Who I AM
First of all, bear in mind Brazilians have loooong surnames – my name is Leila Maria Menezes Hawkins (it’s pronounced ‘Layla’ like Eric Clapton’s song (I love it!)😍🎸
I was born in a small town in Brazil called Tatuí, which I only left when I moved to the UK in 2016.
Since it’s so difficult to write about ourselves, I asked my friends and family what are the best words to describe me and the most common answers were: hardworking, passionate, caring (too much sometimes!), honest, funny, bubbly, friendly, determined, creative. It was so interesting to know what others think about my persona and I realised if they all think the same, it must be true, but I won’t ask about the bad stuff! 😂
I absolutely love living in England and I truly believe I was meant to be here. All the stars were aligned and everything synced to bring me here, but let’s leave this long story for another day. I love the British politeness, the accent, the weather (yes, I know it sounds crazy, but I promise I’m not!😂), the culture, the scenic views around me. I even have a British husband! 😍
MY PHOTOGRAPHY JOURNEY
I believe being a photographer was part of my destiny. It was a hidden passion that began to flourish when I moved to the UK. I was so amazed by the landscapes and the stunning places I visited; it was ‘a must’ to capture the beauty around me every time I left home. Here is where I found great inspiration and I’ve been taking lots of pictures since the day I arrived.
I first lived in Coventry and attended a group called ‘Coventry Past and Present’ ran by WEA to help improve my English. We used to go to different historical places to learn more about the culture and practise our conversation. It was an incredible opportunity to take some wonderful pictures. I met lovely people and two amazing tutors who helped me so much and I will be forever grateful: Alison and Paul ❤
I used to share the pictures I took with the group and Alison really liked them. After a while, she invited me to run a photography course. I felt so flattered and excited! I got everything ready, all set up, but…shortly after the meeting with WEA, I got my first paid job offer and I couldn’t refuse it. 😩
I felt bad at the time for letting Alison down but, when I look back, I’m glad it didn’t happen; I was not prepared. There is so much more to photography than just taking a picture! Back then, I didn’t fully appreciate that. My technical knowledge was poor and I lacked so much confidence. The timing wasn’t right!
I carried on taking lots of pictures as a hobby and had different jobs on the side. Then I met my husband when I got a job in an Aviation school. I would not be doing this without him. He is the reason I have turned my passion into a business, by supporting me, encouraging me, and having so much faith in me! He also enjoys taking pictures and we are always together in our photo adventures ❤💪
Although I found my passion for photography later in life, it’s definitely in my blood. My great-grandad founded the first Camera/Photo shop and studio in my home town in 1918 – the famous ‘Foto Menezes’ which then passed to my grandad Gilton (whom I also love deeply). ❤
My biological dad used to work there as a photographer and videographer. He sadly passed away when I was a baby and his brother raised me (I refuse to call him ‘uncle’; I'll always refer to him as my dad! ❤) and he was also passionate about photography. I remember I used to complain when he was ‘being annoying’ by taking so many pictures/recording videos. There was a time when I was a rebel teenager, I even used to cover my face as I hated people taking pictures of me (unbelievable!) 🙈
My grandad’s shop sadly shut its doors in 2015 after almost 100 years, but it left an incredible legacy and mark on Tatui’s history. I’m sure many pictures hanging in people’s houses were either developed in his darkroom or later printed there when the digital era came. What a great honour for me to be a 'Menezes'! 📷❤