Episode 011 The Story Behind the Photograph with Fiona Kearns


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The Story Behind the Photograph with Fiona Kearns

As a photographer, I love hearing the story behind a photograph, and in this episode, I am joined by Fiona Kearns a Business Psychologist speaking about a photograph taken at her Deb Ball, and why this photograph is particularly special to her. I have included a copy of the photograph in the show notes.

The Photograph

Fiona Kearns in her ball dress.
Fiona Kearns at her Deb Ball

About Fiona

Fiona Kearns is a Business Psychologist who helps people get rid of self-doubt, own their skillset, and feel confident about playing huge in life and work. She is experienced in the IT/Telecom and non-profit worlds. Fiona is a member of the Association for Business Psychology and author of ‘How to Increase your Confidence’. She specialises in helping leaders fulfill their potential in business. She loves the thrill of helping clients manage their imposter syndrome to become confident, visible, and more impactful. 

Connect: Website

Portrait of Essex Baby photographer Sue Kennedy
Sue Kennedy

About Your Podcast Host – Sue Kennedy of Sue Kennedy Photography

Sue is a professional portrait photographer based in Harlow, Essex and she specialises in baby, child and family portraiture. Being a parent, she understands just how special your child is to you and her aim is to produce a collection of images that are natural and meaningful to your family. No two moments are ever the same and she wants to perfectly capture those early precious memories and the natural character of your child.

For more information please call 01279 433392, or visit the Sue Kennedy Photography website.

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Episode Transcription of The Story Behind the Photograph with Fiona Kearns

Hello, and welcome to the Photographs in a Shoebox podcast with me, Sue Kennedy. This podcast is all about helping and inspiring you to tell your family’s story in pictures.

Today, I’m chatting with Fiona Kearns who is a business psychologist who helps people get rid of self-doubt, own their skillset, and feel confident about playing huge in life and work. She’s experienced in the IT, telecom, and nonprofit worlds. Fiona is a member of the Association for Business Psychology and author of How to Increase Your Confidence. She specialises in helping leaders fulfill their potential in business. She loves the thrill of helping clients manage their imposter syndrome. However, today we’re going to talk about one of Fiona’s favourite photographs from her, well, I’ll say childhood. It was the transition in between finishing school and going to university. So I’ll hand it over to the interview now.

Joining me today on the podcast is Fiona. So today we’re doing something a little bit different. We’re going to chat about a favourite photograph of Fiona’s. So do you want to sort of give the listeners an idea of what the photograph looks like and a little bit of the story behind it?

Yes. This is a photograph of me at my Deb (Ball) in Ireland. So for anybody who’s not familiar, once you’ve finished your last exams of secondary school in Ireland, it’s the Leaving Cert. You have a big party where you dress up and you bring a date with you and you attend a dinner. And there’s dancing and you stay out till the wee hours of the morning, having a fabulous time if everything’s gone well for you.

So this is a picture of me. It’s a professional photographer’s picture. So I’m standing, I’ve got my arm on the back of a chair, and I’ve got a corsage pinned to the top part of my dress. So it could be a typical picture that hundreds of people, there were 200 girls in my school that we all took that picture. But it’s really special to me because it’s not about me looking fabulous in a dress, which I do. It’s me on the cusp of adulthood and me starting to be an adult.

I had a very difficult relationship with my parents as a teenager. And I really struggled with that. I’m sure they struggled with that too. But I particularly did because as a kid, it feels like you’ve got no power. And that summer after I had done my exams, I went to stay with my aunt. And I was working for a woman nearby, and I was painting doors and things like that. It was like odd jobs. But she also was really crafty and she had this cabin out the back, and after I finished painting my doors, I went in there and I made things. So this is a picture of me with a hat I made and a dress I made. And it was-

Oh wow.

Yeah. And it’s just really, really special. It was Fiona being the rebel. It was Fiona starting to spread her wings a little bit. But you can also see in the picture, I’m a little bit timid, I’m a little bit, not balled up, but I’m not like this really confident person in this picture, but it meant someone me to do that, to be brave enough not to wear the traditional dress that everybody wore. I wore my Dr. Marten boots with the dress as well. It was Fiona starting to stretch her wings a little bit. And I was able to. I was just about to go off to Uni, or in Ireland, we say off to college. And I did. I went to University College, Galway in the west of Ireland and had a fabulous time.

But at the time that this happened, it was difficult for me. I was looking forward to something. I was hoping for greater things. And when I look back at that picture, I think, gosh, that Fiona would not be able to comprehend the life that I have now, in a very good way. And I think it’s so tempting a lot of the time to look back, and I do it myself. I look back and I think, oh, you haven’t done this Fiona, you didn’t do that, Fiona, you should be better at this. You know, that kind of inner critic that so many of us have. But I look back in this picture and think, wow, that Fiona would just go, “Holy crap. Wow. You’ve done loads of cool, cool stuff.” And that makes me immensely proud of myself and how far I’ve come.

