“The Art of Asking About Abortion”: Jack & Gaby’s 3rd Foreign Tour Correspondent Project {official thing}

(public post)

hello dear ones.

TL;DR….patreon-funded writer jack nicholls and photographer gabrielle motola’s third tour-reportage piece, published via medium, is now out. it’s called “the art of asking about abortion” and it’s here. it is about a thirty-minute read. the words and the photos are heartbreaking. it is based in ireland.

long version:


good god, my friends.

greetings from aotearoa. i am still here, and it looks like i’ll probably be here for a while. i cannot keep overstating this: i am very grateful to be here.

the news today is about riots in america, my home country, and the catastrophic collision of problems the USA (sarah silverman suggested on twitter yesterday that we should simply rename the country “The States of America”) is having with race, poverty, unfairness, policing and all the straws that are breaking america’s back.

black lives must matter, all minority voices must matter, women’s voices must matter, and climate justice must matter.

and all of these things NOT mattering to so many peopler can all be tied, i think, to a lot of the same rotten root causes.

almost exactly two years ago, on may 25th, 2018, i happened to be in dublin for the historic repeal of the 8th amendment, the criminal ban on abortion in ireland.

i talked about that moment and what it felt like to be there, in detail, during this past year’s There Will Be No Intermission tour…a tour which technically never finished, because i still have to PLAY THE FINAL SHOW IN WELLINGTON and god help me i am going to finish my tour there before i leave this land, even if it takes months.

there has been an intermission.

has there?

i feel like i am seeing the fabric of my country being torn apart by already frayed seams.i am hanging on by an emotional thread, and today i have an especially heavy heart. i am imagine you can imagine why. i am far from home, nursing my own unexpected wounds and chaos. my team is sad. my friends are sad. my country is burning. i’m far away.

i find myself wondering, with every moment, what do do, what to tweet, what to say. everything just leaves me feeling insignificant and powerless.

i am putting this long-awaited and long-worked on medium article out as the last thing of the month, because i do not want to push it to next month.

i’m just going to put it out.

as  we speak, as los angeles is put under curfew, abortion clinics are being shuttered.

as i write, as my friend have been locked in their apartments in new york for 12 weeks running, there is a pregnant person somewhere in america, right now, who cannot access health care. who may be forced to have a child they are not ready to have – or worse, go to the black market to buy dodgy illegal abortion pills, or worse – because there is just no way to access a safe, legal abortion.

this has not stopped happening.

this is all still happening. today, right now.

the article is long, and painful, and beautiful.

once you read it, you may choose to share it selectively, in places where you feel it will do more healing than harm.

you may want to email it to a friend, a relative, an old partner. you may not want to post it to facebook.

or you may. (be prepared to have the hard conversations).

you may want to wait a couple days before going out and sharing it with the world.

i am going to wait a few days myself before sharing this on social media: partly because i still haven’t even sent out the dresden dolls’ track to the internet because i’ve had my hands full here over the weekend with a four-year old. my announcement schedule is now far more ash-dependent than it used to be before neil left, but that is also the beauty of the patreon.

i am a single mother at the moment, but i am still not beholden to a label, a senior editor, or a publisher.

this is just us.

and also, more importantly, i am not beholden to social media algorithms for my income:

i have you. my patrons.

you funded this work. you paid jack and gaby’s way on the road, and you paid for their time to put this piece together. you did.

without this patreon, this piece would not exist.


and jack and gaby have both worked so, so hard on this piece.

here i am with jack, photographed by gaby, in our gender-free e(for the night, at least) bathroom of the venue in graz, austria:


if you’re new to the patreon, jack nicholls, a writer from australia, and gabrielle motola, an american photographer currently residing in london, came on tour with me for a few months to document the tour using words and photos. all of their expenses are paid for by patronage. i was frustrated with the media. i wanted us to create our own avenue for story-telling. jack was one of the best writers i knew for the job. gaby’s photos tell deeper stories than words came. i am still so grateful they signed up for this very weird and unique job.

the first two pieces that we published on medium – which jack titled “There Will Be Some Introspection: On the Road with Amanda Palmer”  – are here (Part One: Us and Them) and here (Part Two: Revolutions) if you missed them. it might be good to read and catch up before you read this third one.

jack has struggled for months to get it just right.

as i’ve said many times….it’s a hard, hard thing to write about abortion.

even if you’ve had one.

or two.

or, like i have, three.


there are two important people to thank for help on this piece, both hired and paid for with patreon dollars:

jamy ian swiss, who also edited “the art of asking”, came on as an extra editor and guide. he worked deeply with jack on the shape of the piece, and his help to us all was invaluable. our copy editor, carol krol, also lent her editorial opinion. her work was essential and we are really grateful to both of these folks for working this us on the piece.

it wasn’t easy content.

so you can see….there were a lot of cooks in this kitchen.

but the final result, i hope you will agree, is incredible.


here it is:

Screen Shot 2020-05-29 at 12.48.25 PM


“The Art of Asking About Abortion”

On the Road With Amanda Palmer — Part 3: Ireland

this link has NO PAYWALL. please share this link when sharing the article: 



here are some words words from jack…

Hello Patreons!

