Business + Marketing

Anna Strickland: Circus Arts, Photography and Philanthropy 

December 13, 2022

By Abbey Pleviak

For those who have survived domestic violence, sex abuse and trafficking, experiencing embodiment through the circus arts and having their portraits taken in a loving, respectful way can open the door to healing and empowerment. 

In this episode of The Portrait System Podcast, host Nikki Closser speaks with London philanthropist Anna Strickland about how she developed her not-for-profit, social enterprise organization HeardinLondon’s Self-Care School, which provides services for self-identified survivors, helping them reconnect with their bodies in creative ways, receive confidence coaching, and experience empowering portrait photography. 

Strickland’s background is in the circus arts and anti-trafficking. Prior to returning to London, she lived in places like Kathmandu, where she worked with Circus Kathmandu, a charity for survivors of human trafficking. During the #Metoo Movement, Strickland started a not-for-profit in London but had difficulty finding funding for it. Early in the pandemic, she contracted long Covid, which turned her life upside, greatly reducing her physical capabilities. Whereas in the past, she was able to go to the gym five days of the week, these days she only really gets out for weekly photoshoots. But it has motivated her to expand her existing not-for-profit to include more teachers offering a broader range of services to a larger population. She started writing one application a week to local, national, and international funders, and in this way, she has been able to secure support for herself and her fellow educators. 

[Read: Attract Clients with Messages of Empowerment]

The majority of Strickland’s clients come to her through direct referrals from domestic violence shelters, sex abuse clinics, homeless shelters, and anti-trafficking organizations. Others find her through Twitter and Instagram. In the initial intake, they are offered a variety of activities to take part in, including aerials, trapeze, yoga, movement, dance, confidence coaching, and a portrait photography session. When it comes to the photoshoot, Strickland offers her work on a sliding scale—those who can pay full price, those who cannot (£50 less), and free for those who need it. She reports payments come in at even split among those categories, and others offer to pay more to support those who pay less. Strickland feels that portraiture led her deeper into confidence coaching because of the empowerment and encouragement that occurs with a photoshoot. Working with consent is of paramount importance before, during, and after the shoot. When working with this population, it is absolutely critical to always get permission before doing any kind of touching. 

Strickland says, “I wanted to be able to provide a space where people could be able to show up for themselves and for others and to see themselves through the lens and the eyes of someone who really respected them. And I think that there’s something really powerful about seeing yourself viewed through the eyes and through the lens of someone who is looking at you with love. . .there’s something really magical about having those kinds of moments where people see all the different sides of them and all the different sides of them being welcome. And that is something that I really strive to do for. . .people in front of my cameras.” 

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You can learn more about Anna Strickland and the services she provides at HeardinLondon and Self-Care School. She also welcomes you to free downloads of self-care workbooks that she prepared just for Portrait System Podcast listeners.  

The Portrait System Podcast helps portrait photographers navigate the world of photography, business, money, and much more. Hosted by Nikki Closser, the podcast is powered by The Portrait System, a comprehensive, online educational platform that teaches all aspects of running a successful portrait photography studio.