Thursday, 30 August 2012

Capturing myself: a photographer's lot

Maybe I'm being optimistic when I call myself a 'photographer' but really I mean someone who likes to take pictures. You know the kind of people we are - we're the ones who always have a camera at the ready whether its our iPhone or the latest DSLR. We're always clicking away, 'chimping' (that's photographer speak for the habit of checking the digital display screen after taking a shot) and sharing our photos at every turn. Everybody knows one and every family has one.

I am that person in our family. My digital SLR sits on a shelf at the ready to capture fleeting moments of my children's lives, moments that I think are beautiful or that I think I can make beautiful through the lens.

In contrast, my husband is not and will not be that person. When I met him, he wouldn't let me take his picture - something to do with the belief that taking a photograph of a person steals their soul. Well, that was over ten years ago and it is a testament to his patience that he has nonetheless let me snap away. Frame after frame document our family life.

Well, I think it's probably fairer to say that I document their lives: my husband and my children's. The reality is that because I am the one taking the photos, I rarely feature in the pictures. This is the 'photographer's' lot. Sometimes I'm quite happy with this but other days, I wish that I could capture myself in the frame.

This was something I noticed as I took my photo-a-day over the summer. Over and over again, I caught my children in unguarded moments and took snapshots of them engrossed, doing their thing: splashing in the waves in the late afternoon sun at the beach or reading stories together in the cosy corner, eating pancakes with their faces covered in chocolate... snapshots and memories of their summer.

For me, catching someone in an unguarded moment, in an unstaged picture is the best. Of course, these are the most natural photos and I see more of the people I know in them than in the posed variety. This is why the photographs I ask others to take of me are, in my opinion, poor substitutes. I know what I look like when I pose - I see this when I look in the mirror every morning!

Of course, as the photographer in the family, I have mastered the art of the self portrait.... invariably involving a contortion of my not so long arm to hold the camera in such a way so as to capture my face rather than the view up my nostrils. But the good news is that my children are showing signs of being ready to take up the mantle. My son has discovered the Instagram app on my iPhone and not only has he managed to take pictures in which I actually appear (albeit not always my face appears!), he loves to flick through the various filters. As you can see, his favourite is the black and white look.

I'm thrilled with his interest in taking pictures and I look forward to making a more regular and less staged appearance in our family albums...

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