I had this brainwave to make a wee photo album for my sister of all travels. We came to Scotland together in 2003 on a working holiday visa, where the idea is to work work work then see as much of Europe as you can before your visa and/or money runs out.
I poked through a gazillion folders trying to find pictures of us in front of famous landmarks but it was slim pickings, folks. Take the first ever trip we did, a long weekend in Paris. I was so excited to finally be off the couch and seeing the world, but wasn't bold enough to want photographic evidence of this newfound adventurousness. Every time I got the camera out I'd think, My hair sucks. I need a new bra. My head is enormous. My body is revolting. And it was hot and my face was red so I told myself, I'll just come back here some day when I'm smaller and better dressed.
So all I have are a few dodgy shots with my noggin lurking in a corner.
Even as I lost more weight I still kept hiding. On the rare occasions I let Rhiannon take my picture, I'd bark orders, "Make sure I'm just in the corner! Don't go below the waist! Actually, don't go below the chin!" Or I'd try to hide my body behind statues or trees or sunglasses or hats.
We went on a tour of Russia and Scandinavia in 2004 and I nearly keeled over from Photophobia. Every seven seconds in front of another church or museum someone would shout, "GROUP SHOT!" I'd fight my way to the back row and hide behind the tallest bloke. So despite having been desperate to see Russia my whole life, I only have two fuzzy, barely-recognisable pieces of photographic evidence that I ever went there.
I would love to go back in time and kick my own arse. DUDE! Why didn't you just GET IN THE STINKING PICTURES!? These were once in a lifetime experiences! Sure I looked like hell while travelling, but most people do, especially when you're on a budget.
I know I have the memories in my head, but there's something special about having a souvenir photo on your desktop or mantelpiece. I'd kill to have a decent shot of Rhiannon and I together in Red Square or Reykjavik. We worked long and hard to afford those trips so it's sad not have captured the euphoria and relief on our faces when we finally got there. But at the time it didn't feel like I'd be collecting memories, I just thought I'd be documenting FAT FAT FAT!
My favourite picture from our travels is this one from Estonia in 2004, that Rhiannon took without my knowledge. I look like a clown but I'm clearly not thinking about the fact my jeans were a snug size 18. I'm just thinking, "WOOHOO. Life is a hoot."
Every time I look at it, my resolve is strengthened to just jump into photos then laugh if they turn out dodgy. I'd rather have a dodgy photo of a happy moment than no photo at all. Half the joy is looking back and sniggering at your bad haircuts and questionable taste in fashion. I no longer say "I'll come back another day when I'm skinny", because the moment is already happening… right then and there!
So this is a call to any fellow Photophobes out there. Don't scream! Don't hide! Don't put yourself in a corner! After all, you don't have to post the pictures on the bloody internet. They can gather dust on your hard drive, ready to make you smile and spark your memory when you're old and grey.