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July 31, 2014
The Secret Life of Molly
Life, in Color
by Hannah Bird

A young mother was posing her sons in front of a temple. It seemed she wanted to pose a picture with her young sons looking towards the temple. She had waited for the lovely light of late day. The picture she wanted was clear in her mind.

The boys were less clear on their mother’s artistic vision. They were hungry. They were tired. They did not understand that their mother wanted them to look away from her. They looked at the camera. They looked at each other. They fussed. They tried to wander off.

The mother started barking commands at her husband. The husband, trying to help his wife, kept shooing the boys back. He tried to get the boys to turn around. Then he was in the picture. The mother got more frustrated.  Her voice raised to better communicate her wishes.

She was yelling. She yelled at passersby who she felt were interrupting the picture. She yelled at her husband. She yelled at her children. At the temple.

This is the most photographed, filmed, and documented generation of children. The means to film and photograph are with us all the time.

At recitals and games, those in attendance try to watch through a field of phones and cameras and computers held aloft to catch every second. A trip to the park is a perfect photo shoot. I have seen mothers climb up slides for a shot. I have watched daddies stand on ancient monkey bars to get a perfectly framed shot of children below.

The moments of childhood are so fleeting. You never get the same baby up in the morning that you put to bed last night. They grow and change in the dark. We want to save those sweet breaths. We want to capture the curve of those thick lashes pressed against fat cheeks. We want to save. We want to remember.

We want not to lose.

Photojournalists have strict codes of ethics. They have to be very careful that while documenting the story, they do not become part of the story. They must be mindful that they are viewing rather than creating.

It is worth remembering.

When we cannot accept loss, we lose all our precious things. When we cannot let this moment pass, we can’t be a part of that moment. In saving it, we lose.

I am not opposed to taking pictures of children. I have gorgeous children and have photographed accordingly. I have friends that are fantastic photographers and preserve precious moments of family time.

I am opposed to parents constantly filming their children. When you set your child on a slide and climb up to make it look like you caught a picture, you are filming a moment that never occurred. You want a perfect picture of your child at play. What is sacrificed is both the child and the play.

When you need pictures of perfectly dressed children holding hands in a meadow of flowers, you negate the child’s need to get muddy while looking at slug on a log.

All of the created moments become lost moments when they replace real life.

Take lots of pictures. But be sure that your pictures don’t become the story. The play is the thing, after all. Let the play be what is really happening. Let the child be who is being served by that moment. Remember that while we are saving every detail of our children and their lives, what they see instead of our smiling eyes are lenses and devices.

It is better to let a perfect shot pass in favor of a really great moment.

Watch the recital. Not on a 3-inch screen. Watch it live in color. See her dancing. See the girls in her class that she counts as friends. Watch the game. There is no later someday when you will have countless moments to rewatch an entire childhood filmed.

Yes, take some pictures. But make sure that those pictures aren’t taking away the moments you are trying to preserve.

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