I always find it somewhat entertaining when I share a photo of someone in my immediate family who is not smiling. Inevitably there is always one commenter who has to say something about the fact that my daughter looks grumpy or my husband looks scary or my son looks sad. They always say it in such a way that makes me think there are people out there who really would prefer to only see smiling, happy photos.
Why do I share sober/sad/grumpy photos?
Because it's real life.
Documenting family life isn't all sun flares and happy kids doing arts & crafts. I make sure to grab those moments, too (who am I kidding, we don't do arts & crafts) but it's not real if that's all I get.
For my own family, I want a record of all of our feelings. The grumpy child, the stoic husband, the injury, the fight. The boring moments that don't really look like anything. You know, sometimes my kids give me the gift of their play and their eye contact to make a wonderful photograph, but many times they are irritated at being interrupted, or they don't even notice I am there and continue on yelling at one another, or what have you. I also aim to do this with client documentary sessions, because - like it or not - they often have elements of control by both the family and the photographer, and glimpses of "this is our reality" can be looked back on with emotion.
I love to create a photograph - to have a vision and follow it through - and I'm thankful that my husband and children oblige me on a regular basis. But there is something so wonderful in the off-guard, the moody. The reminder that, despite what we show about ourselves on social media, we've all got problems. We don't smile 100% of the time. That's okay. The smile photos are plenty. The other photos have their place in our life, too.
It's okay if my kids look sad. Sometimes they are. Nobody in my house is expected to be happy all the time. You don't need to tell them to smile - because I can guarantee it will sneak back in soon. A photograph gives you a fraction of a second's glimpse into my life. Sometimes that section isn't perfect.
I also happen to think we are beautiful in every emotion. How I love my daughter's jutted-out chin and my son's brown eyes when he is feeling confused. Kids are so wonderful at expressing exactly how they feel. This is childhood, caught in a frame. Don't worry - my kids are not miserable. They are kids.