Gaze and Shrug

Surrounded By the Whole

“I once needed to shout from the rooftops but have now said my piece. Can we be done at some point? Can we gaze upon this world and shrug, content with the work we’ve done? God I hope not. The mere thought of it depresses me.” – Patrick LaRoque

Before the Break

Sure, it’s nice – getting a week between Christmas and New Year’s off as a freebie vacation week. That week is one of the many benefits of working in higher ed.

Except when you’re sick.

It hit us the weekend before Christmas: a scratch throat, a groggy unease, and sinus pain that felt like continual just-before-you-sneeze agony. Then, from Christmas day to just this week, a persistent sickness. It didn’t ruin the holidays, but it certainly wasn’t fun.

Maybe it’s a good thing I had that week off. But there are better ways to spend a vacation than homebound misery.

So I took the usual Christmas morning photos of the kids opening presents. Other than that, and despite some big photo plans I had, I just didn’t get much done. Instead, I’ll share some pre-Christmas fun in the playroom with the kids.

Before the snow fell. Before the presents showed up under the tree. Before the misery.

Year After Year

O Holy Day [Explored]

Every year, I give a simple gift to my side of the family: a calendar of full-page photos from the previous year, showing all the kids in the family doing their thing. Easter, summer, Halloween, birthdays – it’s all in there.

And every year, the calendars are a hit.

I’ve been giving photo calendars since before I had kids of my own – probably five years or longer – and there’s no gift that makes a splash like they do. My family tears them open, thumbs through the photos, and remembers the year that was. You’d think they’d get old (“Another calendar? C’mon, Dave.”), but they don’t.

What keeps them fresh? We keep adding family members. That means new birthdays get added to the calendar portion, and new photos of new people appear up top. I added a kiddo to this year (Riley, in April). Family variety, in photo form.

“Sometimes I’ll take out the photos and frame them,” someone told me this year. What a nice thought: an 11×16″ photo worthy of a hanging on the wall for longer than a month.

I often feel like I’m taking the easy gift route for Christmas, giving away family photos year after year. But you know, they’re never not appreciated. I think it’s the variety thing, but I also think it’s because no one prints photos anymore, so any picture of a grandkid that one can hold is a true gift.

We can share our photo talents so easily starting with the ones we love.

Home for the Holidays

Everything is different this year: new house, new family dynamic, and heck – even a new place for our Christmas tree.

This time we went to the well-known family name, the one you pass on the highway with the big sign. And wouldn’t you know it, the nice weather met us there and made for a fun family outing (and great photos). It’s one of those holiday traditions we look forward to every year.

Like Christmas Vacation, right? Everyone loves that movie. You can’t help but think of the Griswolds every time you head out to the countryside to grab a Christmas tree.

Plenty of things change, but we try to keep these kinds of things steady.

The Fear Takes Over

Riding the Party Bus

When my daughter Madelyn was born, everything changed.

And not just for the better. As a parent, you can’t help but worry about your kid. Will they be safe? Will they be healthy? Will they always be around? I noticed my brain going down some very dark alleys after I had kids, often despite my best efforts. “Don’t worry,” I told myself. “Not much you can do about the unknown.”

Except my thoughts went to those dark places anyway. They still do.

Photography is a great way to show your love and appreciation of your family members. But to some, it can be a way to manage the anxiety of raising a child. I feel this often. If I’m photographing my kids, that means I’m with them. If I’m with them, that means I can prevent the bad stuff from happening.

That’s silly, of course. Bad stuff can still happen, even if I’m there. Photography is merely the excuse to keep the dark thoughts away, if only for a little while.

In Caspar Claasan’s project, he mentioned that things got better over time. If that’s true, than the photos I make now will remind me of the fears I had from an earlier period.

That will have to be good enough.

Through Your Eyes

Coke Red

I used to follow quite a few New York City-based photographers on Instagram.

It’s New York! Look at all the city scenes!

Except then it all started to look like…New York. Same Brooklyn Bridge, same skyline, same ol’ urban scenes.

What’s more fun for me is to follow photographers from somewhere else. There’s a million little towns and cities and hidden gems in this country (and continent, and elsewhere). Show me rural Iowa, or downtown Detroit, or Manitoba, or the people of southeast Michigan. It’s not that New York isn’t cool, or infinitely inspirational, but I’m a road trip guy. I want to feel like I’m seeing all of America, not just the most populous/popular part.

Show me America through your eyes, with your photographic voice, and I’ll be right there with you.