History Miscellaneous

Bankruptcy by Way of Children’s Photographs

June 15, 2017
Drawers of Photographs

It is official. I have been child-picture purchased to the brink of bankruptcy.

Yesterday I wrote yet another check for, you guessed it, more pictures. Swim team pictures in the blazing sun.

Swim Team Photographs

Allow me to share the details of this expenditure:  three individual child photographs, one sibling photo and one team photo:


Okay fine.  I am exaggerating.  Move the decimal. It was $94.12.

Still.  NINETY-FOUR dollars and twelve cents?

They really get you with their pricing.  For $20 you can get the team photo.  Oh, but wait!  If you spend twenty-FIVE dollars you can get a ‘memory mat’ and 4 wallets and a bag tag.

And the bag tag is cute.

I know this.

Because I bought them last year. 

Bag Tag Photographs

Bam.  May as well spend the $25.

For each child.

In reality, my purchase has nothing to do with their tricky and convincing pricing.  There is one main reason I bought the swim pictures:

I felt a familiar pressure from deep within that I was depriving my future or the future lives of my children or their children with the honor and joy of seeing a photograph of said child in [insert sport/grade] (in this case: the summer of 2017 swim team).

I mean – what if these images never have the opportunity to be scanned in and placed on ancestry.com?!?!?! (If I can find them that is.  Andthey will have to be scanned because I am not forking out the extra $25 for the digital image, which I can only have the privilege of purchasing if I buy a $25 package!).


My mom still has a drawer with piles of our school photos inside.  Some of the envelopes are slipped between the pages of her photo albums.  I am one of six children.  That’s a lot of school pictures.  If I do some simple math on her picture purchases (excluding sports pics) and average it out over the years to $15 per purchase – she spent $1,170 on school photos.

That are in a drawer.

My children have never seen them.

My children may never see them.

I do not think my mom looks at them with any justifiable regularity.

Is now an appropriate time to share with you that I have 23,194 pictures on my phone?

iPhone Photographs

I have photos of my kids today, photos of them yesterday, the day before yesterday, last week, last month photos , last year…you get the picture.

No pun intended.

This does not include images taken with a ‘real’ camera that reside on the cloud.

So, someone please tell me why on earth am I compelled to purchase every picture made available to me via school or because my children participate on a sports team?!

Oh that’s right.  I remember:

Fear of being a future failure for being unable to surface pictures of my offspring from the spring and fall of every school year, along with photographic evidence of every sport they attempted to play when summoned to do so by them or their offspring on the eve of their wedding days.


Not to mention this fact:  these pictures record with photographic evidence a litany of awkward times and poor photography skills.

I know this!

With the exception of the swim team photographer and our preschool photographer, most of the pictures are sub-par at best.

This also goes for my daughter’s dance recital photos.  Last year, one of my dance mom friends returned her daughter’s dance picture to the photographer and requested a refund.  They gave her money back.  That is how bad they were.  I am not joking around.

Yet, this, fearful of being empty handed in a scenario in the future, mother still bought the dance pictures.  The aforementioned friend did not.

My daughter’s pictures were fair.  The group photo was not.  I will spare you the latter.  Here is the former:

E dance photographs

Meanwhile, photographs of otherwise cute kids are held hostage in envelopes somewhere under my bed/in storage/on my desk/in my desk waiting for their day to shine.  Here are a few I was able to find.

For every one of these there are at least 10 more.

Drawers of Photographs

Will I feel better if I scan them and put them into a Shutterfly album?  Or, should I buy an album in which to place them?

Can you even buy those anymore?

Should I do that before or after I create my first album of my children with the 23,184 photos on my phone?

Soon, I will have three school-age children who will get their fall pictures taken and there I will be salivating over the proofs trying to reason with myself the most responsible purchase choice, because I know I won’t be able to not purchase any.

I will ask myself:

What kind of parent doesn’t buy their kids’ pictures?

Strong ones.  Fearless ones.  Fiscally responsible ones.

