Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Smile! Gotcha!

I've recently realised I've probably swum too far against the stream in this regard. I don't take photos of my kids. Why?

Lots of reasons really. I don't have a camera. My hands have usually been busy actually dealing with the kids rather than documenting them. When my second child was a toddler I remember hanging a camera around my neck for her daycare xmas party, and when I went to bend down to her the camera hit her on the forehead. That marked the end of my child photography for some time. The kids are older now and my hands are more free. But I haven't been clicking away.

The main reason is my objection to the fact kids are photographed so much these days. It bothers me more than it should. I see parents and carers photographing and videoing their kids everywhere; at the Art Gallery, on the swings at the park, getting vaccinated (I kid you not), doing any ordinary thing. Kids are treated like little stars who are exposed to the paparazzi that is their parents.

What does it mean? It means the kids are constantly interrupted to pose for the camera. It means that instead of interacting, or sharing the experience, or just letting kids play, parents are objectifying their kids.

At a kids' concert I was sitting near a small family. The mother had her toddler on her knee and her preschooler beside her. She took a photo of the preschooler, showed it to the toddler and said 'There's your sister'. Um, no, you sister is right beside you. She exists in real life. She doesn't have more value because she is on a screen.

I've seen a parent clicking away at her child on the slide saying 'smile' while her toddler is hurt behind her.

When my five year old recently graduated from preschool the parents were taking photos of her group of friends as if they were models - telling them to pose like this or that, and the session lasted a good five minutes. For heaven's sake, they are five! What will they expect at their child's wedding, or graduation from university?

We want our kids to aspire to careers beyond being on Big Bother, but we treat them as if being on a screen (tv, computer, camera, camera/phone or a digital photo frame) means that they are important. They are stars. Frankly I haven't noticed child stars, princesses, heiresses and child celebrities having a very good success rates as adults. I don't understand why we would emulate the poor life experience of being a child celebrity. And I can't think of any child stars, heiresses or princesses that I'd like to be in charge of my aged care.

But now I've realised I haven't taken any photos of the kids for so long (their father takes the photos), and there have been important events that haven't been documented, I think perhaps it is time to take camera in hand, on occasion, and capture some important moments. Or ordinary moments. But I plan to do it discreetly, and without the posing.

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