When my first daugther was born, I was like any other over-the-top parent and eager to share as many photos of my darling as I could. First, I would turn the scanner on and wait half-an-hour for it to warm up. If I wasn't too bleary-eyed from sleep deprivation, I would start the process of dialing up to the interet while I waited (glerrrrrrrrrb, sputter, click, vrrrrrrroooom, beep). Otherwise, I had to add another 20 minutes to get a connection (at which point, the baby would totally be over the bouncy seat). Then I'd scan and save the photo(s) I wanted to share, before finally attaching them to an email for family and friends. It would often take another 20 minutes for the photos to attach before I could finally hit send. It was an hour long process, but I did it anyway. And I went through all of it again when my son was born two years later.
Because the rigamoreole of sharing those photos was already so involved, I thought nothing of taking it to the next level by popping the kids into adorable outfits and coaxing them into smiling for a photographer. I scanned those photos, too, and then mailed hard copies to grandparents.
When high speed internet and smartphones arrived on the scene and social media became mainstream, just before my fourth child was born, I fell into the habit of instant uploading and sharing for its convenience and ability to reach more family and friends. My photos become more candid and less formal, and that was okay. But when I decided to surprise my husband with some professional photos of me and the kids for Father's Day (after our youngest was born), I remembered how much I love a good family portrait. My childhood home was filled with them, and nostalgia is one of my favourite feelings.
There's something so special about being caputured by someone else's camera. For the last seven years — since that Father's Day photoshoot — it's become a given that our family will end up in front of a photographer at some point during the year. And the kids look forward to it (mostly) as much as I do.
I've changed my approach a lot in recent years, when it comes to how I think the photos should come together. The girls choose their own outfits now (though I'm quietly delighted they conspire to compliment one another and weigh in on their brother's options) and we all wear clothes we already have in our closets. We're (read: me) a lot more laid back about the process these days.
I used to get quite stressed trying to find matching outfits in an attempt to make the photo look cohesive (as though that sameness would be what defined our family). But I've gained a lot of perspective as the kids have gotten older and their personalities have made themselves known. Sameness is not what makes a family. Acceptance and celebration of who we are as individuals is what makes us close.
I don't want perfect or curated photos anymore. I want to look at these photos and remember who we were in that moment. I want to see what someone else saw when we tumbled and stumbled in front of their camera, like our family always does. I want to feel love and pride for the many ways we came through another year of struggles and triumphs together.
I haven't completely returned to printing our photos (though I have lofty goals of catching up on that someday) but I do make it a priority to print our annual family photo.
One of my lucky readers will be able to create a print one of one of their favourite photos, too, because I've gratefully accepted an offer from Canvas Factory to give away a 16 x 20 canvas print. This contest is open to both my Canadian and U.S. readers. All you have to do is enter below between today and March 4th.