Getting nice photos of my kids has been a goal for years. It’s not quite an obsession but nearly. For a long time it has seemed like every family home I visit has tasteful, professionally taken pictures of the resident children. And like clockwork, by the time any new arrival reaches the age of six months they too are added to the gallery. Walking around our house there is plenty of evidence of kids on the floor, but on the walls, nothing.
My first big effort was two years ago. I picked a day, my husband asked his dad to come to take the shot and remembered to buy film for the camera and we all wore carefully chosen casual clothes. Out of the blue, one son decided not to cooperate. He wanted us to do the picture without him and only sat when threatened. Forty long minutes later Granddad went home and I started peeling the spuds for dinner. Four family photos with the same child crying in each one was the finished result. The fact that the rest of us are smiling makes us look heartless and cruel.
Next I decided to take a picture of the kids myself. I lined up some popcorn and a DVD as a reward and moved the couch so they could stand in front of a white wall. Even though this time they were doing their best it was a hopeless task. Asking the three of them to simultaneously smile naturally, look at the camera and not make a peace sign was a step too far. I learnt two things that day. Firstly, my children think that the word smile means to bare your teeth, squint and give an overall impression of oddness. And secondly, the house badly needs to be painted. So I have quite a few pictures of weird looking kids standing in front of a dirty wall. They look like hostages.
I have the school photographs of course. The best is of my two oldest boys, when they were five and seven. It might have been lovely but for the awful brown background and the fact that the photographer had taken the liberty of vigorously brushing their hair to a high shine. (I know. A shared brush in a school. Shudder.) It was pressed flat across their foreheads in a sort of high school yearbook 1970’s style. My beautiful children! What had they done! Not one for the fridge door. Then there are the group school photos, which I have finally stopped opting for when I get the annual letter in the school bag. For my first son I paid my sixteen Euros in advance and then he was sick on the day. So it’s absolutely fine, but he’s not in it. For my second son, I paid, he wasn’t sick on the day and he is the only boy out of thirty two not looking at the camera. For my third boy I put the letter in the recycle bin.
Finally I gave up on anything posed and decided to go for real life. My best effort is blown up into A4 in an IKEA frame on the kitchen wall. The kids are all looking at the camera and laughing. It was just a moment I caught where nothing was prepared. Visible on the floor around them is; a bottle of neurofen and a sticky spoon, a tube of arnica, all the cushions from the couch in a pile (the remnants of a fort), a light sabre, a television remote control stuck together with masking tape, a red sock, a pack of baby wipes and two apple cores. In a Shirley Hughes way, it’s perfect. I love it.