Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Photoshopped Existence

Recently we have added a new little feature to our home computer.

Rather than having a standard screen saver that pops up when the computer is resting, we have one that pulls pictures from our large stash of photos stored on our hard drive. It is like having one's personal "This is Your Life!" slide show running at various points in the day.

This new screen saver feature has really caught the interest of everyone in the family. Evelyn will stand in front of it asking, "Who dat, Mommy?" with each picture change. She can now tell the difference between she and her brother as babies, as well as recognize and name random individuals who have wound up in a few of our photos over the years. Isaac likes to sit in front of the moving slide show and comment on each picture, usually providing running commentary of the shot as if he remembers each and every moment these particular photos were taken. The recent photos he does indeed remember, however he especially likes to comment on ones from before he was born or when he was just a tiny little baby. My favorite comment, inspired from the viewing of this screen saver one day, was, "Mommy, remember when we used to not live in the United States?"

Umm...we have always lived in U.S. of A., my child. You, dear son, have always lived in the same town and in the same house. So, no, I don't remember such a time...

Sometimes at night as Tobe and I are lounging around our room (where our family computer lives) talking about the days events, we will suddenly become transfixed by the moving images flashing across our computer screen. There will be a shot of me pregnant, a photo of Isaac chasing after his beloved bunny a few years ago, one of Evelyn shortly after birth....and we just allow the sweet memories to wash over us.

If either of my children are ever the subjects of a school/graduation/pre-wedding photo slide show set to music, I will just lay down on the floor in a ball and cry. Seriously. The recap of ones life up to that point in pictures is just too much for me.

Watching this slide show, always different and always entertaining, at random points during the day really started me thinking. Although all of our pictures are sweet or entertaining, they only convey a small portion of our actual life. In reality those photos have been edited, unpleasant background images have been cropped away, unfavorable lighting has been altered into something a tad more pleasant.

Because of some handy photo-shopping, the whole story is not being conveyed.

The photos of a tiny little Isaac, dressed so smartly in a little newborn outfit, fail to show the days he would never sleep and those late afternoons/early evenings when he would fuss continuously. Such photos fail to describe the tremendous amount of effort that was put into feeding him those early months or the adjustment Tobe and I had to go through as we figured out how to add "Parent" to our already long list of duties.

The pictures of the children together often show them smiling, at least one of them actually looking at the camera, and clean clothes on their little bodies. Deleted forever are the shots taken of them crying, of someone in a state of complete muscle loss as they wither in the throws of a fit, or of their mother sometimes caught in the frame (although attempting to be off-camera) attempting to make the children smile through the use of some bizarre antic.

Photoshop, it is a magical thing, even if it tends to make our lives a bit too cookie-cutter-ish and bit too perfect.
One day, when the children are a bit older and their worlds a bit more tarnished, I plan to reveal the truth behind some of our family photos...the story that lies behind the photoshopped image.

I plan to tell Isaac that although the bumper pad looks pristine and angelic in his crib in many an image, in reality it was stained by the numerous tummy issues that plagued him in infanthood.

I likely will tell Evelyn the reason we have quite a few shots of just Daddy, Mommy, and Isaac taken in years when she had already joined the family is because she could be found on those occasions crying a few feet away, refusing to have her picture taken.

And I will likely point out the pale hand that can be seen in the far left corner of our 2006 Christmas card....a hand that was firmly holding Isaac against a Christmas tree, forcing him to stand still (and not run away as he desired) for a professional holiday picture to be taken.

Perhaps I will tell them why certain pictures were changed from color to black and white, sometimes to disguise a bruise from a recent toddler mishap or other times to conceal the tell-tale signs of candy that Mommy used to bribe the subject of the photo.

There are some stories behind such images, stories that display how life actually is as opposed to how life actually seems in a brief, still shot.

However, I might fail to mention all the times I conveniently retouched the dark circles under my eyes or used the "enhance" feature to make my face a bit more tan and rested-looking.

Those kids don't need to know everything, do they?


Jennifer Reinsch said...

I love this post! It is so sweet.

The Grovers said...

Any photo montage will make me cry...even if I don't know the people! There's just something about slow moving pictures of people at their finest moments set to sentimental music. I love your point about our photo-shopped existence!