In pursuit of imperfection

What Mel Did - Fargo family portrait

Thursday on my personal Instagram, I posted a picture of a family portrait, which Bronnie, me and two of the children posed for in a photographic studio. As perfect as it looks, what that picture does not tell you is that it is imperfect.

On the one hand, for the thing to have been a perfect tableau, our two older children and their mother would have been in the frame. On the other, I should have enjoyed the experience more when I first got to the studio. I may have been a little grumpy at the beginning as I really do dislike having my photo taken. I especially hate it when couched in the term ‘Family Portrait,’ my inference being the end result has to be perfect.

Perversely, I started to enjoy the experience when things started to go wrong. At one point, the children’s best behaviour got into a parachute and jumped out of the window and Bronnie and I had a spat about something, possibly nothing. The impossible pressure to be perfect was gone. The relief was like taking off a tight pair of shoes after the working day is done, or releasing flesh from a tight girdle. You know the hiss of steam that comes from releasing the lid on a pressure cooker? That.

God bless him, the photographer persevered and we made a good fist of it after everyone just calmed the hell down… and I love the end result.

However, the photograph posted on Instagram on Thursday is not the end result I’m talking about. It is not the version Bronnie and I chose to have printed into ginormous size onto canvas, frame and hang proudly in the sitting room of our then farmhouse.

No, the version we all loved when invited back for a formal screening of all the photographs, is the one featured on the right. The photographer was a little shocked this is the one we chose to write large as our ‘Family Portrait.’ The one where our perfect family pose and poise is no more in all its glorious imperfection.

Morgan is sticking her tongue out, Hart has fallen off the top of the perfectly primped pyramid, I’m laughing my head off trying to catch them… and Bronnie is happy as anything to have his family collapse on top of him.

Let Freud make of that what he will, but right there for me is happiness… and, yes, perfection.

 

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