When I was a child, I remember smiling big for every picture – posing and innocently smiling and carefree. I never worried about how I looked or thought about how the picture will turn out. Who cared? Someone loved me enough to take my picture.
Then I was in kindergarten, and all of a sudden my school picture was a big deal to me. I practiced smiling in front of the mirror in my room so that I would look good in it. Teeth? no teeth? Hair up? Hair down? All of a sudden, the final product mattered. I remember agonizing over what shirt to wear (I settled on a red shirt with a picture of Mary the mother of Jesus on it) and how I was going to wear my hair. I tucked it behind only one ear and when the photographer tried to tuck it behind the other ear, I pouted and pushed her hand away. Then I tried hard to smile, but thought my teeth might look funny, so I ended up with a tight lipped grimace that conveyed more of a get-me-out-of-here attitude than the sweet little girl I was trying to show the world.
Thus began a lifelong struggle with cameras. While I love seeing pictures of me with my loved ones, I had a hard time posing for said pictures with any kind of confidence. Even when I tried to look normal, my face just somehow took the presence of a camera as an invitation to twist into a variety of monstrous expressions that should never be recorded on film. My junior prom picture is evidence of that, where I stand snarling at the camera while my “just a friend” date (now my husband) looks debonair and confident. No, I will not show you that picture. Or my face becomes an angry stare that promises retaliation when the camera is put away.
And so began the habit of making purposefully hideous facial expressions in photos. So now when people say to me, “what are you making that face for?” I can pull a Jim Hansbrough and say, “For free.
In fact, I think we all inherited that method of camera avoidance from my father. Make a silly face on purpose and people will stop taking pictures of you. And it works! Like a charm!
Except now the problem is that I wish I had more pictures of me with the loved ones I’ve lost. Didn’t I love them in real life? Weren’t we with each other a crazy proportion of the time? Why aren’t there more pictures of us together? Why don’t we have record of these amazing relationships in my life?
So here is my request to those of you who are apt to take photos of me. Please do it. Do it despite my protesting. Do it despite the fact that my face will by impulse contort itself into an expression that would frighten small children. Do it as often as you can. Do it as annoyingly as you can. Your chances of success will probably be greater if you capture some candid moments so my face doesn’t know a camera is around, but make me pose for them too. Make me pose with the people I love. Point a camera at me and make me stand next to my mom or my siblings or my cousins and put my arm around them like I love them and tell me to smile even though we all know that could end poorly.
And those of you who are professional photographers? Try your hardest to make me look at least a little normal. It’s a challenge, I know. But try.
Record these moments that we all want to look back on because having them recorded will help us remember. And even if that means I have to be uncomfortable for all of five seconds while you snap a picture, at least my children will have it on record that I love them because I am willing to get my picture taken with them.
And while I know this means we will have to tolerate the likes of you, oh family photographers, I am willing to do it because I wish I had more pictures of those who are gone now. I don’t want my silly selfish insecurities about how the picture will turn out to keep us from recording family history. It makes me so sad that I don’t have more pictures of me and Jake or me and Dad or me and Jen. So forget my silliness and take more pictures of me. Please.
In the same vein, don’t get mad when I take pictures of you. So there. More photos. More happy memories. More memories we can share. More opportunities for laughter.