Gary Brown: There is only one way to avoid that uncomfortable family photo
I am holding a decades-old photograph of my family that includes a former girlfriend.
Which brings me to Family Photo Rule No. 1: Never invite anyone into a family picture who may be just passing through the party.
Really examine your relationship before you put it onto film. It may be a Kodak moment today, but tomorrow you might have to use Photoshop to remove all evidence of it. Otherwise you’ll end up displaying an old family photo that contains one too many “siblings” when you try to explain why you’re so proudly showing off the picture on a knick-knack shelf at some point in the future.
“Honey, I didn’t know you had a second sister.”
“Yeah, she’s been in the Peace Corps for 30 or 40 years. Never writes. Doesn’t call. Not sure what country she’s in now.”
There are other photographic dangers to be vigilant against, even in pictures that contain only legitimate family members. You should get out that album today, and inspect it closely for offending photographs.
Make this Family Photo Rule No. 2: Trust no one.
Remove all pictures taken during the 1970s. No matter how cute your relatives said you looked then, these were not the hair and clothing years for which you want to be remembered by your posterity.
Take out photographs of yourself and loved ones that were taken — mouth wide open or finger pointing in protest — by a distant and insensitive family member, against your will, who later gave them to you, believing you will cherish them as keepsakes. Cherish them only until trash day.
Use a magnifying glass to find photos in which family members have placed two “rabbit ears” fingers behind the head of the cousins standing next to them. Search also for pictures of groups of aunts in which their nieces and nephews are making “funny” faces in the background. You may believe that every one of your relatives meets your family’s standards for sophistication. You just don’t know yet that there were moments when they didn’t.
For the future
Today’s digital technology has made it quicker and easier than ever to delete offending photographs and protect the family photo album before embarrassing pictures ever make it out of the camera.
Except you won’t take advantage of that technology. You’ll just dump all the photos you take at a family reunion onto your computer. And maybe you’ll copy all of them onto disks to send to each of the families that attended the gathering, so now the picture of you in shorts, bending over the beverage cooler with your butt to the camera — your face, too, if you turn around at the wrong time — exists in 10 places, instead of just one.
You can almost hear great-great-great-grandsons giggling.
That’s why it’s so important to follow Family Photo Rule No. 3: Never take pictures.
There is a reason why our ancestors handed down the family history by word of mouth.
Contact Gary Brown at email@example.com.