Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The horror of the camera lens: Official Author Photo photoshoot in Paris.

As you know if you follow the blog, this September saw me heading to Paris on retreat. The focus of the retreat was visibility, and as part of that we were to undertake a professional photoshoot with the incredibly talented Regina Wamba of  Mae I Design (

1. Pretending that it isn't happening.
The classic introvert safety net -
when things get scary, retreat and
read a book. The architecture
in Monmarte was just beautiful
and whimsical. 
Regina is an incredibly talented photographer and artist, and has been responsible for the creation of many USA TODAY best selling novels' covers. Her photography is magical, and so although the thought of having a photoshoot filled me with an almost panic attack inducing fear (quite honestly and literally) I was excited by the idea of it.

I have always hated having my photograph taken. As an extreme introvert, and somebody who is incredibly hard on themselves, having a camera pointing at me has had the same adrenalin rush as being faced with a hungry T-Rex.

Despite having been an out there and proud author for the last six years, I had not got around to getting my professional headshot done ---- and the retreat made me face the truth that it wasn't just my abject fear of being photographed, but something else - something much deeper.

2. I saw the inside projected outwardly
and that was hard to accept. The
defensive and yet powerful arm
cross, kind of says it all. 
It wasn't just that I feel silly, and weird looking, and 2 stone overweight, and gangly legged, and dough faced, and triple chinned - I was actually feeling VERY awkward about seeing myself as a serious author - of taking me and my work seriously... I know right?!

The NCWR retreat was all about facing this idea - and I soon realised that I was absolutely not alone in either of these fears. As much as we were all excited to be attending the retreat, of learning together and of growing together -- and drinking too much French wine together, we were all absolutely FREAKING TERRIFIED of the photoshoot. Excited but terrified.

Talking, we discovered that regardless of gender, our month running up to the shoot had been full of anxiety, preparation, mental strengthening, and outfit planning.

3. Allowing my true creative self to
be caught on camera was
I don't think I fully understood until that moment what an integral thing our outside was to our inside. I'm a girl who has always prided herself on not being sucked into all that 'beauty' stuff - most days, I go make up free; it's not a strange thing to me to have a selfie with no make up, or to do the school run. Most days, I barely brush my hair - and I've never really understood how someone can actually physically spend a couple of hours getting ready for an event etc.... perhaps now I do, LOL.

We were all so self-conscious that Regina had originally planned to do our photoshoots in private slots, but like freaked out zebra in the presence of a lion, we huddled together and in the end, we tag teamed it. There was something really wonderful about working together, encouraging each other, complimenting each other, reassuring each other --- and laughing; laughing lots.

4. Doing a photoshoot with
friends was so much more fun
than doing it alone. I know
exactly who I'm laughing at
here - my dear friend
+Carlyle Labuschagne 
Regina is a picture witch - she has this ability to capture not just the outside but the inside - she has the magical ability to showcase that unique beauty that is within all of us. We had a fabulous two day shoot, one day in the gardens of the Musee du Rodin in Paris, in a glorious (almost too hot) day, and the following day, we headed to the beautiful, sublime and architecturally stunning, Monmarte Cemetery.  It was fun - it was empowering and it was revealing.

Two days ago, I got the 100 or so photos we took into my in-box. I wasn't sure what I was expecting but I was surprised to feel very mixed emotions. I had been so high on the days of the shoot - and then it was like being hit by a train. There was me, hundreds of me - being author, being creative, being professional -- being a grown up! Yes, a woman, a woman with flaws, and ugly spots, and beauty, and power, and dreams, and ambitions, and love, and laughter, and heartsease, and friendship - and it freaked me out. I barely recognised myself even though I knew myself.

5. Seeing my sense of dreams
and ambitions played out
on film, and most
importantly, seeing myself
as a grown up at last. 
And I trashed through them, groaning and moaning and getting upset, not seeing perhaps what I had wanted to see - - but it wasn't because it wasn't there, but because I was still looking through eyes that belonged to the me that had spent a lifetime never really feeling quite good enough, through eyes that were embarrassed to step out and stand up for who I am, who was ashamed of being so forward, and afraid that I would be humiliated, criticised or brought down ---- so I STOPPED MYSELF right there and then and gave myself a BIG TALKING to! That shit has got to stop.

6. Taking myself and my art
seriously is the first step in
acknowledging myself as creative
I mean, seriously, THAT. SHIT. HAS. GOT. TO. STOP.

And I looked with my new eyes. My future me in the now eyes, and I saw that there were photos there that were beautiful, that there were photos that expressed the inner parts of me - and that was who I damned well was, and I was doing okay.

So if you know that you are needing to go through this whole process, I have a couple of pieces of advice -

1) Invest appropriately; pay the top whack based on research and recommendations - save in a penny jar if you have, too. You need someone whose work you love, who is going to take time with you, who is going to make you feel 'normal' and who is going to show the magic. If you can, book an appointment with +Regina Wamba - she travels the world for various events and she's always got her camera with her.

2) In the meantime - if you can't afford who you really want, get together with a talented friend and do a 'mock' location shot - find somewhere beautiful and play and laugh and see what comes out - some of our favourite shots were taken with each other's iPhones whilst Regina was busy photographing 'properly'.

3) Take time over really thinking about what you want to convey through your wardrobe. I wanted two very different looks of the multi-faceted side of my job; the gothic paranormal author, and the event planner and coach.

So now, here I am, sharing the results of that photoshoot and I'd love to know which is your favourite and which should be the one you think I should choose to send out on those first press releases I'm going to send out :)

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