It seems that the biggest challenge to taking a portrait of the whole family each month isn’t so much a lack of intent or the motivation to do it, at least where the adults are concerned, and, as I so ably demonstrated last month, Kitty is remarkably responsive to that old standby – the chocolate biscuit bribe. And it isn’t that I’m particularly self-conscious about taking pictures with the tripod and timer. No, it’s a bit more basic than that. It’s my house. H and I are not minimalists by any stretch of the imagination, and neither are our daughters. We love colour and pattern and beautiful art and our lounge walls are filled with H’s paintings, beautiful prints, and a really great watercolour which we liberated from my parents-in-law’s garage several years ago.
The pile of quilts in the corner, the cushions a little faded and dog-eared from being dragged in and out of the garden, the vibrant red and blue play kitchen, boxes of Duplo and baby stuffies, and a bookcase exploding with the family’s current reads make our lounge the heart of our home. That is after all its primary function, although there are times when the photographer-Mama wishes for a little more light and a little less cross-trainer in the background.
I could I suppose develop gargantuan powers of de-cluttering tidiness but frankly I’d rather read another story, play another round of ice cream shop (today’s flavour is “purple”) or embark on another round of Playdoh-is-not-for-eating-please-take-it-out-of-your-mouth instead.
Besides, who’d want to see twelve months of photos of my sofa anyway.
I think a good part of this challenge is going to be exploring places for pretty photos and if those of you that have been doing this longer have any top tips I’d be more than grateful, although if December’s photo turns out to be four very cold people visibly shivering in my back garden I may re-think the tidiness thing.
But for July, I always knew I was going to have it a little bit easy, with our trip to Devon offering up both photographer and any number of pretty locations. So just to spice it up a bit it seemed only sensible that the location should move. A lot. After all, why when you have all the scenery of an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, would you not take your photo on a steam train.
We set it up, girls scooped onto our laps, camera handed over, and Dad, feet firmly braced between two solid seatbacks and the carriage doors steadied himself, waited for the perfect jolt, and let fly the shutter.
It captures so perfectly their intense excitement at the world passing by, even though I think we’re in a cutting judging by the greenery, that nothing, not even their much adored Grandpa could draw their eyes away from the window at that moment.
Even when we took a few more pictures from a less wibbly perspective Kitty’s eyes are sliding across, just to make sure that she doesn’t miss a thing.
This has been the month in which Elma and Kitty’s relationship as sisters has really started to blossom; especially now that Elma is sitting confidently on her own, although I’m not sure that Kitty’s that keen on how many of her toys are now within Elma’s tiny grasp. They giggle and splash each other in the bath, prod and poke each other in the shopping trolley and babble and chatter while we play. If Elma cries Kitty runs to her side; “don’t worry sweetie pies! Mama is coming! Come on Mama!”, and she often asks to give ‘squeezy hugs’. In the same moment I’ll be quieting toddler wails while unlacing chubby baby fingers from her sister’s blond curls, or having yet another variation on the conversation that begins “not all of the things belong to you”
But I think this photo shows it best; Elma’s delight and Kitty’s watchful love, holding her sister so carefully, despite all the grown up arms around them both.
My little family, in July.