Friday, July 13, 2007

Who's taking *your* picture?

I think it's wonderful that digital cameras have turned so many people into photographers. Point-and-shoot 35mm cameras were around for decades, but it seemed as though most people weren't too picky about the quality of the shots. I hope all the sharing that goes on with digital pictures has made folks more aware of stuff like focus.

When I was a child, we lived in an apartment building in NYC. My dad, whose hobby was photography, was everyone's family photographer. Today, my childhood friends are grateful to have beautiful b&w images of their parents and themselves that never would have happened without my father and his Leica and Speed Graphic and his darkroom.

I'm grateful that I have them, too. And I'm equally grateful that I took so many pictures of my own children. What if my collection of pictures of Gillian consisted of some posed portraits from K-Mart and a few blurry snapshots taken at the beach?

Anyway, my point of all this is that someday your family will be grateful to have pictures of you. If you are the family photographer, they may have a hard time finding them. I've been making a long-term project of putting photos in albums, and after album #5 or so I realized that judging from the photographs one might suspect my children were raised by dogs and cats, with occasional visits from their father. I wish I'd taken more pictures of him, and I wish somebody had taken pictures of me.

So this is to encourage you to a) learn how to use the timer on your camera (this results in a much more flattering picture than holding your camera out at arm's length and hoping for the best), and b) not to be shy about asking people to take your picture. They won't mind. Don't stand stiffly with your kids, shoulder to shoulder. Grab them in a group hug. Or pull them down on a sofa with you. Don't worry about being photogenic. Let them be silly. You want natural grins. Someday, they'll want to remember you just the way you are.


Paul said...

Same with my dad. You can tell because after the divorce - bang! Almost no photos of our family.

Another thing that can end up being interesting is voice recordings. For Christmas 1971 I got a Sony cassette recorder. At the time, it just seemed like I was making a minor nuicance of myself "interviewing" all my relatives. Now - it's a good thing, but poignant - we've made copies of the tape and people sometimes literally cry hearing a voice they never thought they'd hear again. Voices seems to bring back a really powerful sense of the person.

It was sheer luck the cassette didn't get recorded over. I made it when I was fourteen and by accident never recorded over it. When I was seventeen I noticed it in the back of a drawer and wondered "What's on this?" and was fortunately just old enough to realize it might be worth hanging onto.

Susan said...

Good point, Paul. Voices can be impossible to bring back in your memory. My dad always wished he could recall the voice, speaking or singing, of his father, an opera singer.

My kids grew up hearing me sing at the piano, and I've thought many times about trying to record some songs for them. But I don't sing very much anymore, and I've been unwilling to put the time into trying to get my voice back, finding some equipment I can afford, and on and on. Your comment has made revisit this idea, though. Thanks!

crystal said...

Hi Susan :-)

I've always been the photographer of my family, which is odd since I can't see well. I have inherited the photo album of my grandma too, which has lots of old black and white photos of long deceased family members. One thing I've been trying to do, now that I have a digital camera, is to take photos of the old photos, so I can save them digitally.

crystal said...
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Susan said...

Hi Crystal! Good idea. I've photographed quite a few old photos, too. I have a scanner, but it's still in the box because I haven't figured out where to put it. :-) Meanwhile, the camera does a surprisingly good job.

Mali said...

Such a great post! Thanks.

You have reminded me to be more relaxed when cameras come out - I've always hated them, but now struggle to find photos of me, or of me and my husband together.