“2013 was horrific, eye opening, and emotional, to say the least,” recalls Tasha Newland of Ikonworks Photography. “What did I learn? Strength, grace, and bravery. Who taught me? My gorgeous mother-in-law.”
In 2007 Tasha’s mother-in-law, Helen, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite undergoing treatment, secondary metastasis ultimately reached her brain and spine. What followed was a heartbreaking battle that both distressed and inspired those closest to her. Tasha and her family sat with Helen each day, watching this amazing lady who they described as, ‘a force to be reckoned with’, gradually slip away from them.
“I sat in the hospice as sunny days in August passed, watching over her, talking rubbish, helping the nurses, chatting to my kids, forever letting her know that in her darkest hours people love her.” Tasha remembers. “She was quiet, gentle, graceful and strong. I would tell her everything and anything to try and desensitise; to take her anywhere but that moment.”
Gradually Helen deteriorated and, on a beautiful Sunday morning in August 2013, Tasha’s inspiration lost her battle with breast cancer. She was a few months short of her 64tth birthday.
“For the next two weeks I helped to organise my first funeral, feeling as though I’d been punched,” Tasha recollects. “The day after the funeral I shot a two-day wedding for some gorgeous clients, Simon and Katy, which was utterly surreal. It helped to have something to focus on after Mum’s funeral, but at the same time felt odd to just carry on”.
It was then that Tasha’s mind turned to an amazing project; one that would produce beautiful and inspirational results.
All for Helen; the photoshoot
Just a few short days before Helen lost her battle with cancer Tasha, who had been browsing social media for anything to keep herself busy, had spotted a Facebook post by Kirstie Taylor of Flo and Percy, asking if there were any photographers reading who wanted to shoot their new collection. Despite Helen’s failing health, and her own reservations, Tasha had jumped at the opportunity.
“I thought, ‘Dare I?’ And I did. Why not; for a split second I think maybe Mum had something to do with it, pushing me towards anything that would take my mind off things.” Tasha recalls.
Following her mother-in-law’s funeral, and after a busy few weeks settling back into work, Tasha started to think about the Flo and Percy photoshoot in depth. First thing was research, and lots of it.
“I read a lot, and immersed myself in everything that said editorial shoot. I even bought a Jasmine Star Styled Shoots Course.” Tasha explains. “Then came the revelation; to create a shoot in Mum’s memory. She was strong and graceful, and I decided I wanted strong brands and graceful products to really portray her personality. I love Ian Stuart, Freya Rose, and the Tiara Boutique, and made it my mission to involve them in Mum’s photoshoot.”
Armed with a heap of ideas and suppliers she wanted for the shoot Tasha went on to enlist Sarah Cross, an events coordinator, via Twitter’s #weddinghour, as well as Kat Hoy, who at the last minute became her assistant for the day. Both women offered invaluable help and support, saving Tasha’s sanity along the way. And what of those suppliers that Tasha was so eager to involve?
“It remains a mystery to me how I managed to get the Four Seasons and all of these fantastic suppliers involved in the shoot; but I am eternally grateful that they all said ‘yes’!” Tasha says. “I think it came down to a lot of badgering! I decided on pink, peach and turquoise as colours for the shoot. Some of the last flowers I bought Mum were pink and peach, while one of her favourite t-shirts was turquoise. These colours really complemented Flo and Percy’s Indian Sumer collection too, so it worked perfectly.”
The Wedding Wishing Well Foundation
After meeting with Helen and Janet of The Blooming Workshop, who were to tackle the floral arrangements for the day, it was suggested that Tasha should associate the photoshoot with a cancer charity in order to dedicate the day’s events to her mother-in-law’s memory. One such charity immediately sprang to mind; The Wedding Wishing Well Foundation.
“I remember very clearly reading about Naomi Thomas on one of those days sat with Mum in the hospice. She founded the Wedding Wishing Well Foundation, and I remember being inspired by her dedication and outlook on life, as well as the incredible work of the charity. Her positive, strong attitude reminded me so much of Mum’s. I knew I wanted to work with Naomi, and with the charity.” Explains Tasha. “I found myself in a layby on the A303 writing myself a reminder to contact her. At 4am I emailed Naomi and asked her to model for me. Her response was hilarious…”
Naomi picks up the story. “I receive a lot of requests to do various things, or attend numerous events, but Tasha’s shoot seemed a really lovely idea. I really felt for Tasha, having lost her mother-in-law, and I wanted to be able to help her with her grieving process in any way that I could. Her process was obviously the shoot. I was surprised that she asked me, as I am really no model, but the ladies on the day made me feel as glamorous as the other young size 10 girls! The venue was beautiful and the items she had sourced were simply stunning!”
