I have been thinking a lot about pictures and photography lately. Mostly because I have been going over my personal life and interests trying to see where else in my life I am being distracted from what is really important. It is so crazy to see how easily I have been deceived. I am still so ashamed that I have spent so much of my life focused on “things”. Ie: What to buy, how to make more money to be more successful so I can upgrade my “things”, managing “things” all day long, teaching my kids to be greedy consumers etc. I am still trying to make it right, and am making changes everyday. But I am so quick to forget and go back to my old ways. I am grateful the Lord is forgiving and so patient with me.
Most of you know I love photography. If you didn’t know, you can tell by taking a quick gander around this site. I love taking beautiful photographs and capturing the innocence of kids on camera. I have learned a few things about taking candid photos that I had no idea I needed to change.
First, I have way too many pictures. I took them all with the intention to put them in baby books and keep them for memories to make books and scrapbooks of my kids lives. I have not kept up on baby books like I had planned and now that I have some time to work on them it seems overwhelming because there are a million photos. So many of them that I have to manage them just like I have been managing my “things” all these years. I have to sort them by date so I can find them. Then I have to go through the 350 photos I took of one event and decide which ones are the best to keep. Then I have to edit them or choose to print the picture for a book or upload it and print it digitally. Gah! Too many steps for a book that my kids will only look at when they want to see if their kids look like them. Really?!? Why have I been stressing about these dang baby books anyway? Somehow along the way what should have been an easy task of keeping memories of important things turned into documenting every minute of my kids lives. Digital photography changed everything. It is one thing to capture a child’s joy at the event, and another to capture every moment of that event. One million pictures and another hard drive later and not one baby book finished. It seems so excessive. I HAD to have a professional photographer take pictures of my babies when they were born. I paid good money for them. Then when I got the cd I remember thinking “what am I going to do with all these pictures?” I now have 300 newborn photos of a staged event. My baby looks beautiful…but really? A few of my favorites were picked and printed for the books and the rest sit on a hard drive or cd making me feel guilty that they weren’t the chosen photographs. They continue to take up space on my computer and in my mind, only to be forgotten by everyone else because the most recent event of picture taking takes precedence. I don’t need them, in fact as I am printing books now I am seeing how few pictures I really need. I don’t want a book full of posed pictures and perfectly clean and happy children. The pictures I am choosing to print are candid and silly. Full of mischievous moments and kids with dirty faces. I am not printing books of each event, I am only choosing one or two that really portrays the moment, and I am finding that “the moment” is not the picture I forced them all to stand together and smile. Which brings me to the second thing I have learned.
Second, I have been such a buzz kill trying to capture my kids lives on camera! I had no idea. Since realizing that I have way too many pictures I have made it a goal to keep the camera home and only pull out my iPhone if it is really a beautiful or silly moment. I am trying to be more present. It has really made a difference watching them with my own eyes instead of focusing on them behind my camera lens. I am really there and more aware of what is important to them and how they are feeling. I also see more obviously their curiosity and innocence as they experience life. The most shocking realization happened this week as I visited the new aquarium. I only had Finley and Harper because we went during school with a friend of mine. I didn’t take my camera intentionally. I had my phone and thought maybe I would take a picture or two. But I watched as every other parent there took a million pictures of their kids, as if they all had to prove each moment really happened. But the worst realization was what happened when they took their pictures. I kept hearing, “stop, turn around” or “wait, hold on” or “look at me and smile” I have heard these phrases a million times and said them all myself without hesitation. But this time was different. Each kid was filled with excitement and wonder. They were so thrilled to be there and see the animals. Then in the middle of their exciting curious moment their parent would tell them to “stop, turn around” cutting short the childs chance to live in that moment. I watched one mom trying desperately to get the perfect shot of her three boys looking at HER as the penguin swam right behind them in the tank. They were trying so hard to be good and “stop watching and turn around and smile” but they didn’t want to miss a single thing. The mom kept telling them what the Penguins were doing trying to make it better for them, but these poor boys were missing that moment because their mother was trying to prove it happened. Such a bizarre thing. I had no idea that my trying to capture the moment had actually infringed upon it. How many moments did I ruin for my kids because I made them “stop” then how many times did they get scolded because they wouldn’t hold still or smile? How many times have I told them to “wait” or do something again so I could capture it on camera? I feel sad for all the lost moments of joy and learning that I took away from them trying to get lots of great pictures. I feel even more upset that they lost those moments for a picture that sits on my computer, lost in a sea of a million lost moments. The pictures that really matter aren’t the pictures that we stopped for. They are pictures that were snuck, not posed for. And pictures that were real life, instead of planned.
I remember a conference talk a few years ago where a man was a prisoner of war and after a few years got to write a short letter home to his family so they would know he was alive. He said “these things are important” and one of those things was “take family pictures twice a year.” I thought it was an odd addition after all the beautiful things he had said before and kind of brushed it off thinking, of course he wanted pictures twice a year…digital photography didn’t exist and he wanted to be able to see his family grow. I had no idea it actually applied to my life. This doesn’t mean I am done taking pictures. But it means that I am going to be more intentional about what pictures I take and what moments are worth the interruption of a camera. There will be no more “stopping” or “waiting” for their picture. Pictures twice a year really makes sense. No more distraction during our daily lives, and no more bazillion digital photos to manage. I will be much quicker to participate in their lives instead of proving they are living.
The third thing I have learned about photography is how much of a distraction a camera is. When I pull it out to take pictures I notice that the subject immediately responds emotionally to the camera. For instance, if my kids are playing and acting sweetly and I pull my camera out to capture the moment they immediately begin showing off. They are no longer involved in what is happening. They are distracted by making sure what they are doing gets captured, or that they are the center of attention. I have begun to notice that when people are bonding and I want to capture them forming this bond on camera, as soon as I pull it out they turn inward thinking, “what do I look like?” “did I blink?” “I wish I was thinner.” or a child will think “capture ME.” “Look at ME!” Pulling the camera out seems to accidentally make everyone a little self-centered, and immediately makes them uninvolved in what is going on by distracting their thoughts. If you watch teenagers with their phones, especially the ones who communicate with snapchat, they are constantly distracted by taking their own photograph. I don’t think taking “selfies” is bad per say…but the idea that taking personal photographs makes us only think of ourselves and what others will think of us. I want to be intentional about the candid photographs I take. I want them to be family selfies of us together, and pictures of silly kids and fun happy moments. If I must get my camera out, I want to ask myself first if it will distract from the feeling I am trying to capture. Is it worth the distraction?
I love being a wife and mother. I am finding so much more joy as I am trying to be more intentional with these two callings. I can’t believe how easy it is for me to be distracted from my divine purpose and really want God to know that I am trying to put Him first. I am trying to eliminate everything that gets in the way. We don’t take “things” with us when we die. But we take memories and knowledge. Somehow I thought photos fit into the memories category and have felt they are more important than they really are. I am so grateful that as I ask hard questions, He is giving me answers and showing me ways to improve.