When I was 15 I tried my first cigarette in my best friend’s dad’s office. It was kind of lame. I didn’t inhale. I just pretended I did and then followed it with a fake cough to prove that I had inhaled. Of course we went to a Christian school in a small town so it took about 3,5 seconds before the story of Kelly, Chrissy, Jacqui, and I trying cigarettes was the story of the moment. Minions of Satan, we were. Funny enough not to the grownups so much as to our fellow scholars. I giggle just thinking about those looks of disapproval. Like I said: lame.
The incident did kind of endear me to my friend Meggin Murphy for life, though, and it’s weirdly the first thing I think of when I consider our friendship. After that incident, Meggin, who was ten at the time, pulled me aside and burst into tears because she didn’t want me to die from becoming a smoker. It’s funny how potent the idea of someone giving a shit about you can be.
Anyway, Megs and I go a long way back and to this day we indulge in a strong friendship despite the kilometres that divide us, so with this project I’ve already broken some rules for her. I intend to feature mainly Port Elizabethan photographers here (it is where I am after all) but I’m making an exception for her because a.) she’s my Meggin, b.) no one else has photographed me more than this woman has, and c.) she visits Port Elizabeth often enough for us all to take advantage of her skills at some point if there are any takers.
The only issue I ever have with working with Meggin is perhaps that we are too close, which sometimes causes a bit of a hit and miss before we hit our stride. I’m awkward in front of the camera in general. Sometimes I think that I actually find it far easier to be natural with strangers than I do with people who know me, but I’m not even sure if that’s true. Maybe I’m just awkward with everyone.
My favourite thing about Meggin is that I can always just tell her what to do without feeling idiotic about it. She really does go out of her way to understand my vision for stuff. But for this project, she was in charge.
“What do you want us to wear?” I asked.
“Choose your favourite outfit. Whatever makes you feel beautiful.”
I gave her a blank stare.
“Ok fine wear that dress you were wearing yesterday.”
And then she did something weird: she refused to choose a location.
Here I was all “you choose where we go and what we do blah blah blah” assuming she would choose the beach or somewhere kind of exotic and make us do handstands or something. But no. She chose my yard. My shitty, dry, nothing-to-get-excited-about yard.
I thought she was a bit lazy to be honest. But then I kind of got it…
So what I learned from Meggin was this: You can still create beautiful things out of a less-than-desirable space.
And I think what kind of excites me about that is that even though I might not be able to see the merit in a specific space, another photographer might be able to. And i in turn might find merit where others don’t. Which is kind of the very point of this project. To see how others look at things and interpret them in different ways.
Meggin took what was available to us and created something beautiful out of it. And that’s kind of special. Despite my awkward ways she pulled it off and, once again, she managed to capture the essence of who Ty and I are as a couple. And on the odd occasion, when I wasn’t paying attention to what she was doing, I think she managed to even capture the essence of me on my own, too.