That’s who.

But, I will write the check and I will pull the crackly envelope from my kids’ backpacks with my giddy yet annoyed fingers and I will put them in a place I will remember.  Just so I can pull out the images one day, with my wrinkled and giddy fingers and my untethered admiration, to show my grandchildren how unbearably cute and little their parents were.

Or, I will quietly pull them all out when my kids are all grown up and have full lives of their own and I am all alone.  That is a possibility too.

I suppose I may not ever do any of those things, but I also suppose I don’t wish to take the risk that I won’t be able to.

While you ponder your strength to say no to the school and sports pictures here is some photography fodder for your mama brain.

Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams was born in San Francisco, California in 1902 and grew up in house in the dunes of the Golden Gate bridge.  During the great earthquake of 1906 he was thrown to the ground and badly broke his nose, leaving it notably changed for life.  That characteristic, coupled with his shyness and hyperactivity, caused Adams to have a hard time fitting in at school.

Adams was unsuccessful at various schools and ultimately was tutored by his father and his aunt at home.  He ultimately earned an eighth grade diploma.  Later in life he thought he might have been diagnosed as hyperactive.  It is also speculated that he may have suffered from dyslexia.

Adams spent much of his solitary childhood amongst nature, hiking the dunes and walking the creeks around the Golden Gate.  At twelve he taught himself to read music and to play the piano.  And for more than the next decade piano was his primary occupation.  It gave him the discipline needed in his erratic youth and informed his visual artistry.

In 1916 Adams first visited Yosemite National Park with his family.  He wrote, “the splendor of Yosemite burst upon us and it was glorious…. One wonder after another descended upon us…. There was light everywhere…. A new era began for me.”  He took his first photos that year with a camera his father gave him.

Adams returned to Yosemite the following year with better equipment and that winter learned darkroom techniques while working with a San Francisco photo finisher.  He delved into photography magazines, and immersed himself in opportunities to study photography.

During his visits to Yosemite he frequently visited the Best family who let him play on their piano.  In 1928, he married Virginia Best in Yosemite Valley.

At age 27, Adams joined the Sierra Club and was hired as the summer caretaker of the Sierra Club visitor center from 1920-1924.  He remained a member throughout his lifetime and served as director.  He served on the board for 37 years until 1971.

The Sierra Club was extremely important to Adams’s early success as a photographer.  Adams’ first-published photographs appeared in the Sierra Club’s 1922 bulletin.  And, his first exhibition was held in 1928 at the club’s San Francisco headquarters.

In 1927, Adams made his first visualized photograph, Monolith, the Face of Half Dome.  It was a pivotal year.  Albert M. Bender, a San Francisco insurance agent and patron of arts and artist, set in motion the publication of Adams’ first portfolio.  Adams gained the confidence and wherewithal to pursue his dreams.

Adams was a legend in technical mastery of photography.  He served as a principal photographic consultant to Polaroid and Hasselblad and many others.  Adams also developed a highly complex, “zone system” of controlling exposure and development, which enabled photographers to creatively visualize an image and create that visualization in the print.  He produced ten volumes of technical manuals on photography, which remain the most influential books ever written on the subject.

Adams often worked for eighteen or more hours per day with no vacations and no holidays.  He had a hyper existence that was fueled by alcohol and was in a constant whirl of social activities with friends and colleagues.

The accolades of Ansel Adams are far to great to list in this quick overview of a photographer whose original photos are most-certainly worth purchasing.  But keep in mind, a mural-sized print of “Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park” sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2010 for $722,500.  While that is not attainable by most, there are a host of prints available here ranging from $4,000 to $70,000.

The way I see it, if I can muster up the strength to resist purchasing the school and sports photographs, I can save up enough money to buy one of those photographs!

But who am I kidding?

Yours truly,

a mama who won’t own an Ansel Adams photo because she will never deprive herself of her children’s photos

a.k.a. Melissa the mamabrain

Journey on in pictures! XO!

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