Looking into a fading tradition
The tradition of taking family portraits is seeing a tremendous change
Seasoned portraitist Sara Black believes that technology has irrevocably molded civilization, with photography as one of its most radical agents. “People now prefer to take their own pictures, even just with their phones, to post them then tag each other online and be connected that way,” she says.
Somehow, the practice of getting family studio portraits taken, especially during the Christmas season, now feels about as quaint as an old, tattered, sepia photograph. In her 13 years as a lensman, Black says she sees less and less families partaking in the tradition because photography has become so accessible.
Photographer and videographer Tammy David agrees. With more user-friendly equipment, people are now more tech-savvy and develop photography skills on their own. Even the once ardent Westerners, who are fond of the traditional family portraits, are veering away from the practice. By the least, they would rather resort to sending e-cards, David says.
She recalls that, as a kid, relatives who were based in the States would send Christmas cards with family photos included where everyone in the picture wore matching sweaters or their Sunday’s best. These days, even David’s own family no longer conforms. She says they would just rely on the camera’s self-timer function and simply print the photos. Reminiscing the good old days, David recalls, “when I was younger, family portraits were important so I have something to show for assignments in school. I like looking back at how my family used to spend Christmas together even when I was an angsty, unattractive teenager. Christmas portraits are always good for remembrance.”
But she says there are still a few families that deviate. Professionally-taken holiday portraits haven’t become obsolete, thanks in part to the Kardashians who ostentatiously persist with the tradition. Fans await their annual Kardashian Kristmas Kard, which they’ve been releasing since the late ’80s and serves as a visual marker for how the clan grew through the years.
“I still know some people who prefer the oldfashioned studio setting,” David says. “I see more well-done images now in different social platforms like Instagram and Facebook. There are still a handful who hire professionals or go to mall studios to have their portraits taken, with the parents still framing the prints and putting them atop the piano.”
In hindsight, David says traditions seem to have changed on the surface level but their essence stays. “Enough with the white shirt, blue jeans, and barefoot look, but if families are happy to see themselves portrayed that way, or in complete formal wear with hats, then great. [The bottom line is,] Christmas portraits are always good for remembrance.”
Photographer Janine Uy, who specializes in newborn, family, and boudoir shoots, also says family portraits are still popular especially during the -ber months. Working behind the camera, she sees the importance of this tradition. “I wish all families make it a point to have their photographs taken. Photographs are forever, and you will want to have something to look back on years from now— something to show how your family has grown and changed through the years.”