I love photographs. Color photos. Black and white photos. Sepia photos. Panoramic photos. School photos. Nature photos. War photos. Historical event photos.

Not only do I take a ton of pictures thanks to the convenience of my iPhone, I have tons of old photos in boxes and frames around my house. And a few times a year I still have prints made, and I meticulously put pictures of the girls and our family into albums for each of them so that at some point they can browse through their childhood memories (in order, courtesy of OCD).

I love anyone’s and everyone’s old photos. I will look at them repeatedly and notice tiny details and reason in my head about what led up to the photo, what followed the photo, and what environment surrounds the photo. Photos tell stories, and I guess more than anything, when you boil it down, I am actually in love with the history and the stories that photos document.

In the last few months I’ve felt awkward about photographs. I want to continue to document the girls’ childhood memories and not have a big gap in their lives and in their books, but documenting a part of their life that includes sadness and grief feels…not wrong, necessarily, but also not right. And yet everyone’s life includes periods of sadness and grief, so why does it feel odd? Is it wrong to show us vulnerable? It’s not wrong to show myself vulnerable, but it does feel wrong to reveal their vulnerability and their down moments. So is the answer then to only show the pictures of the phases of our life that are fantastic? That’s also wrong. Not only is that what we all see all the time – everyone’s day  boiled down to an adorable “your story” on Facebook and Instagram – it’s not the truth.

And yet at the same time, I feel like it’s wrong when I do post some of our daily happy pictures. We are actually laughing and having fun when we’re at bowling alleys and trampoline parks and farms and our driveway, but if I show us having fun will people think we’re fine – that we’ve moved on and life is great and we’re past our little speed bump? That life is back to fantastic? Back to blessed? That’s not the truth, either.

And then…the big what if. What if happy pictures lead people to believe that what happened wasn’t really a big deal because we’re able to have fun so quickly – and if so, does that mean that what happened to our family wasn’t really all that bad?

That thought makes me angry. Just because we make decisions to find positives and to find some happy and to experience some joy – and make no mistake, those are DECISIONS we make – does not in any way make a statement as to the severity of the actions of others who hurt my girls. They persevere despite those actions. They persist despite those actions. They keep moving despite those actions.

But I digress. The point, I guess, is that I think of pictures differently now. Maybe I overthink pictures. I desperately want Ella and Audrey to look back at this time and not just think about the fact that our family changed. I want them to look back and be able to see how courageous they were. See how far they’ve come. See that they could always count on me. See that I was strong.

I think they’ll be able to see some of that. But I think they may also look back on a photo and think ‘that’s the picture where we were feeding a piglet, but earlier that day Mom really shouted at Dad.’ That’s what I think when I look at some of the photos, so I have to assume they will, too. And that makes me sad. And yet, it is truth.

I keep mulling over this snippet from The Blindfold by Siri Hustvedt.

‘You really believe that there are subjects that shouldn’t be photographed?’ George said. He spoke evenly and softly.
‘Maybe I do,’ I said, thinking aloud.
‘You believe in censorship then,’ said Stephen.
I looked up at Stephen. His face was tight, combative. ‘Not censorship,’ I said slowly. ‘That’s external. I mean control from the inside. After all, pictures can lie, too, can convey falseness rather than truth.’

We need to tell more of the stories behind our photos, so that we are all a little more real with each other. Here’s our story in three photos from this weekend, and it’s really the story of the stages of girl vanity.

Audrey is in disguise in her picture. Basically, I think the young just don’t care what they look like in photos. Audrey wants to try every snapchat filter every day. I also regularly find pictures she’s taken to try to see up her own nose or in her own ear, or where she’s trying to see how big she can make her teeth appear. The young either find all photos of themselves awesome in some way or they don’t think twice about the photo after they realize they cannot see up their nose into their brain.

Girls in the middle of growing up care a lot about photos. Ella takes photos of herself all the time and although it doesn’t seem possible, I think she discards more photos than she keeps. Middle School social media is somewhat confusing, but I think it can be summed up like this: girls like all the photos posted by all other girls at their school, but then hop onto House Party with just the girls they actually like to talk about the photos they just “liked” posted by girls they may or may not like whose photos they didn’t really like. Got that? I mean, it’s so simple really.

And then there’s the old: me. Instead of “old,” maybe we’ll just characterize that group as women over 40. When we end up with a picture where only *some* of our wrinkles show, especially at a time we’re trying to grow our hair out, we call that a win.


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