A Family Portrait

Growing up in a family that loves to take pictures, you learn how to avoid all the camera flashes and take cover as soon as someone whips out their camera. I have albums filled with baby pictures, and I enjoy flipping through them, pushing my cuteness under my mother’s nose and learning the story behind each one.However, these pictures gradually became less frequent as I grew older until they stopped altogether with the occasional obligatory passport photos or graduation pics.

You’re always cute as a baby, but when you’re older, there is a great chance your pictures might turn out bad. Another great thing about baby pictures is that they’re never forced, which is more than I can for family portraits.

Family portraits are a different matter altogether. You have to dress up and look all proper and loving when in all actuality you might be on non-speaking terms with your sister, annoyed at your mother for meddling in your private affairs, angry with your kid for sneaking off behind your back. They feel rather fake to me, and woe betide the person who blinks or looks away the moment the picture is taken. I wouldn’t want to be subject to everyone’s irritation as they try to strike a perfect pose once again!

Keep in mind that it was more difficult to figure out whether a picture came out all right a few years ago. We didn’t have digital cameras; we only had rolls of film that we had to completely exhaust before we could see how our pictures turned out like.

(Photo Credit: Michelle W.)

When I look at the occupants of the photo above, I don’t see a happy bunch. I see a father who probably wishes to be anywhere but in the picture frame, I see a boy who can’t wait to pull away and go play with his friends, I see a girl who’s itching to take off her bonnet… and in the background, there’s a mother who in her frustration at failing to get her family to smile just took the picture anyway.

I would much rather see a spontaneous family portrait, one where smiles aren’t forced and all expressions and laughs are genuine. Or if you’re like me and like to avoid photos altogether, you may choose to rely on your memories. Fellow blogger Derek Childs put it forward more eloquently:

True, a photo does seal a memory in time forever and is a great way to remember an occurrence that transpired in one’s life. The question I am going to ask however is; how could I, or anyone else for that matter, ever honestly forget a moment in life of such significance or import?

If someone doesn’t want their picture taken, don’t force them into it. Chances are it’ll turn out stiff and less than happy anyway. When I used to be forced into pictures (back when films were used), the roll of film – or my pictures at least – would get mysteriously burned. I had nothing to do with it, but it taught those photographers a lesson, haha.

These bring back so many memories!

How do you feel about family portraits? What about when someone snaps a picture of you when you don’t want? Did you jinx films too?

This was written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge: A Picture is Worth a 1000 Words.

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28 thoughts on “A Family Portrait

  1. I don’t like photos, period. Family photos are blah, especially because my family’s sense of humor is stuck in a long forgotten century. And it’s repeated every year. ‘Haha, put your arms around each other and pretend you love each other!’ Say cheeeeeeeese! huehuehue’ Argh. Bothersome. Also, I never like how I look in photos pretty much ever, especially ones where friends take photos of, even if I have time to get ready. It’s like some moron who looks only slightly like me jumps in front of me in my exact pose and ruins every shot. I don’t get it. Mirrors make me look great. Cameras make me look like… well. Yuck.

    • Yeaaaah, I know what you mean. =x I can’t do these pictures either. The loving act does not work for me. And you know I’m like you! I can’t stand my pictures taken unless by some sort of professional and only when I allow it (though you know I’ve been making exceptions for you). Ah mirrors… they really do make one look great.

