As the Portrait Photographer in the family, I am always the one taking the photos. I actually don't exist in many family portrait photographs. I skipped the last 15 years somehow. Is this you too? It's got me thinking.
We may not think it's important that we are in the family portrait photos. You may not even want to be in photographs at all so you grab the camera or the iPhone before anyone else does - great excuse isn't it? Sadly, it's our loved ones who miss out. Last year my mother-in-law passed away. No one in the family had a good portrait photograph of her to display at her send-off. They came to me for one - I actually didn't have one either as I hadn't been doing portrait photography for my own family. Then the awful realisation hit home. It was too late - she's gone and no one captured a great portrait photograph of her. Yes, there were lots of photos of Mary but they were just snaps which were often blurred or distant - nothing engaging that did her justice. Nothing that was timeless.
Anyone who knows me or has read my "About Jane" page on my website will know that I love researching Family Trees. I delved into mine and I've got back beyond the year 1066. Researching where your family comes from and who they were is a game of intrigue and suspense. You will find secrets so well hidden that you may just be opening Pandora's Box.
When researching my family history, I solved a family mystery too. When my Grandfather was just 5 years old, he was given to his cousin and her husband. Yes, folks, that's right - he was given away! He never saw his brother or parents again. Grandad spent the rest of his life wondering what happened to his brother. To cut a long story short, I found Grandad's brother's death certificate, his daughter's name, who she married, where she lived and her phone number (just call me Sherlock).
One night I decided to phone her from Australia and told her who I was. This 86 year old lady started to weep as she relayed how she had tried all her life to find her Uncle - my Grandfather - and never knew what happened to him until we spoke. We stayed in touch until she passed away. One of the most important things she sent me were copies of old family portrait photographs - a photograph of my Grandfather's brother as an adult. Something my Grandfather never got to see. Dad and I stared hard into the image of a man so closely related but whom we would never meet. Finally, we got to see what he looked like.
One of my most treasured possessions is an old family photograph album. It's neatly inscribed in the front in faded ink, signed by my Great Great Uncle and dated 1884. Many of the images were taken long before then. The expressions are often bland or distant. The people well dressed and posing as best they could for the labourious amount of time it took to take just one exposure. As I carefully turn each page, I see images of ancestors only recogniseable to me by their names as most had died before I was born.
The photos of my Dad as a child and my Grandparents, however, are the most important. They have all passed away and this is what I have left of them. Of course I have the usual things such as watches and rings that belonged to them but it's the portrait photos that are the most prized as the connection is there for the heart to feel and the eyes to see. I love having them displayed in an album as it seems more tangible than a digital image. It's special to be able to take the photographic album off it's display shelf, feel it's luxury and then sit down and slowly turn the pages. There is something peaceful, private, almost meditative about that. They actually owned it and now it's passed down to me.
If you really do want to capture yourself and your family in portraits for all time, I offer a 6, 12 and 18 image package presented in an exquisite made-to-order Folio Box to keep your matted images in until you decide to display them. This is an heirloom that deserves to be handed down to your children and the ones you love to be treasured. There are other options also such as 9 images matted and displayed in a beautiful frame for your home for all to enjoy.
I encourage you to exist in portrait photographs for your children, friends and family. One day, your images will be priceless to them.
Love and Light
Jane Earle, Portrait Photographer - Northern Beaches, Perth.