Our series of photographic portraits by Neill Menneer shows Bath people at work.
I first came to Bath in 1984. I was training as a Norland nanny in Hungerford and visiting a friend who was studying to be a nurse. In those days the nurses accommodation was at The Bath Spa Hotel, which had been requisitioned during the war and was, at that time, a crumbling wreck. So I had a very romantic start to my days in Bath wandering through the leafy Sidney Gardens and along Great Pulteney Street.
In 1989 I was dating a dashing London photographer, Neill Menneer. We had been dating for nine months and I was completely smitten so we came to Bath for a romantic weekend. As you do when you’re somewhere new we looked in estate agent’s windows and couldn’t believe what you could buy for your money. The most dreamy four-storey house in Camden (on the market for just £86,000) caught our eye. The catch was that it was virtually derelict, with no bannisters plus a kitchen on the top floor, but we were smitten and bought it that weekend.
While Neill was looking for a photography studio in Bath we ended up falling in love with a shop on Argyle Street and ran Postscript gift and stationery shop for six years. It was a baptism of fire, learning about retail, employing staff and running a business during a very severe recession.
By this time we had our daughter Phoebe and decided to try living in France so we upped sticks to the Dordogne. But after four months I was homesick; I missed my family but mostly my friends who had their own little babies. So we returned to Bath.
Rupert came along in 1996 and I did a bit of child minding while the children were small. In 2000 I trained as a life coach. I loved learning how to listen and question in ways that help people move forward. I set up a coaching practice called The Parent Coaching Company with an amazing woman called Sharon Charlton-Thomson who has become one of my closest friends. We had a wonderful few years and even did a pilot show for the TV company that created Super Nanny.
In 2007 Neill and I decided to work together again and went in the search of premises for his photography studio. We found the Old Methodist Church in Twerton High Street. It was in a terrible state of disrepair: trees growing through walls; a car park full of abandoned vehicles; and a family of resident rats. But it had a wonderful aura about it so we set about a year-long renovation.
It was there that we created Spirit Photographic and then three years later Divine Divas, which is our boudoir studio. I love working in the studio, particularly with the women who book Divine Divas sessions, which have become hugely popular. We’ve now done more than a thousand and average 12 a week.
I use my background as a make-up artist and my coaching skills to get women to see themselves in a positive way. It’s so often that after having kids, or experiencing a big life change we can have a bout of low self-esteem or stop seeing ourselves as attractive. I’m here to help fix that and by the end of the three-hour session – after they’ve had their hair and make-up done and started to relax in front of the camera – they feel totally transformed.