Im Zuge eines Foto-Projektes im Waisenhaus EWAKA in Uganda lernte Ines Thomsen die junge Imani kennen. Ein Mädchen, das seine große Unsicherheit mit übertriebenem Selbstbewusstsein überspielte und mit seinem lauten Auftreten die Aufmerksamkeit der Fotografin auf sich zog. Bei einer gemeinsamen Safari versuchte Ines Thomsen hinter Imanis Fassade zu blicken und erkannte dabei schnell, dass es sich bei dem Schauspiel des hübschen Mädchens eigentlich um einen herzzerreißenden Hilferuf handelte. Sie wollte gesehen werden. Sie wollte respektiert und geliebt werden. Nur selbst, wusste sie das zu diesem Zeitpunkt noch nicht.
Fest entschlossen Imani dabei zu helfen ihre inneren Dämonen zu bezwingen, ihren eigenen Wert zu erkennen und ihre Selbstliebe zu aktivieren, bat Ines Thomsen das junge Mädchen vor ihre Kamera. Dass jemand tatsächliches Interesse an ihr zeigte und mit großem Einfühlungsvermögen versuchte ihr verzerrtes Selbstbild zurecht zu rücken, gab Imani die Kraft sich beim Shooting zu öffnen und ihre ergreifende Geschichte zu erzählen …
I had no reason to give me confidence growing up, non whatsoever, I am a product of a teenage mum and a polygamous Dad, you probably wouldn’t understand the big deal but I was a symbol of past mistakes for both my parents . They separated when I was shyly a year or so and my dad insisted he would keep me. For the rest of my kinder life my dad reminded me violently of how I reminded him of my mum and how much he hated her for leaving him. I didn’t have a clear picture of how my mum looked like until was about 7/8 when she came to pick me up from my dad who threatened to kill me if she didn’t take me.
I had been on the street for three weeks, it’s the longest I had been lost this time and I think my dad was really scared. The reason he couldn’t find me was because I had gone far from home and I was begging with the street kids when a prostitute saved me from child trafficking, she cancelled work that night and took me to her home, she asked me who my parents were and I told her they were dead, she knew I was lying because I had my school uniform on. She threatened to take me to the police station if I didn’t tell her who my parents were, so I burst down in tears and I told her if she did, my dad would kill me this time, I showed her all the bruises and wounds I had from the beatings some were still bleeding especially my back. That’s not even half of the story guys but that was the beginning of my self-hate.
I grew up blaming myself for everything bad that happened to me, I believed I wasn’t a good child and deserved to be beaten because I didn’t listen, why did I spill juice on my uniform? How did I even lose my copy of the house key knowing I would get beaten if I did? I am such a pathetic person how can I pray for my dad not to come home because am afraid he is going to beat me for the mistakes I made, how can I lie about being an orphan, I mean what kind of human am I?
I have critiqued myself so much that nothing else however nice and genuine it was someone said about me, I still didn’t think I was a good enough a person. I have looked down on my own success and gave credit to other people or things for it.
My self hate comes from childhood torture, let me tell you I still blame myself for getting raped at 12, how could I have been so stupid to believe that a grown strange man could be shelter while I ran away from my dad’s beating in the middle of the night , I never told anyone that I got raped because I thought I could get punished again for it, I later got treated for a horrible UTI, and there were speculations I had run away to a boy’s influence. My whole life I have been wrongfully judged by my own parents, relatives and people who had no business judging me.
I cringed at the concept of nudity vs freedom, I felt like people just wanted to show off how beautiful they were and used freedom as an excuse, those who know me know that I am an overdose of low self esteem with a little kinky rebel. It’s like it almost hurts when someone calls me pretty, I say “Thank you” to be polite not because I agree with you. Never in a million years would I have thought any photographer would be interested in taking pictures of me. I have nothing, I see nothing in me worth taking pictures of. But Ines Thomsen is not just a photographer, she shares a part of herself during the shoots that inspires and uplifts, she realized that compliments don’t help me if I don’t look deeper with in me . She used Photography Related Therapy to show me what I don’t see . I then realized hers is not just photography it’s beyond that. She made me feel like I was a natural, she politely asked for my permission to show me how her and my friends saw me. When your self esteem is on a low you will never see anything beautiful about you, just because you are beautiful doesn’t mean you see it , She talked about my eye lashes and how other people would need extensions to achieve them and I bluffed it off with “it’s the mascara“ - when she talked about my skin being uniquely amazing I told her it was the probably the sun, she wasn’t the first person to say it, I heard it so many times . I have had so many people telling me that I am beautiful and I didn’t see it .
The most painful and remarkable part of the shoot was me having to select my own favorite shots. I couldn’t stare at myself in these pictures, it was like a punishment, I told her I couldn’t do it, because when I saw myself I hated myself like almost disgusted with my flaws, she was patient with me, she would talk about what she likes about one picture and she would ask me to select the next, I picked out about 30 pictures. I realized that I actually loved so many things about myself that I had never noticed before. We showed the pictures to my friends, they said they were amazing. I kept looking closely and actually realized I could love myself a little more if I focus on the beautiful things about me more than what I hated. And I think that’s how photography therapy works, it starts with laying your fears on the table, it takes courage, accepting yourself once you start to point out the little things you love, you start to realize you are more than what you look at. The scars you hate are part of who are and that makes you beautiful.
This doesn’t mean I got entirely over my insecurities, I see them but they don’t bother me like they used to. Turns out I am not fat, every time I saw my pictures I thought I had too big arms, very big thighs, I don’t even know what mirror I was looking in. Her wish was that she hoped I would see myself and love myself like the people that loved me did, Her wish did come true because otherwise you would never see me in a bikini! It’s funny how it all sounded impossible when she talked about photography being a form of therapy. I thought it to be impossible I mean what could it change in me that I haven’t seen in the mirror. Turns out Photography Supported Therapy is a real thing, there’s a lot about you as a person that you miss seeing with all the pressure that surrounds perfectionism. It’s hard to believe that there are people out there who look in the mirror everyday and still don’t recognize themselves or hate the person they are. To think a photographer like Ines sees and searches beyond the outer appearance and believes every human’s unique appearance has a story that adds purpose. You can comfortably embrace your scars and it will never block your beauty.
It takes one person to destroy your self-esteem. But most importantly it takes one person to believe in you and it can change you for a lifetime. Not only is she a photographer, she is an inspiration to me, a confident, someone who helped me not only see myself differently but beauty in others, I survived on looking for flaws in others, it comforted me to see that someone’s flaws were worse than mine and that made me feel a little better about myself. Now when I look at other people I smile because humans are incredible pieces of Art <3 <3.
I am proud to live in this world at the same time with such a phenomenal woman. I appreciate you so much Ines <3 <3