I love the movie The 'burbs with Tom Hanks. It was made in 1989 and didn't do too well at the box office, but still it's one of my favorites. There's a part where all the neighbors finally decide to go over and meet the Klopeks, a very odd family that's just moved in.
Rumsfield (Bruce Dern) picks up a frame and looks at the picture:
Mark Rumsfield: Oh, pretty girl! Friend of yours?
Hans Klopek: [in an accent] No, it came with the frame.
Mark Rumsfield: [mocking] It came wit da frame?
I love that because I've always wondered whose family is in those picture frames that stare out at you from the shelves of Bed, Bath, & Beyond. Are they real? Did someone sell their family photo or was this a photo shoot set up just to sell the frame? Who could possibly look like that?
Well I found the family.
Picture it. It's a warm summer night. You live in a loft apartment over the city. Your kids are back together for one night only. You walk to dinner, you laugh, you catch up. And you decide that you want pictures of your kids (and a few of the rest of the family). Only they're not so sure they want to be photographed. I don't know why when they look like this:
I kept thinking, Are these people real?? They were all so pretty. They look like the families in those picture frames you buy.
By the time I met them, the sun was low and golden. It was the first full day of summer. Everything seemed perfect.
But getting your picture taken is nerve wracking no matter who you are, no matter what you look like. I lifted my camera, and Vanessa, the daughter, said nervously, "I wish somehow we could take pictures of people's insides instead." I froze for a moment. The comment was so sudden, so honest and raw. Her brother (a surgeon) said, "Um, we can..." We laughed, but I knew what she meant. If only you could capture a person's essence instead of all the outward things we're self-conscious about. I thought about it the rest of the night as I snapped their pictures.
I don't want all of your photos to be perfectly posed shots. I want to find out who you are and photograph that. I can't have it all figured out beforehand; I have to be in the moment. I have to take what comes. And that leaves me feeling very vulnerable, too. And sometimes, I'm just as afraid of taking your picture as you are of getting your picture taken. Experience matters not at all. Sometimes I even think it gets worse the longer I do this.
But in a funny sort of way, I'm glad about getting nervous. I think it's nothing short of a miracle that you can hold a person's face in your hands forever... even long after they've gone. And that's what I think about when I take your picture - that someone else would crumble and fall without your sweet face here. I don't take that lightly, and I don't ever want to.
I'd like to think that somehow, I did capture their insides on that beautiful summer evening. I loved the secrets, the giggles, the private conversations. I loved how silly they were and how much fun they had together. You can't pose that. I don't think you can look like this without revealing who you truly are underneath. And they let me see that.
What a beautiful family this was. They could have come with the frame you buy in a store. But these pictures only scratch the surface... there's more beauty underneath what you see here. So much more.