People are often shocked when they see me running around taking pictures with my iphone camera. At school assemblies, there are at least a dozen Mums with their huge zoom lenses, and there’s me, snapping the odd shot, with my phone. As if it’s somehow less relevant to capture, less important to preserve, if it’s a hastily grabbed snapshot. Don’t get me wrong, as a family photographer, I hugely value the importance of creating beautiful memories, connections, lasting keepsakes. And I practice what I preach and be sure to photograph my family, and myself with my family. But here’s the thing. If I spend my entire life behind that lens, measuring light, movement, looking for catch lights and perfect expressions, I miss out on what is happening right in front of me. This was pointed out to me by my then 3 year old, as his face fell when he realised our trip to the beach was less about fun, and more about me wanting to capture an amazing sunset display. “Mummy, please don’t bring your camera. You are always looking at me through the lens”. Wow. That really hurt. But he was right. I realised that the shots I spent so many hours trying to perfect, were nothing more than indulging in my love of the craft, at the expense of my precious time with him. I was obsessed, and with the wrong things. I vowed there and then to leave my camera at work, and never bring it home. I set aside family photo days, and I book photographers to capture us. These are the images I display, the ones I painstakingly preserve in albums. I capture birthdays, first days of school, anniversaries, and I be sure to include these in our ever increasing family history. But what on earth was I going to do with a gazillion perfectly constructed hi res images of a sunset?
And what about the role that social media and sharing now plays in our lives? None of those images made it to my Facebook pages, blogs, Instagram account. And as such a huge part of our daily lives was remaining undocumented.
So, now I’m the mum who doesn’t need it to be perfect. Who doesn’t care if it’s blurry, or a bit too dark. My thinking is, if i wasn’t going to do anything with it, the image was actually just storing up memory. My iphone images make it to social media, they form social books and casual sharing. They allow me to share my everyday life with friends and family I don’t get to see regularly.
I now have the most perfect collection of traditional matted albums. Black and white images, taken every 12-18 months, just around 15 in each album. These are my treasures. The things I’d run back into a burning house for. Beautiful, crafted imagery that is natural and timeless. And I have my social media streams, the every day, the boring, mundane ‘what we did for dinner tonight’ and, in the case of the image below, ‘the one where Eli meditated on his surfboard’. I adore this image. It’s so him. And while I was taking it, I was watching him surfing, not watching a read out in my camera display.
Well known photographer Chase Jarvis says ‘the best camera is the one that’s with you’. I like that sentiment. No lens envy for me. Scoff all you like at the school assemblies. I wonder how many of those bazillion photos taken actually see the light of day?