Macy Robison is a teacher, performer, and photographer. She was in the Music Dance Theater program at Brigham Young University and performed with the Young Ambassadors. She also holds a masters degree in music education from The Ohio State University. Macy has performed in professional, community musical theater productions in Utah, Ohio and Boston. Most recently she has developed a cabaret-style recital Children Will Listen: Reflections on Mothering which she will perform in Utah in mid-July.
Sometimes I feel like a priest.
I'm actually a music teacher. For the past ten years, I have taught general music, been a choir director and taught private voice lessons. When people discover this, they immediately start confessing their musical sins.
“I'm tone deaf.”
“Oh, you don't want to hear me sing!”
“My family doesn't let me sing!”
“I love music, but I just never kept up with (insert instrument here).”
And most common:
“I would love to sing, but I just can't…”
Sometimes the conversation turns into a debate over my firmly held belief that anyone can learn to sing. Sometimes I just listen.
I'm also a photographer, but I'm starting to feel like a priest in this role as well. Photographic sins from both sides of the camera…
“My pictures never turn out.”
“I would love for you to take my family pictures, but I'm not Christmas-card worthy.”
“I always hate myself in pictures.”
“I would get pictures taken more, but it's such a hassle.”
It can be a hassle to have pictures taken. Finding the outfit. Wondering if the outfit will photograph well. Worrying about fixing hair. Keeping that hair looking good. Stressing over whether your son will pull that crazy face he's so fond of making every time the photographer takes a picture. Screaming. Crying. Fights. We all know the stories. We've all lived the stories.
But when you look back at the pictures, do you regret the hassle? Need to think about it? While you are pondering, I'll give you an example of why the hassle is worth it.
This last Christmas the stars aligned and my family was in the same place at the same time for a couple of days – me, my husband, our son, my husband's son and daughter and their fiancées. Since the next time we would be together, we would be in wedding clothes, I wanted to get pictures of us together. I scouted the location, we coordinated clothing, I got there early to set up my tripod so I could be in some pictures.
Everyone arrives. We're ready to smile and have fabulous pictures taken. We're braving some unexpected cold, but it's a lovely location. Just as we start taking the large family group picture – my usually angelic toddler gives us this:
Here, let's zoom in so you can really experience the fun:
There was no consoling, bribing, joking, or anything else that would get this child to stop screaming and crying. We finally broke down and gave him his beloved animal, hoping to calm him down to get a few pictures. But instead, we got this:
So, with no cooperation from the toddler, what did I do? I kept shooting. The point of the photos was to document our family. To show the relationships between us. To capture our family at that moment in time. Toddlers cry, kids make silly faces. But if you keep shooting, you will end up with some fabulous pictures that you love.
Eventually, our little guy calmed down. Though he didn't crack a smile for the entire day, I ended up with some pictures of him that I loved. Like this one:
And this one showing how much he loves his big brother and wants to do everything he does.
And finally, this picture of my husband, son and I that my dad took with my camera.
Is this a perfect picture? No. To start with, there's a branch coming across my husband's face. I could remove it with Photoshop, but I love the memory of shouting back and forth with my dad about framing the picture and still ending up with a branch tickling my husband's chin.
Is this my favorite picture of myself? No.
Do I look as horrible as I imagined I did? No. (And isn't that always the case? When I look at the pictures of myself from 10 years ago when I thought I looked awful and needed to lose 20 pounds, I want to reach into the picture and slap my 1999 self.)
Do I love this picture? Yes.
In part because I got out from behind the camera. My son needs to see me in pictures with him. I have very few pictures of me with my mom. (Something I didn't realize until right this minute.) I wish I had more. She passed away suddenly almost 10 years ago. I know she loved me and loves me still, but I wish I had more examples I could see. I cherish the few I have.
I want my son to see our relationship and how much I love him. And as Saydi Eyre Shumway put it so eloquently in her post last week – I need to see myself in the picture with him. See how much I love being with him; become the kind of mother I want to be.
In fact, in addition to having another photographer take our family pictures later this year, I'm going to start work on a self-portrait series. I've been inspired by amazing photographer Davina Fear's self-portrait series to take more pictures of me with my son. Not only when we're dressed up in our best clothes, but when we're in our every day clothes coloring together or working on puzzles together.
Coordinate the clothing. Come out from behind the camera. Embrace the hassle. Document your relationships. Capture who you are — who you want to be.
It will be picture perfect.
For more on the importance of photos, take another look at Rebecca Ellsworth Menzie's post: she too wishes she had some photos with her mother. And Saren Eyre Loosli's post with her daughter crying?
There are so many ways to tell our story. Macy chooses to tell her story through words and images and music via her cabaret act. There are so many ways. Take another look at Lizzie Christensen's Recipe Story, Rebecca Menzie (via her mother's journal), Stephanie Soper's painting, my soundtrack story. Will you tell your story?
Any thoughts on how Macy's approach to photography is allowing her to Be her Own Batman, even as she's Robin?