I read with interest an article in the New York Times parenting blog this past weekend: Why we should take fewer pictures of our children. The author’s premise is that we are making our children too self-aware with our incessant documentation. David Zweig says, “Like most everything, self-awareness is healthy in moderation, and problematic in excess. For adults excessive self-awareness has links to a host of ills from anxiety to vanity.” He then goes on to link this self-awareness to the fact that kids are seeming older (in their behaviour and attitudes) at a younger age now.
Maybe it’s because Zweig has a daughter, or because I am too invested in obsessively documenting my kids’ lives photographically, but I am not sure I buy into this one. I could give you a couple of good reasons why maybe I should put down the camera every now and then, and at the top of that list would be so I would be more in the moment and not so busy trying to document it. But whether those photos, in the taking of them or in the viewing of them, is somehow damaging to the kids’ self-esteem or gives them too inflated a sense of self? Um, no.
Zweig says, “So, both components of our photography obsession — the experience of parents and others regularly clicking away, and the regular viewing of the results of this relentless documentation — are making our children increasingly self-aware. And this is a shame because a lack of self-awareness is part of what makes youth so precious.”
I say the kids love these images now and they will treasure them later. I wish we had more pictures of our family growing up, and I especially wish I had more than a dozen pictures of my parents’ childhoods. The only thing we enjoy more than looking at the “old” photos of our young family together is watching the few hilarious videos of them that I’ve posted to YouTube over the years. There may be a couple of years when they reach the teenage years that they are not quite so enamoured by the photos of these years, but I’m guessing that if they’re anything like me (and so far they do seem to be) then they will love these photos more with each passing year.
In direct counterpoint to Zweig’s article, if you have not already you simply must read Allison Tate’s beautiful blog post, The Mom Stays In the Picture, on why you should relinquish the camera every now and then (ahem) and get in the frame. Allison says,
I’m everywhere in their young lives, and yet I have very few pictures of me with them. Someday I won’t be here — and I don’t know if that someday is tomorrow or thirty or forty or fifty years from now — but I want them to have pictures of me. I want them to see the way I looked at them, see how much I loved them. I am not perfect to look at and I am not perfect to love, but I am perfectly their mother.
So when all is said and done, if I can’t do it for myself, I want to do it for my kids. I want to be in the picture, to give them that visual memory of me. I want them to see how much I am here, how my body looks wrapped around them in a hug, how loved they are.
So I suppose you’re not too surprised where I stand on these issues. When I first read Allison Tate’s blog post last week, I vowed while wiping tears from my eyes that dammit, I would hand over the camera to Beloved more often – and haul out that tripod so all five of us can be in a couple of frames as well. Because I will keep taking pictures of my family, and I’ll probably keep sharing them here with you, too, for many years to come.
What do you think about these very different blog posts? Do you see merit in David Zweig’s fears that the next generation will grow up to be narcissists? Or do you think that Allison Tate is right on the money, and what we need is simply more photos of the whole family, rumpled and wrinkly moms included?
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