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Changing the narrative of yoga photography with Octoabi


Abi Ponce Hardy is a photographer and a yoga teacher, combining her two passions to specialise in yoga photography. A love of Art and photography came first. After completing an Art Foundation course at Edinburgh College, she set off on her travels, mainly around Europe. She travelled with a photographer, spent time at a yoga shala in the mountains in Spain and found her passion for photography, mostly taking photos of landscapes and people she came across. She was already practising yoga by then and completed her yoga teacher training in September 2017.

Photo Credit: Octoabi

Since then, she’s been working as a freelance yoga teacher and photographer in Edinburgh.

I love the yoga scene in Edinburgh. It’s so big with so many great teachers. There’s a great vibe and community but I sometimes struggle to trust the students will come with so many other great classes around. Abi Ponce Hardy

Abi describes starting out as a yoga photographer as ‘a happy accident’. Her yoga teacher asked her to take some photos of her and Abi conducted a little shoot, which they both found enjoyable and productive. After that, the word spread, and Abi soon had other yoga teachers keen to get some professional shots of their practice. For the past year and a half, Abi has been working as Octoabi (because she loves octopuses!) with yoga teachers throughout Scotland capturing their movement, atmosphere and emotions.

Abi’s clients describe her as having the perfect blend of professionalism and a gentle, relaxed guidance. She’s never prescriptive about how to look, what to wear: she simply wants the real person to shine through as naturally as possible. She captures a genuine reflection of their yoga practice – the heart of yoga, the feelings of the individual. She encourages each individual to move through their own practice for the first hour of the shoot. She doesn’t direct them into particular poses but captures the flow of the practice itself. She seeks out interesting spaces for the photo shoots – urban environments such as cafes and parks – and allows the yoga teacher to become immersed in their practice. She then looks for the moment between the postures, the facial expression that tells the story…

When Abi was contacted by Edinburgh Community Yoga to work on a project with them, she was enthusiastic to get started. She’d already heard founder of ECY, Laura Wilson, speak about yoga outreach as part of her teacher training and the stories of taking yoga to people that don’t have access to a class left an impression. Yoga was dramatically changing lives in the heart of the city.

Photo credit: Octoabi

For Edinburgh Community Yoga, capturing high quality images of what we do is an important aspect of being able to publicise, and therefore encourage support of our outreach projects. Good quality images of outreach work are also useful in helping to change the photographic narrative of yoga.  However, the safety of our clients is paramount and so having a photographer in our yoga spaces was a considered decision. Meeting Abi, who took time to attend our classes and make everyone feel at ease made this process so much easier and her quiet grace and non-intrusive manner means we have had no problem in photographing some of our outreach classes.  Lorraine Close, ECY

Over a period of three months, Abi built up a bank of images to reflect and communicate the work of Edinburgh Community Yoga, including images of Lorraine and Laura and other teachers involved in the Edinburgh Yoga Festival, and photos of a chair yoga class and the recent veterans’ retreat. Abi has found it a real privilege working alongside Edinburgh Community Yoga and has gained a valuable insight into the difference that yoga can make to anyone and everyone. Visiting the Veterans’ retreat particularly left a huge impression.

Photo Credit: Octoabi

As a way of continuing to support Edinburgh Community Yoga as part of its High Five Initiative, Yogamatters offered to fund this photography project, because finding the spare funds for something like this is a real struggle.

Financially, paying for a photographer is not something that ECY has the income to do and the support from Yogamatters by paying for Abi’s work has allowed us to have a range of great images that demonstrate our work which are an essential component of our online presence and which will hopefully help to change the dialogue around the ‘type of person’ that does yoga’. Lorraine Close, ECY

Here at Yogamatters, we’re excited to see Abi’s photos of the amazing work of Edinburgh Community Yoga. She has exciting plans of her own. She’s off to live in Mexico in August to continue her yoga and photography there. But her images will be used long after she has left Edinburgh to ‘change the photographic nature of yoga’ – what a great phrase! – and to convey the heart of Edinburgh Community Yoga to a wider audience.

Photo Credit: Octoabi

So thank you, Abi, enjoy your adventure. And let’s all continue to do all that we can to ensure that the light of yoga shines into the darkest of places all over the world.

All photos in this article are copyright Octoabi. For more information, visit octoabi.com.

The post Changing the narrative of yoga photography with Octoabi appeared first on Yogamatters Blog.

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