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Ann Cannon: Smile! And remember: 'Every picture tells a story don't it?'

Published July 6, 2017 1:30 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

My mom has this big studio portrait of us, smiling for the camera. We're all there— my parents, my brothers, our spouses, the grandkids. The only person not there, in fact, is Houston, who (technically speaking) was a dog. Houston was a blue roan (look it up) English cocker spaniel, who was awesome except when he got mixed up sometimes and started biting people.

But whatever.

The thing about this picture is that we look pretty happy, especially for a family with a dog that bites people. We're all so clean and shiny with great big smiles, like we've just won the Super Bowl and now we're on our way to Disneyland. YAY! DISNEYLAND!

Who wouldn't want a picture like that hanging on the wall?

Except whenever I look at that picture now, I remember how stressful that particular sitting was.

OK. Sittings for family portraits are always stressful at some level, right? You're just praying that the picture will turn out OK and that it won't end up on that website awkwardfamilyphotos.com, because if you have one bad moment in front of the camera it totally, totally could. And then everybody in America will mock you and your family and your family's hairdos during their lunch hours for the rest of your lives.

But the sitting for this picture—the one where we're all clean and shiny—was especially stressful. For starters, there were a lot of us to herd. That always ups the stress ante. And then we had a really small window of time in the photographer's studio to make the picture happen.

Would it happen? Could it? The jury was out. Our photographer was in Provo. The rest of us, with the exception of my parents, weren't. We were coming from Salt Lake and Bountiful and Las Vegas, and (frankly) some of us are better with time than others.

Also, little kids were involved and you know how little kids are. They get hungry and they cry and they take off their shoes and throw them out the car window when you're not looking because you're trying to get to Provo.

By the time we all arrived, we were tense. We were the Tense Family. We were the Tense Family Who Would Hate More Than Anything to Go to Disneyland With Each Other. We were the Tense Family Who Would Actively Encourage Houston the Dog to Bite Each Other.

My point is, there was a lot of seething going on.

But then photographer Doug Martin told us to smile and we did, and I'll be darned if that picture isn't one of the best pictures our family ever took.

OK. When I was in high school Rod Stewart released one of my favorite albums ever — "Every Picture Tells a Story." And he's right. Every picture does tell a story. Only I think that the story behind the story a picture tells is often more interesting.

So. Because I am interested in memoir—i.e., the stories people write about personal experiences—I'm challenging you to find a photograph and write down the story surrounding it. Where were you? Why were you there? Who were you with? Who took the picture? What was happening? Is the picture an accurate reflection of what was happening?

Don't be surprised if I use this column now and then to throw some writing prompts at you. Stories are important. Your stories are important.

Dude. Start writing them down.

Ann Cannon can be reached at acannon@sltrib.com or facebook.com/anncannontrib.






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