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Sometimes You Just Need to Rant – Part One

Intro by Skip Cohen

The best thing about this industry has little to do with photography, but the friendships that come out of everyone’s love for the craft. Well, Michele Celentano is one of those friends who’s love for the craft can’t be topped.

Wandering through her archives, she wrote this rant in 2014 and it’s timeless, but it was a little long for one post, so I decided to split it up into her rant and then the next piece is what to do to fix the frustration she’s sharing.

After I read it, it hit me how many of you are going to realize how right Michele is. We’re all in the photography business, yet we miss some of the most important images to capture – ourselves with our families and loved ones!

Life is too short to not capture great images!

By Michele Celentano

It may be one of those rant days…  Maybe not a full-on rant but a “snap out of it and get over yourself” kinda rant!

I came across an old picture of myself this week. It was taken 11 years ago.  I don’t fully remember but I bet I didn’t like it at the time. Who knows why???  My hair, my face, the freckles…But 11 years later I thought “wow, I was pretty cute”. This thought reminded me of something I hear from people all the time. “I hate having my picture taken, I never like the way I look in photos.”  If I have heard that statement once I have heard it a hundred times.

I photograph families – it really is a passion of mine. I adore photographing people and relationships – parents with their children, brothers and sisters and one of my all-time favorite sessions to photograph are grandparents with their grandchildren.

We live in a media-driven perfectionistic society where hardly anyone feels good about having their portrait taken. Except of course for this generation of teeny boppers who are “selfie” crazed. Just wait until that first wrinkle, smile line or grey hair shows up… Those “selfies” won’t last long.

We are so used to looking at over-retouched unrealistic images on the covers of magazines that we have no idea what reality looks like. Not a single person looks like the cover of a magazine. Not even the person on the cover. Like most people, I see the covers, but I also realize how much “PhotoShop” is done.

It really hit me while watching the Oscar red carpet shows a while back.  All of the actresses look like they had aged 15 years since the last time I saw their picture in a magazine. No one is flawless and flawless is boring and bullshit anyway.  Why would anyone want to live up to “flawless”? (Sidebar: the song from the musical Rent “Take me as I am” is playing in my mental soundtrack right now.)

What is wrong with us?  When was the last time you looked at a photograph of someone you love and thought “Oh, they should have lost weight before taking that picture.” or “Wow a little Botox would go a long way on that forehead” or “I can’t believe they allowed themselves to be photographed at all.” How ridiculous does that sound?  We would NEVER say that about someone we love (especially if they are no longer with us).

If only we could see and feel about ourselves the way our family does -for even just 5 minutes. Imagine how different we would look at ourselves – how much less critical we would be. Those people who love you the most do not see the flaws you think you have and if they do see them….  they don’t see them as flaws – it’s what they love about you.

My Nanny used to complain about how “old” her hands looked. I loved her hands. They were veiny and wrinkled and perfect in every way. She had the smallest hands and tiny little skinny fingers. Those were the hands that held mine as we walked to school or church. Those were the hands that always hemmed my pants. Those hands were the home of her engagement ring that she wore every day of her life and that I now wear. To her – her hands were old and worn, to me they were beautiful and comforting.

As I travel the country and meet with photographers I often ask when was the last time they had a family portrait taken. Most of the time they can’t answer me or they say “I’m behind the camera for a reason. I don’t like having my portrait taken”  So, your family really doesn’t have any pictures with you and you are a photographer? How does that even make sense?  Well, it doesn’t.

Having photographs with your children is truly a gift you give them. Without a doubt when a person dies the first thing we start looking for are pictures and there are never enough of them.  It’s all we have left – a visual memory of what they looked like. We wear the jewelry they left and keep some of the things that were special to them but I know for certain the one thing that means the most is photographs.