I have thousands of photos of my girls on my phone, ranging from key milestones to chaotic blurs of blond hair. Some of these have been processed, printed and placed into albums, some even frames. I say some, currently two years behind on this, but I digress.
Recently, as my youngest approaches her second birthday, my eldest wanted to compare herself to her sister when she was the same age and happily I was able to show her the photo album. Let’s hope she doesn’t ask next year… While laughing and spotting the obvious hand-me-downs she has passed on to her sister, my eldest made the casual observation that I was hardly in any of the photos. Perturbed, I logged into the family Photobox account to review her second year folder (all 2000 plus photos) to debunk her observation. While there I looked at year one and three to discover I am almost never in the photos. 90 percent of the photographs are taken my me, but in my careful curation of our memories I have almost completely omitted the ten percent of myself from these, regardless that I was there and took the photo.
Suddenly and morbidly the notion of what if I died tomorrow hit me. Then five years from now she might revisit the three complete albums (note to self, there should be five), perhaps on her birthday and only vaguely remember that bald bloke.
Hopeful of the fact I would be remembered, I had to ask friends – can you remember being two, three, four or five? I certainly can’t.
The feeling that even though I can count on both hands and feet the number of nights I have not read them a bedtime story or that I have documented obsessively the most mundane of their everyday lives, I am visually not in the one thing they can use to recall me.
For a week I felt profoundly depressed, until I stumbled upon a short TED Talk by Steve Addis.
A long time ago in New York City, Steve stood on a corner holding his one year-old daughter in his arms and his wife snapped a photo. That image has inspired an annual father-daughter ritual, where Addis and his daughter pose for the same picture, on the same corner, each year. Addis shares 15 treasured photographs from the series and explores why this small, repeated ritual means so much.
They say photography is lonely, but Inspired now by Addis I plan to set out and capture a memory or a thousand with me in front of the camera with my family regardless of its implications on the backlog, and encourage you to do the same.