Wednesday, November 18, 2009


1 : a design or representation made by various means (as painting, drawing, or photography)
2 a : a description so vivid or graphic as to suggest a mental image or give an accurate idea of something (the book gives a detailed picture of what is happening) b : a mental image

Some friends were talking today about how they feel about pictures. One has an extended family portrait scheduled over the Thanksgiving holidays and while she loves pictures of her kids, she doesn't like to be photographed herself. Another shared that she wants pictures taken of her because she envisions her own death and wants her children to be able to remember her. I've talked before about how I don't like photographs. They ruin my own memory. Because once I've seen the photographic evidence of an event, my own memory of it is, sadly, erased.

For example, I felt like I looked great at my brother-in-law's wedding two and a half years ago.... until I saw the photographs. A very capable and excellent photographer clearly showed that I looked terrible. I was laughing, talking or gesturing in every single photograph. This may have been partly due to the fact that my three children (and husband!) were also in the wedding. So I had a bit on my mind. But I'll now forever believe that I looked harried the entire wedding instead of sleek and sophisticated, which is more of what I was going for.

I was thinking today on my way home about my friend who wants photos of her taken so that her children can remember her and it occurred to me that a picture can never capture what I want my children to remember.

A picture can't show how I loved K this morning:
Me, from upstairs: "K, are you dressed for school?"
K: "No. I want you to rub my back."
Me: "Are you still in bed?" (thinking to myself, 'your sisters have been awake for nearly an hour!)
K: "Yes. Will you rub my back?"
Me, coming down the stairs: "Sure, honey."
And I rubbed her back while she laid in bed and enjoyed it. And we talked about the day that was coming and about school and about life. No picture can capture that.

A picture can't show what I am thinking and feeling as I watch A dance. It can't tell that I am amazed, astonished, captivated and proud that a daughter of mine can do what she does. She not only dances, she brings joy to others, she bares her soul in front of strangers. I can take a picture of her dancing, but it won't show her when I'm dead how much I loved watching her dance.

And a picture can't capture what I feel about B. A picture can't show the mixture of connection I feel to her, the inspiration I get from her, the push I feel from her to be a better me. If she's using all that she is and doing all that she does, can't I do more? But how would you take a picture of this? How could a still image of me with her ever convey how much I love her? It simply can't.

And these words can't either. But, to my mind, they come a bit closer.


Anonymous said...

I personally love pictures, but for my own use and memories. But you are right, words come a lot closer to reminding someone how much you love them. Maybe we are biased since we are both writers...! I bet my photographer friend would have a different opinion. I guess in the end we just have to hug and love on those we love everyday and hope those memories stay fresh, no matter what happens.

aimee Guest said...

well you know i love pictures...and words and of course one of my recent posts talked about how both have their own bias, so i guess the perfect combination would be a marriage of the two. i love that we live in the world of easy access, instant gratification pictures and that i'll have images to reach back to these fleeting days. I mean I LOVE pictures. It does make me sad that you looked at the pictures from the wedding and had your image of yourself shattered. now that I think about it, pictures carry a lot of my feelings and memories when related to other people, but are most often a stumbling block in revealing me to myself. but when your kids looks back on pictures of you(because you will keep getting pictures of yourself!) they'll see the details of you.

Variations On A Theme said...

As a photographer, the way I feel about pictures is very odd. I love taking them and seeing them a few days later, thereby reliving good memories. I love giving them as gifts to people. I love capturing moments for other people. But when I go back and look at pictures of my kids when they were much younger, it's a bit painful and makes me yearn in a heavy-hearted way.