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Family Photos

(31 Posts)
VioletSky Sun 06-Nov-22 12:27:03

I was looking through photos of my childhood today, and it was surprising to me that every time I was the main subject, there I was with this big smile. Every time I wasn't the main subject but included I don't look happy.

The photos where I am smiling are often thrown at me as proof of a wonderful childhood.

My photos are different. I prefer candid photos and the ones where my children have known they are the subject, they will have big cheesy grins except for my daughter who is autistic. She doesn't communicate non verbally (although she may learn to one day) with smiling the way a lot of us do. So she won't smile for the camera, you have to catch genuine smiles or laughs. I also display many photos that are also beautiful without smiles.

There are all these family photos of me smiling for the camera and I look at them and remember where we were and what was happening at that point in my life that made me unhappy.

So I wonder... do parents who were abusive look at those photos and remember what they were saying or doing to hurt you? Or do those photos where you were told to smile under threat of making them angry change their perceptions and their memories when they look back at them?

BlueBelle Sun 06-Nov-22 12:48:18

There’s no way you ll ever know what parents or anyone else thinks whether it’s joy, false memories, fear, wishful thinking, or guilt You are making sure your childhood isn’t repeated by your parenting so that’s all you can do there is no value in constantly second guessing, what they think.
I believe you ve had counselling for your childhood but judging by all your posts you have never been taught how to move on That doesn’t mean you should deny your past or not feel sadness for the child within you but about you forming new memories for you and your children which I feel you ve done so why dwell so much on the past wrongs, rejoice in the fact that their wrongs changed you for the better

Septimia Sun 06-Nov-22 12:48:43

I frequently look miserable in group photos, mainly because, by the time the photo is actually taken, my smile is worn out and has drooped! It's not a sign that I'm unhappy.

I'm fortunate in that there's no sad background to my childhood. On the other hand, I agree that natural photos where the subject is caught smiling or laughing are much better.

Smileless2012 Sun 06-Nov-22 12:53:35

I suppose there's no way of knowing without asking. There's that saying isn't there that the camera never lies but it can do.

I've never been a lover of photographs. Have loads of the boys of course but have always hated having mine taken. I only have two on show, one of my gran and one of DS who lives in Aus.

I know what you mean. I seldom look at ours but when I do, especially the ones of us and our ES just months before he estranged us, I do wonder what lies behind his smile.

VioletSky Sun 06-Nov-22 13:08:52

I think there are different kinds of moving on Bluebell and I think you can move on emotionally but still think about things.

These photos exist and I would like to do something with them

I've thrown quite a few away but still unsure what to keep or whether to make an album.

I feel like my childhood pictures might be interesting to my children one day but definitely not in an amount that needs to be lugged around in life

Also I feel like pictures of family members probably do belong in an album of some sort, even family members we have no contact with.

But do they belong in the same album, do they belong with pictures of me smiling as some sort of false legacy? Even of my children know they have abusive family members by their own memories do future generations need to know or should it be glossed over so they have a fresh start?

Ah, I can see now after typing my thoughts what thr real problem is and I am definitely focusing on one issue to procrastinate another. They will probably be put away again for another day.

Smileless2012 Sun 06-Nov-22 13:15:50

You probably can't remember every situation, but isn't it possible that in some of the photographs, your smile was genuine?

VioletSky Sun 06-Nov-22 13:20:01

That would help a lot if I can identify and keep those, thank you

Septimia Sun 06-Nov-22 13:44:12

I think you're right, try to pick out the ones where you have some confidence that you were genuinely happy. If you can find the ones that do link with happier memories, you could make one album of them.

Then you could make another album with photos that are representative of your genealogy - you only need one photo of each person, especially if you have difficult memories of them. Label them with names and make it a factual record rather than an emotional one, if you can.

Spring20 Mon 21-Nov-22 20:06:59

So what you’re saying VS is if you are smiling it is false. Yet our EC has decided photos where she isn’t smiling are ‘proof’ she had an unhappy childhood. Bit tough on parents….. As another poster said, maybe we overthink these things.

VioletSky Wed 23-Nov-22 13:21:30


I was saying I have unhappy memories attached to a lot of the photos.

If I didn't smile for photos I was shouted at so yes, a lot of false smiles in photos unless I was not the main subject.

I'm not sure what that has to do with your daughter, sorry

imaround Wed 23-Nov-22 22:56:29

My mom never shared our childhood photos. When she was in the hospital last year, I took boxes and boxes of them and scanned them and returned the originals.

It was nice to have the memories, good and bad.

Keep what you want. They may be important to your children and grandchildren

Spring20 Thu 24-Nov-22 12:13:59

“I was saying I have unhappy memories attached to a lot of the photos” VS

I hope you can find some photos where the memories are happier VS, and if so that they help in some way. I’m sorry so many remind you of sadness.

VioletSky Thu 24-Nov-22 16:02:34


“I was saying I have unhappy memories attached to a lot of the photos” VS

I hope you can find some photos where the memories are happier VS, and if so that they help in some way. I’m sorry so many remind you of sadness.

