On this day...
1 year ago: Christmas gift
5 years ago: Glorious snow

In our kitchen we have a tear-off calendar with paintings by Monet. Looking at the paintings, it has struck me several times that if Monet’s paintings were photos, and if he were to submit them to some social forum for feedback by other photographers, many of his compositions would probably immediately be criticised for breaking basic rules of composition. “Leave more space around the subject!” (Camille Monet and a child in the garden) “Don’t cut off your subject’s hand – if you had taken a step back you could easily have avoided that!” (Camille with a small dog)

A blogger at fotosidan.se noted the same thing when reading a book about Edward Hopper. A window frame “growing” out of a woman’s head – what kind of composition is that!

These rules of composition, presented like immortal truths, are so strongly influenced by current fashions and trends. Right now, the rule of thirds is on top of every list as if it was really a rule. Go back fifty years and there was no such thing.

It bothers me when these ideas or concepts are presented as rules, and then with the admonition to only break the rules when you know why you’re breaking them – when you have mastered the rules and made a conscious decision to break them.

I have come to really hate that idea. I don’t want photography to be about rules. I don’t want to follow a checklist and then carefully break one rule make a pretty photo.

In fact I don’t even want my photos to be beautiful, most of the time. I don’t really know what I want them to be, but beauty is rarely among my goals.

I take photos with distracting elements competing for attention. I take photos where the subject is facing away from me, or with faces partially hidden, or with heads cut off. I don’t do it for any carefully considered purpose, guided by artistic vision. I do it because it’s what I want to do at that moment.

That was actually an incredibly liberating insight I had recently. I am not a photographer. I don’t aspire to greatness in photography. I do not need anybody to approve of my photos – I have no clients I need to please, and I don’t need the approval of “real” photographers, either. I would rather take photos that mean something to me, regardless of how many rules they break, even if everybody else considers them crap.

Another rule that I keep hearing is great light is the most important thing for photography – photography, after all, being “drawing with light”. If you don’t have great light, you won’t get a great photo, and that’s that. If you have crappy light you might as well put away the camera and go home. Well, I refuse to listen to this rule, too. Crappy light is all I have during six months of every year, and I would rather take ugly photos than none.

Today we brought home the Christmas tree and dressed it. Adrian took our talk of “dressing the tree” literally.

I have added a new page that shows all the daily photos in a gallery kind of thing. There’s a link at the right, next to the RSS feeds.

The Bergheden family Christmas party took place yesterday. Here’s Ingrid and Adrian playing with the youngest Bergheden cousin, Einar.

I am working on building a propello, at Adrian’s request. Propello is the flying vehicle that Numbert (of the Numbert books) flies with.

This month’s themes:

Friends. Adrian often asks to play with a friend after preschool. I have to say no more often than I would like, because of Ingrid’s activities. I try to make sure he gets at least one playdate a week.

Singing. The kids have been practising Christmas songs at preschool, so Adrian has been singing Santa Lucia and such. But he also sings other songs, everything from En elefant balanserade to Vem kan segla förutan vind (which turned into a funnily illogical Vem kan ro utan vind in his version).

Building. He builds with Lego at home and Polydron at preschool. Among the first things he learned to build with the Polydrons was a spinning top. Spinning tops, by the way, are no longer called snurra by today’s kids but “beyblades”, or more likely “beybleys” if the kids are young. So Adrian calls the Polydrons in general “beybleys”.

Christmas. Adrian is excitedly looking forward to Christmas. He closely follows the various Christmas calendars around the house and knows exactly what date it is today. He has a Lego Christmas calendar that he is very fond of.

Empathy. He is developing an understanding of other people’s feelings, and has a kind soul. One day when we played Den försvunna diamanten, a board game where you walk around trying to find a lost diamond, and he was having a particularly lucky streak, I said something disappointed about losing. He instantly comforted me, very sincerely, and offered me some of his money.

Potty humour. Pee and poo and bottoms and penises are incredibly funny. Put Adrian together with another boy of the same age, and there is no end to how many potty words you will hear.

A message from Ingrid. Loud and clear.

Ingrid at work on one of the items in the craft-a-day advent calendar.

So much of Ingrid’s life happens away from me, outside of my view, that I know her less and less well. I no longer feel like I really know what she does, what she thinks about, what is important to her. She’s growing up and growing away from me.

Ingrid likes to be busy. She loves all her after-school activities. She’s got scouting on Tuesdays, riding on Thursdays, and now during winter also bandy on Fridays. She also wanted to add dancing to this, but enough is enough. Even now with three busy evenings it feels like too much, but Ingrid loves skating so much that I gave in.

On her free afternoons she often wants to play with a friend. And when she’s at home, she has her eyes in a book all the time. There’s rarely a chance to just be with her, just talk. Mostly when she’s too tired to do anything else…

Other people talk during dinner, but any kind of attempt at mealtime conversation in this family derails pretty fast – too much noise and interruptions to allow meaningful conversation. I guess I need to find some way to sneak some “talk time” into our life. I wonder what kind of activity I might use as a cover – something that is enough of an activity so Ingrid feels occupied, but not so much that she will be all busy. Walks to the supermarket, perhaps?

She is often too busy to even notice the signals from her body. When I interrupt some activity, or pick her up at a friend’s place, she’s almost invariably annoyed – why do I have to stop the fun? And then three minutes later she tells me she is really, really, really tired, or hungry, or has a headache, or whatever.

Favourite fruit: clementines. When it’s late evening and she realizes she is hungry, she can eat seven or eight of them in one go.

Favourite activities together with me: the Christmas calendars on TV and radio. Both are really well done this year so I also enjoy watching them with us. Also, crafts, especially Christmasy ones. Also, in fact, anything that means that it’s just her and me, without Adrian.

Favourite activity on her own: drawing. She has become more ambitious in her drawing and doesn’t just want to replicate the usual subjects in the usual way. She has borrowed several books about how to draw, everything from “easy manga” to “funny animals”.

Not at all favourite activity: picking up after her. She just never remembers, so she leaves a trail of small objects behind her – pens and drawing pads, hair bands, Kalle Anka issues, books etc.

Random fact: on weekends, Ingrid loves lounging around undressed. She sleeps naked, and when she wakes (early) and walks downstairs, she usually doesn’t bother getting dressed. She lies on the sofa under a blanket and watches a movie. A blanket is impractical at the breakfast table, so then she puts on her bathrobe, and keeps it unless and until there is a compelling reason to get dressed.

Found it on the dining table.