My preference, my strong preference, is for candid photographs. I like the way faces look and the way bodies move when they are less aware of the camera.
But people want Christmas card photos. They want to see their whole family beaming at the lens. And even if those photos are not my favorite photographs right this moment, I know that in time those staged, smiling pictures take on more meaning. Right this very instant, a picture of me and three of my siblings from the late eighties is perched on my dining room table. I'm pretty sure that it was taken at a department store on a likely stressful Saturday morning. Our chubby thighs are shrouded in thick tights. My brother is wearing a tie. Nothing about it is natural. And still, you look at it and you see us. You understand who we are. Even in that posed moment, our personalities ring true.
A couple of weeks ago I had family visiting from Florida, and I took pictures for my aunt. I worked to embrace both types of photography because both types are important. Both types tell stories. And while right now I am most drawn to pictures of my cousins with their hair swirling, or people walking and talking having nearly forgotten I'm there, the picture of my grandma with her three grandsons, that image is for the ages.