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What future for formal photography?


With the publishing of Kate Middleton’s photographs of baby Charlotte yesterday in the press, it raises some interesting questions about the future of formal photography.

Kate’s pictures are lovely, capturing moments that only a mum or dad could. So where does this leave the bank of official Royal photographers? A representative of the popular press was interviewed on the radio this morning. He stressed that the growth of amateur photography was a positive trend and should be accepted alongside the work of the professionals.

I found this discussion fascinating as I use both stock prints and my own shots in my publishing work. The growth of Facebook and Instagram has led to an explosion in informal, phone based images. Photography apps also mean that you can edit and professionalise your own shots cheaply and with ease.

I do this myself, partly because of the costs involved but mainly because I enjoy it. For my most recent DCI Dani Bevan novel I used a photograph of my daughter taken from behind, with her leaning against a balustrade overlooking an ornamental garden for the cover. When I had completed the edits and design it was almost unrecognisable from the original. I am a writer and editor by trade, so if I can manipulate a photograph so painlessly then anyone can do it.

So what on earth is the future for photographic studios? I think that in the world of fashion photography and within the glossy magazine culture there is a place for more formal spreads. And fashions change. The informal ‘selfie’ shot is in vogue right now, but it may not always be. There are certain times when I use stock photographs, happily shouldering the cost, because nothing else would do.

But perhaps the evolution of the school photograph is indicative of the future. Gone for our kids are the formal lines and forced smiles. In their place are relaxed groups of children, posed naturally and clearly enjoying themselves. Times have moved on. But do I always purchase these class photos? Actually, I don’t. The mantelpiece is already jammed full.

Also, I kind of think that I could take one just as good myself. And this probably sums up the problems which lie ahead for professional photography.


The Joy of Unwrapping.


They say that each new generation is different. I’m certain it’s true. But I still expect my children to be just like me. In many respects they are; from the avid reading and telly watching to the mild suspicion of group sports. There are, however, certain new interests and preoccupations my offspring have latched onto that I can’t quite connect with. The attraction of observing other people unwrap parcels is one of them.
My son gets enormous pleasure from watching these little films uploaded to YouTube of Dads and their children unwrapping Lego. What’s the fascination? I’ve got no idea.
I can understand the pleasure derived from unwrapping or unboxing your own birthday or Christmas presents. In fact, this very weekend, I indulged in one of my favourite of all little pastimes – receiving and opening the package which contains the paperback version of my new book. In the writing and publishing world, nothing quite beats it.
But watching someone else demolishing a pile of pressies, I just don’t understand. So I asked my youngest why he enjoys it so much. He told me it’s because he wants to see what’s inside (yes, I asked for that) and to discover if it will turn out to be a set he already has or something new that he may want in the future. Occasionally, they go on to construct the set and he can compare their building methods with his own.
Okay, so I’m starting to appreciate the purpose of the exercise. The opening of the package builds the suspense, like turning over the early pages of a novel, skimming through the publisher’s info and acknowledgments. The anticipation is being established for the main event, when we begin Chapter 1 itself.
This type of activity is also indicative of the visual nature of young people’s lives these days. The digital world is an aesthetic one; where arresting images and fast-moving videos accompany almost every word that’s written. I would stop short at suggesting it is voyeuristic, because I suspect this view is old fashioned. I find it a bit weird and unsettling because it is new to me. But then so is Skype and Facetime.
There are crucial aspects of young people’s lives that are very different from the way ours were. Although getting a chance to watch people just like us around the world doing the exact same things that we do is perhaps not such a bad thing. It shows that there is so much more that unites humanity than divides us – a very important belief to cling on to at this particularly unstable period of time for many parts of the planet.
So I’m keeping an open mind. There is certainly stuff that my son should not be watching through the world wide web, but the innocent and simple joys of unwrapping a parcel, surely a universal human pleasure, probably isn’t one of them.

What they really had for breakfast and other little horrors our children love to reveal…

An article in The Telegraph today reminded me of an embarrassing incident that occurred a couple of weeks ago. The piece was a frighteningly accurate account of the chaotic reality of most people’s early morning routine. It put me in mind of when my mother-in-law visited on a Sunday afternoon recently, innocently enquiringly of my daughter what she’d had for breakfast, to which my first born happily replied, ‘dry roasted peanuts’.

There followed a full five minutes of me trying to explain that this hadn’t been breakfast at all but an ill-judged and totally unsanctioned mid morning snack. It sounded weak, although it was pretty much the truth. Our son is a great one for eating in the morning and will have whatever we care to serve him. Shona, on the other hand, doesn’t have an enormous appetite before 11am. Despite being offered a selection of breakfast options that a five star restaurant would be proud of, she often refuses them all, waiting for a couple of hours before feeling the desire for sustenance of any kind. By which time she might graze the cupboards largely unnoticed.

So I began to consider all those awkward situations where our children, in their eternal innocence, reveal our worst habits and cock-ups to the world. Naturally censorious as the pre teens tend to be; hang-overs and lie-ins appear to rate very highly in the long list of crimes that our offspring feel the need to tell their teachers and friends about, usually first thing on a Monday morning.

Swearing, passing wind or topping up a glass of wine are also on that list, along with large underwear and the existence of/methods employed for the removal of, any kind of body hair. Nobody fully warns you about this hazard when you embark upon parenthood.

No aspect of your life will pass without comment or judgement once the little darlings first become capable of speech. Most of the time, we will find this honesty refreshing and adorable. But just occasionally, when our youngest decides to announce to all present that they’ve not brushed their teeth for a week, or eaten a piece of fruit since June, we gaze at our shoes, wishing the ground would swallow us up, desperate to explain that this is Timmy’s idea of a joke but knowing  that there’s really no point.

Now it’s been said, no one is ever going to believe it’s not true…

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