The following blog was written by our super talented friend, local mama, birth photographer, and postpartum doula – Anne Schmidt. Yes, she’s a super woman! Thank you, Anne!
It is time to have an honest conversation about how much we photograph our children.
When was the last time you took your kids to the park, or to a restaurant, or, hell, just to Target for that emergency run for laundry detergent, and you snapped a pic of them with your phone? I guarantee it was pretty recently. It may not have even been at one of the aforementioned locations. It may have just been at home, doing the most mundane things and you may have found yourself saying to your child, “Wait, do that [thing] again.” *holds up phone to take a picture.* Admit it. You know you have done it. We all have.
Our phones have gotten to the point where they are so much more than just phones. The technology is now so sophisticated that we are walking around with thousand dollar computers in our pocket. And it seems like most young adults these days don’t even use the damn thing for its original purpose, which is to make an actual phone call! Ask any toddler what that device is and they probably don’t know it makes calls either. To them it is a camera, and they are having it pointed at them all the time.
The youngest among us are so acutely aware of its actual use, and they know where the photos are going (hello Instagram), that they will openly request to have their picture taken. I will admit that my own child, who is only four years old, does this. This may be partly occupational hazard; my children know that I take photos for a living, but they also know that my phone ends up being the device most widely used. So my littlest will say to me, “mommy, take my picture” when the thing she’s asking me to take a picture of isn’t all that significant. What has happened is that our children are expecting us to document everything they do.
These devices have become so much a part of their life that we are creating a culture where our photos are being devalued more and more everyday. We are taking photos that are slowly retaining no real significance to us because we are taking photos of kids doing practically anything. It’s no longer just a child’s first steps, or important birthdays, or the first day of school. It is everything. And I would argue that this constant presence of cameras in their lives is creating an environment where they expect it and we as parents are not being truly present. It’s not enough to simply store the moment away in our brain and enjoy it in real time. We have to click a button instead.
Now, we could get into a whole other debate entirely about the ethics of posting all these photos of our kids on the internet. That is the next step, of course. There are many articles about internet privacy, and letting children have their freedom while they are young. You can read them and I don’t need to rehash any points. I also don’t want to sound like a hypocrite, because, I too, post photos of my children on social media. Personally, I don’t know if I have an opinion surrounding this topic right now. The point that I am trying to make, and one that I do feel strongly about, is that we are photographing our kids too much, and not in very meaningful ways.
We have parents addicted to their phones and we have children addicted to the attention. They expect their lives to be documented. I worry about what that says to them and how it is going to effect them later in life. What happens when the cameras aren’t there and the attention they crave goes away?Instead of just letting them “do the thing,” we are training them that pressing record is even more important than the thing itself.
I believe that we have been inadvertently trained to fear the loss of these memories. So we document everything because we don’t want to forget. For decades we have lived in a culture that teaches us “they are only young once,” “they grow up so fast,” and “it will be over before you know it.” These mantras of parenthood have taken on a whole new life with the advent of the smartphone and a camera in everyone’s pocket. Long gong are the days where every snap of the camera cost you money because film isn’t cheap. You had to develop it, you had to print your pictures. Every photo mattered. Now we have cloud storage. Instead of hoarding things in our closet, we hoard photos on our phone. We don’t want to forget.
I completely understand this. I own a business in which I document major life milestones for people. Photographs have an immense amount of meaning to me. It’s the reason why I am a professional photographer. The value that I place on them is unmeasurable, and I want my children to understand that value. If I take out a camera, even if that camera happens to be on my phone, I want it to be for a really valuable reason. So I ask you to consider this: the next time you find yourself in a moment with your child and you feel compelled to take that Insta-worthy photo, stop and think for a second and ask yourself, “is this picture truly necessary?” Can you store it away in your mind and be happy in the moment instead?
We can document childhood andbe present in our children’s lives. But we can also just let them be. Leave them alone and let them be kids.