Awkward Family Photos

8 years ago

Say "awkward family photos" and the first thing that comes to my mind is my grandmother's house, any Thanksgiving between the years of, say, 1978-2004. We were all forced to gather around one end of the table in a too-small dining room, while she tried to operate a camera that always - always - malfunctioned (Disc cameras, even, for a few of those years. Remember those? See Boing Boing's "Bad Old Days: Kodak Disc 4000 Camera" for a refresher and then give your PowerShot a big kiss. )

Anyway, pushing the correct button on a camera that was typically low on batteries just in time for a special occasion required intervention from people who had to leave the shot to "help," much bickering and forced-smile-holding, possibly standing next to someone you weren't incredibly fond of for minutes that seemed like hours, my grandfather yelling "ROBERTA THE FOOD IS GETTING TOO DAMNED COLD" and then a do-over with her in the shot. Then a do-over with just her and my mother and her brothers. Then the grandchildren. Then we all did shots straight out of the turkey.

One of those things didn't actually happen. Salmonella risk, you know - although I've been told the alcohol makes it entirely safe. 

Ah, holidays. Ah, family. Ah, photos. What price memories, no matter how weird or painful or poorly dressed? 

Two guys who will identify themselves only as Mike and Doug set up a blog called Awkward Family Photos in late April to maybe answer this question, but mostly to make you cringe and laugh and think, mostly "There but for the grace of God go I" or "There without it I went," depending. You really need to hit the link because it's impossible to explain it adequately. Just go.

Everyone else has, anyway, so no harm in being a bandwagon-jumper when the results are this awkwardly awesome. As of May 13, the site had 800,000 hits and dozens of photos submitted in categories like Awkward Sibling Photos, Awkward Engagement Photos (brutal. Just brutal), Awkward Family Holiday Cards (only two so far, when millions of these exist, you know it, people) and my favorite, the Awkward Pose of the Week. Last week's was "The Lean." Beautiful. 

Like most good ideas whose time just comes, this one started with a conversation. Mike said in a Time article that he and Doug were trading family stories when they hit upon the universal awkwardness of relatives, and decided to collect photographic evidence.  They went home, found this shot on Google, and it was on. 

(Photo courtesy of Their copyright notice lives here. See something that's yours, sounds like they'll probably take it down.) 

See? I cannot embellish this stuff. Also can't make stuff like this up, truth is stranger, etc.  And there's apparently nothing like some good old fashioned family awkwardness to get the blogosphere rolling. Here they went: 

Alana Edmunds at the Pursuit of Techyness wants to spread the awkwardness

There’s nothing like a little bit of awkwardness to keep me going through a tough week.

Whether it be through a super awkward pickup line from a guy (or your dentist trying to set you up with her son, in my personal case), or through a more favorable (and less awkward for me) version… family photos.

A few words on the site from Suburbia Steph at Scandalous Housewife

after viewing this website, it will just give you a boost about your
own family portraits! Some of these should stay in a box way waaaaay at
the back of the closet to never be see the light of day ever again

I love love LOVE the shot Tina Roth Eisenberg posted at her site, Swiss Miss. Take that, Olan Mills.  (Oops. Is that ok to say? I mean that in a semi-ironic, long-suffering-child-of-the-70s way, just to clarify.) Joanna at A Cup of Jo liked it too.

Dear Alison featured the American flag/heart/pleather outfits - prom photo, perhaps? Dear. Heavens. Above. Anyway, thanks Alison, because I missed this one.  And please click that link. You won't be sorry, except for the part where your eyes are.

Beautifully Flawed, Divinely Chosen submitted her own photo, Creepy Indian Dad.  (Hey, she said it, I didn't.)

What makes this photo awkward, you may ask?

Two words: my father.

Become a Facebook fan and/or follow Awkward Family Photos on Twitter. Submit your very own awkward photos here. Please

Not pictures, but solidly in the awkward family files all the same, is the beautiful Postcards From Yo Mamma, the creation of editor Jessica Grose and New York Observer reporter Shafrir. Look for more on this next week. 

Not a BlogHER, but I liked what Burstein had to say on Laughing Squid

Still, there is something charming about the Awkwardian Era, Awklord of the Rings, and even that infamous godawful Christmas photo.
The appeal lies in the naked exposure of each of us in our dorky glory
when we are not trying to be anything beyond being happy with our

And as Mike said in Time, "There is something kind of cathartic for people about sharing the
oddness of their families. And that's what we hope the site will be — a
communal celebration of awkwardness."

In that spirit, finally, these people belong to me. One of them is, in fact, me. I could tell you why we do this, but then, yeah, I'd have to kill you, blahblahblah. And also don't tell them about this post please because I like having people around to pose for my awkward photos. We've come a long way since the turkey shots, that's all I'll say about that - but probably not very far after all. Still, I have my limits, and I can rest easy knowing that while you may see me making like a lemur at Jazz Fest, you will never, ever, see me posed with 20 other people on the beach in contrasting pastel golf shirts. Child, please.


Laurie White is relatively awkward on a daily basis, sometimes at LaurieWrites, a lot of the time on Flickr (as indicated in the photo above), and pretty much everywhere else in real life.


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