Thank you for your patience as your Foreign Tour Correspondents navigated a global pandemic to bring you this account of Amanda, abortion, and the stories we heard from the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

This was a really hard piece to write, perhaps the hardest thing I have ever written. I felt overwhelmed with anxiety that I was not mature enough to tackle the topic, and fear of being yelled at online if I’ve got it wrong. How to do justice to 25,000 words of heartbreaking stories? How to do justice to the bigger story of Ireland’s history, as an outsider? And hardest of all, how to find the headspace to keep working on it from a tiny shared apartment in COVID-19 lockdown? If drafts were still something that happened on paper then that apartment would have been knee-high in crumpled sheets.

But I had a great team around me, from Gabrielle to my editor, and it is thanks to them that we got there in the end. And in a way, working on this piece is what has kept me feeling connected during a very isolated time. The final edits for this piece were carried out across five time zones, and so my memory of lockdown will forever be linked with my memories of Ireland.

So it was hard, but I am honoured to have been part of this story, and to have been in Northern Ireland for this moment in their history. And since working on this piece, I have become so much more aware of women’s reproductive rights, and lately I’ve reading about it a lot.

When it is not your body being legislated against, it is too easy to not pay attention, but if the past few months have taught us anything it is that our health, and the health of our societies, are all too connected. But you can read all about that in the actual piece, so I won’t take up anymore of your time here. I hope you enjoy it.


And a photo of me in Lockdown Melbourne:



words and images from gabrielle:

Greetings good patrons of Amanda Palmer,

I write to you from my abode in Shepherds Bush London, where I’ve been sequestered for the last nine weeks. Nearly ten. It is not unpleasant here.

There is plenty to be grateful for.


Jane watering the garden in the late afternoon sunshine

But like you, I am missing several variations of human company.

So I am happy to be back here in your virtual company.

Writing to you as I do from my garden feels reassuringly familiar and exciting but without the anxiety of knowing I will be with actual other human beings. So the isolation is kind of a homestay bonus for the introvert in me. I get quite anxious in the company of others but I don’t let that stop me from being with others when I can. You may be able to relate. I write about this a lot and a lot of my street photography is an attempt to liberate me from “the fear’. You can listen to me talk about that if it interests you. I’ll put a link at the end to a couple of interviews I did before and just at the beginning of lockdown. But make no mistake, the extrovert in me is pissed off. So for now, I get to stay in my bathrobe and slippers with my bedhead, my cup of coffee and my paradoxes ebbing and flowing.

As I type this, I remember the four months I spent sailing through a large part of the world on the Palmer Pirate Ship, meeting, photographing and hugging some of you. I miss it all but I am grateful for it, the memory of it, the pictures of course too. I really miss photographing people on a regular basis. I’ve been photographing my life at home, my housemate Jane (we got to participate as volunteers in this national campaign to help the NHS!), the light everywhere, and less frequently, people on my walks. I’m developing a new project in infrared and bringing out a couple of old ones from my archive. There is so much work I have that has never been shared before and I think it’s some of my best work too. I’m learning a lot from looking back.


My housemate and good friend for 20 years Jane Ripley in the bath in our home



Albert Memorial in Hyde Park, Horse Guards Parade — both new work in Infrared



I met little George and his mom, Amy, in Kensington Gardens on a long walk. Maria in Spain 2013



But it hasn’t felt right to do what I normally do which is photograph strangers on the street on a near-daily basis. During this time, I put myself as a citizen first, a photographer second (which has of course been hard financially but more so, emotionally— we are all making sacrifices), and I am taking extra care when I am outside with masks and gloves and ritual cleaning upon return because Jane is 69 (though 25 in spirit). So like so many I have stayed home and only occasionally take a camera with me on my runs or errands. I like to get close to people and since that is not possible, I stopped. Portraiture without connection isn’t as interesting to me.

This made me turn inward and so I began a podcast which is a good excuse to have interesting conversations with people (and share them!). “Stranger Curiosity” is on episode 3 with episode 4 coming out June 3rd. You can search for it on most players. My mentor Neale James (of The Fujicast) did a fantastic job of bringing me up to speed on how to create, edit, publish and distribute a podcast. I’ll put links at the end to this and everything I mention so you can keep reading and check them out at the end.

My commissioned work which normally makes up 80% of my income was all cancelled in a matter of days. Although I do not know when it will be possible to remedy this, I know it will be possible and I just have to hang in there doing what I can do. What I am focusing on is what is right in front of me.

