Vanity hurts less than regret – we need to exist in photographs

I knew I only had a few minutes before my family, including hubby, would have enough of being in front of my camera.

I had just bought him home for a couple of days after his most recent Royal Flying Doctor Service emergency flight to Perth.

After over a decade of living with a debilitating illness that was frequently life threatening, a rare type of tumour, an IPMN, had been discovered on his pancreas which is one of the most delicate organs in the body.

He was on the emergency list for major surgery to remove part of his pancreas and had to return to the hospital the next day, unable to leave again until after the surgery at some unknown date in the future.

We were all painfully aware that this may be the last time he ever came home.

We are forever thankful to his surgeon and the specialist medical team who did everything possible to get him through the arduous 8 hour surgery. There were complications and it took him over twelve months to recover as much as he ever will – but he survived and our family is still complete.

Even today, four years later, it brings tears to my eyes knowing that the photos taken that day may have been the last ones our kids ever had with their dad.

It wasn’t until many months later that I realised I wasn’t in those photos with my family.

Not a single one.

And I must be a bit slow on the uptake because it still didn’t hit me until recently. My youngest is seventeen years old. I’m a photographer and have been a photographer for a very long time.

Of all people, I know how important photographs are and I understand their lifetime value is priceless.

Yet I have failed to exist in more than a handful of photos with my children throughout their childhood.

The realisation that there is nothing I can do about that now is painful. I feel a sense of grief that I don’t exist in photographs that marked special moments and milestones in my children’s lives.

Even after mentoring master portrait photographer, Sue Bryce, who is passionate about encouraging women to exist in photos – I still avoided having my photo taken.

With age comes wisdom I suppose.

It saddens me to admit that I don’t exist in many family photos, not just because I am the photographer, but because I refused to have my photo taken. I used my camera as a shield, always hiding behind it, telling myself that the important thing was taking photos of my kids as they grew and reached each milestone.

I honestly have never considered myself to be a vain person, quite the opposite actually.

But the reality is – vanity kept me behind the camera instead of in front of it.

Messy hair, bags under my eyes from lack of sleep, no make-up, I hated my weight – and how could I be in the photo if I was the one taking it? I always had some good reason to stay behind the camera.

Vanity is the reason my family has hardly any photos of me and this is the deepest regret I have ever experienced in my life.

I know now that vanity hurts so much less than regret.

Please don’t make the same mistake I have made and hide from the camera. You can’t change the past, no matter how much you wish it, but you can change the choices that you make today and in the future.

We need to exist in photos. Especially family photos – not just for ourselves but for our children and family. They love us for who we are, not what we look like. (And newsflash – they know what we look like so avoiding being in photographs is not only vain, it’s kind of pointless.)

One day, those family photos are all they will have left and then they will be priceless.

I would love to help you exist in beautiful photographs that will one day become your family legacy. Email me to plan your perfect family lifestyle session.

our front yard at dawn

PS I’m not going to post those photos of my hubby and kids because they bring up memories best forgotten as well as fear for the future.

I will however post this photo taken from the same part of our front yard at dawn a couple of months later. This photo is to remind me (and anyone else going through a tough time) that the light does follow the darkness, no matter how impossible it may seem at the time.


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