The Sound of Shutters

My kids are hams.  Crack out a camera and they strike a pose.  As soon as the shutter closes, they spring forward, hovering above my shoulder to see the image on the digital display.

Please understand – I have not conditioned them to this.  In fact, I quite discourage it.  I am from the camp of ‘candid is king’.  Plus, I don’t want them anywhere near the most expensive camera we’ve ever owned, albeit several years behind the times by now.

I don’t want them obsessed with their perceived image.  I don’t want them so invested in the perfect snapshot that they don’t live in the present moment.  I don’t want the canned smiles and stiff expressions.

I want to capture the true essence of who they are and the moment we’re experiencing.

Then the camera turns on me.

There’s always one member of the family who is nearly nonexistent in the family albums, isn’t there?  Growing up, that was my dad.  The family’s official photographer, we have countless photos of holiday dinner tables laden with full plates, anxiously awaited by full chairs, except the one he’d vacated to take the shot.  The next frame might include him switched out by one of my aunts, but never the whole set unless he’d packed the tripod that day.

Now, most of the time, that’s me.

When my husband mans the camera, I’m usually focused on the children in some manner of loving gaze (and if not that, some manner of goofy face) – probably because I’ve forgotten how to pose.  I can’t smile on demand.  It’s too taxing, too fake.  I know I’m not at my best and don’t want to capture that on film or digital download.

For all the lessons I want my children to soak up, I haven’t had a single picture of me as my profile pic on Facebook for years.  There have been family portraits, my daughter unleashing a primal scream at a particularly low point, a flower I stenciled onto my wall above my writing desk – never me by myself.  I honestly couldn’t find one I liked enough.  Is it because I hadn’t been candid enough to capture my true essence?  Or because I’d been too candid and didn’t like what I saw?

Last week, as we exited the trailhead of a hike we’d made in the White Mountains, my husband called to me and snapped a pic as I turned.  I threw my arms up and bugged my eyes out and grimaced(?) – I don’t know what that was.  The next frame, I smiled.  When we returned home, as I reviewed the pictures, I deemed that second one as close to a true capture of me as I’d had in a long time.  Was it because I was in my long-abandoned hiking garb?  Because I was partaking of an activity that long ago defined me and my beliefs and was long ago abandoned?  Was it because I’m sick of a caricature of myself and ready for authenticity – or acceptance – or a new perspective?

In any event, I uploaded it to Facebook as a new profile pic.  It was as the comments rolled in asking if I was summoning the forces of nature or singing ‘The Sound of Music’ that I realized I’d uploaded the grimace shot and not the smile.  The most-telling comment, I think, was one that said, “The perfect representation of motherhood.”  I laughed out loud, all too knowingly.  Whether it was the ‘come on, guys’ attitude one person suggested or the stress of packing a family of five up for a road trip or the persistent frustration of getting little people to tow the line, the look on my face pretty much is the perfect representation of motherhood for me right now.  And another reason why I don’t want my picture taken anymore.

The Hills are Alive

Maybe because it’s not about me and pictures just remind me of that.

But even though I crown myself the ‘Queen of Candids’, I can still artfully edit the pics I chose to focus on.  I can focus on the smiles and the fun and the love instead of the grimaces and struggle and pain.

Or I can try anyway . . . until the shutter rotates open to let in more light.

Advertisements
Leave a comment

62 Comments

  1. I’m much more comfortable being behind the lens. The only reason I make sure there are images of me, even if I don’t like them, is so my boys will have visual memories of me in the

    Like

    Reply
  2. Jennifer Butler Basile

     /  April 26, 2013

    Yes. It would be equally horrible if I went from my wedding day to an eighty year-old in the photo album. It is important to have a family history, pictoral or otherwise. I think I need to figure out how to split my time in front and behind the camera.

    Like

    Reply
  3. After a couple of years of behind-the-camera anonymity I decided to take a self-portrait every day for a year. It’s grueling, honestly, I like maybe three of the first 100+ photos and this post reminds me that those few are all candids (or as close to candid as you can get when you know you’re taking your own photo!).

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 28, 2013

      Very interesting. I love your undertaking. I’d be sure to get at least three I like over the course of the year, right!?

      Thank you for sharing.

      Like

      Reply
  4. i love candid shots, they capture the moment but yes, they do not necessarily look appealing. i hope there was a way to find a blended approach 🙂
    a very sweet and ‘candid’ post. congratulations on being freshly pressed.

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 28, 2013

      Oh, I’ve looked possessed, happy, crazy, angry, etc., etc. etc. over the years in candid photos! I think my subconscious conspires with all photographic equipment to catch me in awkward poses! At least 87% of the time anyway!

      Thank you for visiting – and your congratulations!

