My name is Brandi. I’m a photographer who is passionate about memories – making them, capturing them, and most importantly, living them.
I recently sat down to make an album of photos from Christmas 2011. Not only was I proud of myself for doing so, I was proud that it didn’t take me until 2021 to complete the task. (For now, let’s ignore the fact that my 2 ½ year old second child, doesn’t have an album, scrapbook, or printed picture to speak of! I wouldn’t want to admit to all of my shortcomings in this, my first post.)
As I was lovingly choosing and arranging the images of my family’s Christmas, I made a staggering realization. There was not a single picture of me.
A lot of photographers might tell you that this is just the way they like it – that after being behind the camera for a long period of time, there is a transformation that occurs, making it painful, awkward, or just mildly inconvenient to be on the other side of the lens.
I’m no stranger to these feelings, whether it be because I take other people’s pictures for a living or because I just am not comfortable with how I look. I live my daily life pretending I’m still 27, capable of being and doing everything I used to be and do before children. Pictures prove otherwise: that childbirth has shifted me, time has wrinkled me, and perhaps I don’t have the hours to spend on meticulous grooming that I once had.
All of this aside, I have to say my husband looked like one hell of a single dad! He’s stringing Christmas lights and making paper snowflakes. He’s opening presents with our children in his lap, all three of them wearing perfectly coordinated Christmas pajamas. As I looked at the photos, the memories came flooding back to me: we had a wonderful Christmas! It took me a few more weeks to get around to it, but I finally penned a handwritten note on the inside back cover, putting down into words how much I enjoyed that holiday and included the moments that were still, months later, fresh in my mind. And now I’m in the book just a little, too.
It wasn’t just my absence in this album that shook me into this realization but also the presence of MY parents in the albums I recently inherited. There are, of course, hundreds and hundreds of pictures of me. But you know which ones I find most special? The pictures of them…my mom, my dad, either with us, or even more interesting to me, without us. Who were they, all those years ago? I could stare at those pictures forever!
These are the memories that your children will cherish. These are the memories that you will cherish in your later years, too.
Are you the planner in your family? Do you coordinate events and get-togethers, plan holidays, throw parties? Are you the one to make the phone calls, the invites, the budget, the shopping list, the shopping trip, the array of food? Maybe you enjoy it, maybe you begrudge it, but so often the planner of the family is on the outside of the party…coordinating and fussing…and most likely, taking the pictures so that everyone remembers how happy they were!
I’ve learned to let go of the perfection of the shot and let my husband, friends, or even my oldest child take some photos of me with my family members. I’ve gotten more comfortable with not worrying about what the picture – or me in the picture – will look like.
So whether you are a professional, are taking pictures with Instagram, or something in between, I challenge you to break free from whatever might be holding you back from being in YOUR family’s memories: maybe it would inconvenience someone if you handed her your camera? Maybe there would be a picture of you, unshowered, unkempt, or imperfect?
It’s time for us all to let go of the need for perfection: for our parties, our holidays, our memories, ourselves to be perfect. When we dig out those pictures 30 years from now and lovingly, with laughter and tears, thumb through the albums’ pages, I think we’ll be amazed to find that, somehow, the camera didn’t capture any of those imperfections anyway.
Here is a recent picture taken of me with my youngest son on our blueberry picking adventure. It was a weekday, so my husband was at work, and the nearest adult was several rows over. I asked my oldest son if he wanted to take a few pictures, put the strap around his neck so he wouldn’t drop it, and just let go!
Not only did he feel special for getting to do a very grown-up task, like holding and using my camera, he captured this awesome moment, which is now, in record time, already in a frame in my living room.
Who says there aren’t any printed pictures of my youngest child now?