The following blogpost has been generously contributed by my dear friend and author, Hazel Hitchins. You can follow Hazel's work at www.facebook.com/hitchcraft1 .
Why I'm No Longer Hiding.
The camera does not love me. The camera does not particularly like me. To be fair, the feeling is mutual. But something happened 2 years ago to make me re-evaluate my relationship with the lens.
My mum died.
Three short words that utterly fail to describe the gut-wrenching free fall you experience at the death of a loved one.
The knife twisted deeper still in the following days. During the inevitable sorting through photographs, I realised there were none of us together as adults. Rationally, I knew why; we were both busy "being mum". There were always meals to be prepared and children to be washed... but if I was honest, that was only half the story.
It was a few weeks later on a beach in Pembrokeshire I finally admitted the truth. It was a holiday she should have joined us on. I kept imagining her, just out of sight, perhaps struggling into her own wetsuit. She would be laughing and saying she "looked a bugger" but she would wrestle into it nonetheless and join in the fun. We never let fear of looking bad stop us from doing anything; we never stayed out of the pool for fear of our make-up smudging or stayed off the mountain because we didn't want hat hair.
But we did let it stop us having our picture taken.
There were so few photographs because we each deliberately put ourselves out of the camera's range. Each picture held a mirror to our insecurities - every crooked tooth or bad hair day laid bare and magnified in our minds, at least. And so we hid behind our roles, never anticipating a time we would wish we hadn't.
I made the decision to tackle my photo phobia head on. For me, a family photo shoot with Cary Smart Photography helped me feel more comfortable in front of the camera. The whole experience was handled sensitively and the shoot itself was relaxed. The pictures are beautiful. The ones of my children always bring a smile to my face. And the ones including me? I love them too. They show my family as we are - happy together, enjoying life and each other's company.
As if to reinforce my new outlook, a few weeks later, a relative sent me a picture they'd found. It showed my mum and I laughing together at a family event. Neither of us were aware the photo was being taken. As I looked at our faces, I didn't see double chins or shiny faces. I saw a mother and daughter who loved each other very much.
My relationship with the camera is still tricky, but I'm more determined than ever to stop hiding. In years to come, I want my boys to be able to look back on today's memories and remember that they too were loved.