I’ve been working on my Patreon with a fervent sense of purpose; I feel blessed and lucky to have a Patreon. What a clever and needed platform/idea to have out in the world working as well as it does. Not only thanks to Amanda and you, but to my patrons, some of whom are here as well, and some equipment sold, I have enough income to live on for a few months while I figure out the future without freaking out (this is so important). The freelance game is often dicey but as my Patreon grows, so too does my confidence and my ability to make work consistently.

That. Changes. Everything.

I’ve been holding weekly and now fortnightly (as I get busier) live hangouts for all patrons on my Discord server (which is a flourishing community of lovely creative interesting people!) where I field questions, take requests, talk about photography, demonstrate photography techniques and check in with everyone. We check in with each other and it has been really supportive for everyone involved. I’ve been screen-recording those sessions and putting them up as Patreon posts. The last one I did was on Black and White digital processing in Lightroom and using filters on your lenses.


Maria triple

I’ve been sharing my experiences of building my Patreon with others who are building theirs now, too.

I also wrote and published an article about my reluctance to begin a Patreon, the origin, and how it’s going so far. The desire to write this article was inspired in part by the process of being on Patreon, but also by the fact that when I read that Amanda had to take 12 hours to read 2000 comments on a post, I turned to my community to build a solution. Which we did. I never expected this to come from Patreon. If you like the article and what we made, please give the piece a clap or 50. I didn’t put this article in the paywall system which you must do to submit it to collections and get distribution outside of people who randomly find you. Like so many middle-men lead systems, I don’t think the paid distribution system on Medium is fair to creators.

I have been maintaining my body and my mind with exercise, regular healthy home-cooked meals, regular sleep (at last! I was biphasic from Feb till April), and sharing as much energy and positivity as I can on Instagram, Zooms, doing voluntary student reviews, mentoring, and helping the Association of Photographers (I sit on their board of directors) get information out to our members and provide support to them too.


I was due to be in Woodstock this week with Amanda prepping for the glorious Omega “Campersand” Festival.

I had planned to build a portrait conversation booth and create a triptych of portrait-willing patrons.

One would have been of you before our conversation. One of you after, and one of you looking into my very own Errol Morris “Fog of War” inspired portrait machine. I’ve been wanting to make that ever since I read about how he filmed the interviews through a one-way-mirror, having his subjects look into their own faces while talking on camera. I wanted to explore the idea of how we see ourselves, are seen, and see the world and how if at all that change can be seen on a face. We are such complicated beings that a photograph can never tell the entire story. Just a slice. I’d even connected to Fuji to help me with a printer so we could make prints available to people on site. I know I’m not the only one who is sad not to be there right now. I hug you (I need a hug too).

I read Jack’s piece for the first time at the weekend, out on the very same balcony I’m sitting on now writing this. I had a long day and I was tired, so I poured myself a glass of wine, lit a few candles, and adjusted my iPad holder for easy relaxed reading. It makes such a difference to my body tension and state of mind to look straight ahead and not hold anything. I glided through the essay in no time and was instantly awash with memory and emotion of our times in Ireland.

I’m excited now because soon I get to go and delve into the “There Will Be No Intermission” magic Picture Show- that is, the tremendous archive I amassed while on tour, which I hope we’ll be able to do something more with in the future. And by the time I am finished writing and editing this missive, the edit will be done and all the pictures will be snuggled next to Jack’s words.

For you, I wish for health, peace and that you’re coping and finding the magic in this time. And if not that you are getting the support you need. Remember the art of asking. Time is a gift no matter what, even though I have had times when it felt like a curse, so I know. But it isn’t. Even the shit times I’ve had, and this lockdown hasn’t been a cakewalk either, I get to put it into art. Transform. I am forever a phoenix rising, emerging more bejewelled, beautiful, strong and yet still soft-hearted.

I hope you’re taking the very best of what the situation has to offer and burn it for fuel. I am trying to, there are days when I am fed up and scream ‘c*nt!!!’ as I run through the Wormwood Scrubs or break plates in the backyard. And there are most days when I am optimistic. So I best get to work. 7400 words exist to fish out pictures for and colour correct. This from an archive of thousands of images I haven’t seen in months. This is a challenge, but I’m going to enjoy it. Even the pain. And I am thankful for the work. I’ve been keeping this photography fire burning since I graduated from university in 1997. It’s definitely not been easy, but I’m here to stay. I always find a way. And I am taking great pleasure in helping others find theirs. Where there is a will there’s a way. The trick seems to be finding the will and taking care of oneself so that it doesn’t burn away into ashes.

Love from London,



and may i emphatically recommend you support gaby’s patreon, it’s HERE.

i love you, gaby.

i love you, jack.

i love you, everybody.

may we all find peace in these times.





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