Say cheese, Little Birdie

In the Spring, we invested in a decent Digital SLR. Ironically, I was too busy to get to grips with it, given I was working all hours (on top of the day job) to finish the book on Digital Images before the arrival of The Wee Man. Now, I’m enjoying having the time – and a captive subject to play with – to experiment with it a little.

Photography and children go hand in hand. Susan Sontag said

Cameras go with family life. Not to take pictures of one’s children, particularly when they are small, is a sign of parental indifference… Those ghostly traces, photography, supply the presence of dispersed relatives. A family’s photograph album is generally about the extended family (Sontag 1979, On Photography, p. 8-9).

A child born today will probably have more photographs taken of them in the first year than a child born 50 years ago would have had in their lifetime, given the affordances of point-and-click digital cameras. The silent problem, though, is that folks are so lackadaisical in their approach to long term maintenance of personal digital image collections, that most of these digital images will not be around in 50 years time. Discuss.

“Official” photography of babies is still big business, even in the digital era. In the UK, a few hours after giving birth, you are accosted by the “Bounty Lady”, sponsored by the government and industry, to provide you with all the forms you need to register the birth, sign up for child support benefit, and get your hands on child trust fund money. In return for all your details, you also get a bag full of samples of pampers and fairy liquid and the enviromentally-unsound like (and research shows that folk tend to stick with the brands they are presented with when their baby is first born. Kerching!). Then the Bounty Lady sticks a Digital camera in your baby’s face (oooh, fancy), and for the bargain price of only £30 or so you can have a Digital print of your wee lamb. At least, I think that was the cost of the smallest package – I was still out of it, having been awake for 3 days by that point.

We smiled smugly and pointed out our range of digital cameras and camcorders which we had with us, and neglected to pay the inflated fee for the snapshot. (You’ll have to be my friend on facebook to see such video classics as “Thumper throws shapes” and “Rhythm is a Dancing Baby”.) Every single other new mother on the ward stumped up for the costly point and click snap.

In a few weeks, the Bounty Lady (or other commercial equivalent) is turning up to mother and baby group, again, to take a snapshot of all the babies, and charge inflated prices for photo-printed tat just in time for xmas. I’m tempted to take along the DSLR and practice my photography skills with other folk’s kids for free. Then they can trot down to the interweb and get whatever they want printed up themselves at normal prices. But maybe that’s not the way to win any new friends (or get a free pack of environmentally-unsound pampers). Just say cheese like everyone else…

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