Like most parents out there, I take a lot of photos.
I want to capture my children as they grow up. But the more I think about it, the more I realise that I want more than that, I want to capture their lives for them as they grow up.
The thing is, I get caught up in the perfection of the photos I see other people sharing on social media. The photos of families in beautifully clean homes with crisp white walls and clutter-free counter tops.
Even though I know a lot of the time those pictures are edited, or have been taken in the one clear corner of the house while all the clutter has been pushed to the side, out of the frame, I still fall for it. And a big part of me wants that for myself. There’s no denying that those kind of photos look good. They are really attractive photos, and I suppose they show a rather attractive lifestyle.
But do they show real life? When the children in those photos look back at them when they’re older, will they make the memories of their childhoods come flooding back?
I suppose my real question is this: are we editing the life out of our photos?
A lot of the photos that I share, on this blog and over on my Instagram account, are these kind of ‘clean’ images of my family and of my life.
My children’s faces often fill the frame, and I often intentionally keep the background as clear as possible. These pictures from a trip to the beach are prime examples of that.
And I really love these photos.
They do show something of the children’s personalities and, to me at least, they’re nice photos of them. The light is lovely, and the pictures would look great displayed on our walls at home.
But would they trigger memories for the children when they’re older?
I’m not so sure.
When I look at old photos from my life, it’s the details that bring the memories flooding back.
The classic portraits might be lovely, but I think for me the real beauty in photos lies in the details. In the mess, the clutter, the house, the stuff, the life.
Yet so often we hide it all, we photoshop out the ugly parts, when really, when we look back those are the bits we’ll want to see.
Those details are what we’re nostalgic for.
The other day I was setting the camera up in the kitchen so I could take some photos of me and Nerys baking together.
I took this photo as I was checking the light and the camera settings.
And I’ll be honest here.
I very nearly deleted it when I first looked at it. But I’m so glad I didn’t. Because, even though it’s far from perfect, this is the kind of photo I will love to look back at when the children are older. I hope it will also trigger some memories for Nerys when she sees it in the future.
There are just so many little things in this photo that perfectly capture life right now.
The red spotty tablecloth on the kitchen table.
The photos, drawings and brightly coloured magnets on the fridge.
Nerys in the lounge, eating a yoghurt, eyes fixed on tv.
The flash of pink from the backpack my sister bought her for Christmas.
In time we’ll move on from all of these things.
We’ll most likely move to a different house. The photos on the fridge will change over time and Nerys will outgrow that backpack. All these little details will be gone.
Except, they won’t. They’ll be here, in this photo, just waiting to be remembered.
These photos taken in our lounge are other prime examples of this.
There’s a small part of me that would love us to be one of those families with the Kallax units in the lounge, with all the clutter and ‘stuff’ hidden away. But that’s just not who we are. It’s also not the sort of home I grew up in.
My parents’ lounge has a huge bookcase covering a whole wall. And it is full, absolutely packed, with books and photos and knick knacks and them. The whole house is full of them, and their story and it is just wonderful to me.
And I suppose that’s the way my house is going. We are just a family that has a lot of ‘stuff’! And while these photos might not be obviously beautiful, they are beautiful to me in their own way. Because they tell a part of our story.
The things in the photos that initially make them seem messy and distracting are the very things we will all be so happy to see in the future.
The Dawson’s Creek box-set on the shelf (I’m not even sorry, it’s a great show!) alongside photos of our niece and the first photo Steve and I ever took together. The other bookshelf packed full of Steve’s local history books. The black and white photo of his grandparents on their wedding day. The toys on the windowsill. The Pokemon book that Rhys is copying from.
It’s all there. Our life.
I won’t stop taking, or sharing, the nice, clean photos of my children.
I won’t stop ‘liking’ and ever-so-slightly swooning over other people’s photos in their gorgeous, spacious, bright white homes. There is definitely a place for those kinds of photos, and for a lot of people that may well be what their life actually looks like.
My life though, is messy and busy and full of stuff. So I will keep taking the photos that show that too. I might not share them as much on my blog, but I will be sharing more of them on my photography site. And I will print them and put them in albums for us all to enjoy in years to come.
Like most things in life, it’s all about balance isn’t it.
We take the pretty photos that capture what our children look like, for us and for now, to share with the world and to display in our homes.
And we take the cluttered, real photos for our children. For us as well, in a way, but mainly for them. And for the future, to act as little triggers to bring those memories right back. You know when you see some photos and you can just feel what life was like back then?
That’s what I’m after.
That’s the life that I just can’t bear to edit out of my photos.