I always heard my mother say, “I was never in any of the pictures because I was always the one TAKING the pictures!”. I never put much thought into that until one day it just clicked: I don’t have very many photographs of me with my mother growing up. Now that I am a mother, I can see how easily that can become a reality for so many of us. She was raising 4 daughters, and back then parents didn’t have access to cell phones and digital cameras that allow them to take dozens of shots at any given moment. Today’s technology makes it much easier for us, yet, we still have many of the same obstacles – and oftentimes it is us. I had to stop and think of how many photos I am in with my children, and the answer is not many. This is so upsetting to me thinking that my children one day will want to have images of me and I am rarely present in them. Not that I don’t want to be, but because there are just so many reasons why I “can’t” be in them.
Photo of me and my mother in 2001
I hear this more and more among moms, however as a photographer I hear a lot more hesitation: “I have to lose more weight before…”, “I look terrible…”, “I am just so busy, I don’t have the time”, “I can’t pay for that right now”, “I don’t photograph well”, “the kids would never cooperate, maybe when they’re older”, or “I hate taking pictures”. Look, I get it. I do. I am a mom myself and struggle with the same insecurities and life challenges. Between Mommying, Working, Cooking, Cleaning, and trying not to collapse from exhaustion from sleep deprivation on top of it all, I barely have time to change out of my pajamas in the morning to do the school run; now I have to try to fit something else into my day (and remember it)? It is especially difficult as 2 of my kiddos are on the Autism Spectrum, so transitioning them to a new environment and asking them to pose and comply isn’t exactly a walk in the park. However, in the end when everything is said and done, there were always a slew of excuses stopping us from getting in the photographs with our children. Life happens, and you don’t want it to be too late to get in that photo.
Recently, my best friend’s mother was called Home, and the night before the service I was at their place. They were assembling a memory board, full of photos of her life and of her with her friends and family to display at the funeral home. When they tried locating a photo of her with her grandchildren, they realized there were none to be found. This broke my heart all over again and for different reasons. Here, this was a harsh realization to this family that I love so dearly, that these memories will never be documented. Then I think of her granddaughters who may wonder one day, “Do we have any pictures with Grandma?” I’m sure she had a lot of reasons why she couldn’t take those photos, yet, the one and only thing that matters today is that the photos do not exist.
One of my favorite family photographs: My grandmother (far left) as a teenager with one of her sisters, my great-grandmother, and a ghostly unknown woman
The excuses become irrelevant in the end. I think this is what a lot of us fail to realize is that it isn’t so much for us, but more so for the ones who will cling to the memory of us while we are gone. Photographs are tangible memories, long after the images in our mind’s eye become fuzzy, these keep our loved ones fresh in our memory. We are so busy coming up with all of the reasons not to invest in a photo shoot that we ignore the very reason why it should be a priority in the first place. Ironically, when our cell phones break we find the money to replace them, or when we find ourselves in the unfortunate situation where our car breaks, we finance that fix or new purchase. Our children and grandchildren aren’t focused on that extra 30lbs we packed on since our 20’s, they see past that to the smile that brightens their day, in the jiggly arms that hold them when they need comfort, in the squishy lap they plop on when they beg us for things they know we don’t want to cave into (but eventually do). We find these “flaws” in ourselves and shy away from capturing these details for that reason, when in fact these are the little things they hold dear in their hearts. Investing in memories, in those photographs that we treasure so dearly after our loved ones have left us doesn’t cross everyone’s minds as much, and the value for some isn’t realized until it is too late.
Regardless of how you do it, financially or in time and effort, whether you hire a professional, ask your waiter at a restaurant, or ask friendly neighbor for a favor – get in the picture. Get in as many pictures as you can. You owe it to yourself and your family to document your time together, your love for one another, and the laughter you all share – and not just in selfies. Be present in them. I challenge you, and myself, to be more present in photos.
My husband, children, and I in a recent family portrait. As difficult as this session was, we went for it!
Thank you to Heather Dawn Photography for your patience and professionalism!