~:: Anatomy of a Family Portrait ::~

When you start out as a family, a couple of grown-ups and maybe a baby, the concept of  the “family portrait” is a pretty tame thing. You say, “Ready?  SMILE!” and everybody does.  They look right at the camera and smile. And you? You smile too, thinking this is reality.  It’s not for years that the truth sets in. Two years if that baby in the first picture was your first. It all goes downhill from there.

Every year I have done a family portrait to send out with the Christmas cards, usually shot in autumn.  A couple of years ago I made 8x10s of all those Christmas shots so I could hang them on the wall, a sort of wall-hung flip-book of our lives.  You start at one end and see the wedding kiss, you come to the other end and see the wedding of our oldest daughter. That’s when I ran out of wall.

I have learned.  Oh, I have learned what a  - quest – it is, the good shot—the one in which every person’s face is visible and no one is doing something embarrassing. It can be done.  But it helps if there are credible threats involved, or cardboard stand-up substitutes for the actual children.  Then the kids move away, which makes things infinitely worse; after that, you have to wait until they all happen to drop into town at the same time, and then try to coordinate everybody’s schedules, or (see the above point about cardboard standups).

Then the grandkids come along.

Have you ever tried to put puppies in a box and keep them there?

It was in September this year that I began to try to get this year’s shot.  In the backyard, just before the family party in honor of M’s incipient nuptials.  The light was dimming and green (what with all the leaves) but that was only the beginning of my problems.  What follows is a photo essay, empirical defense of my point.

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You start with the children.  At this point, they are all – at least ostensibly – adults.  And beautiful, if I do say so myself.

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Then add one grandkid, and what happens to the focus?

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And one is never enough.

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Well, another two.

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Then Lorri shows up.  (Never forget; one kid always leads to another.)  How many of these people are looking at the camera?  No really.  Five adults three children.  TWO people, looking at the camera.  That’s twenty five percent, paying attention.  At least they’re all nicely bunched up.

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WHERE DID THIS LONG CHILD COME FROM?  And look what happens to the back row.  What’s more, none of the children are with the proper parents.  Okay, Sand is in his mother’s lap – but honestly, does she look like a proper parent?

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Is anybody listening to me?  HELLO?  Lens pointing at you guys.  What, there aren’t enough of you yet?

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Okay – add the bride.  And so much for the nice bunching. Like somebody just hit them with a cue ball.  I think they’re all rearranging themselves into family groups, but I can’t be sure.  Obviously, Max isn’t sure either. He is, by the way, the ONLY ONE looking at the camera.

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ditto.

Can M actually hold two girls in his lap at one time?  And can the chair hold ALL of them?

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Finally. Smashing.  Six adults. Four children.  I am using my motorized setting so that, in the unlikely event that every person might be looking into the camera at the same time, I’ll catch it.  This is NOT that frame.  I’m showing you this frame because everybody’s face is at least visible.  Mostly.  Not sure what Cam is doing.  But Murph is smiling like a sane person, and that’s something.

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Something that doesn’t last long.

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Now, what?  Chaz – WHAT?  Where did Scooter go?  Ginna – oh, never mind.

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M’s energy is leaking out.  Ginna is still – I don’t know.  The back row is deteriorating.  Max is steady.  Sand and Laura are starting up a conversation.

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Okay, lost the kids on the back row entirely.  Cam – not one flipping smile yet.  The conversation between Sand and Laura is getting intense.

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Max is steady.  You’re a rock, Max.  But Andy has gone feral.  I guess Laura thinks Sand was finished with what he had to say.  Chaz?  Chaz?  Could you look at ME?

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Oh, cats.

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Re-shuffle.  Bring the back row out in front where (at least in theory) they can’t get away with so much.

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Oh, yeah – well so much for that.  And now the new back row is out of control.

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And we’ve lost Sand entirely.  We never had Andy, not from the beginning.  Can anybody say, “Cheese”?

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No.

No, I guess not.

Now, if you have just a lot of time on your hands, it’s kinda fun to go back to the top and scroll down quickly watching just one person or group of people.  And when you’re all finished with that, you’ll know what I’m saying here.  Yeah.  You’ll know.

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33 Responses to ~:: Anatomy of a Family Portrait ::~

  1. Ginna says:

    Hah!!! I will have to look at these at home on a screen bigger than my phone. They are SILLY.

  2. Rachel says:

    You obviously don’t know how to discipline your children. My children would never behave in this manner. All of our family photos are of us in our church clothes without one stain on them sitting all prim and proper smiling like angels into the camera!

  3. Guy Randle says:

    I love the commentary….good thing you have a motor drive these days

    love you

    • webmaster says:

      Yeah – but it’s a little late in the day, don’t you think? I shoulda had it when we had three kids under four years old.

