Cover image for podcast episode 017 - is it tacky to display family photos

Ep 017 Is it Tacky to Display Family Photos?

Nov 10, 2021 | PODCAST

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Is it tacky to display family photos at home? In my portrait studio, I rarely meet people that would answer yes to that question, as they wouldn’t desire a portrait session in the first place. However chatting to friends & family I do occasionally encounter this, and the answer is a firm no, for a variety of reasons. 

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the question too, you can comment under this episode’s social media post @photographsinashoebox


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Transcription of Is it Tacky to Display Family Photos?

Sue: (00:03)
Hello, and welcome to the Photographs in a Shoebox podcast with me, Sue Kennedy. This podcast is all about helping and inspiring you to tell your family story in pictures.

Sue: (00:19)
Today, I’m wondering, is it tacky to display family photos? Now, obviously, I think not, but occasionally I will come across people that really don’t seem to put any value on photographs. They don’t tend to come into my portrait studio because chances are they’re probably not going to book me, mostly. On the odd occasion, I do get them. I find it quite baffling, to be honest. Typically, one partner is a fan of photographs as a way of preserving memories, and the other partner isn’t. So I understand it can be a real marmite subject for families, couples. And it’s frustrating for me if that plays out in the studio.

Sue: (01:21)
I guess everybody has different reasons for not wanting to have photographs up around the house. I often find the people that have booked me have grown up with portraits around the house themselves. I’m not talking about wallpapering the walls with portraits, but they’ve maybe gone to a studio in the past and had a family portrait to mark an occasion. Different things will trigger different families to have a portrait. It might be a big birthday. It might just be because it’s something they’ve always wanted to do, and finally, they make time for it because it is something that people can put off. There is no perfect time to have your family portrait done. Some people like to do it every couple of years. Other people will simply rely on school photographs as a method of tracking how their children are growing. And all of that is good because at least memories are being kept.

Sue: (02:37)
I’ve heard reasons that related to interior design. They’ve maybe spent a lot of time thinking about how they would like their house to look and they don’t want to spoil it with a large family portrait on the wall. Although, I’m starting to see in some of the property programs, where they’re creating wall galleries of special memories, which is really nice to see because I think there’s a balance to be had here. I’m not a fan of whacking up mass-produced art onto the walls either. But each to their own, I guess. It’s got to fit you and your personality.

Sue: (03:30)
I also sometimes hear that they just haven’t got the space. If they live in an old cottage, they maybe haven’t got big walls to fill. But there’s still the option to have smaller prints on bookshelves or have an album. I think that’s a good compromise. We don’t have, in our own home, lots of… Well, we do have lots of small photographs out, but we don’t have a big wall portrait at the moment. We did have, I took it down when we decorated. And it hasn’t gone back up, which I think happens time and time again. I like having smaller images. They are a conversation starter, especially with your children, because we’ve got them of our daughter from when she was a baby, right through to preteen ages. So it’s just lovely to see the transition.

Sue: (04:34)
I often joke with clients about the grandparent shelf. Alice, my daughter has only got one set of grandparents left, but yeah, Nanny certainly has a shelf of portraits of Alice taken over the years and her other grandchildren as well. And funnily enough, they do all sit on one shelf. And she likes that. That’s what she enjoys. And we feed that habit if you like. Something else I’ve heard, it’s tacky to have portraits on the wall because it’s signaling your place in the world. So obviously some people feel that they should and others don’t. I guess this probably has its roots in sort of the big mansions, country houses in the good old days, well, years and years ago, where they would paint portraits of their ancestors before photography obviously. That was the only way of recording a person’s likeness.

Sue: (05:49)
In the previous podcast, I’ve spoken about the wax masks that they used to take as well. So I guess if we’ve wanted to record a likeness, we’ve found a way of doing it in the past. I’ve always felt that having some memories around the house, photographs around the house is what makes a house a home and it personalises it for us. So we’ve chosen to do it that way. And I guess everyone has their own approach. I’ve come across research as well that shows that having photographs of your children around the home improves their self-esteem, their confidence, and just subtly lets them know that they belong. And I have had clients book a photoshoot because children have looked at the last family photograph before they were born and wondered why they aren’t in it. And that has triggered the desire for another photo session. And I like having the odd photograph of relatives that have passed so that I can just remember them occasionally. And sometimes you have something that happens, doesn’t it? And you remember a funny little story that involved them and it makes you smile.

Sue: (07:29)
I think, the older I get, the more interested I am becoming in preserving these memories and the stories behind the photographs. So I do wonder if the people that really don’t enjoy the concept of having portraits in their home, I wonder if that ever changes for them as they get older or whether it’s something that is quite set in their mind. I guess I’ll never know the answer to that. I know I say this a lot, but I think having some printed photographs of the people that you love and of photographs that you love just becomes more valuable as time goes on. I see this in the studio where I often will photograph the first baby. So, as the couple starts their family. And then they will come back with baby number two, possibly baby number three. And they will always comment on the first photographs that we took and how much they enjoy looking back at them.

Sue: (08:47)
So I know it sounds like a marketing line to say that these photographs become more valuable as time passes, but that’s what I’m experiencing in the studio with clients. And it’s good to see that they feel that way too. And it does concern me that more and more as I speak with new clients, they are very focused on just having digital copies. Now I will always encourage them to print. That’s all I can do really. I worry that we are losing a chunk of social history because we’re taking more photographs, but we’re not printing or saving, and obviously, technology moves on and it may not be possible to recover those files in future years. In the early days of digital photography, I saw a photographer literally showcase in their price guide, it was a CD at the time, hanging on the wall simply to make the point that it’s what’s on the CD that should be on the wall, not the actual CD. I have no idea if anyone took note of that.

Sue: (10:16)
Anyway, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. So do drop me a comment on social media at Photographs in a Shoebox, and that’s all for this episode. So don’t forget to subscribe wherever you are listening so that you never miss an episode. And thank you for joining me today. Bye for now.