When they discover I’m a photographer with children, people often say the words, “I bet you have thousands of pictures of your kids”. It always makes me smile, because the opposite is true.
In comparison with most of my fellow photographers who are parents, I have hardly any pictures. This is for a whole variety of reasons – being blessed with children who hate to pose or be still, finding the time to both be a parent and run a business, etc – but the main reason that I take hardly any pictures of my boys is because I don’t want to.
Let’s talk time. Whenever I have tried to take “the perfect picture” on my phone, I end up spending ten minutes taking over a hundred shots. Then I sift through to find “the one”, and that’s another ten minutes gone. Oh, but wait, life needs a filter, so I’ll test it out in countless VSCO edits. Then what’s the point of pictures if they’re not to be shared, so I’ll upload it to Instagram, but first I’ll have to check how it looks against the rest of my feed… OK, looks good, press upload. Now I’ll spend five minutes deleting the pictures from my phone. And just like that, I’ve missed my six-month old turning over for the first time.
Life’s too short to be filling the trash on my iPhone.
There are too many pictures. of everything. Once you’ve seen one picture of a patterned Pinterest floor, you’ve seen them all, and yet I find myself still searching, because I know there will be another. The more pictures we consume, the less special or unique they become.
I recall seeing only one photo of my dad as a child. It’s a close-up, probably taken in a photographic studio, the big brown eyes of a three year old boy looking above the camera. There’s a mass of black curly hair and two giant ears. And of my mum, there are probably no more than ten that I’ve seen. The one I most remember is her in a bumper-car at a funfair with her late dad. He wears an open necked white shirt with a pointed collar; she wears a striped bonnet, her face laughing to the camera, two little hands clinging on for dear life.
Because there are fewer pictures, I remember them better. If there were stacks of albums and shoe-boxes stuffed full of prints, there would be more to sift through and take in. Less head space to remember the particulars. As it is, I remember the details – my dad’s sticking-out ears, my mum’s hands gripping the bumper-car.
This is what I want for my boys. And when I say my boys, really, I mean my memories. Because that’s mainly the reason I take their photo. When they are men, they will have their own experiences of their childhood to look back on; they won’t need a picture – they knew how it felt to inhabit those little faces. But I won’t remember. Right now, the days bleed together. Painting pictures, playing toys, wiping faces, folding tiny clothes – these repetitions are what make a Tuesday feel like Thursday. But one day, my boys will be grown, and what will remain is my one box of photos and the space to remember the details.
Sometimes, perhaps, less is more.