Alexandra Cameron On Self-Love, Mental Health & The Power of Smiling

·5-min read

For some, a lipstick is just a lipstick. But for others, it’s a source of strength, creativity and expression. In our series Power Faces, we’ll explore the relationship between strong women and the makeup they choose to wear — or not.

For this special edition in partnership with Colgate Max White Ultimate, whose #PoutFree campaign is all about feeling confident in your smile, our subject is the celebrated photographer Alexandra Cameron, best known for her natural light photography and body confidence shoots. This story was told to Rhea Cartwright and has been edited for length and clarity.

When I’m shooting, I’m always trying to get the most authentic version of my subject because that’s when they’re their most beautiful. Photoshoots are very forced and contrived scenarios so I talk a lot to make the person feel at ease and comfortable. It’s like a therapy session, to be honest, and I love seeing how a person’s posture changes when they’re finished.

For myself and my own self-confidence though, it’s easier said than done and sometimes I’m not good at it. I’m a woman who’s grown up in the ’90s and early ’00s, with gossip magazines and size zero. We all got conditioned to think we had to look a certain way. That’s why I love my job because I never want women to say negative things about themselves. If I can photograph someone and at the end say to them, “That’s you,” it is so fulfilling.

Staying Grounded

I suffer from something called derealisation, which is a dissociative anxiety disorder. It’s essentially a fight-or-flight response but in a more extreme sense, and happens when it’s not needed. Every now and again, I’ll disconnect from the world and everything feels suddenly far away. Photography has definitely helped me counter this and reconnect myself, as it forces me to focus on the present moment so I feel grounded again.

Despite the pandemic, it’s been one of my busiest periods for work so I’ve had to be very intentional with my wellbeing, allowing moments when I can step back. This usually involves walking my dog, which is such a wonderful mental health practice for me, every day no matter the weather. It’s so easy for us to feel like we’re spinning out of control but manifesting and meditation has helped me immensely. Reminding myself that I’m the one in the driving seat and in charge of my own emotions has made me feel more powerful and free.

Smiling Is Our Superpower

Smiling is the most authentic moment we can get and it’s why I think it’s powerful; I feel like I’m the most real version of myself when I’m smiling my most #PoutFree smile.

My boyfriend is someone who makes me smile until my cheeks hurt. After being together for eight years – and being in each other’s faces throughout a year of lockdown – I love that we can still have moments where he’s dancing around the kitchen, singing to the dog and making me smile from ear to ear.

I always react positively when I see a photo of myself full-on smiling. My boyfriend says it’s when I’m my most beautiful and I’m instantly reminded of that. If I ever suddenly feel self-conscious of my smile or that I’m laughing, I just think of him and I feel relaxed again.

Flower Child

I love everything ‘70s – from the style of photography to the fashion and patterns that defined the day. Think everything from peasant dresses and lacy blouses to pinafores and playsuits. If you open up my wardrobe, you’ll find a lot of ditsy floral prints going on! I love that era’s beauty looks as well, from feathered fringes and soft waves to plaits, braids and beehives. Okay, so I’m a bit ‘60s, too.

I’m fairly naturalistic when it comes to makeup – it’s definitely a less-is-more affair – though I love lots of blush for that just-in-from-the-cold rosiness and lip gloss to bring out my lips. They’re my favourite feature. I have hooded eyes, so I am conscious of choosing makeup that suits that shape and tend to gravitate towards warmer tones like pink, bronze and gold to complement my skin tone.

Beauty Beyond Filters

I’m still on a very big journey with insecurities and my body image, which I think is why I emphasise creating a safe space when photographing other people. My generation grew up with a skewed version of what beauty should be and how we need to present ourselves. It really only showed one type of person. We’re so accepting of people now; it’s a very different world with the body positivity movement. I love where it’s going but I’m still learning my way because I can be quite negative to myself sometimes. In my photography I shoot so many different people – such diverse races, ages, shapes and sizes – and I want to be able to speak positively about myself in the same way I do to others when photographing them.

I’m getting there but there’ll still be times when I take self-portraits where I like to be in control and I photograph myself in certain ways. I’m trying not to use filters because there’s such a huge wave of that and it’s quite terrifying. It’s like you know what, I have pigmented skin and I get spots, and that’s real life. I’m taking little steps to try and love myself so I don’t feel like I have to live up to certain beauty standards.

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