Photographer: Neil Huxtable "Talkingdrum"

I have a TV but I dont watch it much. However the other night there was a programme that was interesting and really got me thinking. For Crying Out Loud was introduced by comedian Jo Brand, who confesses to find it incredibly difficult to cry. "Everyone is crying these days" she was saying "and often for the most trivial reasons. What has happened to the stiff upper lip?" The programme followed her  around as she tried to understand what  makes people cry and why.

Photographer: Andrea Fernandes

I cry a lot. I come from a culture where people can be quite emotional and can wail, especially at funerals. As a would be therapist I also witness a lot of crying amongst my fellow trainees and amongst clients, the crying you do when you suddenly feel a burden being unloaded. I cry when something upsets me and these days I often cry  when I think of my mother struggling to make sense of her life now that she is almost ninety and affected by Alzheimer - her decline is heart rending.

As a child I cried to get what I wanted, as most children do. My father could not bear tears and would get agitated to the point of yelling at me to stop. This frightened me and I would cry silently and make myself small,  hiding behind a door or under the bed, forgetting what it was that had made me cry in the first instance. I loved my father intensely but I equally feared him, he was so distant and so difficult to reach out to.

Photographer: Andrea Fernandes

Crying is not something I do only when hurt or in pain. I cry when I hear soulful music or  see a beautiful picture. I cry when I watch movies. I cried when my son was born and the nurse gave him to me, soon after he had taken his first breath.  When I held him I thought he was the most beautiful baby ever. I could not quite believe he was mine and I burst into tears, feeling this tremendous wave of pure love surging within me. I cry and laugh when I am in love out of the excitement I feel when my lover is around me.

Sometimes I cry because I pick up other people's sorrow and make it my own.  I never know exactly how or why it happens but it does. I am finally learning how to contain it and recognise it as not being mine.

Photographer: Andrea Fernandes

In the TV programme there was at some point a scene shot at an acting workshop where the students had to do an exercise involving conjuring up tears of compassion. Good actors cry real tears. They are not their own  tears, about their  personal circumstances, they are tears related to the character and  role they are interpreting. But the emotion is real and the tears are real.  As spectators it is that real-ness that hits us and makes us respond, often with tears of our own. This is the cathartic experience of performance.

 And the best perfomance ever is life.

(All photos modelled by Alex B.)


  1. It's not just the English that value the "stiff upper lip." Here in America we are still seduced by Marlboro-Man type images of the stoic cowboy (a false stereotype; real cowboys--and I've known a number of them--are as emotional, lustful, poetic, and, well, human as anyone else). These images affect men much more than women: "Big boys don't cry!" Yet many are recognizing that this stereotype can damage people. I haven't heard the word "Crybaby!" in many years, thank God!

    I myself don't cry easily, although I did in childhood. Perhaps at one point in my life I had to work so hard to "control my emotions"--that is, quite literally, to stop crying--that now that particular emotional channel is still mostly blocked. Perhaps doing music has lessened my need for tears. I don't know, and I'm not particularly worried about it. I figure that when I really need to cry, as I did when my marriage was blowing up in my face, I will.

    (I love those Andrea Fernandes pictures! You look like an Oriental queen under her veil, the sort of queen that might get up and belly-dance on impulse. Beautiful!)

  2. Thank you Jochanaan, I am glad you like Andrea's pictures. Yes, it is more difficult for men to cry.
    If you are interested in seeing the documentary this is the url

  3. Hi Alex. I followed your blog several months ago, then lost the link. So glad to have found you again, and especially happy to see you are getting into photography and doing self portraits. You are an encouragement to us 50+ women who want to live fully and express our unique beauty and sensuality. Thanks much! <3


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