      Like

      Reply
  5. My ex used to love taking pics of me; offguard and unassuming..Made for some of the best pics anyway has ever taken of me..Or so I think. In my natural state without posing or having to hold a smile till the pic is taken. Having said that I’m a major camera ham. I love it! As someone earlier posted , if for no other reason, to have memories for my sons & my future grandchildren..A picture is worth a thousand words; still. And even in the age of technology, nothing yet replaces that. Enjoyed your write!

    Like

    Reply
  6. oops..anyway should’ve been, anyone

    Like

    Reply
  7. Aw, I can relate to never wanting to let an important moment pass without snapping a pic but I’m also often reminded that life is not about reliving the past but living in the moment and enjoying -I do love great photography though and only wish I was better skilled at it! Thanks for sharing!
    -Jen
    http://thelilyandthemarrow.wordpress.com/

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 28, 2013

      I do struggle between chronicling and living. Hauling three kids and all their stuff around often makes the decision for me ; )

      Like

      Reply
  8. The photographer is never absent. When you look at the photographs taken by a photographer you cannot see, what you are seeing is that person’s vision. Your dad is in every picture he took, because you are looking at the world through his eyes. It doesn’t get more present than that.

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 28, 2013

      What a truly profound comment. And makes me reframe all our family photos in a new way. Thank you.

      Like

      Reply
  9. In a strange way, I feel, I am headed your way! 🙂

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 28, 2013

      Being the perpetual photographer with no photos of yourself or not liking any of those photos? Ha. Thanks for reading.

      Like

      Reply
  10. Your post resonates with me. After one or two family vacations or outings without any photographic of my presence on the trip, since I am always behind the lens, I have made it a habit to hand the camera to someone at least once or twice now to capture an image with “mom” — one of my favorites is a shot of my son and I perched on the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park as we enjoyed a run together on Christmas Eve day. So glad I have a photo that helps preserve that memory. I think it becomes even more important to me as my boys get closer to flying the nest.

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 30, 2013

      Great idea – especially to make a point in asking – otherwise pics of you might never happen! And as far as capturing the special moments before they fly – I try to remind myself that when they want to cuddle and I want ‘alone time’!

      Thanks for reading.

      Like

      Reply
  11. I enjoyed how you described this. The first part of the post is 100% a belief of mine. My mom had the same problem (not being in the footage), and then I had the same problem. I love photography, but when I start enjoying seeing myself in the photos, I stop for fear of being so vain.

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 30, 2013

      True, but it’s also good to see your own innate beauty. Just don’t let it go to your head! Ha.

      Thanks for reading.

      Like

      Reply
  12. Margaret Haynes Meritt

     /  April 28, 2013

    Keep it real!

    Like

    Reply
  13. I really liked this piece. However, I would love to know what is so great about living in the present moment (mentioned early on in the piece and as though it didn’t need further elucidation). Maybe it’s a stupid question like, ‘Why do you want to be happy?’ Even so, it seems to me that we naturally try to be happy but we have to struggle to remember to live in the present moment. Why should we fight against this natural urge to drift away into la la land? I know we only have one life, but why not use it to do what comes naturally to us: to drift away?

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 30, 2013

      I’m not averse to drifting away. Very often, though, I tend to drift into worry or anxiety. I try to stay present to focus on the simplicity, beauty, or blessing of the moment. To see what’s right in front of me instead of what may come down the pike to crush me. Inversely, I know I won’t always be happy, so I try to remind myself that what’s tormenting me now may not matter as much 10 minutes, 10 days, 10 years from now. Though 10 minutes is a tad optimistic, to say the least!

      Thank you for your comments.

      Like

      Reply
  14. willowmarie

     /  April 28, 2013

    It’s the balance, & sometimes it’s hard to find. What to keep private vs what to capture/ share- it’s a fine line & one that always changes.

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 30, 2013

      You’re absolutely right; it is always changing. Why does life keep doing that to us!?

      Thank you.

      Like

      Reply
  15. Arun Suresh

     /  April 28, 2013

    looks like you have an interesting blog here, Its a great opportunity to discover, explore and Follow your blog. BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 30, 2013

      Discover, explore, and follow . . . can that be my new banner? Thank you so much for your kind words. To you as well!

      Like

      Reply
  16. Ok Alright.. I feel ya… let me read more… it’s interesting

    Like

    Reply
  17. “…until the shutter rotates open to let in more light.” Epic.

    This post reminds me of my usual unwillingness to be on the other side of the lens. I am a photographer and, as such, thought it was more or less “I’m the professional, the artist, and you’re the subject.” But I think you get to the truth; being afraid, sometimes, to see the self in a candid moment. I’ve seen candid pics of me. Always trash’em. My lady, though, tries to keep as many as she can. Wonder of others see things in us that we don’t? That was my thought when it got to the pic you posted on Facebook.

