|Oh, Awkward Family Photos dot Com, I'm in ur river eatin ur goatz
||[Sep. 7th, 2010|04:33 pm]
So, stealing from a friend(s) who was sad that the advent of social media means that there are dozens of pictures out there that are less than complimentary. I guess I'm lucky. My family is genetically pre-disposed to take horrible photographs. Er, well, we look horrible. We work a camera just fine. Except for my mother. Who takes great pictures of your ankles, or the curtain treatment hanging above your head, but you're SOL if you want your whole face in the frame. Although that’s mostly because although she needs glasses and has glasses, she refuses to wear them in any situation where she might be photographed. So, at any family holiday or vacation or other picture taking opportunity, she’s really just aiming the picture in the general direction of the people being photographed.|
None of us knows how to smile without looking like we're having a cramp or are being held at gunpoint. Zombies have more natural postures. We call it “doing the German Tourist”. Which means us, standing unnaturally stiffly, grimacing stiff-lipped, trying to keep our eyes open, despite facing the blazing sun, all sweaty and sunburnt, hair in frizzy messes, grimly looking like we’re having fun and not at all embarrassed that our mother has chivvied us into a regimented formation and chosen the one bloody fellow tourist who’s never used a camera before to take a family photograph.
We will always stand by something that, once the picture is taken, will make us look as if we're playing bit parts in a horror movie, with random plants sprouting out of our sides, candle flames burning in the middle of our chests, horse ears rising out of heads. Both eyes open, at the same time? Surely you jest! Especially now that you give us the red-eye warning flash which ensures that we can achieve the greatest resemblance to the walking dead. My family grows extra chins at just the sound of a camera shutting sliding open.
When we are not posing grimly, we are trying to be theatrical. Which usually turns out badly. It often involves dozens of stick on bows from birthday presents placed all over our heads, holding up some article of clothing that, due to our inept posing and an overbright flash, makes us look like a bizarre cannibal tribe just back from skinning the opposing team. Jazz hands feature prominently, and I think we can all agree that if you’re not actually doing a Bob Fosse musical, you should not be doing jazz hands. Yes, that’s my extended family, wearing our paper crowns from our Christmas crackers, cheerily demonstrating the cheap little toys that came in the crackers – the tiny tin whistle, the miniature deck of cards, the Lilliputian table tennis paddle – looking like it’s just dessert standing between us and the trip on the short bus back to the Home.
The only way we have a CHANCE of a good photo is if it is completely candid. And there, my friends, you get the best of photos and the worst of photos...
Don’t even get me started at the inappropriate animals littering our family photographs. Look, here’s a picture of my brother and the television screen when he just scored a record score in some game. Yes, that’s a chicken off there to the side. I don’t really recall why one of the chickens was in the family room, they just sometimes elbowed their way in. And yes, there’s a picture of my Mom setting a beautiful table for Easter. And in the corner of the shot, I’m feeding pancakes to my horse, who’s sticking his head in the kitchen window. A lovely picture of my brother and his fiancé...with two of the cats fist-fighting at their feet.
At a certain point, because we are The People who Will Laugh at ANYTHING, No Matter how Unkind or Inappropriate, we just gave up and embraced it.
Back in the Pleistocene, when I was a kid, and the new fangled thing was these photo album books where you didn’t need to fiddle with those damn paper corners....I’ll pause a moment while the under 45’s google it. Yes, children, not only did we have only film as an option to produce a picture, but in order to view them effectively we pasted them into books. If you wanted to really be able to preserve the photo and perhaps remove it at some point, you used these little paper triangles that formed a pocket. You pasted them into the book and inserted the corners of your photographs into them, so that if the photo album slipped out of your hands and fell on the ground at an angle, it would vomit out half the photos. But we had the new kind of photo album with magnetic pages. You just stuck your photos on the page and then smoothed the plastic cover over the top and voila! They mostly sorta stuck in place, at least at first. Of course, they were not really magnetic, since it was glue and plastic and they totally destroy your photos over time, but family was all about the NEW. If we’re going to look like silly asses or the undead, by gum, we’ll do it in the newest technology!
And the cool thing was, if you were me, you could then take regular paper, write funny captions on it and stick them under the plastic sheets, thereby titling the pictures of your family doing something that seemed like fun at the time. Thus, a picture of a family friend in a cowboy hat, holding up a beer bottle, posing on the neighbor’s tiny pony, titled “Mr. Doran, riding into Jerusalem”. Or my uncle Emil, sitting at the dining room table, eyes half shut, wearing the inevitable Christmas cracker paper crown, with the candles positioned on the sideboard behind him, just so that it looked like his head was sprouting three flames, titled “The exorcism was not going well.” Okay, so it’s funny if you saw the pictures. And if you know the people involved.
And I did several of those albums as a youngster. And have assiduously been collecting “bad” photographs of our family since, in the hopes that one day I will have the time to doing some more. Although I will upgrade the technology, for certain. My family begs me to keep it up; maybe the bad photo on its own would be torn up or thrown out – but give it a caption and surround it with loved ones looking just as lame, asinine, and goofy and we are ALL about it.
I guess the point is – I’m not surprised or ashamed of “bad” photos of me. I either treasure them, or at least roll my eyes, laugh, and think well, at least I’m true to my heritage. I guess I feel as if the bad ones make the good ones all that much more miraculous.
And if you’re looking at photos of me and thinking, what is she crazy? Look at this great picture that someone posted of her...and I point out that 90% or more of those, I am in funny clothes, aren’t I? Playing someone who is NOT me. Even if I was just talking to you in non-accented modern English, I guarantee if the photo looks good, it’s because I became aware it was being taken and became someone else. Because the real me? It had better be a candid, because otherwise, I am back to goofy, seven-chinned zombie.