Peanut went to her little friend's party. She wore her favourite blue dress, her white tulle party "hairclippy", and had a big bugger of a scratched mozzie bite right in the middle of her nose.
The birthday girl's mother is a professional children's photographer and she documented the entire party, including all the children with their faces beautifully painted. A few days later she dropped around and gave me a large mounted photo of Peanut. It's gorgeous. The blue in her face paint and dress sets off her stunning eyes (stolen from Daddy), and she has on a beautiful, genuine smile that lights up her face. But the mozzie bite is gone.
It makes me uncomfortable. It's still Peanut in the picture - her face shape hasn't been changed, her eyes are still the same colour, it's her through and through... except it isn't. Because she never looked like that.
Now Peanut is still young. She's not likely to remember that she had a huge red hole in her nose that day, from a night spent unconsciously scratching an itch. And I still ended up with a beautiful photo of my daughter. But I hear they are offering a retouching service on some school photos now, and it concerns me. At what stage do we draw the line?
I have an excellent school photo of me from about year nine or ten. We had just come in from playing soccer for PE, and we had barely five minutes to change into uniform. My photo shows me red faced and flushed, with damp sweat curls around my face, falling from my scraped back hair. I look beautiful. I really do. That photo caught me at my best, grabbed the essence of my favourite part of my school days and saved it forever. Retouching would have ruined it, made it just another plastic photo, carefully documenting an event that never really happened.
Maybe it's just me. I feel the same about staged photos. You know the ones - you're snugged up reading to the baby, but then in comes the self appointed family photographer. They decide to move the book, direct you to point somewhere random, and then get cross when the kid is more interested in what happened to Hairy Maclary than getting her picture taken. Or the "stop playing on the swings and peek through this tunnel so I can get a photo" pictures. In my view, either you catch it when it happens, or you're fresh out of luck. No do-overs. No faking.
My dislike of staging doesn't extend to purposeful photo taking. If you've planned a proper photo-shoot, by all means sit your kid on a chair in the forest and snap away. Feel free to take fifteen group photos to get the right one. But don't make our normal playtime feel substandard because it's not being done photogenically enough. Life is not a film shoot for Facebook.
And my daughter? She meets my standards for beauty every single day, mozzie bites and all.