This past Sunday I had the opportunity to be on the other side of the lens… the lens of Jon-Mark. We have been planning our yearly family photo session since April. We had originally decided on a date 3 weeks earlier but E’s ezcema flare up led us to postpone. Call me a bad parent but I didn’t want to have memories recorded of her being red, itchy and uncomfortable.
So the date was upon us. We had our outfits all picked out- we coordinated but did not match (he he). I had carefully selected a time that would produce E at her best; 2:00pm. That morning I went to the Swap and Shop with a friend (so much fun) and left E with her dad for a fun dad and daughter morning. When I arrived home at 10:00am he said that she had just gone to sleep, perfect I mused to myself- everything is going according to plan. I was just getting ready to tackle some business stuff and “waahhhhhh, wahhhhhhh, wahhhhh,” E woke up. I gave her 3 minutes to see if she would settle and go back down on her own, yeah right. So I pulled her out of bed and tried to do the “lazy mother” and nurse her to sleep; no dice there either- she was up and not going back to sleep. I started to stress. I did the calculations and yep, she would want to nap right at 2:00pm. I cursed in my mind. I have now taken to cursing in my mind as E has a vocabulary of 30 words that grows everyday… the last thing I need is for her to show up at granny and grandpa’s and drop a big fat F-Bomb.
We showed up at the agreed upon location. E had fallen asleep on the way there within 3 minutes of our arrival of course. We woke her up, she dealt with that quite well, it looked promising. We strapped her into her stroller, she was eager to stroll and take in the city sights… okay maybe we can swing this. We talk to the lovely Jon-Mark and decide on locations within our location. And now it’t time for pictures… and that’s where she decided to turn up the mean on her mug.
We tried different types of photos; the “smile for grandma” type and the more photojournalistic style. Do I even need to say that the latter were way more successful. Poor Jon-Mark, he did not appear frustrated in the least but I still felt bad for him. I can’t imagine what the session would have looked like had he not been so talented and understanding. He thought on the fly and tried to make E’s moods work for us. We began the challenge of capturing the meanest “smug mug” and all giggled about the results. E would not hold hands, she would not sit and she would not smile… well okay she smiled a few times but it was when B and I were not in the pictures and were making damn fools out of ourselves to get her to smile. The i-phone soothed her, so we will now have family photos with that important 4th family member- dad’s i-phone; I am sure that Apple would approve and if Steve Jobs read this post you would see a new i-phone commercial that featured family photos with their i-phone in the photo or at least a “family photo” i-phone app.
I appologized profusely to Jon-Mark. I said the usual, she is usually really happy or she’s tired and I’m sorry. Jon-Mark was convinced that she didn’t like him, I convinced him otherwise and said that really in that moment she didn’t like anyone! I have been Jon-Mark in this situation before. I have had the mom apologize and be embarassed and a teensy bit annoyed with their child. Oh did I say teensy bit, I really mean a lot. I was a lot annoyed. I knew it wasn’t her fault, but I was still annoyed. B on the otherhand was cool as a cucumber. He was all serenity, how does he do it, how does he? Likely years of dealing with her ma (me) has taught him a thing or two about a prickly female, lol.
I am fortunate that in this situation I knew what was happening behind the lens. I knew that despite the lack of sit down and smile there were memories of my little family being created. I knew that Jon-Mark’s skill would prevail and that I would gush the same thing that the other mothers say to me, “I don’t know how you did it, these photos are amazing.” I am pretty sure what makes these shots still amazing is that they are of your family. Yes, that’s right your family. Your family is more than an image, your family is an energy and these more photojournalistic images capture that. You look at the photos and you remember what was happening, you remember the feelings that you had, the smells that were around you (mmm waffles), the feel of the sunshine peeking through the clouds, the uneven pavement under your feet and the smile you exchanged with your partner when you were proud of a new skill that your little girl demonstrated. I am pretty sure that I will prefer these shots over the smile for grandma types (as Jon-Mark called them). I wonder if other families feel the same or if it is just because I also have a love of photography and prefer these types of shots from others’ sessions as well?
So I can proudly say that like all scary situations, being on the other side of the lens taught me a few things:
– I now know what it feels like to be the mom of the child who will not cooperate. Note to self, offer support to the mom, lend an ear, a shoulder or a tissue (hmmm, maybe I should carry mom emergency chocolate?). When said child is not cooperating work with them, not against them, you will create memories for the famliy.
– Being in front of the camera is scary. Talk to people about a happy memory or exciting life event while photographing them. Jon-Mark kept the conversation alive and it helped me to relax A LOT.
– The dad hates having his photo taken more than the uncooperative child. Ohhh goodness does he ever. I have always noticed at shoots that the dad seems uncomfortable. I try to be funny and get them laughing, even if it means making fun of myself. Jon-Mark was great with us, but B still wasn’t excited about the photo session as I felt he should be. I asked him why and it comes down to this, guys typically don’t value family photos as much as we ladies do. They just don’t get our need to document every detail. They don’t get baby books and they don’t get saving curls or first teeth. I asked B how I can help dads, he said make it quick and organized so that I can get in and get out; makes sense if you think of the whole hunter gatherer thing (we like to lovingly collect, they like to strike and get the heck out). Good thing for us, he liked Jon-Mark’s speedy style 🙂
– With a talented photographer, good photos amount from even the most frustrating session. When you think that everything has failed don’t worry, all is not lost just because you don’t have the typical family photo shot. In fact you might get better than that, you might get a shot that actually captures your family as they are!