September 3, 2013

Friday Family Photos

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It’s an unwritten rule in the Graves family. When the group text comes in, you stop what you are doing, take a photo of your self, and send it to the rest of the family. I don’t care if you are having tea with the Queen. You make it happen.


This all started a while back when the founder of the tradition, our youngest daughter living in another state, wanted to say hi and see everyone’s face at a particular moment. There is no set day, but lately our family ‘selfie’ share has been on Friday.

I was tempted to include last Friday’s batch of pictures in this blog, but I was certain that doing so would earn me a quick exit from the club…or worse. You’ll just have to trust me. They were hilarious. If they had a theme, it would have been: it’s early and I’m not ready for the public eye. The founding daughter sent a crooked head shot, my son was shaving in the mirror, my wife only dared to capture the top of her head and reading glasses, my other daughter looked like she was posing for a police lineup, and I was in my car. (Calm down, I was at a red light)

Changing Times

Do you remember when camera phones were not EVERYWHERE, and the Graves family tradition would have been impossible? Our photos used to live largely in frames, and the only ‘mobile’ photos were those we carried in our wallets. Guys carried pictures of their wives or girlfriends, parents carried photos of their kids, and high school wallets were loaded with senior pictures.

Years ago, one might have guessed that the sheer mass of photos we now encounter would have cooled our love for them, but the exact opposite has happened. It seems that no amount of teenage selfies, pretentious food photos, or puppy pics can slow us down. Photos are everywhere, and they perhaps carry greater weight and evoke more profound emotion than ever. I don’t know how many words a picture is actually worth, but Facebook certainly thought they mattered a great deal when they purchased Instagram for $1 Billion.

Why are Pictures so Powerful?

I recently ran across a section of the Smithsonian Libraries’ website titled ‘Picturing Words: The Power of Book Illustrations.’  While the section is primarily focused on book illustrations, it also wonderfully captures why pictures in general are so powerful, noting, “Pictures reach audiences more directly than text alone. They communicate the author’s tone and approach to the subject, and enhance our understanding and enjoyment of that text…Pictures add beauty, color, and life to the printed page.”

Just like pictures enhance our understanding and enjoyment of a text, they also enhance our connection with those around us. My family could just as easily have started a ‘group text Friday’ with no photos, but something would have been lost. Photos, particularly ones of those we know and love, have an incredible ability to inspire, to inform, to persuade and to guide.  They keep the memory of the good, the true and the beautiful alive. They remind us of the immeasurable value of community. They make fresh deposits into our soul for future conversations.

Start a Selfie Club

I have no idea if these thoughts, or our family tradition, have any application value other than to encourage friends and family to connect in a powerful way. If that is it, though, that is fine by me.

So, start your own club. Find a few friends or family members that you want to connect deeply with. Pick a day. Start clicking and sending…and enjoy.

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