Babies and blended memory #2 – the law of diminishing photographs

Recently, in a social context, I discussed parental photographing of children with a man who happened to be a paediatrician, a father and a grandfather. He spoke of the “law of diminishing photographs”, whereby each child in a family is photographed significantly less than the one who was born before. A number of parents have also spoken to me of this. The theory is supported by Beloff’s (1985, p. 197) discussion of a survey of family photography (see Musello 1979): “Musello’s surveys demonstrate that the frequency of photographing is greatest in the earliest years of the children’s lives, with a geometric progression from birth to age six. There also appears to be a geometric decline from child 1 through to child x. Families are often embarrassed by the ‘gaps’ in the album when they are leafed through by the later-borns in the family”.

This embarrassment or guilt about the relative scarcity of photographs of one child in relation to another seems to come about from social conventions and compulsions to photograph children and an associated implication that failing to photograph something is failing to value it. As Sontag (1977, p. 8) puts it, “Not to take pictures of one’s children, particularly when they are small, is a sign of parental indifference.”

Russian dolls

“Russian dolls” by sammydavisdog (CC BY 2.0)

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