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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Big Sell

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Originally published December 11, 2009

Reprinted with permission from Bay Area News Group – East Bay

I’m convinced I’d be good in advertising whenever I see my family’s annual holiday photo card. My kids always look well-dressed, happy to be together and delighted to be contributing to the larger family effort.

It’s a big sell job sometimes, because all of the kids would rather be doing something else. Or one of them dislikes what he or she’s wearing. Or another is irritated by a sibling standing too close.

None of it stops me, though, because I have a job to do. By the time my three kids are lined up, waiting to have their picture taken, I’ve already spent time planning wardrobe and location, not to mention the overall mood of the photo.

When it comes to wardrobe, I keep it simple. I want my recipients to focus on the kids in the photo, not on their clothing. Definitely no outfits inspired by Lady Gaga. I take my lead from the old Lawrence Welk Show. Whenever the performers sang in groups, they wore matching clothes. I make my kids dress in one color or all in white shirts and black pants, as if they’re just about to take my food order.

The background location depends on where we happen to be going in the months before the holidays. If I think a destination has possibilities, I plan ahead. I make sure everyone’s wearing the right clothes, and I take along my camera. While my kids are trying to enjoy the outing, I’m calling out, “link arms together” or “turn a little more this way” like the most annoying paparazzi.

The mood of the photo is what I really try to orchestrate. One year, I decided I wanted a photo with an arty, minimalist feel. So, I took a black-and-white photo with everyone dressed in black turtlenecks. My own ode to Richard Avedon. Another year, I went an entirely different direction when I shot a photo of my kids in a pumpkin field. Sort of cutesy country. Then, there was the time I was looking for a little Hollywood movie drama, and I had my kids run through the wake of the waves on the beach.

But, to be honest, the mood of the photo has more to do with the moods of my kids than with anything else. While I have plenty of choice in wardrobe and background, there’s no choice in kids. I’m stuck with what I’ve got. So, I try and do everything I can to get the best out of them. I give inspiring speeches or engage in flattery or offer bribes. Or all of the above.

One year, there was absolutely nothing I could do to make my 18-month-old son happy. He just kept crying while I tried to take a photo outside a friend’s house in the country. He finally stopped crying when his big sisters took his hands and headed off on a walk. I stayed behind and took a photograph of my kids walking together away from me. That was the photo I used for the card that year.

If I had to describe the mood of that photo, I would call it peaceful. I couldn’t have planned it better.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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