Thursday, September 26th, 2013
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He has written the fiction book “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
No one ever said being a parent was easy…with the exception of sperm donors and essentially every celebrity with a nanny, of course #kanyewest. That said, people who aren’t moms or dads may wonder what the most difficult parts of parenting actually are. Well I’m here to tell you that it isn’t the loss of sleep. It isn’t even the dreadful music you’re forced to listen to. It’s taking pictures at a Godforsaken portrait studio.
It starts innocently enough. In fact, you think you’re doing the right thing and that it’ll go off without a hitch. You think you owe it to your children to dress them in their Sunday best and document their growth to film. But you’re wrong. You make an appointment for a random Saturday morning in September to have four-month pictures of your child taken. Next thing you know, you’re desperately striving to keep your children entertained and nondestructive because Buy Buy Baby overbooked and now you’re waiting for the family ahead of you to finish who, for reasons known only to them, are actually not losing their minds in this ghastly process. (The family ahead of you are off-their-meds crazy.)
Taking small children out in public and expecting them to keep their clothes clean, stand up and smile when prompted is apparently an insurmountable task. It’s like pointing to something you want your dog to look at. It seems like a completely reachable goal, but all they do is stare at your hand! So close, yet so far away.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’ve had some pretty terrible experiences with cameras. Because of this, I’ve established a four-pronged approach to survival:
1) Respect the nap.
Don’t be stupid. If your kid is usually asleep from 1:00-3:00 p.m., don’t be daring and schedule your photography appointment at 12:30. You’re just asking to have your glasses snapped in half.
2) One at a time.
Think of a photography session like a subway turnstile. Try to sneak in two at a time and you’re taking a shot in the pelvis and maybe even paying a fine. If you manage to keep two small children happy and photographable at the same time, you should be President or something. Asking two children to smile simultaneously is like asking for two good John Travolta movies in a row.
3) Bribe reasonably.
If you’re going to bribe your kids, now is absolutely the time. But don’t get crazy and offer something you can’t produce, like college tuition at an ivy league school. Just point at anything in the store under $20, and odds are they’ll smile for a chance to destroy it.
4) Go local, not loco.
Whether you know it or not, you have a connection to a photographer via your friends or social networks. Most of them will come to your house, give you more time than a portrait studio would, and since your kids are at home, they’re more comfortable and far more likely to smile. If you’re in the New Jersey area, I highly recommend Brandon Murray Photography or Julie Fleming Photography. Both terrific with kids and have that inherent skill of capturing the perfect moment that you miss because you’re busy downloading the new IOS on your iPhone.
As far as my own experiences at studios go, this brief tale should sum it up…
Over fifty years ago, when the movie Some Like it Hot was being filmed, writer/director Billy Wilder insisted that Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis nail each scene that included Marilyn Monroe on the first take. Why? Because Monroe was such a train wreck (pardon the pun, if you’ve seen the film) that whenever she successfully got through her lines, that was the take they were going with. So, in this case, my wife Sonia and I were Jack and Tony, and our son Antonio, well, Antonio was Marilyn. The only difference was the blonde hair and unabashed alcoholism. All he had to do was smile once for 2-4 seconds. Hell, I’d even take a portion of a second. But no sooner did the cameras point at him when he looked like he’d been given socks as a Christmas present. True to our roles, Sonia and I kept iron-clad grins on the entire time. It was like the Miss America pageant, with no hopes of a crown to follow. I mean, tickling, a tap-dancing Elmo, that weird vibrating tongue drum roll noise that all the store photogs seem to think works, even a whispered promise (read: begging) to get him a toy and a Swedish massage if he smiles. No dice. I desperately tried to conjure up an image or action that would wipe the stoic wall off his face. So I came up with a mental list of things Antonio had laughed at in the past:
- Me getting hit in the face with a flying shoe
- My wife getting hit in the face with a flying shoe
- Himself peeing on the bathroom floor
- Shouting the word “penis”
None of these were viable options in that moment. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the photographer (who I’m pretty sure was Tempestt Bledsoe of Cosby Show fame) worked Antonio into submission. She got the shot! At least she thought she did.
“Oh. No. Dad, it was you. You blinked,” groaned Tempestt.
First of all, I’m not your dad. I’m not sure why all photographers think this is acceptable.
So, ultimately it was I who ruined the one good shot. Fortunately for me, once Vanessa Huxtable broke the smile seal, she was able to squeeze out a few more mild ones. Of course, this was coupled with me intermittently tickling him and then quickly getting back into position, causing me to appear in a weird, hunched position in the final shot, making me look constipated. Not that I cared at that point. I would gladly appear incontinent for generations to come if it meant us getting the hell out of there.
And we did. Right to the nearest liquor store.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to share your own photography experiences by adding a comment below!Add a Comment
Tags: billy wilder, brandon murray photography, cosby show, Elmo, jack lemmon, john travolta, julie fleming photography, kanye west, marilyn monroe, miss america, parenting, pictures, portrait studios, some like it hot, tony curtis | Categories: Joe DeProspero