A newborn with her tiny head propped up on her hands. A baby cradled in a catcher's mitt. An infant suspended in a knitted net. A six-month-old wearing nothing but a hat, holding out an artfully knotted strand of Christmas lights. If you have a Facebook account, chances are you've seen some examples of the ever more elaborate trends in baby photography -- or maybe even posted some yourself.
I'm guilty of the same to some extent. For the first year of my kids' lives, I took their pictures next to some indicator of their age. A pumpkin painted with the number 10, a receiving blanket folded and pinned into the curlicue of a six.... They're definitely a contrast from the Sears portraits of my childhood, which look more or less the same as the ones of my husband: Gray matte background, white backdrop, smiling baby.
I'm not even sure what drove me to do it! Of course, I have approximately 37 terabytes of candid pictures of each of the kids, as is only natural in an era where I have a phone magically built into my camera. But where did the next step come from -- not to mention all the steps thereafter that led up to the monster 12-frame conglomeration on the hallway wall of our house?
It's often Pinterest at whose feet we like to lay the blame for the growing expectations of pageantry like these, but I think this is a misdirect. My life is a Pinterest-free one, but I still got sucked into the same rabbit hole as everyone else, even if I didn't cram my kids into a birdhouse or mailbox to take their baby pictures.
Social media as a whole, though, is an increasingly pervasive part of our lives, which means an increasing awareness of how we aren't keeping up with the Joneses and their well-lit, artfully posed, airbrushed brood. (And why is it Pinterest and its 40 million users that are blamed for all the ills of society instead of Facebook and its 1.3 billion? I don't know, but I'll note that Facebook is a fairly gender-neutral platform, while Pinterest's leans heavily female. Coincidence? Hmm.)
Besides social media's role in providing a platform for our inter-family competitions, I suspect some of the modern intricacy in baby photography is part of an attempt at uniqueness. Depending on your age, there are probably a half-dozen baby pictures on your Facebook news feed right now.
How do you make yours stand out from the crowd? Pick and choose a personality for your child! Drape your one-month-old girl in pearls and wrap her little wrinkled fingers around pink powder brushes. Settle a Packers cap over your tiny son's eyes, cover him up with a green-and-yellow blanket, and set his hand on a pint-sized football.
I hope this is just an attempt at uniqueness and not one for control, but as I paw through pages and pages of newborn photography on Pinterest, I can't help but notice how many of these pictures are thoroughly gendered as well as thoroughly staged. Or maybe other people's kids really were just that into makeup and sports at the tender age of zero? Mine, rather dully, were only really interested in the old standbys of eating, sleeping, and making definitely un-Pinterest-able projects in their diapers.
So no, I'm not really sure how to feel about this trend of perfectly-posed, pink-cheeked babies on my Facebook feed, although I am fairly sure it's not going anywhere anytime soon. (Will it turn into more elaborate toddler photos too?) But maybe I'll have some additional insight after looking at the pictures I took of my kids sitting in their stockings on Christmas morning.