What is a Picture Worth?

Grandmoms loved to take pictures. The more evil part of my mind recognizes that it is probably for the best that she passed before discovering smartphone cameras. My mother, hitherto referred to as “Mom,” unfortunately for me, is well aware of their existence. She has an iPhone now.

At any given moment in time, whether it be a special person in my life, a whole group of loved ones, or a place where special events or moments have or are occurring, I cannot help but slip out my phone for the camera attempting to capture them and/or the moment in time for “posterity” and for myself alone. This attempt is either met with smiles and cooperation, sighs of the inevitable, or downright refusal. – Mom

Why is this a problem? Simple. I do not like having my picture taken. I do not appreciate having my experiences interrupted with photography. I resent forcing a visible smile because my jaw is not well-aligned and it is uncomfortable. I relish my privacy and I find someone’s insistence that I “smile for the camera” a little bit violating. But, that being said, that is not what picture taking means to other people, especially not to Mom. 

Pictures were often shown to me as a child as a way of showing my heritage of family from before I was even born, to learning who was who and how they “fit” into my life.  – Mom

Over the years, Mom and I have had to work out our picture-taking protocols. I have resigned myself to the fact that I will have to suffer the occasional photograph. I won’t be happy about it, but I will do it out of love for Mom. At other times, in spite of her disappointment, Mom has set her desire to capture a moment aside so I can enjoy it. To be fair, I have at times enjoyed looking back at the pictures, especially the ones that I was not asked to stop and smile for.

The thought that someday my own children or grandchildren might also be blessed by this experience has led to the effort in recording visually their growing up.  – Mom

The taking of pictures is one thing for me, and another for Mom. Even when I cannot understand her way of seeing it, I can still love her enough to try to play along. She tries to do the same for me.

While this is a true story, it is also a parable. Other people do not see the world the way you do. They do not value of the same things you do or value them in the same way. Whether you are the one with the camera or the one being photographed, try to have a little compassion for the person on the other side of the lens. They are human too, just like you. 

What about you? What habits of others baffle you and require you to work harder to understand? What things do you do that you wish others would be more understanding of?


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