And it’s one of those things, I also would like to think, if somebody else could see that, and if they were in the same space as me, it would give them hope as well. And I think that for me, that’s the point where I had a huge amount of hope, but I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know what was going to work out for me. It did. And of course, there were struggles along the way. But that was the Fiona just on the verge of adulthood and so much amazingness.

Yeah. You kind of don’t know what you don’t know at that point, don’t you? So life is very exciting.


So do you still make your own hats?

No, I don’t. I made a few hats at that time, and it’s something that’s always fascinated me. And I thought in lockdown, I would start to be crafty. But to be honest, I have three young boys. That was not happening. I’m not in the space where I have enough time on my hands to be able to do that. It was at that particular point it allowed me to be creative and be a little bit different, and I just adored it.

Absolutely. And do you still have those, that dress?

No, I don’t have that dress.

So the photograph is the only memory then.

Yeah, that is. And I don’t have that hat. I did keep them for quite some time. But I wore the dress again. And structurally it had some flaws, let’s say, because it was a shirt, and it was a tartan skirt that I had put together. So it wasn’t a sound as it could have been. The hat was amazing. I wore that for years. It was a lifesaver. But I don’t have them. That’s an interesting point. I don’t.

Is it a family tartan, or is it just a…

No, it’s not. That I think just came out of a bag of second-hand clothes to be quite honest. It didn’t have any particular meaning other than I had it and I could use it. And it worked with the top, which fitted me really, really well.

Sue: Yeah. So you were doing sustainable fashion before it was a thing then.

Fiona: Yes. It was not called sustainable fashion at that point. It was probably scraping the barrel. That was all I had at the time.

Sue: It was called making do. Well, that works, doesn’t it? Do you have that photograph up at home?

Fiona: No, I don’t. It’s in a box. With my husband’s job, we move around every few years. So I realised in my last house, I was doing this call, it was a co-coaching call. And somebody said, “Oh, show me.” He was trying this new style. He said, “Oh, show me. Let’s go to one of the pictures in your room.” I thought, oh, I’ve actually got no pictures in my room because we hadn’t actually put them up.

Fiona: So I have loads of pictures in a box, not a shoebox, a plastic box. And this one is framed. So I went to the effort of putting it in a frame, but still it’s not up on the wall.

Sue: I think we’ve all got those though, haven’t we? You can’t have everything up all the time, but as long as you can lay your hands on it, that’s the main thing, isn’t it?

Fiona: Yes, exactly.

Sue: So what made you choose this particular photograph other than it marking that sort of transition from (childhood)

Fiona: I chose this one because a lot of times you get asked who are your heroes, who are the people that you look up to? And people often talk about world-class leaders, Maya Angelou, Barack Obama, these fantastic, brilliant people. Absolutely. But I’ve always found the people that are heroes to me have been family members, friends. And heroes to me would be people like my grannies. Two of my grannies were amazing women who did fantastic things, brought up families, both widowed, in very difficult circumstances. And did a really great job of doing that.

Fiona: My uncle Jimmy, who was the eldest of 12 on my dad’s side, doing sort of the job of the father. He was the head of the household. He was always the person that you could go to. And my aunt, who helped me so much around this difficult time for me personally, and was able to navigate the diplomacy with my parents as well. So somehow she managed the tight rope of being available to me and also not getting on the wrong side of my parents, because it felt like there were sides at the time. And I’ve always admired those.

Fiona: And indeed, I was looking for another picture that encapsulated that when I found this one. Because I couldn’t find the other one that I wanted, which is a picture of me with my dad and my uncle and my sister in there. And they are people I hugely admire. And it just brought those up. And I thought, well, this picture captures that time where a lot of people who really cared about me, helped me. And they helped me practically and they said the right words. Or I knew that they were available to me. I’ve always found just knowing somebody loves you or that if you’re really stuck, you can go to them. And that helps you feel stronger and get through things.

Fiona: And so I found this one instead. And I thought for me it encapsulates that. For somebody else looking at it, it’s just a picture of Fiona dressed up. But for me, this has so much more it.

Sue: And that’s important, isn’t it? It was a pivotal moment in your life. And I think photographs do evoke the memories of that time, don’t they? There’s something that clicks, and suddenly everything you were feeling comes rushing back. And that’s why it’s so such a good memory.

Fiona: Yeah. That’s exactly it.

Sue: Thank you very much for sharing. That was an absolutely fascinating story. And I do hope you find the other photograph.

Fiona: So do I, Sue. I’ll certainly keep you updated on that. It’s been fantastic being able to share these memories, which I haven’t spoken about in perhaps forever. It’s been a lot of fun. Thank you so much for inviting me to join you.

Sue: Thank you. Take care.

Fiona: Take care.

Sue: Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you are listening so you never miss an episode. Thank you for joining me today, and until next week, bye for now.

portrait of sue kennedy photographer

I'm Sue

and I am dedicated to helping you share your family’s story through beautiful natural photographs.



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