Everybody’s got a story to tell. Some people moved 10 times before they got to high school, some were an only child, some were the star athlete of the school and some got pregnant before they graduated. This doesn’t make anyone bad or wrong, but merely contributed to the type of person they are today with what we take away from these experiences. I like to consider my stories fairly different from most.
I think one of the things I value the most is the uniqueness of our family. My dad and his ex-wife, who is the mother of my older brothers, are very close. We even go there for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s a strange dynamic.
A couple blogs ago, we mentioned traditions briefly. The bar mitzvah, which every boy in our family experienced, is one that we all enjoyed. This one is sort of a love-hate tradition.
Traditions are great to have. It’s good to have repetition in your family that will always bring each other together, no matter where you are, whether it’s watching the Super Bowl or going to that restaurant at the same time every year.
If it wasn’t obvious by now, my dad has some – odd philosophies. A relatively normal one is that he believes that a picture should tell a story. You need a place to really make the picture. Sure, you can take a selfie anytime and anywhere, but a selfie in your room is different than a picture with friends with a lake in the background. It has a story and emotion behind it.
So after taking a few pictures with us from places we had traveled to, he started to come up with ideas for family pictures that looked authentic enough to be a family picture, but was also clearly staged. According to his family photo book, “I thought I would try to blend the story theme with the family theme.”
It began sort of slowly. The first ‘family photo’ wasn’t meant to be anything special. It was the six of us. The clothes everyone was wearing, mixed with the background, sort of made it look like we were on a desert island. It was cool, but not staged at all.
The next was a family trip to the Grand Canyon. It was our first family photo as a complete family, my sister having been born a few months prior. This didn’t really have a theme or was staged in any way. Just your classic family trip photo, capturing the moment we were in.
The third one was after a hike on a rail trail near our house. He hadn’t really given a theme much thought, and just brought a camera. It’s another nice picture with the family. It was after this photo that “the backstory was as important as the picture,”(,) according to him.
In 2004, my dad sort of surprised us with the family photo. He took us to this structure that he passed every day on his way to work. He came up with the idea and said that we were going for a family ride. If I wasn’t 5 years old, I would have thought something was up.
He hid the props in the back of the car and we made our way to this structure. He brought out toy rifles and specific clothes for his idea. He had everyone stand in specific spots and moved props around. Setting up a camera on a tripod, and then setting it to a timer, he would run into the picture before it went off. With the flash going off, the tradition officially began. This is where the Schwartz Family Photos had officially begun. This was called “Refugees.”
We’ve done this every year for the past 15 years or so. We’ve hit a lot of themes so far – bikers, Dust Bowl, and even a nude photo – and we still continue to come up with ones. Spoiler Alert: The next one is going to be related to Peaky Blinders.
It can be a pretty miserable day for everyone if I’m being honest. There was one where we were supposed to be a hiking/skiing family in the dead of winter. The kids were crying, it was super cold and very windy. Did I mention it was Christmas Day?
My dad’s lack of patience makes it a very tedious task sometimes, but we still love to do it. Everyone throws in ideas about what the next family picture should be, where they should stand, what they should be doing. Nothing feels better than having your idea picked.
As there is with any posed production, there’s going to be outtakes, bloopers and behind the scene shots. It’s enjoyable to look at and laugh at what mistakes were made. One of the most common ones is when my dad’s running to get into a position and isn’t in position when the camera clicks, or he leaves his glasses on. For one, we even made a video with all the outtakes.
Some are hit or miss. Some people believe that some are real and that we didn’t dress up or really pose. Some are forgotten more than others. Social media is usually the judge of that.
Anyway, the moral of the story is that traditions are a good thing to have. Some are parties, some are game nights, but I’ve never seen anyone do something like this and it makes us different. At least, more different than we already are. It’s good to be different. That’s what I keep telling myself.