Ciara Drennan Photography | See Me as a Woman

See Me as a Woman

March 28, 2013  •  9 Comments




What happens when one person has an idea and 39 women act on that idea?

I have written a few words about SEE ME AS A WOMAN before but today I thought it was going to be the end of the SEE ME AS A WOMAN  journey and I wanted to acknowledge that in some way so I decided to do put my thoughts and feelings about the whole project onto paper.

SEE ME AS A WOMAN was the vision of one lady, Frieda, for a number of years Frieda wanted to do a visual project with the ladies from KARE  to allow them to celebrate being women and to run it in conjunction with a lager global gathering of women on International Women’s Day. We asked 39 women with an intellectual disability what it means to them to be a woman, we then took their portrait and merged the two together in one av presentation.

One day early last October I had a conversation with a friend of mine, or should I say he gave me a wee telling off (he will now claim he was trying to get me to focus on where my photography was taking me). As a result of this conversation –I knew he was right by the way but don’t tell him I said that! - I knew I wanted to get involved in a photographic project with people. I kind of knew straight away that if I was to approach any group of people it would have to be the gang in KARE. KARE is an organisation that promotes independence for people with intellectual disabilities.I worked with KARE for ten years as a Staff Nurse, I am currently on a career break but the service users of KARE hold a special place in my heart. My contribution to SEE ME AS A WOMAN is my thank you to all the service users in KARE.

(L-R from back: Ciara,Anne,Donna,Ger,Siobhan,Mandy,Breda & Diane-The Naas ladies- ©Antoinette Thurlow)

It was while on a visit to the Naas Local Service (where I was based for 5 years) that Frieda & I had a conversation that lead to the inception of SEE ME AS A WOMAN. It was very important to us both that the ladies involved were involved from day 1, so we organised two information sessions inviting women along so we could explain what International Women’s Day is all about to them, explain the idea behind SEE ME AS A WOMAN, sign model releases, have a chat about the ladies individual statements, talk about hair and makeup and all the usual girly things!



The day of the shoot arrived and it was probably the most nerve wrecking day of my photographic life so far! I needed to take 39 photos of 39 gorgeous women between 10.30am & 3.00pm….all in the one day!! It sounds simple and sure wouldn’t you have your lights all set up so they aren’t going to change…Ha!


(Ciara, Ellen & Frieda check the shots-©Antoinette Thurlow)

We sometimes forget how unique as individuals we are, each lady has to be shot in her own unique way, some of the ladies wanted nobody else in the room, some wanted the room full, some wouldn’t smile, some couldn’t smile, some got shy, some couldn’t stop giggling, some got a little bit nervous of the set up and had to come away from the lighting set up and would only allow their photo to be taken when they were sitting in a corner getting a bit of peace and quiet! It was a challenge to say the least, thankfully I had Antoinette on hand to help with lighting changes etc., Frieda made sure the whole day ran according to plan and fed us and Lorraine and Helen were on hand for hair and makeup.

The post processing stage was a joy; it was an absolute pleasure to work on these images. The piece of music to be used had been decided by Frieda a long time ago and when I heard it the first day I knew there could be no other music used.Frieda & I always knew that we wanted the launch of SEE ME AS A WOMAN to be a special occasion for the ladies involved and when the Riverbank Arts Theatre and their Venue Director Linda Geraghty came on board we knew the ladies were in for a treat.

On Friday 8th March we had six showings of the SEE ME AS A WOMAN video to groups of 20 people at a time. This surpassed anything we could have ever imagined. The women themselves, their families, friends and our family and friends all celebrated in style with us and at times the evening was quite emotional.


Frieda has been keeping me up to date on the reaction within KARE and how the ladies loved seeing themselves in the video and were looking forward to seeing their individual prints. I gave each lady the opportunity to purchase her print at cost price. I knew that in order to maintain the ethos of the project that the prints had to be of a high quality, I couldn’t take these gorgeous images and then print them on standard paper. I met with my printer man- Fintan- and asked him to recommend a paper that would suit the images and bring out the best in each on, he recommended one of his archival fine art papers and I trusted his judgement. Yet again he didn't let me down and the quality of the print is superb.

(Fintan loves seeing the final product- Thanks to Dee for taking the photo)

I had come across Bespoke & Co a Kilkenny based company that provide a dedicated framing and design service to photographers. I liked their style, I liked their passion for what they do and they were able to provide me with a straight forward quote! So once I collected the prints from Fintan off to Kilkenny they went. I headed to Kilkenny yesterday with Tim & Mic in tow to collect all the framed images. I walked into their pretty cool offices to see the framed images all packed and ready to go, and I felt a great sense of pride and achievement.

(Ciara & Jamie discuss the finer aspects of Framing- Thank you Nicola for taking the photo)

Jamie was delighted (!) to stand in for a quick phone shot with me, while Nicola hid behind the camera (phone!), it’s your turn next time Nicola! Seriously though thank you to Bespoke & Co for the finishing touches, all the images are framed within a pure wooden moulding with an archival mount, a high quality product to finish off the package!

Today I brought the images to Newbridge where there was great excitement amongst the ladies who had purchased them. Below is a photo (thanks Liz) of Sinead & I with her image, Sinead looked at her framed photo and said ‘that’s Sinead, lovely’ and my eyes welled with tears, it didn’t matter what else happened after that, that made my day.

(Sinead says 'cheese' just to make sure we are both smiling!- Thank you Liz for taking the photo)

So is that the end of SEE ME AS A WOMAN? Not a hope of it, there are now over 750 views on you tube and I am meeting with KARE in two weeks’ time to discuss the next possible steps for the SEE ME AS A WOMAN project.

Frieda….thank you so much, without you there would be no SEE ME AS A WOMAN. When we took that test shot of you we captioned it ‘this is my story’, how apt was that?

Thank you to Antoinette, Helen & Lorraine for the background support on the day.


A final thank you to the Riverbank Arts Centre & Linda for hosting us on International Women's Day.


Remember Ladies this is YOUR day!




Ellen OHall and missy Sarah Jayne Cooley(non-registered)
Hi Ciara.

Just here with beauitful Ellen, and she just wants you to know that she loved watching the video and it made her feel happy :-)

Hope all is lovely for you xxxx

Love Ellen and Sarah
Liz Sheridan(non-registered)
Deirdre Kearney
Amazing Ciara, you and the gorgeous ladies from KARE really captured something very special. The photographs truly captured their personalities and individuality. You should be very proud of an amazing job x
Joanne Fallon(non-registered)
'Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication' Leonardo Da Vinci

Each lady looked so sophisticated, a joy to watch. Well done Ciara & Frieda, your creativity is a match made in heaven, with each smile you brought a star in the sky.
Adrian Hogan(non-registered)
Truly fantastic work and inspiring idea from a very talented photographer... passion really shines through the whole theme... well done Ciara and all who took part ... looking forward to seeing new ventures in the future ....
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