Whenever I see a family portrait, I feel like I should stop and offer up a moment of silence for all the work that SOMEbody, most likely the mom, had to do to get all those people together looking that good in one place without stains or tears marring the clothing or tearful or pouting faces revealing the stress that everyone lived through in the moments before the camera clicked. I almost never think of the people in the picture.
I think of the mothers’ labor in the hour or so before the picture. I think of the sibling fighting, perhaps the other parents’ uselessness in resolving that conflict, somebody’s frustration at what they have to wear for the photo, somebody’s hair which, moments ago looked great but now looks like they haven’t washed it in a year much less combed it, the mother’s desire to have the family pull together just for a moment so that the pic represents the family as a cohesive unit rather than as gathering of disconnected and disgruntled parts. When I look at these portraits from my childhood as well as of my own children and family, I note the stress of photo day, particularly of the parent arranging it. I think about the unsung labor of that person, and how such labor flies beneath the radar of how we understand family life.....MORE