There are very few pictures of myself and Harrison. I realised this only when I was asked for full-color photos of the two of us for a feature in a magazine this month, I was so excited to be able to share the story, that it never even crossed my mind that I might not have the images needed to go with the story. There was no intricate specification, it was just to be a picture of myself and my baby hours, days, or even weeks after birth – a month or so at a push. I have one – a shoddy crop saved from snapchat and covered with a filter. My hair is all over the place, the only thing on my face is sweat and I’m fairly sure there is placenta juice visible on the bed, and yet, it will probably be one of my most valued pictures. It shouldn’t have to be though, at no point should I have to cling on to an image clouded by placenta juice to mark my presence in my baby’s life. I can count on hand the number of pictures taken of the two of us in the last 8 months – need two hands if I’m including the ones taken by myself using a self-timer, but even at that, 10 photos over 8 months is very little.
I am the one with the camera. In each family, there is a dedicated photographer. This is not limited to my own little family. It is not limited to our generation. In every family, there is generally one dedicated person that captures the memories. I have the sweetest photos of myself and my dad growing up, of us at the beach, of us in the amusements on holidays, of us asleep on the couch – it’s easy to assume my mum wasn’t even present, when the reality is very different. My mum was always present, she just happened to be the one clicking her fingers and waving her arms in the hope I’d look in her direction for long enough to capture the memory. In our little family, like my mum, I am the photographer. I am the annoying little wasp that won’t leave my partner or my son alone – some may call it endearing, my partner would probably just call it really fecking irritating, but regardless, in 20 years, our child will be able to look back and be reminded of the childhood memories that start to fade. At the minute, those memories are skewed by what appears to be a single father and a mum who only makes an appearance for a staged shot once every two or three months. It’s easy to blame it on the men. (Not always the man, but more often than not mums tend to be the ones who get a little bit camera happy).
A few months ago, I remember coming across a viral Facebook post. It was called ‘Dear Men, Take The Photo’, and chances are, you’ve seen it, and you’ve also agreed with it. The photo was of a lady lying on the couch with her son, both completely unaware of the camera. The caption reads,
“Dear Men, take the photo. Take the god damn photo. We spend days capturing beautiful moments of you and the kids. So whenever you see one of us with our babies, a beautiful candid moment, take the bloody god damn photo. Cheers, Mums.”
I have hundreds upon thousands of pictures in my camera roll of Harrison and his dad. The two were unwittingly the subjects of me learning how to use my camera, and with that in mind it’s no wonder there are hundreds of pictures of the two of them. Men can be blasé at the best of times, what we would like them to do and what they do are often to completely different things, and taking a picture on their own accord is no different. I can moan and groan and ask Jordan to take a picture of myself and Harrison. I can ask him to act without me telling him too, I can go as far as linking him to the viral Facebook post, but chances are I still won’t get the candid photos I’m looking for. This isn’t because he isn’t taking them (after being asked nicely once or twice – 302 times at last count – he’ll take them)- it’s because I’m not happy with anything ‘candid’. I may only have ten or so pictures to hold of us two, but I’ve lost count of the number I’ve deleted. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve given Jordan the stink eye for trying to take his candid shot in the wrong candid moment – when I’m having a fat day, when I’m not wearing make-up, when I’m not ready to be candid. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve barked at him because the angle he’s taking it at will make me look bigger. I’m all for the candid shots, but only when I’m ready, prepared and as uncandid as can be.
If I continue to care this much about the way I translate in these pictures, it’s safe to say that in 20 years time, I won’t have very many pictures at all. I’ve already missed the opportunity to have more than my shoddy snapchat picture after Harrison was born, I’ve missed the chance to have a picture of us on my first Mothers Day, on my birthday. Those are days I won’t get back, but the least I can do is learn from it. Removing myself from the photo albums won’t change the fact that I’ve gained a chin and don’t look my best – I’ll still have had the extra chin, but I won’t be able to laugh at it with my child in a decade. I won’t be able to show him that it wasn’t just daddy who took him to the beach, who played football with him or who let him nap on top. I want more than just the family picture on Christmas Day, and if that means I have to get over myself for a moment, then that’s what I’ll have to do.
Photography is my hobby, not my partners, and that means that I’ll probably have to accept the fact that I’ll never have the candid moments shot artistically from behind a plant. For someone who doesn’t enjoy looking through a lens, walking around with a camera strapped to their hand is not natural. Add to that the snare often given should I be having a ‘feeling fat day’ or if I’ve forgotten to change my shirt for the third day running, is it any wonder Daddy won’t even take the risk? The realization that I don’t crop up all that often in the family albums has made me want to suck it up. To get over myself, to get over the fact I’ve gained a few pounds, to get over the fact that I might not appear the way I’d ideally like to, and to just stay in the picture. The opportunity is a rare one to have a candid capture, and should I have the chance, I no longer want to duck out. Or to delete. In 20 years time, I’m going to wish I’d had a picture to remember all of the moments that I looked less than candid, and so will Harrison.
Plus, let’s face it – we all need the pictures of when we’re 15lbs heavier than we like to be to look back and grimace at.