party shoes

Valentine’s Day

“I used to think that I could never lose anyone if I photographed them enough. In fact, my pictures show me how much I’ve lost.” – Nan Goldin.

I have this quote in my reminder app so that it pops up every few months. I considered adding it to my website but worry it might come across as being morbid. (We spend so much time insisting we’re ecstatically happy.) But isn’t this in great part why we take so many photos of our kids?

The days are long but the years are short. 

Goldin gets right at the meat of making pictures of small children. When you take the photo, the child fills the room, she is so solid, so fully there that you can’t imagine her never not being the same way. (Of course you know this–and may fear it–but still you cannot imagine it.)

When you look at that photo even a few months later you can only be struck by the impossibility of sharing the room with that being as she was then–the heft of her body; the way her hair curled on her cheek, that week’s laughter, nonsense words, animal sounds, song bits–never to be heard in the same way again; the thing she wanted, needed.

I make audio recordings. I take photos. I try to burn moments into my brain. They slide away.

blue wools 

It’s Valentine’s Day. This morning I set out for my kids small dishes of gummy red cinnamon hearts and a couple of small wooden toys. My husband and I will celebrate with steaks and a special bottle of wine. But before I put the kids to bed, we will read a Valentine’s Day story and I will try to burn into my brain the feel of their soft cheeks.

My son painted his valentines this week.

F valentines 2014

They are beautiful and perfectly him–similar in style yet different from the ones he painted last year

And the year before

My two-year old daughter made her own this year.

watercolor valentines

Nan Goldin has a book of photos of children coming out this spring. She spoke about photographing children, “wild and magical, as if from another planet,” in a recent interview.

She also said this:

For me it is not a detachment to take a picture. It’s a way of touching somebody—it’s a caress…. I think that you can actually give people access to their own soul.

As my daughter tells me, “I wanna keep you.”

Bonus audio. My son singing Skidamarink for me and his dad. He already sounds younger than he is in my mind.

2 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day

  1. Thanks, Kate. As always, I appreciate your thoughtful comments. You always say the right thing.

    And I’m glad I don’t come across as being morbid. I guess sometimes I feel too focused on the ticking away of time. Need some more zen in my life, I guess.

  2. Hi Meghan!

    I love this posting. The photos and the sentiment ring so true to me. I love how you write about the loss we can see in these beautiful photos; and the quote you took from Nan Goldin: that “it is not a detachment to take a picture. It’s a way of touching somebody–it’s a caress…”
    That’s how taking pictures usually feels to me. I can keep that day with me, or the child of that day, my memory of his/her hugs and funny words on that day.

    I didn’t find your words about loss to be morbid. It felt tender because of the fullness and intimacy with which you described it. — Like there is a loss but only because there is a great love. It reminds me of how crying and laughter are so similar, and how great beauty can touch on sadness or even flat-out make you bawl.

    I love how you write. I hope you have more time for it someday. At the same time, however, I don’t want to rush that because you’re such a great mom. I’m thrilled that the kids have you at home with them.

Comments are closed.