Our trip to the photographer this weekend was not pretty. To start off, we arrived about ten minutes late. That's not shocking considering that 8 people have to get dressed, groomed, into the car, out of the car, through the mall, and into the studio. Oh, and that's not including multiple cries of "why on EARTH are you wearing THAT??" after which the target of the criticism is required to change into something completely different but equally unflattering.
Now, I don't like to be late. I live my life by appointments. Get to the hospital at a certain time. Get to the clinic at a certain time. See patients every 15-30 minutes. All on-time. Ten minutes late means an unstoppable domino effect that can only lead to world annihilation. So I understand the need to be on-time. Never-the-less, when a patient who has traveled all the way across town, through traffic, in a wheelchair, uphill, both ways, through 12 inches of snow, shows up 10 minutes late, I usually find it in my heart to see him anyway. (I know Bean and the other MDs will call me an idiot for doing so, that it only encourages non-compliance and delinquency and inconveniences the patients who managed to make it on time for their appointments and takes away valuable blogging time and blah blah blah there I've said it so you don't have to).
So I guess I was a little put-off when the lady at the counter told me (after I had waited nicely while she checked in other people with later appointments than mine) that I had missed my slot and too bad so sorry for me. And me with my 6 kids in funny suits. Well I guess I can't expect everyone to be compassionate like me (stop snickering, Bean). Fortunately, we had booked a double appointment, so we took the second slot and proceeded to the room.
A word first about...apparel. Occasionally I like to take a portrait in polo shirts and jeans. But usually we get dressed up in suits and dresses. For some reason. Supposedly it's to make us look good. Ha! I'm saying right now for the record that the PT clan has absolutely NO FASHION SENSE. Once upon a time, I fancied myself a budding artist, and studied composition, and color, and theme. Well those brain cells are fried and gone, most likely by years of video games and loud music. I don't know what the heck I'm doing. To see my family walk into the studio past families with cute little color-coordinated clothing is...
Here's what it's like. Did you ever play with action figures? Did you ever have action figures from different shows or genres, who shouldn't be together, but you put them together anyway? Like Mr. Spock and Spiderman and a Stormtrooper and maybe a GI Joe who's 6 inches taller than all the others? And then pretend they're a family taking a portrait? That's what we're like.
Yeah, we have the 4 guys in suits. Should be pretty easy, right? Except 3 guys are wearing white shirts and one is wearing dark red, and there's a brown suit and a blue suit and a light tan suit. And I don't even want to talk about the girls. I know I shouldn't talk about the girls. I'm not going to talk about the girls.
So we finally got into the little room to get our portrait. It seemed a little cramped, but the photographer assured us that she had once squeezed 32 people into that exact same space. I don't know if she was also able to fit their clothes into it. My wife moved us around like we were a bunch of chess pieces until she got us into a position for a checkmate. And then the photographer told us to smile.
I don't know what it is with kids. But they don't know how to smile. I know that when they are born, you can get them to smile by tickling them or surprising them or giving them something that produces gas. But at some point, when they get to preschool maybe, they forget how to smile. They confuse smiling with dentistry. It's like they try to show all their teeth. That's a smile. It's not attractive. It takes a kid who looks reasonably good and turns him or her into some kind of insane fiendish demon.
And I guess, after they figure out that this is not the best way to look good in a picture, then comes the grinning stage. Whereby they clamp down on their lips to avoid exposing any teeth at all. To me, this looks equally ridiculous.
At this point, the only way to get a decent picture is to surprise them, like in this example where I didn't tell my daughter I was taking a picture until she looked up. And then I made her say something stupid, like Chewbroccoli.
Or you can try to capture them in a natural state, like when they're doing something they really enjoy.
The thing that absolutely doesn't work is to try to tell them how to smile. Because if you do that, in addition to a weird mouth contortion, you also get furrowed eyebrows.
So of course that is precisely what I tried to do. I kept telling them to smile naturally, keep the mouth open a little, no not that much, too MUCH, no stop grinning, yes you're grinning, yes that's a grin, no, your lips should not be turning white, look just don't smile at all... All while keeping a fake smile plastered on my own face just in case the photographer decides to snap a shot.
Meanwhile, the PT, who was initially interested in being the subject of a portrait, figured out that she will, in fact, not be the center of attention after all, and started squirming and moving around. Then she was looking around in different directions, and in general trying to escape. The photographer noticed this and tried to get her attention with a doll or a feather or a funny face. That worked for her, but then everyone else was looking at the PT, not at the camera, so that I was constantly yelling "Look at the G*% D#$% camera, not at your sister!" through clenched teeth, like a ventriloquist.
Trying to get six kids to stand still and stare at the camera and smile in a less than maniacal fashion was proving very stressful on the nerves and I could feel a spasm working its way from my neck down to my back. Then my wife was telling me to calm down and leave the kids alone and stop telling them that they have ugly smiles or I'll give them a complex like my mother gave to my sister.
In the end it was a miracle that it didn't actually come to blows. What with this one sneezing and that one blinking and somebody (I know it was you) doing donkey ears behind my head.
Actually, the pictures came out looking quite nice.