Elma Family Kitty Motherhood Pause for Thought Photography

On why all small girls should be taught to use Lightroom


In my last year at school the school got email.  Not for everyone mind, for a school of well over 1,000 pupils we had 100 email addresses.  You had to ask your parents to sign you up for one, with priority being given to pupils with family overseas.  And I’m a little embarrassed to admit that when I first started university I’d never met a PC before and I had to take written instructions down to the computer room to try to find the internet and my email.  And as for a phone; well one of these days I’ll tell my girls about phonecards, especially the sort that only called your parents, about queuing for the phonebox in the corner of the quad on a rainy night, and the long lost art of letter writing.  I have a feeling they’re going to look at me much in the same way we might someone recalling the days of outside loos.

We weren’t deprived, it was just the norm, but I wonder whether it made us easier to protect.  We weren’t bombarded with advertising and commercial imagery; it was there, in magazines, in tv ads and in film trailers; but there is a massive difference between a monthly glossy read-and-abandoned, and a continual barrage of virtual reality.

As I write, two tiny daughters are asleep upstairs, deeply relaxed, starfish hands outstretched, without a care in the world.  And just as I am certain that Kitty has her fingers curled into her hair and that Elma will have wriggled the length of her cot and be pressed up against one end, I know that somewhere in a newspaper office someone spent today coming up with a headline branding a ‘celeb’ as being too skinny, while in the neighbouring office, someone else in the public eye has been decreed to have ‘piled on the pounds’.

How can I protect my beautiful daughters, give them the space to grow into strong, healthy, kind, confident, happy young women, in the face of an enslaught of media fluff that is consistent only in its relentless assertion that, where girls are concerned, looks are really all that matters. 20131015-DSC_0203

I don’t have an answer; the girls are 10 months and three so it would be bizarre and spectacularly presumptious to believe that I’ve got it all figured out.  But if the first step to finding a solution is a consciousness of the problem, at least I’m trying to think it through.

And it does make me wary about what behaviour I model.  Which brings me to my beloved friend Lightroom.  I love it so.  It does fabulous things to my photos, it straightens the horizon when I’m having a wonky day, it crops out the clutter that appears in my lounge whenever I turn my back (I blame pixies) and the kitchen bin, and prevents everyone from looking as if they’ve been tangoed when I’ve forgotten to reset the white balance. 20131015-DSC_0182

But I’ve got to remember to use them in the right way.  To entirely mangle-quote:

“With great cropping tools comes great responsibility”

I never want the girls to feel that they are not in themselves enough.  They do not need tweaking or airbrushing, it’s their Mama’s technical skills and general housekeeping that do.  It would break my heart if they thought that I played around with their photos because I needed or wanted to change how they look.

My ideal would be that in watching me adjust photos a little, they gain an inherent awareness of what can be done, that the camera really can lie, and pretty spectacularly to boot.

But whether they pick that up from a little everyday exposure or not, I am determined that when they get a bit older we’ll be having a little Mama-daughter time messing around on the computer to show them exactly how mere mortals are turned into supposedly aspirational perfection with a few clicks.

If I can arm them with the knowledge then I can at least hope for a little bit of critical judgement in the midst of the teenage minefield. 20131015-DSC_0189

(all photos straight from the camera for once – we were trying on the winter hats to see who needs/would really really like a new one)

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  • Caroline 24/10/2013 at 9:08 am

    Lovely post. As a mum with a young son I often worry he won’t know what real girls look like having been exposed to Miley et al. I have no idea how we arm our kids for this one but I agree awareness is the first step. I love the last photo as Elma tries to pull her hat off sideways!

    • Carie 24/10/2013 at 9:28 am

      I know I’ve become more aware of what can be done as a result of my photography – hopefully the next generation will be so tech savvy that they’ll be able to divorce reality from advertising.

  • mandycharlie 24/10/2013 at 11:10 am

    You have grown to be a strong and beautiful (both in and out) woman, and in that way you will inspire your daughters to do the same. I know my boys are anti prejudice in any form from the examples in life and talks that I have had with them. This makes them well rounded individuals and I am sure that your girls will be there routing for the underdog (in whatever form) and will be able to spot what is true and what is fake probably quicker than you or I. And from what is going on at the University, there is much talk about how fake the fashion industry is and things are going to be changing through the present days intake of students ideas coming to fruition – its going to be an exciting and very real (for us mere mortals) time.

    • Carie 25/10/2013 at 8:29 am

      I think that’s both fascinating, and very reassuring, that your university course is so aware, and so very keen to change it – perhaps there’s hope for us all!

  • Katie @mummydaddyme 24/10/2013 at 2:15 pm

    I sometimes fear having two girls. I want them to grow up exactly like I did. I cared about how I looked, of course I did, but I didn’t feel I had to be the slimmest person in the class. After two children, I know I have a wobbly tummy, and I feel uncomfortable at times, but mostly I don’t want to give up the chocolate, and I feel enough confidence with myself to know that if I really wanted to change it I could, but I am happy as I am.
    I am fearful of the role models girls seem to have nowadays. When I grew up I wanted to be James Herriot (the vet!) not someone from Geordie Shore. I don’t have the answers as like you said, they are only little and we aren’t at the stage yet, but I only hope that we will figure it out as we go along and parent them enough to know that these idealistic images aren’t real. I think having girls will be a challenge, but I only hope that we will be able to make them see that they are beautiful on the inside, and deep down, that’s really all that matters. x

    • Carie 25/10/2013 at 8:35 am

      I think I was the same, well apart from wanting to be James Herriot – I think I wanted to be a cross between Nancy Blackett and Rumpole of the Bailey – but certainly while I wanted to look neat and stylish I’ve never been that bothered about how the bare bones measured up to some arbitrary standard.

      I think all we can do it try to model what we want them to be, and from Mandy’s experience that seems to do the trick!

      And I love the ramble – no apologies needed!

  • Katie @mummydaddyme 24/10/2013 at 2:16 pm

    PS Sorry for the ramblings. I just read it back and it is a ramble! x