminatiom and the judgement well. Most people are not positive and do not constantly strive to be more loving, more creative and more free. But you do. And that is what inspires people! But that is also what attracts the other stuff. Keep being you. You are amazing xx

  4. Joana

    Hi Nirrimi. I’m just one of your thousands of followers. I’ve followed you since I was about 17 or 18 and I am 23 now. Every once in a while I come to check on your blog. It feels a lot like visiting an old friend. Anyway, I have never ever sent you a message or commented on anything of yours because I’ve always just assumed you’d be swamped with fan mail. But after seeing this post, even if I may be a couple months too late, I just felt the need to leave my message. I just wanted to say that all that you have shared on the internet over the years has meant a lot to me. It has been a source of inspiration, of hope and of happiness in knowing that there are people out there in the real world like you and that you are brave enough to be what you wish to be. I know it takes a thousand compliments and kind words to drown out the sound of even a single negative voice, but I do hope you are always surrounded in love in such a way that there is absolutely no space for negativity to wriggle itself through. Either way, if it even does hit you I hope you remember that you are in the hearts and memories of thousands of other people who think of you fondly.
    Much love from Portugal ~

  5. Iris Vank

    Thank you, for showing us this side of you and your work. I am appaled that people are so judgemental and full of hatred. But your perspective deserves a lot of respect and love. Keep growing and keep showing (in every way that feels comfortable and suits you)!

  6. Podkins1

    Thank you for sharing. This is actually the first time that I have visited your blog. I just stumbled on you over at Instagram and felt compelled to check out your blog. Thank you.

  7. Dominika

    OMG!!! You are incredibly beautiful and positive person. I see in you so much warmth and kindness. Your eyes are joyful and your smile charming. I see that you’re happy, fulfilled woman.
    I found your blog by chance and read everything one evening. You write beautifully and your photos are amazing. I live in Poland, and your life is a fairy tale for me. You’re lucky you’ve met so many interesting, inspiring people and You saw all these places. Congratulates of family, love of life and a wonderful daughter.
    Keep so on and never give up. Remember that you are an amazing and unique person.

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Pale Fire

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One day my sweet friend Claire drove me & Ashlin out of town. The winter wind drew goosebumps on Ash’s skin while we photographed so we wrapped her in a blanket between shots. We watched the sky change colours and saw the light change along with it. I realised how glad I am to be a photographer, to get the chance to embrace so many sunsets and idyllic places. To soak in the world’s beauty.

Stylist: Claire Hart

 Model: Ashlin

Edited with Digital Film + India + Dust

 

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  3. Tone

    The second picture brings me right into the moment. I love your blog. I love your’e honesty. And i believe I look up to you :) You are something real special! You’re talent too. O hope you know, If not this Is written to you as a remider. Thank you!

  4. Caitlin

    I normally don’t comment on blogs but I felt I needed to say that you are talented and beautiful. I just discovered your blog and I am so inspired by your positivity and bravery. The pictures of you and your daughter capture the deeply loving, intimate and physical experience of motherhood in a way I have never seen before. It makes me happy.

  5. Helena

    I just found my way here recently.. and just wanted to tell you that I love these photographs! Simply stunning!

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