At what point do children lose their patience and stop humouring a camera-wielding parent?
Of course, some never will. They’ll continue to generously provide their parents with beautiful moments to capture and cherish for the whole of their lives together, and on through successive generations. But the fact that that kind of sustained photographic document has become “newsworthy” in recent times shows just how unusual (and enviable) it is.
From their first breath, I photographed my two boys. Documenting their lives through the taking of enough photos to fill a book. Indeed, I did fill a book. Charting the first ten years of parenthood, it was a personal memento. I made just a single copy which made my wife cry when I presented it to her one Christmas morning. My intention was to follow it up with a second volume on year twenty, but here we are, nearing my oldest son’s eighteenth birthday, and I have barely enough good shots to fill a flyer.
I guess it must have been the onset of the teenage years, when hormones pick up speed and emotions run riot. It’s a time of awkwardness when you don’t know where to put your limbs. More aware of themselves and their surroundings, as soon as a camera is pointed in their direction the demeanour changes and the teenager becomes stilted and self-conscious, which is not conducive to good portraiture.
I have to say here and now, that I still have a great relationship with my boys. They’re remarkably tolerant of me. Through long term exposure they’ve inherited my extraordinarily good taste in music, so we go to gigs together, as well as rugby and cricket matches. Sometimes I even manage to trick them into a gallery for a few moments, but teenage boys seem to crave solitude and their own space. As kids reach adolescence, family outings become fewer and games consoles are way cooler company than parents, so photo-opportunities become ever more infrequent.
I’ve decided I need to counter this and take some meaningful photos before these teenagers become full voting-rights adults, so I plan to set up some daylight portrait sessions, using some favourite things as props to give them something to focus on other than the camera (guitar, skateboard, that sort of thing). I’ll try to post a follow up to let you know how I get on.