It’s a quite different world nowadays the way we use photography from when I was growing up. When I was a kid, there were regular visits to the portrait studio or a school photographer would setup in our auditorium to make our class photos. There was something to it–the lights, the camera, the tripod, the background and the pose. That’s just what it was, how we did it.
What it wasn’t was an outstretched arm making a selfie.
The portraits were framed and displayed in our house, it was a way to show visitors how we looked as we grew up, and for us to feel like members of this family. “Look, we’re on the team, there I am right there!”
I was recently told by an interior designer that hanging family portraits in the main living area of a home is so outdated, so gauche. It’s just not to be done anymore. You can’t have a chic decor with those “pictures” hanging there. Goodness, what were you thinking?!
Wait, what? Family photos are forbidden in the main living area? Why? I guess there hasn’t been a modern TV show or movie with family pictures as part of the decor, because once they do it on screen, it becomes cool. Right now, we must be in an era where we take our decorating cues from high-gloss magazines made by art directors and designers who certainly know what’s best, and wouldn’t make the faux-pas mistake of showing our pimply-kid’s face.
“No one wants to see that, please! Go with the modern cubist art or an abstract watercolor. “
Ok, fine. So, they’re banished to the recreation room or the dining room. Maybe in our office we can find some wall space.
Well, maybe not. The kids are out of school and no one has seen the inside of a portrait studio in years. Why not? Because we take pictures all day long with our phones. Of course we have plenty. (Mainly with that aforementioned outstretched arm.)
But what about portraits? Well not really, not so much.
What about the parents? The grandparents? Really, who cares about making photos like that? This isn’t 1895.
We are making a billion photos a day. But none of our families. No documentation with quality photography of the multiple generations. We’re just wildly snapping away with our phones with no plan for them, no desire to make them into anything more than a glance right now.
Which is why I started The Wise Photo Project. Because if I can get more photographers around the world making portraits of their parents as they get older and their grandparents and great-grandparents, quality portraits that seek to depict them in good light and looking their best, that’s how we as photographers change the world.
You’ve heard me say, if you’ve read my blog for any length of time, that we are working for the generations to come, so they can know who their great-great-grandparents were. So that those faces will live on forever in the minds and hearts of the children to come.
There is a photographer in Denver, Mark Smith, who recently was given an award by his town for his work photographing the seniors at a nearby retirement community. That’s changing the world.
There’s a photographer in Lexington Kentucky, Jeff Botts, who’s taken up the task and is making portraits of elderly people in his neighborhood. That’s changing the world.
I know of several people who’ve said they wanted to contribute to the project who I haven’t heard back from, but I hope who are doing the work, making the portraits, and are gifting those portraits to the family. That’s changing the world.
The world for those future generations that won’t have to wonder who their ancestors were and where they came from. Who will have those wise old faces to live in their homes with them reminding them of the love and sacrifices made to create their family, to make it possible for them to be here alive in their time.
My dream would be that this project would catch fire, go global in a viral way, that we could have photographers in every corner of earth taking the care to make these portraits. That we would create portraits that reveal and remember these special personalities, that show who they’ve become after all their years.
Maybe it’s bigger than I already know. It can always grow further. Maybe with you contributing some time and making some portraits. You’re certainly welcome and encouraged to do just that. Take a look at what others are doing on our Facebook group, then add your work to the page to inspire others.
That child born in 100 years will thank you. For caring to make a wonderful portrait when few others were. I know, because of the people that I’ve photographed, many have said no one has made a formal portrait of them since their wedding 50+ years ago.
I make these portraits because without me, they wouldn’t exist.
And they simply need to exist. They do.
The holidays are coming and no one needs another scarf and hat set or manicure set from the discount store. How about making them a portrait that is framed and delivered to them that is something YOU made? Something that says love like no pre-wrapped present can. And that you know will last.
With all of us working together, we can really change the world–the world of those generations of children to come.