The Warrior Project-Chelsea-Ulcerative Colitis

I love photographing Chelsea. She looks like a real life Disney princess, and is a ton of fun to hang out with, so when I found out she had a chronic illness I thought it would be great to have her as part of The Warrior Project.  Here is her story in her own words.

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"I’m Chelsea, a 23 year old Psychology graduate from Manchester. (Don’t ask me what I’m doing with my degree because I have no idea yet). I love all things cute, cosplaying and my favourite place in the whole world is Disneyland! I have a passion for makeup and I suffer from Ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.

Ulcerative Colitis is a chronic condition caused by an inflamed colon and resulting in fun symptoms such as blood or mucus in stool, diarrhoea or constipation and tummy pains. It’s a very similar condition to Crohns disease, the two just take place in different parts of the bowel. Ulcerative colitis is just the ugly sister that nobody seems to know about. There are also many secondary symptoms including chronic fatigue, achy joints and a high temperature. So basically, as I put it colloquially “my butt don’t work!”

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 makeover photograph of a glamorous lady with red lips and pale skin in a black dress on a black background in a studio portrait in colne lancashire trawden burnley skipton

My condition is most commonly diagnosed around the late teens to mid-20’s and I fall quite nicely into this bracket. I first developed symptoms when I was 17 years old and I started college. Stress aggravates the condition and causes flare ups. It commonly shows itself during times of great stress and for me this happened to be around the time of my A-levels. This continues to be a reoccurring theme throughout my life and any amount of stress tends to see me running for the nearest toilet. I also suffer from an anxiety disorder which makes this an interesting mix. The condition impacted me greatly, there would be many days I couldn’t leave the house for fear of being too far away from a toilet. I was exhausted and embarrassed, I was too ashamed to tell anybody and tried to manage as best as I could on my own. Unfortunately the condition also caused ‘an accident’ which I still remember clearly, I was mortified and I remember being in floods of tears in a public toilets. (Not my finest hour). This caused me to reach out firstly to my family and then to a doctor. I missed out on so much of my first year of university through fear of leaving my room and struggled to socialise because of it. A fully fledged flare up is not a pretty sight, there are tears, sweat and a lot of stomach spasms. Think hard-core period cramps mixed with the flu.

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I was so lucky to see a particular doctor whilst I was studying at University in Sheffield as she didn’t brush me off with the diagnosis of “ibs” as other doctors had said previously. I thoroughly believe in pushing for further investigation if you feel your condition hasn’t properly been looked into. The doctor I saw referred me very quickly to Hallamshire hospital’s gastroenterology department. I had a lot of different scans and eventually a colonoscopy and endoscopy which lead to my current diagnosis.


One positive of having ulcerative colitis however, is that I am never embarrassed by any toilet talk. It’s near impossible to make me cringe talking about “number 2’s” it’s like my super power. It’s always important to keep a sense of humour. It can sometimes be debilitating to hear people making jokes about bowel illnesses, because poop is funny. But without treatment people can die. I try to keep a positive outlook and take charge of how people see me and my illness by being open in conversation and as candid as possible.

 makeover photograph of a glamorous lady with red lips and pale skin in a nude dress on a cream background in a studio portrait in colne lancashire trawden burnley skipton

Currently I spend most of my time bloated, looking slightly pregnant. This has resulted in people moving from bus seats for me on multiple occasions. I am still unsure as to whether it is better to take the seat or not. I am a little bit sensitive about showing my stomach because of this. My condition has periods of remission where all symptoms are easily managed by my medication. If my condition worsens as I get older there is a chance that I will need to have part of my bowel removed and a colostomy bag fitted. Currently this is a massive fear of mine but I am trying to remain as positive and hopeful for the future as I can. A lot of foods set off my bowel problems and cause me to either bloat or cause stomach spasms, I’m still working on figuring out which foods cause what. (Fingers crossed it’s not cake because I don’t want to give up cake).

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My experience shooting with Donna was amazing. You are made to feel right at home the moment you arrive for your photoshoot, I felt completely at ease and comfortable. Having a photoshoot in somebody’s home is much less intimidating than in an all-white studio. Even though the photoshoot takes place in a family home Donna is a complete professional and knows just how to direct you in order to get the best possible poses. The conversation is always flowing and there is no shortage of laughs (which no doubt makes for good pictures). Donna is the kindest of souls and I feel so lucky to have met and know her.

As someone who’s a little bit on the awkward side it’s usually easier for me to be silly than look graceful and serious but somehow Donna managed to show this side of me! I was blown away by the images and I could barely believe that I could look like that. I was so excited to show them to my Mum, as I have so many pictures of myself which as less than sophisticated and she loved them too! I would encourage everybody who is considering it to have beautiful photos taken by Donna. It’s amazing to feel glamourous even if some days when you’re spending hours on a toilet, you might not feel it."


