Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Crying for the camera

Like most new parents, we like taking pictures of our little guy. When he first arrived in this world, he saw the camera so often he probably thought it was another parent. We'd capture every smile, every unusual look, and even a few cries. Despite all our picture-taking, we don't have an absurd amount of photographs cluttering our apartment. Sure, we have enough framed pictures of Kyle to make visitors feel that he is eerily staring at all times, but beyond those we hardly have any other pictures developed. These days, thanks to advanced technology and incredible laziness, people like myself don't bother with putting together photo albums, or even going to the store, online or the home printer to have photos developed. We just put them on the computer, where we can view them every evening while wearing the sleepwear we didn't bother to change out of for three days.

However, Jennifer and I have decided that, once a year, we will do photography the old-fashioned way by having an "official" portrait taken of the little guy. It involves dressing him up like an older person and bringing him to an actual photo studio, with bigger cameras and bright lights shielded by umbrellas in case there's ever an indoor rain storm. For last year's picture and this year's picture, we chose to take Kyle to a place known for its photography and table saws: Sears.

We chose Sears last year since it had a good reputation and would not force us to take out a loan to pay for the shots. We didn't want to go overboard with a pricey studio just yet, since there was an excellent chance that Kyle's spit-up would become part of the portrait. Sears actually worked out quite well. Even though we had to wait more than an hour for our session to begin, we were thrilled with the picture. I felt it fully captured Kyle's childhood joy of being thrown on top of an incredibly flat pile of leaves. Kyle seemed to love getting his picture taken, and he laughed and smiled throughout the whole session. The photographer just jumped around and keep shooting every joyful look. We had an abundance of pictures to choose from.

This year was a little bit different. The wait for the photo session was very short, but the session itself didn't quite go as well as the one a year ago. Kyle at first was hesitant to even go into the room, but we were able to walk him in there and have him sit down. For a few precious minutes, Kyle waited cross-legged in front of the camera and smiled. Jennifer and I sat on either side of him, anxiously hoping that the photographer would take his first picture, knowing that at any time our ticking time bomb of a child could explode. Yet, the photographer just stood there, focusing his camera. Then he asked us if Kyle could turn one of his legs so that his knee was sticking up. This is true. The photographer was asking our 16-month-old child, who "calms down" each night by clearing out the bottom two shelves of our bookcase, to sit still and pose for him. We were flabbergasted and said we didn't think he'd do that. For some reason, the photographer didn't believe us, and to get his pose, he reached out and did what photographers usually do with much older subjects: he tapped him.

KABOOM!! Kyle cried. His face turned red. He would not play nice anymore. The photographer tried desperately to calm him down, as did Jennifer and I. We were using all our tricks, from giving him a book to making monkey noises, but Kyle kept crying and crying, at increasing decibels. We did achieve several small victories, but it seemed that every time we managed to convince Kyle to sit still for a few seconds, someone would pop in and interrupt the photographer from taking a picture. It simply was not working for us.

"He was so much better at it last year," I said.
"Yep," replied the photographer. "A lot of parents say that."

Shortly after the photo session, we sat at a computer and looked at the shots. The photographer did a good job with what he had, and Kyle was not outwardly crying in any image. However, in more than a few pictures, we could see the strains of both sorrow and anger in his face. Last year, we took the two best out of many smiling photographs. This year, we chose the only two pictures we could use. With the others, we would have felt as if Kyle was crying at us every time we walked into the living room and saw his picture. That would have been a downer at parties.

We placed the order and will pick up the printed photographs this coming weekend. Chances are we will not do this sort of thing again for another year. Thank goodness. Hopefully by then, Kyle will be ready to pose.

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