Say Cheese, Chicken

17 Jul

My husband hates having his picture taken. He dislikes the way he looks in every photo and it takes much cajoling on my part to get him to strike a pose. Any bickering while on holiday tends to revolve around me moaning that he takes no photographs. If it wasn’t for me lugging the camera around and posing in front of various tourist attractions or beaches, we would have absolutely no photographic evidence of any trips we have taken during our relationship. In fact, if a stranger looked at our albums it would appear that I have spent the last seven years travelling the world alone.

Choosing our wedding photographer became a nightmare as hubby was insistent that, “nothing was posed” and that she simply captured the moment, which obviously translated as, “I don’t want to pose for anything and if it was up to me I wouldn’t be in any”. Unlike our holiday photos I didn’t really fancy looking like I had married myself.

The problem with hubby in photos is not that he doesn’t look good, (he does) it’s that he doesn’t know how to look. In every day life he is relaxed and smiley, but put a camera in front of him and he does what we call his ‘photo-face’ – a sort of weird, frozen, half-smile that makes him look a little bit like a serial killer. Action had to be taken.

A few days before our wedding I suggested he practice in front of the mirror. An even more unnatural situation than posing in front of the camera, we both ended up in fits of laughter as he became more and more demented and appeared to lose control of his face.

So you can imagine hubby’s dismay when I announced that I had arranged for a photographer friend of mine to come and take snaps of the baby and that it probably (definitely) would also involve a few ‘family’ pictures. He looked genuinely scared.

In all honestly it isn’t my idea of a fun time to pose for pictures either. Granted I’m better at it than hubby, but it’s only because a) I was a child who ‘performed’ and b) I have a massive mouth which means I can grin easily. We are parents now though and I knew that if I didn’t get some pics of all of us together then I would regret it.

The day arrives and I can see hubby is anxious. He’s rambling something about how he should have got his hair cut and asking me over and over again what shirt he should wear. Given that he has about ten shirts all of which are a different shade of black, I grab one from the rail and say ‘this one’ through gritted teeth. As I’m already trying to tidy up, get the baby ready and at least attempt to run a brush through my hair, my patience is wearing thin.

In amongst the chaos I have the bright idea that hubby should pick Charlotte (the photographer) up from the station. I pretend I need to see to the baby, but I think if he meets her before she arrives at her house then he will chill out a bit and realise she is not the devil with a Canon. When they arrive back my plan seems to have worked as they’re chatting and hubby doesn’t look so anxious.

Pleasantries out of the way, we begin the ‘session’. For this we move to the bedroom. Which, when you think about it, is pretty intimate. I’m doing my best to not think about that. Thank goodness I’d had time to clean. I even ironed the bedsheets. I’ve never done this in my life. My mum would be proud. In fact, I think I may have called her and told her. It’s not something I’ll be doing again.

So Charlotte, who is clearly very good at making everyone feel relaxed, takes charge and tells us where to sit. Hubby at this point is hovering uncomfortably behind me with a tight grip on the baby, who he is using as some sort of shield. Bless Charlotte, she comments on how sweet it is to see hubby doting on our son and how lovely it is that he wants to hold him in the pictures. I don’t have the heart to tell her that I know he is in fact strategically working out how to position baby in front of his face so he doesn’t have to be in any of the shots.

Charlotte suggests doing the ‘family shots’ first as it’ll be better for the baby to have mummy and daddy with him before his ‘solo’. She clearly know’s what she’s talking about. I wouldn’t have even thought of that. Hubby visibly dies a little inside.

And then it begins. Charlotte is directing as we move here, there and everywhere around the bed and the weirdest thing is that it feels completely natural. All of the focus is on the baby as it becomes clear that we are merely supporting actors in his one man show. I’m amazed as I look over to see hubby smiling and laughing at our boy as Charlotte snaps away – the camera completely forgotten.

When we move to shots of just the baby things prove slightly trickier. He was okay with mummy and daddy, but trying to get him to look directly into the camera without us holding him is a different matter. We begin by repeatedly calling his name. This doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because I never call him by his name. I call him Chicken. We all begin manically repeating the word Chicken in high-pitched voices to get him to look at us. He does. Briefly. It is then I realise my child actually thinks his name is Chicken.

Next, Charlotte suggests we use props. On her instruction hubby and I gather as many toys as we can find that make a noise and stand behind the camera ferociously squeezing them. All the while hubby is calling Chicken and I am whistling at him like a dog (something else he also responds well too).

The best toy by far at garnering his Lordship’s attention is Sophie the Giraffe. She may look and sound like a dog toy, but she really came into her own that day. In fact, thinking about it, I’m starting to worry my baby thinks he’s a dog called Chicken.

After what feels like only five minutes it’s over. We’re done. It was quick, it was painless and dare I say it, rather enjoyable. My boy is a natural. I was worried for a while that he may take after his father and hate the camera, but I’m happy to report that he isn’t and that my stage-mother alter ego is now in full bloom. I might not mention to hubby just yet that I’m considering putting his name down for Sylvia Young. The boy that is, not hubby.

When I see the pictures a few days later, I’m so happy with the results that I’m tempted to ask Charlotte to come on holiday with us. Our baby boy has been captured in the beautiful and cheeky way that we see him and I’m amazed at how non-serial killer hubby looks.

P.S. This is Charlotte’s web site if you fancy a peek (we’re the ones with the ironed bedsheets).


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