Difficult Second Album
Earlier in the year, my second child was born. As if at that very moment, my world became inextricably small. We had been through this before, how different could it be, aren’t all babies the same? No, they are clearly not if Elliot is anything to go by. As if by complete surprise and despite all the confidence in having been through it with our now four-year-old, the second child is entirely his own person and seems to have been sent specifically to deprive us of sleep!
Yet, even with the exhaustion, I made a conscious effort to ensure that we photograph Elliot. What I mean by this is I have read countless times about how the photographing of a second child pales in comparison to the first. This of course makes complete sense as when experiencing something for the first time there is the excitement attached to it, seeing that new child do something for the first time and wanting to record it in excruciating detail for posterity. However, the sheer weight of these photographs will lead to ‘burn out.’ How many photographs does one need of a child sleeping, eating, or a whole sequence looking into the camera when you hold down the button on the phone? The ability to take a photograph is easier than ever, so much that many of the photographs that I take transcend the traditional use of the family photograph into an extension of the way I chose to communicate. A simple text exchange punctuated with a photograph of the event being described is much simpler than writing out the situation to the person on the receiving end who has not point of reference – much quicker too. A photograph of a blob of ice cream that fell onto Elliot’s head whilst in the carrier is easier – and funnier – to articulate in a photograph.
© Phil Hill (2022)
Barthes creates this idea around narrative within literature made up of ‘micro sequences’ that come together to form a bigger picture. Perhaps the way that we photograph our lives creates a series of chronological micro sequences that eventually can build a fuller narrative of the person. There are so many photographs that it is hard to see the wood from the trees and I have been very much guilty of many of them, especially when Darcie, my daughter was born. This perhaps sets up an awkward conversation with Elliot in years to come where a comparison will be made of the potential incomplete record of his development; ‘why isn’t there a photograph of the second pair of shoes that I owned,’ I imagine could be a line of inquiry.
That said, photographing consciously requires a considered approach inevitably leading to fewer photographs taken not more, instead pausing to ensure each photograph made has a purpose in representing the experience. At least this way, I can justify the photographs to future Elliot as each one will be in some way meaningful.
© Phil Hill (2022)
© Phil Hill (2022)
There are similarities to the experience of having a baby and photography too. Elliot doesn’t sleep, so to create the ideal conditions for the baby, we invested in a device that subsumes our room with a slow pulsing red light and emanating white noise that supposedly mimics the womb but instantly reminds me of the photographic darkroom with its all-consuming red tones and the subtle ebb and flow of water filtering through the process of film and print development, not unlike white noise – I have always found the space quietly soothing, albeit repetitive. Perhaps I’m making connections that may not be there, but the noise does also maintain remnants of the days when an untuned television channel displayed that noise visually in a melee of black and white dots buzzing around the screen looking like the grain of analogue film. If anything, the lack of sleep makes the mind wander into unexpected places, linking in unexpected ways.
Where photography and children do connect is the way that they both need time. Time to develop (excuse the pun), photography is the application of time and my children will benefit from the time I give back to them and it should be conscious, considered, faithful and representative.