>> Friday, 11 July 2008
We live in a visual age. A picture is worth a thousand words - apparantly. I happen not to agree with that unreservedly - you may have picked up on that by the amount of drivel on my blog, along with the lack of images - but I can see the merit in that statement.
Everywhere you go, people are videoing, taking pictures, watching tv. They're 'preserving the moment'. Boxing it for the future. They do this anywhere, at any time. At home. At their desks. Out and about. In planes, trains and automobiles. Other than on a bike, there is no form of transport where you can't tap into some form of visual communication if you wish. Even the tube has jumped on board. It was once a bastion of the written word, with commuters hunkering down behind broadsheet and tabloid newspapers in an attempt to create a little personal space and an escape from the maelstrom surrounding them. But that's changed too now; one is no longer automatically removed from the onslaught by the simple means of going underground since the introduction a couple of weeks back of enormous tv screens to various underground stations, showing ads continuously throughout the day. How did we live without that, I wonder?
But still. This post is not a complaint about a society of people increasingly tuned in only to instant visual stimulation, or a lament about the falling numbers of people prepared to pick up a book and engage their brain. Hell, I'm sitting here blogging rather than reading 'War & Peace' or 'Daniel Deronda', who am I to comment?
No, actually this long-winded introduction is to a post about how photographs can cause you to reassess your memories of a particular time or person. How you can have a set of images in your mind that you are almost certain are a fair representation of reality, but that when you look back at the pictures, you realise that actually; it wasn't like that at all. And since this blog is mostly about my boys - well, you've probably guessed what's coming. It certainly isn't a deep philosophical reflection on the state of our media-driven society...
I bet, if you have had babies and young children in your lives, your own offspring or otherwise, you were pretty sure they were perfect. You cooed over them, you cuddled them, you took joy in every snuffle, snuggle, burp and puke. (Well, maybe not the last one). You knew that your baby - or your sister's baby, or your best friend's - was essentially the most gorgeous baby you were ever going to see. And you took pictures, to prove it. You showed them to your friends, your long-suffering colleagues, the strangers on the bus. You framed them, hung them in your sitting room, stuck them up on your desk at work, carried them around on your mobile phone. Visual communication Rules OK! Without even opening your mouth you were able to say; 'Look, look everyone! See how beautiful this baby is!'
And they are. No doubt about it, every baby is beautiful. In their own way.
Now, let's move on to birth announcements. (Bear with me here). For a lot of people these are really important. The Dutch especially, it seems. Over the years Husband and I have amassed what seems like hundreds of them. This is mainly because we are too disorganised to get round to having a birthday calendar, so this is an easy form of reference for when we are going to visit friends with kids and we have no idea how old they are, when their birthday is, and even in some cases - I'm ashamed to admit - what the children's names are.
A lot of our friends don't just send out the bulk-standard be-ribboned card, either. No, they will include a photo of their newborn cherub. (Can you see where this is going yet?) And sometimes - pre-children - well, sometimes I just wondered why that is. There has been at least one occassion when Husband and I have looked at the photo accompanying the card and thought 'oh, dear'. Now invariably the less attractive babies grow into beautiful toddlers and children, but those photos taken a few hours after they've fought their way out into the world are often not representative of the child's 'full potential'. (Have I put that tactfully enough?).
Before you have your own kids you look at these photos and think to yourself "I would never do that. Surely they can see what we can see?" But then, you have your own children. And suddenly you too develop this form of myopia. You don't just think your baby is The World's Most Beautiful; you know it. With all your heart. And you are absolutely certain that this is a fact that everyone must acknowledge, and that you alone have been spared the blindness afflicting other new parents.
Wake up and smell the coffee, new parent. No-one is immune.
A couple of years ago I was rifling through some photos and came across one that a friend had taken of Boy #1 and passed on to me. It stopped me in my tracks. Who was this 5 month old baby? Not mine, surely? I remember him having more hair. Better skin. Looking a little less like the michelin man. And then it hit me. I was blind too! How had this happened? Well, clearly it was hormones, but I determined on the spot that it wouldn't happen again.
And then I had Boy #2. Who was, it turned out, the most beautiful baby you could ever hope to see in your whole damn life. I was certain this time. What, you don't believe me? Just look at the photos...
Which I did this week, as I was putting together some 'eye candy' for the grannies birthdays, coming up in the next month or so. (Photobox do hardbacked printed albums of your little angels - what doting grandmother could ask for more?). And so I went back through our files of digital photos to pull some out of both my angel Boys at the various stages of their lives to-date.
Apparantly, The Blindness got me again.
Luckily, though, it wears off. You can look at your children objectively as they grow older. Which is good, because if I couldn't, I wouldn't be able to say so definitively that my Boys are the best looking four and two year old that you're ever likely to meet.
What? I mean, come on! Just look at the photos...