When I was a child, my father was heavily into photography. He had the complete darkroom set up in the basement of our family home and loved to experiment with different films, film developers, and printing techniques. Unfortunately, my father never learned design and adopted the attitude that great photographs happen intuitively. Of course, in my opinion, he was a technician, not an artist.
Because my father was a photography technician and not a designer, he was always looking for an easy subject to experiment with - one that he could grab quickly, pose and bang out a few shots. Regrettably, my siblings and I were those subjects. On the weekends, he would remove us from our natural habitat (playing in the yard, hanging out with our friends in the nearby alleys, riding our bikes, etc.) to pose us for what seemed like hour-long photography sessions. Needless to say, as kids, we hated it.
As I grew up and got married to my first wife, I photographed a lot of her family events. You see, my wife came from a large family of nine brothers and sisters, and many of them had kids. To say there was an endless supply of photographic opportunities was an understatement - Christmas, Easter, birthday parties, bar mitzvahs and on and on it went. So like any good photographer, I took advantage of these gatherings and photographed as much as I could. That was over twenty years ago.
Today, I'm remarried (long story - one that I won't bore you with), and I've been doing a lot of looking back on the photographs I've taken through the years. As I was scanning some of my negatives yesterday it dawned on me - I never took any posed images when it came to photographing children. I think somewhere in the back of my mind, my childhood experiences with my father (and his approach to taking pictures) stuck with me - it was something that I didn't want to do.
So, if you happen to be one of those parents that love taking pictures of your children, you will discover that it's best to photograph kids being kids. In other words, don't pull them away from doing their childhood activities to pose them like mannequins, catch them in their natural environment and let them interact as if you weren't there. At first, they will obviously notice that you have a camera but over time if you continue to photograph them on a regular basis, they will soon forget, and you will capture some fantastic shots - ones that will last decades long after they have been taken.
The photograph above was taken in 1998 with a Leica R5 and Tri-X 400 film.
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