Years ago, most people had portraits of their family and children hanging in their homes. Although some people went to very high-end studios and had beautiful portraits gracing the walls of their homes, not everyone had the most beautiful or the best quality portraits. Some people went to chain studios like Olin Mills, but most everyone had portraits hanging on their walls. It was what people did.
That is not the norm today. Although our children might be the most photographed generation in history, many people don’t hang portraits of their families or children on the walls of their home anymore. Many people don’t even print them or create albums. Is this lack of a portrait wall in our homes harmful to our children?
Many psychologists and parenting experts have confirmed that having photographs of your children, especially those where they are part of a family unit, helps them develop a healthy self esteem.
“I think it is really important to show a family as a family unit. It is so helpful for children to see themselves as a valued and important part of that family unit, “ says David Krauss, Ph.D., a psychologist, author and pioneer in PhotoTherapy since 1977.
A family portrait is a visual reminder that they are part of that family unit. Not only does the family portrait confirm that the child is valued within the family, but it gives the child a sense of history and belonging, which is paramount in developing a sense of self-esteem.
“Family photography lets children learn who they are and where they fit. They learn their genealogy and the uniqueness of their own family and its story. When a child sees a family portrait with them included in the photograph they say to themselves, ‘These people have me as part of what they are, that why I belong here. This is where I come from,’” explains Judy Weiser, Ph.D., a psychologist, registered art therapist, author and one of the earliest pioneers of PhotoTherapy techniques.
In this digital age we take hundreds if not thousands of images of our children every year. We have them on our phones, our computers, and all over our social media. But, how many are actually hanging on the walls of our homes? Even if you choose to have a professional photographer document your family, there are many photographers that only offer the digital files, leaving it up to you, the parent, to get them printed. This creates extra work for you and decreases the likelihood that portraits will ever be made. Because, let’s face it, how many of us love adding tasks to our already foot-long list of projects and things to do? And, how are you supposed to know where to get your portraits printed, which size is best and how to best display them. This is what the professionals are for, right? So, how much does it really matter if they are on your computer, Facebook page, and digital frame but not actually printed and hanging in your home?
“My bias is very simple. I think they (family photographs) should be on the wall,” says Krauss. “I am very conservative about self-esteem and I think placing a family portrait someplace in the home where the child can see it every day without having to turn on a device or click around on a computer to find it really hits home for that child this sense of reassurance and comfort. It says we love you and care about you. You’re important.” Krauss recommends having printed family photographs in living spaces where children can see them, the importance of which was echoed by other experts.
“My personal and clinical bias is there is something very powerful in touching your fingers to an actual print,” says Craig Steinberg, Ph.D., a psychologist and school counselor who used photography in his work with trauma and abuse victims to help them recover. “Touching the photograph where a face is smiling, it is the same thing as touching a book when you read it. There is a lot of stimulation of the brain when you have that sensory experience. That is a bit lost in the move to digital. You are touching a keyboard, mouse or a touchscreen but you are not touching the image.”
David Walsh, Ph.D., a psychologist, author and founder of the National Institute of Media and the Family, agrees. “One of the reasons that photography is so powerful is that we’re a very visual species. We have, of course, five senses but we have more brain cells dedicated to vision than all of the other senses combined.” For that reason, Walsh says, printed images are particularly powerful in reinforcing one’s sense of belonging.
The overwhelming message is to print family photographs and hang portraits of your children and your family in your home, in an area where the children will see them on a daily basis. In order to do this you need to find a photographer who will understand how important this goal is to you. Find a photographer who offers beautiful products. Find a photographer who will help you choose which sizes and products will work the best with your style and in your home. Find a photographer who will meet with you prior to the session and find out about your children and family so that the end result will be timeless and excellent and worthy of having a place on a wall in your home. Find a photographer who will help you create a beautiful visual legacy. Find a photographer who cares as much about helping your children develop a healthy sense of self-esteem as you do.