If you ever come to my house, you will see pictures everywhere. I take pictures at every significant occasion in my life, and then I put them all over my room, living room, bathroom, kitchen, hallway, etc. Interestingly, I hate scrapbooking. Not only because of the effort involved, but also because you have to go out of your way to look at them. Instead, I like to be reminded of those happy times every time I walk around my house.
And apparently I’m not alone in this. Couples pay photographers insane amounts of money to capture the *perfect* shots of their wedding day, shots that make them look the most in love and the most romantic…like something you might see in an ad for diamonds. In addition to the wedding photo industry, photo shops make a nice living by photographing children at every landmark event possible–6 months old, one year old, first Christmas, first Easter, first tooth, first day of school, and on and on. Those same shops can also put those pictures on every item imaginable–mugs, ties, Christmas ornaments, t-shirts, etc. And let’s not forget all those cute costumes in which we can photograph our kiddos. Most recently I saw a picture of a baby dressed like a pod of peas. Adorable.
Now obviously I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pictures. They are a great way to remember our favorite times in life. However, as I stood in the mall looking through the glass at that baby who’d been sqeezed into a green pea pod, I began to wonder if we’ve taken things too far. Why is it that we are obsessed with taking the *perfect* shot? Couples don’t just take one picture when they get engaged, they take TONS–“This is Bobby down on one knee. This is Susie kissing Bobby on the cheek. This is the ring. This is the ring next to a flower. This is the ring with a sunset in the background. This is Bobby and Susie staring into one anothers’ eyes. This is Bobby and Susie looking pensively into the distance…” And parents don’t just take one picture of their baby, they take TONS–“This is Emma in a pink dress. This is Emma in a field of flowers. This is Emma with a pile of teddy bears. This is Emma dressed like a sunflower. This is Emma lying on a bed of feathers….” Seriously, does anyone else find this a little weird?
Speaking from my own motives, this trend partially stems from vanity. It’s nice to see yourself or your family looking nice and put together, dressed well and smiling as if life is perfect. However, what strikes me about this trend is that it is somewhat inauthentic. Many of these pictures don’t reflect the lives we have, the lives we lead every day.
You see, there are two kinds of pictures–“real life” pictures and “fake life” pictures. There are some pictures that authentically reflect your life and what is going on at the time. These are pictures that you take in the moment. They don’t involve moving heaven and earth to take them, and you don’t take 10 rolls to get the perfect one. You just snap a photo and get what you get. Then there are “fake life” pictures. I think the pea pod picture is a good example. As a general rule, babies don’t wear pea pods. Nor are they normally that clean, or that happy. Those pictures therefore capture a staged moment, not a real life moment. A “fake life” moment.
In the last couple days I’ve found myself thinking a lot about these “fake life” pictures. Why do we take them? What image are we trying to achieve with the perfect wedding-dance-dip pose or the baby dressed like a bumble bee?
In all honesty, I think these pictures reflect the kind of life we desire, but don’t have. We see those magazine ads of the flawless brides or the giggling babies and we think, “That is the life I am supposed to have,” and so we mimic it. We take pictures that look just like perfume advertisments or diaper commercials. We imitate the lifestyle that marketers are selling us. And in so doing, we buy the lie that our lives aren’t pretty enough, clean enough, picture-perfect enough.
Now the moral of this blog is not that pictures of babies dressed like bunnies or tulips are inherently evil. Nor is it wrong to want that perfect shot on those special occasions. But, the prevalence of this trend is one of many symptoms that indicate how greatly we’ve been influenced by our culture. Commercials are designed to make you feel dissatisfied with your life and instead strive for the life they are selling you. We must therefore be on guard as to how much we’re buying it.
Let us not forget the beauty that God has written into the less glamorous parts of our lives. Maybe your baby just pooped all over creation, but that just means you have a healthy child whose body is doing what it’s supposed to to help your baby grow, and that is a cause for rejoicing! And maybe you and your husband got into an argument, but that is also an opportunity to be humbled, to learn more about your husband, and to forgive, so it is also a cause for rejoicing. If we only seek to remember the picture perfect moments, the photos that capture the kind of life we want, as opposed to the one we actually have, then we miss out on the opportunity to rejoice in God every day. The solution is not to stop taking cutesy pictures, but to start enjoying God even now. My dog just threw up all over the carpet, and I probably won’t take a picture of it, but I’m still pretty glad that God created her, and that, too, is a cause for rejoicing. 🙂
The sacrament of the ordinary is to me most blessed. Further, The mundane and messy are two descriptions of what I believe are make up the beauty truth and goodness in reality…God’s love Incognito.