Lola Akinmade AkerstrÖm, a woman and photographer I respect immensely, has a yearly practice of choosing a word as focus for moving forward into the next year. I hope she will see this as the highest form of flattery as I have decided to copy the idea and come up with my own focus word for 2014.

After a hectic 2013 with a lot of unexpected curve-balls thrown my way my life has changed immeasurably. I have now moved from my home-town and home country England to the often misunderstood shores of Sweet Salone (Sierra Leone to all those located outside its borders!). I have moved from a comfortable UK home with my husband to a football academy where I live with a dozen other staff and over thirty teenage boys. I still live with my husband too, but in a very different setting! If you had told the 18 year-old unsporty me that I would one day live in a football academy I would have laughed. Life is a funny thing.

I am still in the early stages of building my life in Salone and I am still getting to know the people I live with and the pupils I support. They are already challenging my assumptions and my beliefs about so many things, working with teenagers always gives you a fresh take on things and working with teenage boys with a very different cultural identity even more so.

I was sat with a 17 year old student Zizou who I get on well with and he asked me if I had ever listened to Lil Wayne. I was aware of Lil Wayne and the fact he is a rapper (hard to ignore Lil Wayne as he is everywhere!) but I had already decided I did not like his music, that it wouldn’t be ‘my thing’. The student then asked me to listen to some of his songs and played me the melodic ‘How to Love’. I loved ‘How to Love’! Since then I have downloaded a lot of Weezy’s tunes and now find myself a fan. I nearly missed out on finding a new musical interest because I had shut down my options; I had put myself in a small musical box that would not include new things. A simple example of how closed we can become, especially as we get older, and how much we might miss out on by becoming that way.

Therefore in 2014 my word is ‘open’. I want to capture my inner-teenager. I want to see things in a new way. I want my photography to reflect that, I want to try new things and new techniques even if that means the images might suck or I might not like them. I want to challenge my assumptions about my personal style and identity and I hope that then flows through my work. I want to listen to the boys I work with, really listen. Teenagers see the world in such a fresh way. I want to be a good role-model for them but I also want them to inspire me and change the way I think.

Happy New Year!

May this be a year where you are OPEN to all life has to offer you.

May this be a year where you are OPEN to all life has to offer you.