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Ex-pupil makes film about Tyrone teacher's life after topless pictures leaked at Harrow school

By Ali Gordon

Former Miss Northern Ireland Joanne Salley felt like a “cheap pin-up” when topless pictures of her emerged, but a new film has allowed her to show people the real her.

In 2011 pupils at posh private boys’ school, Harrow, got their hands on semi-naked snaps of Joanne after they were left on a computer memory stick in the art department.

Joanne quit her job as a teacher when the images, which had been taken by a fellow teacher, were shared among male students.

Last week Joanne, a beautifully shot film created by one of her former pupils, Simon Fujiwara, was premiered at The Photographers’ Gallery in London, and Joanne couldn’t be happier with the end product.

“It (the topless snaps) was the biggest shock of my life,” said the 39-year-old.

“Firstly, the photographs were taken for me to have privately. Not long after they were taken I asked the photographer to delete them as I quickly realised I had no desire to have them. I was completely distraught when I was informed that they were circulating in the school on smart phones.

“When the press wrote about the story, and only a day after the photographs appeared in print, I believed my whole world had ended.

“I had worked so hard to gain respect at the school and I felt this made a mockery of me and what I stood for. I felt that my role as a Master was torn to shreds and I felt nothing more than a cheap pin-up.”

The Dungannon beauty is hoping the self-titled film will show people the real her — someone who pushes her body to its physical limits, raises thousands of pounds for charity, presents fashion shows and paints around the world.

“I believe society often stamps a label on us, and if it is taken to a media scale it is difficult to impossible to have control over this,” said the 1998 Miss Northern Ireland.

“Believe me, I have tried. It doesn’t matter how many marathons I run, countries I cycle across, mountains I climb, boxing matches I fight in, money I raise for charity.

“We live in a world where too often we are pulled down and not built up.”

The film seeks to explore the many sides of Joanne, a trained ballet dancer, charity fundraiser, model, artist, presenter, and Fujiwara’s favourite teacher at Harrow, a place she once described as her home from home.

Talented Fujiwara was a 17-year-old scholarship student at Harrow when he first met Joanne but, after losing touch, they met at an exhibition at Tate Britain years later and their work relationship grew “naturally”.

Joanne, who this summer cycled the length of Italy for Sir Richard Branson’s charity Strive, said of Fujiwara: “It was a journey and, as in any strong working relationship, there is a yin and a yang.

“We worked incredibly well together and I have seen this opportunity as such a privilege.

“Simon is unique and a very caring, thoughtful, sensitive and intelligent person. I feel whatever I say I could never do him or his work justice.

“I only ever taught him to be confident and have belief in what he was doing. In actual fact, I learnt as much from him in ways of seeing art as he did from me.”

So far, the film Joanne has received rave reviews from critics, family and friends. As well as Joanne’s family, close pals, Belfast Fashion Week boss Cathy Martin and presenter Katie Larmour flew to London for the first showing of ‘Joanne’.

“Some people turn to alcohol, I turned to art. It might not save us, but it can help make the absurdity of life make sense without masking the truth,” she added.

 

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