  2. Great post, and I’m not just saying that because you happened to use a line from my post when I threw a tantrum about photos! I am glad that you liked my analysis enough to use it in your talented post. Thank you Zen!
    When someone takes a photo of me and I either don’t like it or didn’t want it taken, I remind them of a rule. I don’t know if it is universally unanimous, but in Australia it is illegal to take a photo of a person without their permission. When people hear the term law suit, they tend to suddenly oblige your wishes.
    Your ability to jinx films though – wow! I don’t know if there is a word to describe such a power, but that ability of yours is amazing Wonder Woman!
    Well, you know how I feel about photos. I won’t forget something that happened in my life. I also won’t forget someone who is special to me. However, I would argue that reminiscing over photos of loved ones (I’m referencing to partners, spouses, etc) when they are not by your side can be a great way to feel connected to them. It is the age that gets to me. Not of the person – of the photo.
    Okay, imagine hypothetically a man’s girlfriend. June 1st, 2005 – she has dark brown hair, is working at a PR firm, her best friend is Lindsey James, and she lives in Sydney Australia. Fast forward to today – she has blonde hair, is working at a publishing firm, her best friend is Mark Bryan (Lindsey and her had a fight back in 2008 and their friendship never recovered) and she lives in Los Angeles California. A lot has changed. In my view, if you are looking at the photo, you wish to be close to that person. How can you be close to them, when the photo from 2005 that you have of them is not an accurate depiction of how her life is now; how your life is now; everything is different, and nothing is the same, so how can you be close to someone when everything has changed? I for one cannot. True, they look beautiful, flawless even; immortalised in the image. But the immortality is only in the image. In reality she has moved on – she has lived her life – she has outgrown the shell of the photo.
    Time changes. Photos stay the same. In my view, it is best to experience the moment in reality. If you love someone, the ability to touch their flesh rather than to caress a photo is far more engrossing. Hence another reason why I don’t like photos – the proximity to the person or the event is just not close enough.

    • Haha, thanks! I was hoping you’d like it. =D
      You’re lucky to have such a law! Though I think I would’ve probably abused it if we had it where I live. Unfortunately, my super power is no longer of any use. People just don’t use films anymore. =[
      I never thought about it that way though. I mean, I know the picture can never be close to the real thing (unless it’s like those they have in Harry Potter ;)), but sometimes I guess it’s nice to remember how someone was like in the past. For example, I’m no longer a baby, but I like looking at pictures of myself when I only cared about eating, playing and sleeping, haha.

  3. Photos are definitely a love/hate thing. I love them for the history, and not just my own but my Mom as a young girl, my Grandparents who are long gone, my aunts and uncles as a whole family. On the other hand as much as I don’t enjoy having my photo taken I recognize that there aren’t enough photos out there of me and my daughter together or of me and my mother. The person taking the photos is rarely in them (and that was my escape during those teen/early 20′s years when I didn’t want my picture taken.) Kids are adorable, but it’s because of those kids that I have resigned myself to occasionally being IN the picture.

    • I admit I like seeing photos of my parents and grandparents when they were younger. Dad doesn’t have any pictures of him as a young boy, so that’s disappointing. That’s how I always escaped from being in the pictures, too! And it’s nice that you have someone you’d like to take pictures with. =]

  4. Thank GAWD for digital photography. I delete more photos of me than I keep. When I see a photo of myself, I think, “Who the hell is that?” RE: Your baby picture comment. My brother-in-law said, “I’ve seen a lot of ugly dogs and ugly people, but I’ve never seen an ugly puppy or baby.”

    PS . . . I love the little boy’s jacket too.

    • Same here! I am so envious of photogenic people whose pictures all appear as if they’ve been taken by a pro. And your brother-in-law is right; there are no ugly puppies or babies. Or even kittens.
      It’s a cute jacket. ;)

  5. I hate having my photo taken. Yesterday I had to go an get my new license and I felt like a fool sitting in a big room with other people, not allowed to smile and just staring into the camera.

    I love your response to this challenge – well done! :D

  6. I love photos… Not of myself though. :)
    Yes, I use words to remember things, but I also take photos to remind me of something, or to show beauty, or to discover beauty, or to remember a special moment with a special person. You’re right that it’s not a good idea to force someone into a photo, but not all family photos are bad. In fact, one of the photography blogs I totally love just posted a family portrait session that is stunning and beautiful, check it out:
    http://almotaroses.com/thankful-for-my-family/

  7. Hi, Zen! I stared at that picture for the longest time, and I couldn’t come up with anything. Nice job turning it into a topic. I don’t like to have my picture taken. In my mind’s eye, I’m still a kid; the camera tells a different story. ;-)

    • I thought of writing fiction, but then I noticed that almost everyone was going in that direction so I tried something new! Haha, I know what you mean. Pictures add so many years (and pounds too).

  8. I’m picture happy. I constantly take photos. But I NEVER have someone pose. If people start posing on purpose, I stop. I love that genuine real-ness to a photo where the people were just going about their business, playing, or focused on something.

    Photos where you’re supposed to stand rigid and planned are lifeless and therefore pointless to me.

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