Antonina Mamzenko is an award-winning family photojournalist based in London, UK. Originally from Russia, she's been living in the UK for the past 15 years and working as a professional photographer since 2009. She's also a mother, a bookworm, a geek and a hippy-at-heart who loves to travel. She uses her camera and curiosity to find love, joy, beauty and humour in unexpected places.
"I've been shy and quiet for as long as I can remember. I've always felt different from my peers at school, and I'd always been much happier to be reading a book than talking to people. But I think I also had quite a low self-esteem and that made me doubt myself and what I wanted and as a result, I wouldn't pursue it or not tell anyone about it. Like I really wanted to write novels as a teenager but even that I was shy about and embarrassed to admit and show my writings to anyone.
But curiously my mother told me recently that as a pre-schooler I wasn't really that shy at all. I was talking all the time, asking questions, etc. I'm not exactly sure when and what happened, it could have been a passing comment from someone that really made an impression on me, or at nursery me wanting to play with older kids as I was quite advanced and was bored in my age group, but obviously the older kids didn't want to have anything to do with me, I don't know. But eventually, I just shut down and became very shy.
And now I have a 9-year-old son who is also very shy (but also extraverted!) and it falls on me to be understanding of his shyness but also encouraging him to overcome it without pushing him too much. It's been an interesting challenge and a process.
Professionally, my shyness has meant I wasn't able to grow my business as fast as I would have liked. It's only in the past 2-3 years that I've been able to step over my shyness and really put myself out there, go meet new people, do interviews and talks and so on. Before that, just speaking on a podcast would have been my worst nightmare! I remember being asked to do a presentation as I was graduating with my Masters here in the UK and it nearly killed me and was a disaster!
When I first started as a photographer I was convinced I couldn't be a people photographer because I wasn't confident or assertive enough directing a crowd. It's only years and years later I realized that my shyness and quietness is my unique gift and embraced it. So I don't direct people, I could quietly observe them and create the most unique photographs that capture real moments that are just so precious.
Personally... I really like people and having deep, interesting conversations with people, but I've often been too shy to say "hi" first and start that conversation. Thank god for the internet as that way I've been able to start making connections much easier and then take them offline.
I've gotten a lot better at overcoming my shyness in social situations. But I think people still can sometimes assume that I just don't like them or that I'm not friendly, whereas I'm just shy and really want them to make that first move!
Having said that, it's been a huge help to know that some of my idols both in the photography industry and generally in the world are actually quite shy and introverted, but they work on themselves to still put themselves out there and have successful careers. I'm also very introverted and reading Quiet, the book by Susan Cain, has been eye-opening and empowering in understanding that it's normal and the boundaries I need to have in place in order to function at my best."