Not going to lie, reading about Chelseas experience of shooting with me gave me a big lump in my throat, I adore photographing Chelsea and I hope to again and again!  Chelseas makeup was done by herself, her dress is by Collectif, and the incredible headpiece in the final photographs is from MyWitchery.

Donna xx

Jessica-Trans Woman Studio Portraits

A few weeks ago I photographed the beautiful Jessica, mum to gorgeous furbaby Marlow and who is currently transitioning.  I haven't photographed a trans woman before so I was super excited to put all the skills I have nurtured into creating some super flattering portraits and showing Jess' beauty to the whole world.  We had a little conversation about her journey to find herself, and I think you will all agree not only is she brave and courageous, she is a true beauty and an incredible representation of femininity.  I can't thank her enough for trusting me and allowing me to capture her portraits!

Tell me a little about yourself!  Where are you from, what do you do for work/hobbies?

My name's Jessica, I'm 29, originally from the Liverpool area and I enjoy everything from running around with my dog to a glass of wine and a snooze. I work as a web developer in Altrincham - something I managed to get into from being self-taught through my other hobby, computers and web design.

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When and how did your journey begin?

I've always had a fundamental disconnect with my appearance that I can remember right back to primary school. It manifested itself in varying ways through my teenage years - secret clothes bought from charity shops for example - until it culminated in a wild goth phase at university that I may not yet have fully grown out of. Over the following years through my 20s I realised this was a serious matter causing me daily mental health difficulties so I consulted my GP, was referred and started on the path to rectifying things. That was when the fog that had followed me day to day finally began to lift.

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How does it affect you day to day?  

I used to really suffer with everyday tasks in public, such as going to work - dealing with girls and women was extremely hard and I ended up in very male-dominated environments as a result such as IT. Going out on the town was nigh on impossible towards the end as I'd be crippled by such misery that I couldn't wear a nice dress and heels that I'd have to crash out early and go home - this even manifested itself at our work's Christmas do one year which was especially nasty.

Now I'm out I'm 'loud and proud', so to speak. I like to think I work my height and long legs and am doing what I can to make up for the shortcomings I can't do anything about. Sitting and moping hasn't helped before and won't help me now. Perhaps in the future this will change and I'll decide to be a bit more stealth about being trans but I think at the moment I'm enjoying my new lease on life a little too much.

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Advice to others about to undertake or are at the beginning of a similar journey?  

I'll tell you the words I should have heard when I was stood at my front door, cowering about my first time round the block in girl mode, so to speak - just f*cking do it. Nobody gives a toss about you in reality. Sure people might look or say something but so what? You're interesting to them - something unique, something worthy of discussion, something some people, like me, would celebrate! You're not just another stupid stick figure in a Lowry painting so why listen to those who are? Most people you see are wrapped up in their own lives as complex as their own and to them, you're as much of a background character as they are to you. 

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About your photo session, how was the experience as a whole?

Absolutely second to none. I felt comfortable, at ease and guided the whole time. I was worried I'd need a level of know-how and even maybe make a fool of myself through a lack of experience but that absolutely was not the case.

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How do your photographs make you feel?

Amazing! You get so used to seeing yourself in the mirror and picking faults with yourself that you forget that, actually, you are stunning in your own way. Donna's work finds details you've taken for granted and shows them to you in this incredible way that makes you stop and admire them. Then you remember they're yours and that feeling is priceless - for me it was my eyes, but for anyone it could be anything.

What would you say to someone like yourself who was considering a portrait shoot with me?

I've now had a shoot with a so-called 'big brand' studio, and I've had a shoot with Donna and I can honestly say I preferred the latter - it was less rushed, friendlier, less 'formal'... and the results speak for themselves!

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What an inspiring story, I can't thank Jessica enough for allowing me to capture her beauty on camera <3

Erin and Lee-Maternity Studio Portraits

Erin was 39 weeks when she came to the studio, just about ready to pop!  I WAS supposed to be photographing her little mans arrival into the world but even at the speed of light I wouldn't have got there in time-he was out within 30 minutes of labour starting.  It was actually rather convenient because they were home by Monday afternoon, with the UK's worst snowy weather in many years descending on us Monday night/Tuesday morning.  Good timing little man!  

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Lee is clearly absolutely smitten with Erin.  He said of this portrait, "I cannot put into words how much I love my beautiful Erin, but the amazing Donna Craddock captured it in one picture" How lovely is that! 

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Bonus shot of Lee helping Erin get her shoes off as she couldn't reach haha!


I cannot WAIT to meet their little dude, I've been snowed in for 3 days so haven't been able to do much and meeting him is on the top of my to-do list.  I love shooting Maternity portraits, theres a regal, proud nature to them that I love and it always brings back memories of when I was pregnant with my two now huge babies <3