Adventure: How to Ruin the Holidays, Version 2020

Look, if you learn ONE thing from me then this is it. Trust me. (There are people new to this site.) Ruining holiday photographs and family memories is one of my specialties. My brother and I mastered this technique years ago after one small strategy session.

My brother and I deploying our photographic ruination technique.

We held this session after “accidentally” ruining a single photograph that sent my father into a rage. This event was the catalyst for my brother and me creating a formal strategy because watching my father lose it was so wonderful. He was like the robot in Alien spewing hydraulic fluid from his neck. We stood in wonder as he berated us for “being children,” and “acting like fools.” Well, we figured if that is how he sees us them perhaps we should act accordingly.

Our plan was simple. RUIN EVERY PHOTOGRAPH by making faces. We both settled on a favorite face, each on display in the attached photograph. My brother with the puffed out cheeks and me, the long-hair on the right, with the gaping, open mouth. We trained ourselves to remain perfectly silent, motionless until deploying the faces at the last second and too close to exposure for anyone to stop us even when they knew it was coming.

These moments would come with a stern warning from the old man. “Look, you assholes, if you ruin this moment I’m gonna be pissed,” he would scowl at us. “Just be adults.” “Oh ya, sure thing pop.” “Don’t know what got into me last time but I feel bad.” And then we would ruin the next photo. Again and again and again. Nothing could stop us. Our faces going from sterile, calm, expressionless wastelands to twisted holiday ruining messes in the blink of an eye.

The moment captured above is a perfect example. Mom STILL looking on with admiration at her youngest son, me, even while knowing I’m ruining the moment. My sister looking a bit hesitant to smile knowing we are ruining the moment. And then there is my father. Wrecked bird in front of him, uncomfortable sweater, still thinking THIS might finally be the time my brother and I grow up but his soul telling him otherwise.

What I love about this is the reminder that both kids and parents have visions of their family and then they have the truth of their family. Most often the vision and truth manage to avoid one another. My father was especially gullible. He was a screw up when he was young and he knew that we knew. Like the guy with chocolate on his face telling the rest of to avoid sweets. We had him, and he knew it.

So, my advice is to join my brother and I this holiday season and when you do please share your images with me here. After all, this time of year is about giving.

19 Comments on “Adventure: How to Ruin the Holidays, Version 2020”

  1. Hahah, I think most families can relate to this but in my family it was actually my dad that was always pulling faces and my mother angry at him!

  2. What I live about these kinds of family photos around the dinner table (or in a restaurant) is that 90% of the time the photo is taken after the meal has been eaten leaving the dinner plates and table looking like they’ve been attacked by a pack of hyenas.

    BTW, it seems to be working fine again now.

    1. Good point! I prefer the after version to the Norman Rockwell “everything is perfect” version. Life is messy…attacked by a pack of hyenas.

    2. Sean,
      So true. I’m laughing out loud as my brother and I would normally end up with our pants either unbuttoned or off. Watching football and driving everyone else crazy.

  3. Dan
    that’s hilarious.
    In my family I’d make a face then my dad would follow suit and my mom would totally melt down. My sisters would laugh maniacly. Good times.

  4. So funny! The concept would have worked much better in the analogue days, when the traitors’ deed would only be reveald weeks later at the return of the prints… nowadays, where the immediate check of the group selfie will show the grimaces, it must be harder to get away with it at the table…
    Your sample print is a blast, the grimace kids are funny but the real treasures are the faces of the three onlookers….

    1. Stephan,
      Great point. After the drive to the mini-one-hour-lab. The wait. The payment. And then, “damn!” Makes me giddy thinking about it.

  5. Man did this get me laughing. My brother and I used to flip the bird (stick out our middle finger) just as we figured the shutter was going to go – and of course in the days of film my mom (the photographer of the family) could never know for sure we did it until the prints came back. Our sister would always try to look straight at the camera and smile but often got caught looking at us to see if we were going to do it. It went on from around age 14 to our early twenties. I remember a shot where both our girl friends at the time were holding our hands with our fingers squished like some sort of karate submission hold so mom could try and get a shot free of the bird….we were laughing so hard no one was looking at the camera.

    ….Good times those memories!

    1. Jason,
      I would hold my mom’s hand, acting like I cared… a good son. Then when she wasn’t looking I would stick her finger up my nose. Worked every time.

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