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July 5, 2012

Poor Tom's Almanac: Pictures give us a perfect glimpse of life

Being a photographer by vocation — and avocation — I have a question and two observations to make today.

First, the question. How come children never carry around pictures of their parents and grandparents?

The observations? If a person complains that a photograph doesn't do him justice, it's probably because he really looks that way.

Only one person is quicker on the draw than a cowboy in a western shoot out. That's a woman with her grandchildren's photographs inside her handbag.

The best Christmas gift I could have received last December was a family portrait. How three children given their busy schedules could gather up six of their children and their spouses with their priorities and hightail it to a studio for a perfect pose is well beyond me.

It's one of those priorities in life that seem to escape us. In past years, we had each family handle its own photography. The plethora of school and sports pictures that covered our living room walls and bedroom dressers was immense.

Now, one picture of everyone was the perfect remedy, not that I would ever discard the others. What I have in my scrapbooks and photo albums is another matter — everything from that first baby step to a graduation. Every expression gets to be recorded.

It gets to the point that my children have issued a gag order. "Enough with the pictures," they tell me. "We don't need six of the same thing."

Hey, that's the inbred photographer in me. I remember the first time I tried having a studio photograph taken of my family. It would have been easier taking a Nikon apart and putting it back together.

In the past, I tried putting the camera on a self-timer, hoping to beat the click. I've recruited whoever was around a table to take the picture. In each case, the results were amateurish. Heads were cropped. Nothing was centered. Those on the end were suddenly missing from the group. Another time, they stood so far back with the camera, you needed a magnifier to see the faces.

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