The Family Portrait

Once upon a time family portraits were a rare and exquisite thing, requiring the wearing of one's finest stuffy dowdery and a solemn, or mystified expression. Nowadays most of us have at our disposal, the ability and opportunity to take a dozen snaps aday, letting them live forever in the cloud and stripping from the memorization of precious moments, every last ounce of ceremony, purpose and formality... While there is no doubt that there is some kind of wonderful about instagramming every fleeting, aesthetic moment and I for one would dash back into a burning house to save my darling phone and the much treasured memories locked inside it, the fact that I very rarely go to the trouble of printing any of the myriad of photographs I take, so I can pop them into an envelope and send them to a friend, or frame them so that something cherished could live on my bedside table, really saddens me.

All too often we take the time to take a billion photographs of our babies, but do not take thoughtful portraits of our own father, so we can long treasure the wisdom in his ageing eyes. We avoid having our own picture taken as much as possible and at the end of each year look back on a family apparently without a mistress of the house. We snap a hundred photo's in the garden, but never think to photograph the ordinary: the changing fashions in our own living rooms: each sofa with a tale to tell, each table the scene of much family magic..

Today I want to suggest a new ritual: the taking of a family portrait on a particular day each week, an informal gathering of each family member taken in the same room every time so that you can mark the children growing up, see the changing shape of the family and the house and reflect upon the ravages or delights of time...

And then (and this is the important bit), once a month you go and get your weekly portraits printed out and put them inside a large album, creating for yourselves, a true family album you will come to treasure for always..

This then is a ritual you should adopt today. For one day you will look back and be truly grateful that all those moments of ordinary are captured in your hearts and hands for always...