The problem with family photos

My dear friend Bailey has taken some extraordinary family pictures for us (seriously, if you’re in Phoenix and need photos look her up)! After Lila was born, I realized it would be nice to have some images not taken on an iPhone, and she’s been gracious enough to oblige. The photos are incredible — it makes me do a double take to see us as a family — and I will cherish them as small trophies in our parenthood journey (look! I wasn’t a complete disaster all the time!). I want Lila to see one day, from ages before her memories could even form, what our family was like. I want her to look at them when she’s my age and remark on how wild it is to see the younger version of her momma.

But I always feel a bit guilty when I share these pictures with people. Sure, it’s nice to have everyone ooh and ahh on Facebook, but the professional-photo version of us, while lovely, is far from authentic. Shocking, I know. We don’t typically wander through scenic parks on Sundays in coordinating outfits. And I don’t ever wear make up or do my hair unless I absolutely have to, so take that into consideration. Of the hundreds of images captured in a shoot, I might share a few dozen, the best we got, keeping the outtakes (screaming baby, puking baby, wrinkles, unflattering angles…) hidden away from scrutiny.

It’s one thing to put your best foot forward, but I would hate for someone who might be having a low moment or tough day to see these and feel like I actually have my act together, and am doing something right or better than everyone else. Cause I don’t, and I’m not. The real us is unmade beds and messy bathrooms and sweatpants.

We build each other up by being honest and real, and holiday-card photos are not an accurate glimpse into anyone’s life. But that’s ok! They capture the joy and love we do feel but that we sometimes overlook amid the day-to-day struggles. They’re fleeting and staged but that’s why they’re so great. They’ll be what we can look back on one day to help us remember more of the good stuff and fewer of the trials.

I like the holiday-card version of us, but I like the real one, too.

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5 thoughts on “The problem with family photos

  1. Haha ain’t that the truth! Little do they know how someone was standing on their head trying to get the kids to smile, or that they were throwing fits the moment before they smiled. Cracks me up. I did know someone whose good friend, who is a fabulous photographer, came and photograph them in their home at certain times to capture the real life. It was really cool because then the kids have that to look at and remember what it really was like, and the pictures are professional on top of that.

  2. I love you, friend! Thank you for sharing! The selfie in the mirror with her in the carrier is so true to many new mamas out there. I was there too.
    She and Jim look so precious. You can’t recreate a gaze like that!

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