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Perception, perspective and the power of a photograph

Woman looking through family photosBrace yourself, it’s that time of year when your social media feed is full of feshly uniformed, smiling siblings as our little treasures head back to school for a brand new year. Of course some are absolute firsts with little pre-primarys or high schoolers. Either way, masses of photos are taken to capture the first day of term.

Photos are brilliant aren’t they? Many moons ago first chance I’d get after a holiday with my pals I’d be in town to get my snaps developed on the hourly service.

When my Little O arrived nine years ago I was exactly the same. There’s an entire folder in my PC devoted to pictures of him. From pregnancy to our hospital stay to the first few weeks then month by month, they’re filed in date order.

I don’t think you ever take as many pictures of them as you do in the beginning. Why so? I casually canvass opinion over coffee ‘n’ cake with mums and from what I can tell it’s all about trying to recapture those magical first moments and rekindle memories. It’s not that we mean to forget but life just sort of takes over.

You don’t really get the chance to reminisce over first smiles and their emerging character because among other things you’re too busy waiting in the newsagency queue to pay for the essentials. In my case essentials now include Pokemon cards, oh how times change. And, in that queue you have one eye on your young man rooting around in a display at the checkout because he sees another Pokemon-related piece of merchandise that he simply ‘must have’, the other on the queue progress to make sure you’re not holding up everyone while at the same time producing money and a points card. Yes, life happens. Or as a magnet that used to sit on my parents’ fridge declared, ‘life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans’ but that’s another story.

READ: Capture your precious moments with these smart phone photography tips

We had a milestone birthday in my family recently so while hunting out pictures of hilarious hairstyles I decided to click through to little O’s folders from when he was three months, a year old etc.

Well, it had been a while, and I was stunned. He was a wee baby. Of course he was I hear you say, he was 3 months old. But the difference between baby O and today’s O fair took me by surprise. It felt like only last week he was a babe in arms and any thoughts of toddling were far, far away. There seemed to be too much to happen before we’d reach that point. Now fast forward past toddling, past the first day at school, past the first playdate without me and here we are. I believed I’d never forget how he looked throughout all the early stages but now I find it hard to see baby O in my mind’s eye. Some changes are so imperceptible that it takes a different perspective for us to really take it in, and that’s what photographs give us. That’s why pictures are so cherished.

I saw a bit on the news about a doting dad who has taken a photograph of his two children on every single day of their lives. The kids are now 12 and 10 and he says he’ll keep doing it until they say otherwise. Isn’t that wonderful?

Last week over yet more coffee ‘n’ cake (there’s a theme here) a friend bemoaned how, as the youngest in her family, she always got a vague answer to questions about what she was like as a child. You know the sort of questions I mean “mum, what was my first word” or “what age was I when…”.

So, given this, she decided to write down some things about her own brood on their birthday each year; just a few wee reminders of them at that time like maybe their favourite toy or a funny anecdote. Such an inspired idea and it’s what I’ve taken to doing around birthday time too. It is, after all, on the same date each year so not hard to remember. I figure why not just note down a couple of wee lines about my, now not-so-little O to file away with the favourite birthday cards? Imagine his face when I read that out to his girlfriends in years to come.

Now that really will be priceless.

Have your say:
Do you take lots of photos of your children?
What do YOU think? Let us know.

Jen McGinlay

About Jen McGinlay

Jen McGinlay is a former radio announcer from Scotland. After 10 years talking for a living Jen returned to her first love of writing. She now divides her time between the ...

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2 comments so far -

  1. I love this article……I too remember using old fashioned film and taking it to the camera shop to be developed.

    In this technologically driven era, these photos now remain on my mobile phone and I am always too busy to download them.

    Photos are priceless this article reminds me that I need to print them off and pop them into a photo album, rather than just have them stored on my phone or laptop.

    What a great idea to jot down their characters and traits when they are little to serve as a reminder later in life.



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