What We Leave Out of Photos

I’m of the old school that believes photographs should flatter the subject.  This makes it extraordinarily difficult for me to really get the aesthetic of Eldest’s THOUSANDS of selfies of his nostrils.  And when I say “get” what I really mean is “not totally hate.”

I will probably go to my grave without ever taking a selfie from below with my nostrils as the main subject, but then again, I can count on one hand the number of selfies I have ever taken.  I am the family photographer, so I am usually behind the lens.  I guess that means that one of the most significant things that gets left out of my photos is myself.

I just have no urge to photograph myself from arm’s length (or a selfie stick’s length).  I like to photograph others, and I like them to look right into the lens, and I really like to capture their best and brightest smiles.  The kind that light up the whole face.  I like to leave out noise and logos and often, even, setting, because what I want to remember is the face and the smile.

I don’t think I have more than a dozen photos of my kids crying, and I don’t think many of those were taken on purpose.  I’m not a documentary photographer.  I want to reminisce on good times in the moments with the photo albums.  That doesn’t mean I am whitewashing.  It means I have no need of the memory of sadness or anger or humiliation.  They don’t belong in a photograph album.

I have a few of them sleeping, because that’s the most tender and most vulnerable moment you can capture, and I need to see those baby faces in sleep for ever, but I will not allow others to photograph them sleeping.  A group of tourists tried to do that to my boys on the top of a roofless double decker bus in London, when they’d passed out with jet lag, and I got angry.  You cannot take photographs without permission, and sleeping children (and husbands) can’t give that.

Permission is something that I never leave out of my photographs.  I ask permission to keep the images of sleep, and now, I ask my kids’ permission to post to facebook.

On facebook at the moment, my profile picture is of the Library Lion from the New York Public Library, because I was there and I wanted to show off and I wanted to celebrate being away from my children and I wanted to honour the iconic lion.  Not all honourable motives, but the photo of the lion is flattering, even if it is shot from below.



One thing you will never see as my profile picture is a picture of my children.  They are not me, and I am not them.  I love them will all of my being, but they do not stand for who I am.  They are their own persons.  And I am mine.  I may often be missing from our family albums, but I don’t leave myself out of my profile.










5 thoughts on “What We Leave Out of Photos

  1. I grew up with a mom who took pictures of kids for school events as her job for a while. So the rule “always ask permission for kids pictures” was drilled pretty early on. As a result, I never post pictures of anyone else’s children online, and I refrain from posting my child’s picture. He has his whole life ahead of him to be online.

    But one bit of advice from the child of the mom who was the photographer, make sure your children have pictures of you and them together. My mom’s mom hated herself in pictures, so all we have are pictures of her head, floating. She literally cut them out of the whole body picture. None of her with my mom. When I was going through old family pictures, there are so few of me with my mom, or my brother with her. Even though I don’t love my post-pregnancy body, I’m trying to make sure there are pictures of me with my son. Because one day, even though I’ll cringe at the sight of me, he will love to see pictures of himself with his mom.

    • I do not deliberately avoid being photographed, I just happen to have a lot more of my kids than of myself. I like your point, though, that we have to make sure we leave a record of ourselves, too.

  2. I like the last paragraph, because I agree in principle, but in practice, I do use my children in my profile picture, because I don’t usually like pictures of myself, and because there are so few of them. I know, I know….

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