And so to the shoot…
Tasha says, “We deliberately used affordable high street and high-end luxury together, creating something elegant and beautiful, but completely practical.” The results, as they say, speak for themselves. The photoshoot took place at the gorgeous Four Seasons Hotel, Hampshire; a truly luxurious setting for such an incredible project.
What follows is just a selection of the striking images taken during that shoot; each of them a testament to Tasha’s talent, and her dedication to creating something beautiful in Helen’s memory.
Ian Stuart: After much badgering via social media, Ian Stuart very kindly loaned Tasha Vaudeville, Bluebird, Rockafella, Bourbon, and Palmsprings wedding dresses; divine.
TwoBirds: TwoBirds Bridesmaids supplied three gowns for the shoot; one each in mint and coral, and an ivory rosette ballgown.
Blooming marvellous: The extremely talented Helen and Janet of The Blooming Workshop worked tirelessly for two days to create the fantastic floral displays for the shoot. Bouquets included Norma Jean, Sweet Avalanche and VuVuZela roses.
Let there be cake: A gorgeous mock cake, which was created by pastry chef Sarah of Stoke Park, was dressed by Helen and Janet for the occasion.
Playing dress up: Tiaras, hairpieces and bouquets were supplied by The Tiara Boutique.
How it all began: The Indian Summer Collection, supplied by Flo and Percy.
Stepping out: Shoes and shoe clips by Freya Rose.
Stylish shoes: Gorgeous hand painted shoes were created by Beautiful Moment Wedding and Occasional Art.
Picture Perfect: Hair and make up on the day of the shoot courtesy of Amazing Face.
Helen’s engagement and wedding rings were used during the photoshoot, ensuring that she remained an integral part of the day.
The beauty is in the detail
Of course, an editorial photoshoot is so much more than the handsome gowns, stunning accessories, and gorgeous models. The beauty is in every little detail, carefully thought about before the shutter clicks for the first time.
Tasha explains, “We wanted to create an intimate and romantic feeling for the shoot. The Royal Suite at the Four Seasons was an absolute dream; giving us the room to be creative, while ensuring that none of the smaller details got lost.”
This gorgeous pearl necklace is the photographer’s own and purchased from M&S.
White Lodge Fabric supplied the gorgeous fabric, Artistic Brocade, used for these napkin ties.
All stationery was created by Sarah Cross and Tasha; simple, yet stunning. Items used in their creation were purchased from Paperchase and Dunelm Mill.
Reflecting upon the photoshoot Tasha says, “There is a quote at the close of this piece which talks in the end about ‘shining brighter’, and this is exactly what I wanted to happen by way of this photoshoot. The people I worked with on this shoot are all amazing, and they enabled me to create images I am very proud of. These images are a constant reminder of someone extraordinary, who lit our families’ lives every day. Our photographs become our collections of memories, through which we can document more than faces, more than smiles, more than brief moments in our relationships and lives. Thank you to everyone involved I will have these images for a lifetime. They are a constant reminder of Mum.”
Naomi adds, “I was so excited to see the shots after the day and I was not disappointed. In fact I couldn’t really believe it was me! My husband absolutely loved one of the photos, and I think we will get it made into a canvas to go up at home. As I too have cancer we always surround ourselves with photos and this one would be a lovely one for my son, Devon, to keep.
Tasha is a lovely woman with a heart of gold. When she wants something she goes out to get it and won’t stop until she does. Lots of people could take a leaf out of her book. Tasha and myself were made from the same mold, and is certainly why we get on so well. I’m honored to have been part of the Helen Shoot. It’s just such a shame that it was under those circumstances. I’m sure Helen is looking down and is immensely proud of all that Tasha has achieved. I know that I am.”
“When darkness falls, we can curl up with fear or turn on more lights. Be brave. Love deeply. Shine brighter”.
– Liv Lane
Words by Louise Baker, Avocet Editorial