Do you love or dread family portraits?

Published 6:13 am Thursday, July 29, 2021

My family took the easy way out – again.
We had our annual chance at a professional portrait and decided to let (insist) son Gideon pose solo for the umpteenth time.
Oh, we’ve had three-person portraits before and every once in a great while, I get an updated “mug shot” for this column (amazing how editors can crop out the spear and the wooly mammoth!), but this year we wound up pinning all our hopes on Gideon once more.
My wife and I always pledge to do better next time, but we have an unfortunate Ko(dak)-dependency thing going on.
Let’s face it: curing the common cold is only slightly more difficult than getting three or more people all available, all photogenic, all well-dressed, all tanned and rested, all cooperative at the same time.
There’s a reason “Synchronized Looking Halfway Decent” can’t field enough contestants to be an official Olympic event.
Aristotle claimed nature abhors a vacuum. Well, it’s not exactly fond of letting people create a treasured memory, either.
Mention an appointment for a sitting and Murphy’s Law goes into overdrive, producing a spontaneous eruption of mandatory overtime, hot flashes, nasal torrents, migraines, bloating, ineffective toothpicks, zits, nervous tics, suicidal ice cream cones, tattletale whining, strands of hair seemingly controlled by an Indian snake charmer, blinking eyes that are evidently trying to send a coded message revealing the plans for D-Day, grandparents whispering “DO YOU THINK WE’RE SUPPOSED TO TIP THIS FOREIGN-LOOKING PHOTOGRAPHER?,” etcetera.
Mankind is fortunate to have individuals who can counteract all this and produce stunning heirlooms.
As someone should have said, “When God got bored with making order out of chaos, he turned the job over to professional photographers.”
Granted, the Almighty is a mite peeved with those photographers who use His Son’s name in vain the first time they meet appearance-challenged Little Johnny. (“Marlboro doesn’t have enough filters to make THIS kid look good! Maybe if I tie a porkchop around his neck, the shutter will open.”)
Even worse than the ordeal of getting a group picture made is the stressful experience of deciding whether to purchase prints a la carte or spring for the full package.
It’s heartrending to think about glossy photos of your loved ones being nonchalantly shredded. And I’ve heard the studios are upping the ante. (“No hard feelings. For each sheet you reject, we will also uproot one rain forest tree and tell an Afghan orphan his pet lamb is being moved to a farm upstate…”)
I realize that the charmed people whose life is One Big Christmas Letter (“While in Tahiti to get our colonoscopies – photos included – and decide whether to give Suzy that island or Harvard University as a wedding gift…”) will look down upon me for settling for shortcuts.
They’ll doubtless pontificate something such as “Well, if it really meant anything to him, he would make time to get a good portrait.”
Honestly, I do regret that photos of me, my brother and our parents all together are rare or nonexistent; but I won’t apologize for being realistic about family portraits going forward.
I wouldn’t sleep any better thinking that someday my great-great grandchildren will fight over a framed image of ancestors struggling to look comfortable for two seconds.
“Hmph. You can have this one, sis. But dibs on the picture of the wooly mammoth!”

Copyright 2021 Danny Tyree, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”