Photo Essay

Family Photos


"You should write something about Finn," my wife would say, "After all, you're the writer".

Our daughter Fionnuala was just two, but until now I've avoided putting down anything about her. As a published writer and former journalist, I somehow couldn't find a way in that felt honest and unselfconscious.

Even if I could silence my internal critic, describing her in words - the tools of my trade - smacked somehow of using her for artistic gain.

So it's my wife - no mean writer herself - who's been cataloguing Finn's progress - her chance remarks and daily wonders.

But early on I started taking photos of her, with the point and shoot we had. Soon, I dusted off my old abandoned film SLR, and some old skills and habits came back to me. I didn't plan anything, I just kept the camera around and saw what happened.

What happened was that I was taking photos of things other than Finn, and enrolling in a refresher course at the local community college.

The universe (in the shape of my generous mother in law) then conspired to help - handing me a better film SLR with a better lens, and soon I took the plunge on a digital body.

The first shots with that were of Finn, of course, but I realised something had changed. I wasn't just trying to get pictures of the latest milestone, or because she looked particularly cute that day. I was trying to make good photos, trying both to capture her and put something of myself in it too.

So on the one hand, I have what everyone has: photos of their kids - the years marked out in holidays, beaches and birthdays. But what I also have is a way to bypass my overly-sensitive writerly scruples, and embark down a new creative path that's taken me beyond just family snaps.

One day Finn might say, 'No, Daddy, not the camera again,' which will be fine, too. But right now she doesn't mind at all. And I'm grateful to her for that, as for so much else.

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