Unquestionably for me, the best part of being a wedding and portrait photographer is the opportunity to meet a wonderful variety of families and couples who are filled with warmth and gratitude for the love they have found with one another. Deb and Janine encapsulate everything that is beautiful about falling - and staying - in love. I defy anyone to look at these images and not be bowled over by the love and laughter that shines out of the screen. I truly feel privileged to have had the opportunity to meet and photograph these fantastic ladies and to now be able to count them amongst my friends.
I asked Deb and Janine to answer a few questions for me so that I could learn more about their history together, how laughter helps them get through difficult times and what their shared dreams are for the future. Their answers are truly inspiring and make for a heart-warming read. So for the next 5 minutes, put your phone on silent, grab a cuppa and read about a real life love story...
1. How and when did you both meet? Was it love at first sight?
Deb: We knew each other through mutual friends for about a year. I would always see Janine with a camera at any gathering. I was with someone and so was she. She also had a reputation for being a little crazy when out at nightclubs; crazy as in life and soul of the party not bunny boiling crazy! I was pretty reserved so always used to keep clear of her antics. Eventually I was invited to attend the tennis tournament at Eastbourne, with the mutual friends. My relationship had just ended and I was feeling pretty rubbish. The first night I had a twin room to myself but on the second night Janine arrived and I was informed we would be sharing. At first I was mortified! But then we got chatting and I got to see the amazing woman that is behind the party animal.
Janine: Having spoken until 4am in the morning I realised there was a special connection the very next day.
Deb: So to answer your question; if it was love at first sight; not physically but when I got to see the real Janine, then absolutely.
2. What was the "coming out" process like for you both? Do you think attitudes have changed significantly in the time you've been together?
Deb: I have an elder sister who is also Gay so my coming out was pretty gentle, I have three older sisters so they told my Mum on my behalf. Mum’s response was very much, ‘what did I do wrong’ which at the time hurt. I was also serving in the Armed Services at the time and it was illegal to be Gay. I had the displeasure of being investigated by the Special Investigation Branch (SIB) whilst serving, which was dehumanising to say the least, but that’s another story.
Janine: It took me years to fully come out, for a long time I kept it under wraps at work as I work in quite a male dominated environment. I came out to my family in my 20s. My most vivid memory is of my mother's question, 'Can't you go to the doctors and take a pill?'. I think things have changed massively over the past 24 years; changed for the better.
Deb: Do I think attitudes have changed? In this country, yes, for the majority it has. However, I still believe there are pockets in our society who still find it repugnant and will lash out when given the opportunity. As for Global attitudes, there is still such a long, long way to go. It is still illegal in so many countries and the President of America holds such draconian attitudes towards the LGBTQ community it’s frightening.
3. You have two children together - do you think that same sex parents face any additional challenges / or offer any additional benefits compared with straight couples?
Deb: We live in a small country village and have brought the children up here. They have attended preschool, primary school and gone to secondary school with the same children. Your question is quite hard to answer as we have always parented our children as if our sexuality was not relevant to the task in hand.
Janine: Bringing the children up has been a lot easier due to the fact we live in a tight knit community. Our sexuality has never been an issue.
Deb: I ensured I became part of the fund raising committees and became a School Governor for both Primary and Secondary. On reflection I probably did this for two reasons, firstly to increase my visibility within the schools and to develop a relationship with the staff and secondly to set a good example to our children; being part of the community is important to build a good supportive network. Due to the way I am I always found the teachers and parents treated me and our children with respect. We’ve tried to bring the children up to be reflective and fair individuals; this has sometimes caused confusion and frustration for them when they have faced piers who maybe don’t have their level of awareness, but this is just my theory.
4. Aside from raising your children, what dreams have you helped each other to achieve and what dreams are you both still working towards?
Deb: Janine has supported me when I took my degree. I left school with no qualifications and had to take my entry test for the Army 3 times. The third time I got a personal tutor to help me prepare. When I left the Police Service I didn’t know what I wanted to do so it was suggested to me to gain a degree and teach. I thought this was a crazy suggestion, but with Janine’s encouragement I applied and three years later I came out with a First in Psychosocial Studies; realising that I wasn’t stupid and that education had just come along too early for me.
The dreams we are still working towards are trying to make the business that Janine has worked within for over 20 years as successful as possible. For me, it’s to make her realise what a fantastic font of knowledge she possesses and how skilful she is in her field.
Janine: Deb has helped me move the company forward and hopefully, in time, for it to realise its full potential. Future dreams are to retire on a boat on the Thames!
5. Our shoot took place at Hatfield Forest. Why did you choose this location and why is this place meaningful to you both?
Janine: Why the forest? Because it's a special place for Deb and when she's happy, I'm happy.
Deb: As you know we love timber! The forest has always been where we go to relax and contemplate. We have had some lovely times there; either walking our dog alone or having a pre-lunch walks with friends. I have walked those paths in my darkest times and my happiest; it’s like an old friend, always there, ready to listen. Our house is littered with images of the children taking their first walks, covered in mud.
6. I loved the amount of giggles and laughter that came through in the photos. Is this typical of your day-to-day lives together? What do you both do to make each other laugh?
Deb: Now this is a tricky question to answer. What makes us laugh? Well I’m fortunate that Janine gets my jokes! On a more serious note, we have always made each other laugh. Even if we get frustrated with each other it is usually resolved through laughter. That does not mean we make light of everything, that’s not the case but when you love someone as much as we do, your only goal is to make them feel loved, cherished and safe. What better way to achieve this than sharing a funny thought or making the world seem a little less stressful that it is.
Janine: We definitely have a similar sense of humour.
7. Which photo do you think encapsulates your relationship the most and why?
Janine: My favourite image is of us both laughing, we look so happy.
Deb: My favourite photo is the one where I’m whispering into Janine’s ear and she’s laughing. It encapsulates what I’ve said above about laughter. When people comment on our relationship they always say how lucky we are because we seem to be so happy. I never know how to respond to this other than saying thank you. This picture looks like I’m sharing a secret and sometimes that’s what it feels like to be with Janine; as if we’ve stumbled upon an wonderful secret of how to make each other happy. Something that I feel grateful for every single day.
A huge thank you to Deb and Janine for taking the time to answer my questions and tell us a little more about their wonderful relationship. I hope you felt as uplifted as I did on reading about their life together.
I am passionate about using photography to make people feel amazing about who they are and to help them to celebrate the love that they have found in their lives. If you are looking to book a photographer to capture the unique love between you and your partner, you can click HERE to contact me and find out more about my stress-free, fun-filled wedding and portrait photography.
Have a great week.
P.S I love reading your comments, so please do let me know if Deb and Janine's story resonated with you and what you have taken away from reading this blog post, by commenting below.