I recently went looking for a picture of my children laughing. Like really laughing. Face red, head back, eyes watering. It happens all the time. Laughter constantly rings out in our house. Other people often tell me, “You’re children are so full of life!” Which in my experience is really just a very polite way of telling me that my kids are hyper and loud!
So why can’t I find any pictures of them laughing?
My husband and I photographers. More often than not, our mobile devices are more convenient for snap shots, but we do often get out the “proper” camera for every day events too. So we have thousands of pictures of our kids. Wonderful pictures! Cute, happy, silly, sleepy, grumpy…really just name any of the seven dwarves and we have a picture of our children demonstrating that particular emotion. After spending an hour combing through all these pictures, going back several years, I noticed something was missing.
Sure there were lots of pictures of them smiling, and even a few of them laughing, but not the huge, joyous, silly laughter that makes your belly hurt. I was really shocked by this.
There were a couple possible explanations.
As photographers, we always wait to hit the shutter button when the expression is just right. This is a good skill to have, important for portrait photography. But with out knowing it, I was doing it on an every day basis, with my own kids. Waiting until the end of the laughter, in order to get a pleasing, happy expression. Looking at all the images, I realize it wasn’t just the smiles, but the other expressions too. This is not a bad thing, but I wonder just how many of the snotty faces, screams of delight, and belly laughs have I missed? They happen all the time, and I have no proof.
The flip side of that though, is something I am not ashamed of at all. Those moments are the times we don’t have a camera in our hands.
Being photographers, we tend to view the world through a lens. We see something beautiful and our reaction is “wow, that would make a great image.” It’s not something we can help, it happens whether we want it to or not. The one time it does not, for what ever reason, is when we are spending time with one another. That instinct to capture the moment gets turned off. Sure there are times I wish we had recorded it, for posterity sake. Especially now that I can’t seem to find them when I go looking for them. However, if the consequence of having those images is that I’m always behind a camera when they are happening, I’m okay doing with out.
While on my hunt, I came across a series of images from a few years ago that I took of my daughter. I wanted to get a snap shot of her personality, she had just turned two. We didn’t do anything special, she was sitting in her booster, her shirt all covered with the remnants of her lunch, her hair a mess. I just sat on the floor and talked to her. In just 10 minutes I had snapped about 40 images, one after the other.
It was magical.
Looking back through all of them, I realized it was one of the rare moments where I didn’t care about expression, or posing, or if the light was just right. I didn’t even look through the lens, I just kept hitting the shutter. It was just her, and it was beautiful.
Maybe that’s just it, the balance between having the images and being in the moment. Taking the time to record it with out trying to conform it. Either way, I’m okay with not having very many of these images on record. It would be a shame if my kids referred to the camera as mommy.