Saturday, March 13, 2010

Photo Narrative

Baby J is down for her morning nap and I'm flipping through the gorgeous photos from the family portrait session we did a little over a week ago with Joshua Longbrake. It was a gift from some of the parents I work with at church, and what a wonderful present.

It's got me thinking about photographs and the stories they tell. I guess I'm trying to figure out why exactly photos are so important to me. I feel greedy about them, almost, like I can't possibly have enough.

Over a decade ago I took a road trip with my best friend and the person she was dating at the time, M. M was a man of mystery of sorts who lived (still lives, hi M!) a life that, when retold, seemed too crazy to be real. He presented himself as a loner and a roamer and I loved him for it. D, my friend, did photography as a hobby and so our trip was well documented - the three of us in a dirty white mini-van trekking across the country and back again. M wasn't so much a fan of all the picture taking. I remember his diatribe on why photos were unnecessary, how they could never never capture the reality of a moment and so he had no use for them. D and I took tons of pictures of him anyway.

To some degree he was right. The memories I have now of the road trip are defined less by any clear mental recollection I have of it, and more by the stacks of photos that sit in our storage space. I run into them whenever D is in town and we go on a ramble through my poorly organized boxes of memorabilia from days gone by. A little after that trip M and D broke up, and a few months after that he left our circle of friends for parts unknown. None of us knew what happened to him, no one heard from him for years. I missed M, and part of me wonders if one of the reason I loved to take his picture was a desire to have something of him - just an image - to keep my affection for him alive when he finally chose to go away.

We're back in touch now. Which is fun. I emailed him scans of some of the photos from our trip. He didn't mention them in his reply.

In some ways J's babyhood is like being on that road trip. I know that none of the photos I will hoard on my hard drive and hang on my walls from this time really capture the reality of what it's like to be a family right now. But we are building a narrative. I don't plan on anyone in this family disappearing anytime soon. Babies change so fast, though, so in a way there is a new J every single day. I can never meet this baby J, today's baby J, again. She is so wonderful, it is so sweet to be family with her and with Andrew right now, I just want as many snapshot memory moment photos of it as I can get. I want her, and also Z, to look at these photos someday and get that while the reality of our right now isn't recoverable to our future lives together there are pieces of it - the love and care, the delight in each other, the intention to share who we are with some degree of honesty and intentionality - that will never stop being real.


  1. These photos are priceless! They tell a thousand words--I see what you meant about photos. We, too, feel like we're NEVER taking enough photos and video, and that we're going to look back with regret that we didn't capture enough... but then there's the fine balance of "living in the moment" that we also keep telling ourselves. Well, for now, we keep trying to capture pieces, however many, will never be enough of this precious time in our lives...

  2. Omigosh, my little guy has a mohawk too! It kinda freaks me out how much little K has changed so much in just 3 months, I feel like I can never quite capture the moments I see in my mind. Another question, am I every going to have the time to actually put the pictures in an album?!!!