Thursday, December 10, 2009

Not Always a Happy Child

Peter W. remarked to me yesterday that when he looks at this blog, he sees that Leif had such a good life as a child, was such a happy child. I answered that one reason it looks that way is that we are usually likely to photograph people when they are smiling and happy, so that's not always an accurate picture of the rest of their lives.

Leif did have a good childhood, but he wasn't always smiling and happy. Like any child he had his ups and downs, disappointments and frustrations. I photographed some of those moments, too, and I have pictures of him looking serious, contemplative, bewildered, pouting, and a variety of other expressions, especially when he wasn't really aware of the camera with someone telling him to smile. When you think about it, why do people have to tell us to smile in photographs? Because we want photos of people smiling. They are more pleasing, generally. However, if it was natural to smile for the camera, or we felt like doing it, no one would have to tell us to.

Leif had the usual assortment of childhood tantrums, upsets, and hurt feelings, though as he grew, he was more and more self-contained and unlikely to reveal much about them. When he became a man, he had almost completely erased showing much emotion or allowing his hurt or misery, or even anger, to show, though he felt them deeply.

As an adult, he took many self portrait shots and usually was not smiling in them. I've posted some of them here. Although I like posting the childhood photos of Leif that show him happy, even joyous, perhaps in the interests of a more well-rounded view of him, I should post some others, like the one above.

This shot was taken of Leif in the backyard of our old stone house in Manhattan, Kansas, in July 1976, shortly before we moved to Charlottesville, Virginia. He was one-and-a-half years old. He's climbing onto the glider on our swingset. Little mister adventurous, barefoot and all. He looks so serious!

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