Mental Snapshots Only, Please

My obsession with capturing moments on film began long before smart phones and Instagram and Facebook.

In high school, I would spend way too much money buying film to take to summer camp.  While at camp, I was the annoying girl forcing my friends and any Cute Boy that crossed out paths to pose, or asking a passerby to snap a pic of us.  Then, in hopeful anticipation that ONE of those 36 exposures was THE perfect photo that included me and Cute Boy, I would again pay too much money for DOUBLE PRINTS.  Of the 72 printed pictures, you know only 14 were actually in focus, 4 were good and usually in that ONE picture of Cute Boy, my eyes were closed or worse: his arm was around another girl.  And that single disappointing photo only cost me $8.50.

But that did not deter my innate need to capture life with my camera.   All through college I continued buying film in bulk (yes, I realize that ages me), and paying for double exposures so I’d have an extra copy when one of them was a gem.  Who wants to go through the negatives and go back to the store and have that one exposure copied?   Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been very good at photography, but it hasn’t really mattered.  One time I took an entire roll of my roommates making funny faces for a project in my communications class about Emotional Intelligence.  They posed expressions for every emotion from disgusted to elated to drunk.  Why I thought we could include “drunk” as an emotion is still not clear.  I still have those proofs, but I’ve pinky sworn never to post them publicly.

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Fyoosh! Someone else brought their camera.

Fortunately, with the advent of digital cameras–which became mainstream just in time for my first pregnancy–my obsession with being behind the lens has become a little less costly.  However, the fact that I had a brand new baby with his huge, beautiful bald head AND unlimited exposures on my digital camera was a recipe for photo obsession.  Throw into the mix a growing scrapbooking hobby (you guys, don’t mock: it was totally popular back then), and I was rarely without my little camera.  I began noticing a panicky feeling in my gut when something cute was happening and I wasn’t capturing it.  If we went to the pumpkin patch and I forgot diapers and a camera, I’d be way more concerned about the camera.  “It’s only his third time here!  How will he ever remember this trip?!  We’re all wearing matching outfits for the specific purpose of getting a family picture!  This day is RUINED!”

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I ditched the tripod and just took pictures. I couldn’t stand it!

I’m not sure if my deep need to take pictures is helped or hindered by the fact that my husband doesn’t really feel strongly about “capturing the moment.”  He’s fine to just be in the moment.  Sometimes I admire this and try to relax a little with the constant clicking, and other times I realize that if I had his same mentality, there would be ZERO pictures of our family of five over the last 10 years.   The epitome of our two philosophies collided on June 3, 2012, when we first met our long-awaited son in Bangkok, Thailand.   I knew this was one of the most important moments of our lives, of Asher’s life, and I had been told that if we didn’t get it on camera, we would regret it forever.  So I had a camcorder set up and it was recording our (sadly torturous) first meeting with Asher.  As we were first seeing and interacting with him, I was very aware of where the camcorder was, but Trent was not.  He was moving around on the floor, and he kept moving directly in front of the camera, completely blocking any view of our son.  I was hyper aware of the problem, but he was oblivious–or more accurately, he didn’t see it as a problem.  After the third time I asked him to move, he told me I needed to just let it go and focus on our son.   Even two plus years later, I definitely see his point, but still think I’m right.  😉

IMG_6901Today, with the ease of taking quick, cheap pictures, the need is not to take the picture to print it out and put it in a photo album.  For some reason, it seems that we feel like an event had not occurred unless we have a photo of it AND shared that photo with our 400 closest friends.  I use the word “event” loosely, and so do you all, judging by the number of pictures in my facebook feed of your face, your food and your kids in car seats.  I’m not casting stones here; I’m the worst.  If anything non-boring is happening (the kids built a fort!  Trent’s playing soccer with the kids in the sprinklers!) then I feel you all MUST know about it and maybe you won’t believe me!  So I must post a picture.  Which often turns into me interrupting the fun to shout “Wait!  Come back!  Re-do that last play.  No no no, the one with Carson.  Yes!  Oh, nope.  Didn’t get it.  No, stop playing and come back to so you’re in the frame.”

I realize this is demented.  Maybe we can find a balance?  Maybe we can still take great pics of our family without being obsessive about it.  Maybe we can still bring our camera on vacation or in the backyard, but not interrupt the fun or be so focused how the shot will look in Instagram that we aren’t paying attention to our kids.  In all honesty, having more kids is a big help, because you get so busy and tired that you are often too lazy to walk across the kitchen and pick up your phone, let alone walk into the other room to get the good camera.

Last weekend we were staying at a house near the coast with family.  The kids found a ton of water balloons and would not let the idea go.  So, my sister-in-law and I spent 45 minutes filling up a ton of water balloons, while the kids checked our progress every .7 seconds.  But just as we finished, it started to rain.   Postponing was out of the question, so we made some targets on the patio and let the kids stand in the doorway and throw.  This soon turned into them standing on the patio to throw.  I went out in barefeet and a raincoat to adjust the targets, and this soon turned into me standing in the rain, becoming the target.  Which then turned into me being soaking wet and all of us laughing as little kids pelted me (or missed me) with water balloons.  I don’t usually have the opportunity to be the “fun parent” so you know I was dying to get photo evidence!  But I decided the memory would suffice and you’ll all just have to take my word for it.

That’s what we call baby steps.

no-photo symbol

2 Comments

  1. Oh Jen! I’m right there with you… and your use of the word “demented”… is kind of perfect if ANYONE heard my inner-monologue when it comes to Christmas morning or birthdays! Sigh… glad to know I’m not the only one is CONSTANTLY working on letting go.
    Love you, friend!

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