  4. Marilyn says:

    Hilarious! I couldn’t stop giggling. I particularly liked Ginna’s expressions . . . :)

  5. Dawn says:

    Ha! That is so funny, and they are all so cute. I loved your captions. Did you finally end up with one with everyone looking at the camera?

    • webmaster says:

      Ummmm. Kind of. I think maybe in October, I did. But then, I’m not sure that would count as an actual portrait of the family?

  6. Donna says:

    What fun that was! I used to try to do this with 20 kindergarten kids…wonder which is harder? This is surely why the ‘official’ school class photos are all always hilarious for one reason or another!
    But, you, and your commentary make all of these pictures so alive and fun! teehee.

    • webmaster says:

      Naw – I think with twenty kindergarteners, you got me beat by a mile! Actually, what makes it is Sandy – if you watch him from frame to frame, his face is hilarious. And Max, who I’d never expect to hold still for a moment? He hardly deviates from frame to frame.

  7. Chelsea says:

    I remember watching this happen. Pure chaos.

  8. Kathy V says:

    Well, that was just exhausting.

  9. You have made me chuckle, and that is something as I’m on day two of suffering with a nasty bug. The interaction between Sandy and Laura? Superb. And the bit about Ginna looking like a proper parent had me howling.

    And now I will go drop back into bed. And scheme about how to coerce my 5 children to cooperate for a family photo.

    • webmaster says:

      Oh, shoot. Once again, I am cursing the reality of space. Guy makes a mean chicken soup and so do I, and I’d bring it. I’d even compromise my principles enough to carry home your two littlest ones (no diapers involved, right? And this is easy to say, seeing that it’s impossible) and invite Scooter and Andy over too and give my whole day up to being a mother hen again. It isn’t fair that we always have to be subject to the physics of this mortal sphere, dang it all. Remember to drink a lot of liquids.

      • Would you believe that I actually turned down my dear husband’s homemade chicken soup in favour of stuff from a can? Believe me, this wouldn’t be the norm, but in this case the canned stuff just seemed more palatable – less like…food. Blech. But yes, I kept hydrated, and it’s looking like back-to-work for me tomorrow.

        And you are wonderfully kind. But I don’t think you’d be carrying Youngest Son, not without back injury. He’s BIG. Littlest though, you’d be tossing her up in the air and waiting for her to come floating back down, feather that she is.

        • webmaster says:

          She and Andy would probably get along wonderfully. Feathers, both of them. Opinionated, both of them. Opinionated, verbal and interested.

  10. Jenni says:

    How did I miss this post?? Its is hilarious and also fascinating to watch everyone posing or not as the case may be for the camera. Do you feel like no one is listening to you at all? I think that is being a mother…always there when needed for comfort or food or clean clothes but generally just ignored as part of the background clutter ;-) Good try!

    • webmaster says:

      I knew they were listening to me. It was the subsequent ignoring that drove me crazy. To think that my children would be paying more attention to their children than to me? Yeah- that day comes. And to their partners, too – imagine a son loving his wife so much he won’t listen to his mother? That’s why I bought horses, you know -

  11. That was too funny. Love the pics and love your comments!! I needed a good chuckle this morning.
    Casual family photos are the best. I have some of our family in the photo studio but my favs are the impromptu ones.

    • webmaster says:

      Me, too. We always mandate a silly one or two at the end of a session like this. But it’s the shooting before everybody’s set up, when they’re still wandering around – that’s when you get the real faces and juxtapositions. I like being the candid shooter at weddings, too.

  12. Murphy Randle says:

    Hey, this is a great post. I love it. :)
    How fun! I love that you took so many pictures also. :D :D :D

  13. Ginger says:

    If I were a paid professional (instead of an unpaid mother and professional), I’d charge DOUBLE for your family. Who’s worse? The “adults” or the kids? Hard to say. Being a mom doesn’t add to the GNP, but DANG it’s a mighty tough job. Get out the whip, Kristen, and beat them into submission, says this Child Development Specialist!

    • webmaster says:

      It used to work like a charm, getting out the whip. Now, there are politics. But I still have the thing. And the cellars (sp?) with the alligators in them. (YOu access those through a hatch that’s in the knee well of my desk -). I probably won’t tell the grandchildren about that for several years yet. I’d tell Max, but he was the only one holding still. About that – in PHotoshop there’s a function where you can select a bunch of the things on the page all at once, which you do all time. But then, there’s this other function that lets you INVERT the selection, so that the only thing selected is the thing you didn’t select before. Max holding still while everyone else bedlams around him is like that – like the negative of the photograph. It was hilarious.

  14. Shannon says:

    ha! You are a funny woman. With a bit of photoshopping you could get all heads at least looking at you? Xx

    • webmaster says:

      Well, yes. And I’ve been known to do it. But it seems like cheating somehow. And anyway – it wouldn’t make half as good a story.

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