On the 10th of every month I take 10 photos. 10 photos that capture life as it is on that day.
Some months it feels like a struggle. It seems like there’s nothing ‘worth’ photographing about that particular day.
That day is nothing special. There’s nothing about it that’s different than the day before. The routine is the same as it was the day before and the same as it will be the day after.
But that is exactly why it’s worth photographing.
Because who knows when the day will come that looks completely different from this one. So every month I push through that struggle and take 10 photos.
Photos of our routine, mundane, everyday life. Photos that a year from now I’ll be so grateful that I took because of how much has changed.
I think so often we focus on photographing the big moments. The special ones. The pretty ones.
We take photos that will look good on Instagram.
We hide the clutter and mess and realness.
We edit the life out of our photos.
Don’t get me wrong, I do it too, and I won’t be stopping any time soon.
I love the posed photos in front of birthday cakes. The first-day-back-at-school pictures by the front door. The highlight reels from our days at the beach and the park.
These photos make me happy.
These moments are worth recording. These photos will make me smile so much in the future.
The thing is, life is so much more than the highlights.
The main events.
What I want to make a point to record is all the in-between moments.
The mundane, everyday routines that we almost stop noticing because they’re so mundane and routine.
Those times that, when we’re in them, feel like they’ll last forever. And then they’re gone.
These are the photographs we’ll be really grateful for when we’re older.
Photos like this one of Nerys reading to Steve in bed.
When our children are little it feels like we’ll always be in that bed, reading the same stories over and over and over again. Then they get a bit bigger and start reading out loud to us. And it feels like this is the way it’ll always be.
Then they get older again and don’t need us as much any more. They happily read to themselves in bed.
It happens so slowly, you don’t notice things changing. Then one day you realise that you can’t remember the last time they curled up next to you, to read their book aloud with you by their side to help them sound out the tricky words.
That’s when photos like this take on a new importance.
One day we’ll find this photo again and all the memories will come flooding back.
How Nerys’ reading suddenly took off during lockdown, when we found a few of these Fairy Animal books amongst a pile of books someone had left outside their home for passers-by to take.
How she used a little post-it to mark, not only her page, but her place on the page when she had finished reading each day.
The way she would steal my spot in bed in the mornings, to read with her dad, during those slow mornings when we weren’t in a rush to get out the door for school.
It’s the same with the school run routine.
Day in day out, week after week, it’s the same.
Well, it was the same.
For years we did the same thing, walked the same path, saw the same people, followed the same routine.
It’s such a regular part of family life, for such a long time, that you don’t really think to photograph it. It feels so boring. So mundane. So un-photoworthy.
But when you actually stop and look at the little details of that routine, there’s so much to document.
Like, we have a little ritual of sorts when we say goodbye to each other.
After a hug and kiss we’ll make a heart with our hands, blow a kiss and wave. At school drop off last year Nerys and I would do this through her classroom window to each other.
It was only on the last day before the schools closed that I thought to photograph it.
Even now, just a few months later, I am so pleased that I took this photo.
So much has changed since I took it.
At the moment the children are due to be going back to school in a few weeks, but it won’t be the ‘normal’ routine when they do. I won’t be able to hang around the classroom, making sure the children are settled before leaving. I’ll have to move along, out of the way of other parents, instead of waving and blowing kisses and making heart shapes through the window.
Something that we did so many times over the last year is already just a memory.
So here’s my advice.
Take a bit of time and look around your life.
Think about the routines and rhythms of your day.
Find the things that you do so often that they feel boring and humdrum.
These are the things to photograph.
I know it might not feel like it when you’re in the trenches of round the clock feeding with a newborn, or chasing a toddler round the park for the 10th time that week, but you will look back at these times with a sort of nostalgia when they’re older.
I’m not saying cherish every moment, but I am saying notice them. And record some of them.
Get someone to take a photo of your feeding your baby, pushing them in the buggy or wearing them in a sling.
Photograph your weekly walk to baby group or the library.
Take pictures of your child feeding the ducks and going down their favourite slide at the park.
Right now feels like a particularly important time to record.
And at the same time it’s been a particularly hard time to photograph, in all its groundhog-day-ness.
But if you can take a step back and think about the things that are part of daily life now that won’t be in the future then you’ll find plenty to take photos of.
Look beyond the big moments, the milestones, and the main events.
Photograph the in-between.
The slow mornings in pjs. The socially-distanced meet ups with friends. The zoom calls with family.
Photograph the highlights, sure, but photograph the normal moments too.