    Very lovely post! 🙂

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 30, 2013

      Thank you so much, Sahm, for your kind words and your take on this subject. I remember when I was teaching and took classes or workshops myself. It was always eye-opening to be on the other side of the desk and it helped me serve my students better. Perhaps your candids help you capture your subjects better . . . Revisit that stash your lady has kept!

      Like

      Reply
  18. joshsuds

     /  April 29, 2013

    I love candids…of other people. Every time I see myself in one, I look so awkward.

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 30, 2013

      I love your ellipsis . . . and what follows. Hilarious! Yeah, I have a slew of awkward candids of myself – mostly taken by my dad, the family photographer! Has given me and family lots of laughs over the years (and I mean that in the most non-critical way).

      Like

      Reply
  19. nice shots.. wonderful post..

    Like

    Reply
  20. Do a ‘fake candid’, where you laugh out loud (for no apparent reason except to appear candid) and someone takes a photo of you, eventually you will find it so ridiculous that the laughter will become real, and would be the perfect real, ‘laughing candid’!

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 30, 2013

      Great idea! I could probably just laugh thinking about how ridiculous I looked!

      Like

      Reply
  21. I have very few photos of my parents and even fewer of my grandparents, I guess because in “those days” you had to get your negatives developed and your photos printed. Recently I did my family tree and found I hade very few photos of my ancestors. Now we live in a digital age where its very easy to take a load of pictures (most of which get stuck in the hard drive and never looked at). Not everybody is an adonis or a cover girl, but I like to look at people as they are. I try to take a lot of photos of the grandkids and encourage them to take some of me so they will have something to remember me by when I am gone!

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 30, 2013

      I wholeheartedly agree. And if you do have photos, you have no idea who is in them. Unless, of course, you travel to your homeland like my aunt and cousin did and can identify the mysterious man in the picture that hung on a long-lost relative’s wall for years – my great-grandfather who had emigrated. I still get goosebumps. Photos do play an important role in family history.

      Thank you for sharing.

      Like

      Reply
  22. I have always hated seeing pictures of myself. For me, it has said a lot about what I think of how I look. I love my heart and WHO I am. I am just always so surprised by what I look like. Yet, like you, I love taking candid pictures of my kids and now my grandkids. It’s one of my joys because in looking at that picture anywhere in the future, it brings back so many feelings. Great blog. Love how you write. I feel right at home.

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 30, 2013

      Oh my! Your comments make my heart feel at home. Thank you so much!

      Like

      Reply
  23. I hated getting my picture taken until a photographer took me out and shot 4 rolls of just my face! Lately I tend to look awful because I’m always tired. In any case I say keep getting your picture taken. Years from now you’ll look back at them and think “look at how young and beautiful I was”, and that’s well worth the soon-forgotten Facebook comments.

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 30, 2013

      How true. I had forgotten that, after one, two, three pregnancies, I’d said I would’ve flaunted that string bikini if I’d known what was coming! Time and time again I’m reminded that it’s all about perspective. Thank you for reminding me this time!

      Like

      Reply
  24. http://www.dlmchale.com writes: Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. I enjoyed reading your post and will spend some additional time on your blog in the hopes of experiencing some more of your talented and “authentic” voice. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. It was fabulous!

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 30, 2013

      Thank you very much for your kind words. Please feel free to read and peruse to your heart’s content!

      Like

      Reply
  25. drupaducs

     /  April 30, 2013

    Beautiful! This is so true! Being the photographer of my family, I cannot take pictures of myself. If I’m lucky, my brother or friend would take a photo of me. And the funniest thing is that it would most probably be my profile picture for more than 4-5 months easy. Well done, and keep it up! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  April 30, 2013

      4-5 months? Wow. You’re on the ball! Takes me much longer to switch it out!

      Thank you for reading!

      Like

      Reply
  26. Haha yep that’s me usually taking photos of everyone else, but never actually being in the photos

    Like

    Reply
  27. Jennifer, I totally identified with this post. You could be me!

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  May 1, 2013

      Glad you found it relatable – and that I’m not the only one! Thank you for reading!

      Like

      Reply
  28. Good post. I, too, am the one who snapped all the photos of our daughters with my husband when they were growing up. I hate having my photo taken but acquiesce now that my daughters are grown and use their iPhones to take pics of hubby and me.

    Like

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  June 19, 2013

      Yeah, I have to step up my game with all the camera phones on the market! Thanks for reading!

      Like

      Reply
  29. Nice! Thank you for sharing!

    Like

    Reply
  30. Hey this is great! Nice job!

    Like

    Reply
  31. interesting. cool blog.

    Like

    Reply
  1. Fresh (fresh), Exciting | Chopping Potatoes

Throw Another Potato in the Pot

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: