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  • Amanda McLeod

Guest Blog - Competition Winner!

Amanda McLeod, owner of The McLeod Centre for Learning won my SW1 Mum Competition for a family photography session, in collaboration with the wonderful Diana Pavlova.

Here is her experience of the photo shoot, in her own words:

Jen’s amazing!

I, personally, feel a sense of achievement when I achieve a walk around the block with Rowan. Jen and her sons, however, range all over London as she researches her newsletter. From fireworks to Morris dancing, Jen finds all that is new and happening in our capital. “SW1 Mum” alleviates arduous investigation and enables us to plan fun, stimulating activities that our little ones, and the adults in our lives, will enjoy. From free events to the seasonal treats that we want our children to experience, Jen is on the case.

I won a competition 27 years ago (bottle of wine and hunk of cheese!), so imagine my surprise when I won Jen’s photograph prize. Having looked at photographer Diana Pavlova’s website, I saw an opportunity for a photograph that included my stepchildren and my son.

Being 16 and 18, my stepchildren are about to embark and set sail on their life’s adventures. They won’t see much of each other over the next few years (certainly not us!) and I felt that having a physical memory to pack in their cases would be immensely meaningful.

Diana Pavlova is dependable and professional. Yet her heart-warming and encouraging Whats App voice messages make Diana your best friend, even before you meet her. Her personal service started long in advance of the shoot, as she gently guided us through our preparations. Having messaged photographs of my home and us, Diana’s advice ranged from comments on clothes/scenes, to delicately telling me which of my ideas were farcical. One would have resulted in all us looking like Teletubbies when the photographs were developed!

Rowan doesn’t like to be held by strangers or new situations. Father Christmas so terrified him that he resembled a screaming banshee in his great escape. It was with trepidation, therefore, that we approached our 2-hour photoshoot. However, Diana became Rowan’s best buddy. He let her wave his toys, whilst speaking in funny voices, and he loved her swinging him around to plump him down in the perfect spot. Her antics, whilst leaping backwards, as she grabbed her camera, resulted in gales of toddler laughter. Diana didn’t just enthuse Rowan either. My typical teenage stepchildren hate anything out of the ordinary. The prospect of Diana, however, enthused them enough to plan their clothes and get ready without arguing about bathroom times. Diana was also brilliant at soothing teenage gawkiness into stunning poses; from ugly ducklings to elegant swans. Yes, the photographs can be edited! No spots were demanded by both stepchildren and husband… whilst I demanded no back bulges! That being said, it was difficult to find a bad photograph in the hundred that immensely-talented Diana sent us to view.

I’d recommend doing the wonderful session annually to chart your little ones progress through life. This will be possible too, as Diana is developing her business from babies to older family photographs. The setting can be home, her studio or anywhere. Her digital prints can be turned into cards, paintings or preserved in your photograph album. Thank you Jen and Diana!

All photos by Diana Pavlova, published with kind permission of Amanda McLeod.

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