Family portraits: a tradition lost in time | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 04, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:49 PM, February 04, 2020


Family portraits: a tradition lost in time

It was a bright, sunny afternoon. The autumn sky wore a brilliant, clear blue. The rays of the sun shone through my balcony, casting a shadow on the floor that imitated the balustrade design. Despite the warmth, there was a comforting breeze singing cosy tunes of autumn.

It was the perfect day to take a dive back into memory lane. I pulled out the basket of old photo albums from our antique wardrobe, where every visible inch at the front is etched with a basket-weave pattern. Rummaging through it, I found what I was looking for — a heavy, leather bound album, now coated with a film of dust.

I blew off the dust from the surface and turned to the first page. The melodious tune that I so cheerily enjoyed as a child no longer played. I flipped through the pages one by one, carefully looking, trying to recognise the teen faces who were now my aunts and uncles, with grandchildren of their own.

Most of the pictures were shot at family picnics, wedding festivities or ordinary household scenarios. They consisted of large group pictures, children playing, cousins eating, siblings posing in twinning dresses and trivial wedding affairs at home. The vintage photos had a quaintness about them; they were as natural as they could be. No filter, no poses or ‘fake candid,’ just being as they are in their raw state.

As I flipped through the pages, something hit me. Are we losing this tradition with the passage of time too? My attention swayed from the photo album to conscious reality, as I felt an uneasy knot in my stomach. 

One cannot deny the truth that family portraits are becoming a thing of the past. Yes, people take photos, lots of them. In fact, nowadays, people spend a hefty amount of money just for this. But, how many, among the thousands clicked, end up being washed, printed, and stored carefully in an album as such? Wedding or event photographs are exceptions in this case.

Let’s be honest here. It was even hard for me to find photographers who specialise in shooting family portraits for the purpose of this article.

When asked about his view on this whole scenario, Shah Mohammad Sazzad Hossain, a photographer at Photo Lounge, having years of experience in this field, said, “The market segment for family portrait is diminishing, but I think it can be revived. Social media, as a medium of sharing pictures is good, but keeping albums at home would be better. It is nice to reminisce and take a walk down memory lane once in a while.”

As we are grasped by the claws of our hectic routines and the convenience of technology, we are letting go of the tradition of family portraits. The excitement of clicking pictures has gone downhill as technology went uphill; from black and white pictures, to coloured Polaroid, and now, digital photographs. Carefully speculating, as we evolve with time, we are in fact, changing direction from the true cause of taking pictures; as it diverts from storing precious memories to posting on social media.

Rokeya Begum, a housewife and mother of three, stated, “We all have an endless scroll of pictures on our phones, tablets, or laptops. The sad thing is, they tend to stay there, rather than being part of a memory album book that captures the fun and fond memories of one’s life. We seldom go back to see these pictures, as we are unable to find time in our busy schedules.”

Family portraits, among many other things, is on the road to becoming a part of our lost traditions. As we advance, our thinking pattern is in a continuous process of alteration. Iconic family portraits in movies like the one depicted in K3G no longer create the dramatic effect they were meant to. Abstract paintings and fancy mirrors have replaced our living room walls, what were once showcases of family pictures. Rarely, if ever at all, do we get to hear parents getting their children ready for a ‘family photoshoot.’

In this process of losing and finding, may we not lose something that has etched itself as an important part of our heritage. 

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