A year ago, on a cool October night I received a text from a long term client that her husband who had been valiantly fighting cancer had passed peacefully away. They had a very young son, and it pained me deeply to know this little guy would be without his dad. I was comforted by the knowledge that I personally had photographed this family several times, including just a few months before his death, and I knew there were many images of father and son that would endure in his memory. Recently after hearing of a talented photographers death, leaving behind a young son as well, and reading several columns similar to this I’d like to put my two cents in.
Two out of four newborn shoots I do one or both parents tries to decline to be in any images. If it’s mom it’s because she’s not fond of how she looks post baby, Dad because well most men aren’t fond of having their portrait taken. I try deeply to encourage them to give me a chance, and they almost always treasure the image. When they ask me why I feel it’s so important I ask them a question instead. “Think of your most treasured family picture from your childhood. Odds are it has someone you love in it. What would you do to protect that image? Don’t take this picture for yourself; take it for your daughter, so 25 years from now she can show the man she’s going to marry how much her daddy loved her from the very start.”
This may sound like I’m heaping on a bit of guilt, but it’s really just showing the parents WHO is going to love this picture. Of course parents treasure images of their child, but in the years to come that child is going to want to see YOU with them. They will want to see their mother looking at them with patient understanding when they smash their cake at two or dad with pride in his face when they graduate.
When I mentioned this to a photographer friend she nailed it on the head “Dads just don’t think about it, being in pictures, but moms… well they feel bad. They think people will think they are vain if they insist on an image of them with their kids or GASP by themselves.”
It’s really sad because woman need to be reminded HOW important the mother child relationship is and that its worth being documented professionally. We need to remind each other that our children love us, are proud of us, and some day will want to remember their childhood with us THERE. Pictures capture that. My oldest son Triston will walk up to me and says “Hello beautiful. I love you mommy.” He says this whether I’m in sweats or a fancy dress. If I’m covered in flour from cooking or running around crazy getting ready for a shoot, because to him I am always beautiful, I’m his mommy after all. That is unless were in the toy aisle, then I think the I love you might have another motive. His daddy always calls me Beautiful if your wondering where that came from. Triston will not look back on an image of me and ever think I’m anything but beautiful. I know this, I really do. You should too.
That said, I’m one of the worst, photographers always are. I have VERY few images of me with my children, aside from a precious few snapshots taken with cell phone cameras. I don’t have a single image with all four babies and I together. So I’m making a pledge to fix that, to hand over the camera to my husband or family member and pose with the kids, for their sake and mine, and for future generations.
I’m hoping you will do the same. The next family shoot you have, if your photographer doesn’t suggest it, (which they should!!) ask for an image of you with your children. When you are out with your kids at a park ask your husband to take that cell phone shot your holding your youngest, or playing ball with your oldest. If dad is the stubborn one tell him, as I do, how important the picture will be for your child someday, and later your grandchildren.
There are many things we do for our kids, from working an extra job to send them to the best schools, baking cookies at 2 a.m. or sitting in the freezing cold to watch them play football. This is one thing we can do that costs so little and lasts forever. We never know what tomorrow will bring… except one thing… they will get older, and it goes by so fast! Enjoy your little ones!