Evolution of the Family Portrait

  • Mike McCurry
  • 07/9/17
From Mike McCurry’s “Talk of the Town” column in The Clarendon Courier, July 6, 2017
Our children always turn to the page with the limousine, where their mom and I are posing for our honeymoon getaway. Another favorite of my daughters’ is the portrait of with Amy (my wife) in the classic, solo pose, displaying her beautiful dress and veil. Our wedding album is proudly displayed on a table in our family room, and they often like to flip through the pages to see the pictures of our former selves.
In a 1789 letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
We all know about the death and taxes idiom, but the other one of life’s certainties is that there will be change.
Nothing shows change more than old photographs.
About once a day, Facebook reminds me of my memories, adding to my page a picture of something I posted exactly one year or several years ago. Facebook encourages its users to highlight that “memory” on the present day.
It’s actually kind of fun to see what was posted from the past, and also interesting to see the changes that happen over time. Because we have children who are in their growing stages, a year time-span can produce noticeable changes. They’ve gotten taller, their faces have matured and their smiles have changed.
Every so often, Facebook also reminds me of a picture from the hospital room after a child was born those are fun to see.
Even with all the pictures posted on social media, people are still hanging family pictures on their walls to mark time and change. But the style of professional photography is not the same as it used to be.
I recently spoke with Clarendon Hills resident Jennifer Myall from Jennifer Lawrence Photography about changes in her industry.
Jennifer said that the older, posed shots are no longer in fashion. Many of her sessions are done in the home or at the family’s favorite place to be, and usually capture the moments of doing life together. She still takes the “smile and say cheese” shots, because her clients think they want them, but they’re not interested once they see their family showcased in a casual and relaxed environment.
“People love the documentary-style photography that shows off the in-between moments, because it’s real-life,” Myall said. She told me that the matching shirts and perfect family portraits don’t sell. “Who sees a two-year-old walking around in khakis and a polo anyway?” she said.
Reunions, weddings, anniversaries, milestone birthdays, graduations and high-school senior photos are still the important moments to catch on film, but it’s the day-to-day moments that we forget about, and become too common to remember. Part of my identity and also my children’s identities have been molded by images we see of ourselves and our loved ones who are now gone.
We have a few old photos of our parents and grandparents when they were young, but none of which are the documentary-style photography. It would be interesting to get a glimpse what life was really like back in their days. That would help connect the story to the picture.
I had to make that painful change recently by updating my business photos. We all get older, and nothing shows that more than an old picture of ourselves. In with the old-new me, and out with the old-young me. Change is an inevitable certainty, and it needs to be embraced.
I’m convinced that the documentary-style photography is a wonderful way to capture and remind us of the common and real moments shared with family members.
I’m also a little old-fashioned, because I love some of the posed pictures—especially the one of my beautiful bride in that wedding dress;—and she hasn’t aged or changed one bit.
Mike is a Clarendon Hills resident; husband; Indian Princess; Indian Guide Dad;  a Coach; an “old” football player and a real estate broker.  Mike’s columns are usually crafted about the buzz in and around the area.  It sometimes has a spin on real estate or cultural information, highlight a new business or announce school happenings.  He might include a “get-to-know” about some of our interesting residents and even a little about history. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”.
Evolution of the Family Portrait
Evolution of the Family Portrait
Evolution of the Family Portrait

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