It was suggested I keep the ones that feel OK, and keep pictures of family in a seperate one.

My Dad has also sent me some pictures to use as well which really helps

I just find it so sad, the only time we they were really happy and there was no arguing or put downs were family holidays. I wish it could have been like that all the time. But some of those are good memories. It was like a switch when we got home

Kate1949 Fri 25-Nov-22 16:20:24

There are maybe two photos of me as a child taken by a neighbour. No one in our family owned a camera and my parents never bought school photos. We never had holidays so no holiday snaps.

Blondiescot Fri 25-Nov-22 21:01:41

I detest having my photo taken, so I'm not in our family photos. My kids joke that if I ever went missing, there'd be no 'missing person' posters, as there wouldn't be any photos of me to put on them!

Smileless2012 Sat 26-Nov-22 09:00:46

I'm the same Blondiescot so there aren't very many of me either.

biglouis Sat 26-Nov-22 09:11:06

I have kept very few family photos. I am told that I was very jealous when my parents had my sister after 7 years of being an only child. Certainly I never wanted a brother or sister. I was also told by them that I behaved very badly and was always "naughty". My mother had what was then called "pregnancy heart problems" over the birth and I can remember being told that it was my fault that my mother was ill because I was a naughty child. What a thing to say to a 7 year old child.

In all the photos with my parents I either look glum or I am actually scowling in a deliberate attempt to spoil the photo. Whereas in the few I have with my grandmother I am smiling,

I think that says a lot about my family relationships. The only family photo I have on display now is one of my grandmother in a ball gown when she was in her 20s.

MerylStreep Sat 26-Nov-22 09:19:22

Same here. One of me when I was about 6 months and one where I’m about 3?

VioletSky Sun 27-Nov-22 16:13:39

I think the thing about the photos

This may sound melodramatic

I've spent a great deal of my life being told who I am by my mother. That I'd never amount to anything. That I was a failure, worthless, didn't have anything worthwhile to say.

I believed her for a long time and it wasn't until I did counselling several years ago that I was able to put the pieces together and see just how much she sabotaged my education, my friendships and my family relationships. I tried to rebel at at times but was always told she didn't say that, she didn't do that, I am imagining things and I'm crazy.

So this all leads to finding these photos difficult to look at because they are from the time there was a battle in my head between who I was and who she told me I was.

I still struggle now to like myself, to feel confident in my abilities.

But slowly I'm learning who I really am and what I really want and I've been making it happen.

The little sad child in those photos exists still inside of me, as does the voice of her mother.

But I'm fighting it now and I'm winning. These photos with their false smiles and unhappy memories do not get to take me backwards.

So I am choosing the ones that deserve to be brought forwards and family photos are slowly being correlated into something I don't ever need to look at once it is done. With factual labels of who they are and how we are related.

Chances are, maybe no one will look at those again.

Blondiescot Sun 27-Nov-22 16:29:33

VioletSky, I can relate to that. My mother was the same. It took me the best part of 40 years to realise that no matter what I did, what I achieved in life, I'd never be good enough for her. But rest assured that you are NOT a failure or worthless. When you look at those photos and see that sad little child, remind yourself that you have survived, you have become your own person and made your own life.

VioletSky Sun 27-Nov-22 16:35:42

Blondiescot it's so sad that so many of us didn't learn this truth until our 40s

Do you think it's raising our own children that eventually wakes us or maybe coupled with parents getting older and being less able to hide their behaviour from others?

We did wake up though, that's the important thing smile and it's never to late to find our own way

Blondiescot Sun 27-Nov-22 17:19:46

VioletSky flowers
Yes, I think for me anyway, it was having my own children and realising that I could never treat either of them the way my mother treated me. My love for them was - and still is - unconditional. Yes, there may be times when I don't like or agree with some of the things they do, but it doesn't affect the deep down love I have for them. And that's when I realised my mother was never going to love me in the way I loved my children.

Chestnut Sun 27-Nov-22 18:10:00

I think preparing an album for descendants is important, so they can see the family members. Either scan the photos (or negatives) and learn how to put them on a page with some writing for printing. Or put the original photos into a photo album with a piece of paper next to them (either handwritten or on the computer). In both cases the writing tells them at the very least who the people are and when and where the pictures were taken. You can write a whole lot more about yourself or your family, and imagine reading that 100 years later.

Barmeyoldbat Sun 27-Nov-22 18:29:25

In many ways I have always thought I had the perfect childhood and I think I gave pretty much the same to my children. My dad took hundreds of photos of our daily life and would developer them himselfand put them in albums. I just love looking at these photos and it brings memories flooding back. I am sorry for those who didn’t have a childhood as good as mine, it’s every child’s right

VioletSky Sun 27-Nov-22 19:41:40

There are always going to be things that impact children negatively, like divorce, bereavement and financial struggles but every child has the right to be safe and they should definitely all feel loved