Like most of us, I take photos because I want to remember moments. And selfishly I wish my husband would do that, too - he has the memory of an elephant so doesn't always feel the need to document visually. When I have to ask for a photo I feel arrogant or find myself wishing he would suggest it. And when he does I make excuses like "the light is all wrong" to avoid feeling awkward and he hands me the phone saying "these are probably all bad" to which my self conscious spirit immediately agrees and deletes all record of the previous moment. It's something we're working on.
I remember the first time I put on makeup after Ruth was born and I asked him to take a photo of us snuggled but when I looked at the camera and saw one bra strap down with my nursing pads sticking out of my tank top I burst into hormonal postpartum tears. Of course, three years later, I'm so happy to have the photo now, but something that was obvious to me didn't even cross his mind - which actually resulted in a more truthful image, anyway.
I'm a very expressive person and sometimes expressive people don't always photograph in a flattering way... there's lot of hand movement, big eyes and scrunched-into-your-neck laughing faces. You would think that someone who strives to make other people feel comfortable in front of the camera would have a list of tips running through my mind (all your weight on one hip, raise your shoulder, chin down a bit), but put a camera in front of me and every ounce of awkward comes out (think any Kristen Wiig SNL character).
But then I think of my favorite images of my mom or my grandmother. I've always loved looking through the old black and white images that capture my youthful grandma riding on the shoulders of some hunky high-school guy, posing in front of her new car, dancing in the kitchen with a cigarette, no less -- and now that she's passed they mean even more. It's a look into a season of life that I otherwise wouldn't be aware of. And my mother - a young, beautiful mama with Farrah Fawcett flowy hair that rocked the 80's jumpsuits like no one's business. Their life and vitality are present in the images, their personality shines through and in my mind, that's the most important thing a photo can capture.
My paternal grandmother hated being in front of the camera -- in our home videos you can hear her protest and then run out of the room the second the camera turned her way. And so we are left with only a handful of posed holiday photos and I find myself longing to know her more fully.
And so, I'm determined to change my attitude about being in front of the camera this year. In the midst of these "little years" -- interrupted sleep, first ballet recital, new big girl bike, sparatic work hours and new baby brother adventures. Such a sweet season of life, of course I want to remember it. Who cares about that weird grown-woman acne (thanks, hormones), or that unidentified crusty spot on my t-shirt... that I've worn for four days in a row.
I know I'm not alone when it comes to being self conscious about my photo being taken. I work with women all the time that spit out a list of their worst features the second they step in front of my camera. When as a photographer all I see is beauty and the way you melt when your rambunctious four year old settles for just three seconds in a tender hug around your neck. The way you blush when I ask you to cuddle in a little tighter with your husband and in that moment you both realize you haven't down this in a while. I know the value of these images and it's high time I allow myself to be in them, too.
So this year I want to stop making excuses and take every opportunity to document this season of life with my tiny family and I encourage you to do the same. So that years down the road we both remember how wonderful this time was. So my little girl has a healthy and accurate sense of what being a woman is -- sometimes a little frazzled, most of the time with stains on her shirt, and quite often there's a double chin involved, but also so much light and love. I'd be the first to correct my little one if she were to say something negative about her body or appearance. Lead by example and be comfortable in your skin, proud to be yourself.
Let's all step in front of the camera a bit more this year. And for when you do, a few tips to make the most of it :
Let go of expectations - your kiddo might not want to "smile for daddy." Twirl them around, ask for a big bear hug or sloppy wet kiss and embrace the truer moment.
Don't wait for an occasion - those every day snapshots are often more cherished than any posed occasion photo and reminds your kid years down the road of the beauty in the little moments.
Move that body - hold down the camera button as you dance, twirl or tickle. This will give you lots of options and less disappointment when there's only two images of blinking and sneezing.
Embrace the mess - it's truthful and honest.
Hire a professional - someone with whom you feel comfortable and can trust with your space, family and story. This removes any and all portrait responsibility from your husband... plus gives you the opportunity to just enjoy one another and have some lovely mementos when it's all said and done.