This is me, as a little 3 year old. I am in the arms of my Grandmother on my Mother’s side. This image was beside my bed in a frame during my childhood. It has been cut with scissors, it is marked and scratched. It now lives in my 21st birthday album. I have not thought about this image for a long time, but recently I went looking for it. Now as a grown up, with children of my own, I look at this image differently. I wondered if my Grandmother actually liked this image.
You see she passed away not long after this. This image is the only memory that I have of my Grandmother. I don’t remember her. I have stories of her that I have heard from my Mum. The stories are like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle that is missing pieces. The stories are touched with sadness. My Mum lost both of her parents in her early twenties. She was young, nearly married, with two small children. The death of her parents hit her hard. Whenever she talked about her Mum, her heart ached. I know she tried to hide this from us, but the sadness was always present.
But what I do know from my Mum’s stories is that my Grandmother was a perfectionist. She liked to dress up with matching shoes, bag, hat and jewelry. She was a typical 1950’s housewife. She never went to do her weekly shopping without looking her best. She had her hair styled, her make-up on. Today, we could not imagine spending this much effort on our appearance to do the groceries. It was a different era.
When I looked closely at the image that was beside my bed, she is dressed casual for her style. For her, she is dressed down in her house clothes. I wondered if she liked this image. Did she look at this image and see her flaws? Did she wish she had on different clothes, or her hair styled. Would she have hit delete in our modern world of digital photography? What if she did hit delete? This image would not exist. This part of my family story would disappear.
We hit delete on our digital cameras all too easy. We don’t like our smile, our eyes are closed, our flaws are present. We hit delete. We feel ashamed of our body shape, our grey hairs are showing, the wrinkles cross our face. We hit delete. The house is messy, the laundry is overflowing, the beds are unmade. We hit delete. We use filters, and ask our photographer to use photoshop to remove these flaws. We plan to have that photo session once we lose that extra weight. But time passes by, and that weight doesn’t move. Life happens. The photo albums, and folders on our computer are filled with images of our children. They are filled with their story. But our piece in their story is missing.
This thought hit me hard. It was like a lightening bolt. I am guilty of hitting delete too often. I don’t want to be the missing piece in my children’s story. I don’t want to be so worried about my appearance that I am not in the photo album. I have been stepping in front of the camera more often. I don’t always like the image, but I am not hitting delete. I store it, in the hope, that one day I will look back on today and think “WOW! I looked so young”. Life is strange like that. What we hate today, we will love in 5 years. This is what I thought about on Mother’s Day when we stopped at a marina after a delicious long lunch. The sun was setting, and the light was so pretty. I am grateful that I stepped in front of the camera, with my Mum and children. These images are part of my story. They are images that I can place next to the one with my Grandmother. The image that I have because she didn’t hit delete.
Cindy Cavanagh of image421 photography
Cindy is a Sydney photographer who loves to capture the ordinary moments in our family life. This is family photography that is unposed, relaxed, and in the moment. She is also a Mum to five gorgeous children, who have taught her all she knows about documenting our story with images. She loves colour, light, and details. She enjoys baking and coloring-in with her daughters.