In the coming days, if you’ve not done so already you’ll see all kinds of articles about making better holiday photographs. They’ll be filled with advice from the banal and obvious, to the dubiously helpful. Mostly they’ll be written to drag people to their blogs, and increase traffic, when those same people should just shut the laptop and be with loved ones. So I’ll keep my own thoughts brief. And then I’ll shut my own laptop and I’ll come back sometime after our own celebrations on December 24th and 25th.
Do you want to take better holiday photographs? Bring a camera and show up. Spend more time with your friends and family. Arrive earlier, stay later. Laugh harder. And be truly present. Step back once in a while and listen to the laughter, observe what’s really going on. And make a lot of photographs. Because honestly, many of them won’t be your best work. But years from now you won’t care. Years from now even this season’s worst photograph will mean something to you when some of the friends and family that are present now are no longer with us. Out of focus, poorly exposed, hastily composed, they’ll mean more to us than the very best of our work, because we won’t be after Facebook “Likes” or re-tweets on Twitter. We won’t give a damn if it gets pinned to Pinterest in the face of missing the ones that mean so much to us.
Want better holiday photographs? Be present. Be there and intentionally make the moments you will look back on, in the worst of your quickly-taken snapshots, and remember as moments in which you were alive, laughing, giving, playing, and in the presence of a beauty in front of which the greatest landscape will feel lifeless: the love of family and friends. Every year we welcome new family, and collectively we all painfully say goodbye to people whose presence we’ll long for for the rest of our lives. Even the poorest photographs of those people and our shared moments with them will be worth more than any gift we give or receive. No photograph in the world will bring back your baby girl’s first Christmas or your grandmother’s last. Be there. Presence beats presents every time.
Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, whether it’s the winter soltice, Christmas, Hanukkah, or the astonishing fact that we made it around the sun and found life in her light for one more year, I wish you the very best. In hope against hope, may this be the year for peace on earth, light in the darkest corners, and water in the driest lands.
With Gratitude and Love,
Merry Christmas, friends.