All the Pictures I have not Taken…


St. Nicholas Village on the Rudolfplatz

As my departure date from this wonderland that is Belgium draws closer, seasons come and go, and holidays pass by, I start to obsess and worry about getting that shot I’ve been thinking about for 3 years, to capture that scene before the chance is lost, and then to mourn missed photo opportunities because life got in the way and I didn’t make it out to (insert location here). Part of me is filled with guilt that I haven’t been a more intrepid photographer, often preferring to stay inside on a cold morning with my coffee and slippers instead of heading out into the weather all bundled up in search of that money shot. But on a recent jaunt to the Cologne Christmas markets with my daughter, I found a little perspective and a reason to put the camera (and the guilt) down for a moment.

“Mom, leave your camera home.” I have heard this more than once. It’s a statement that fills me with confusion and leaves me conflicted. Why would I leave my camera home? This is what I do, what I hope to do more of in the future! When my daughter, “M,” and I got to Cologne on the morning of the 23rd, we found the market stalls were not yet open (it was late enough that we were actually starting to question whether they would open at all!). I expressed disappointment at the lost photo opportunities. M’s response? “Good, now you can focus on just spending time with me.” Eh? I love spending time with M. I cherish our outings, and of course I am always stopping to take shots while we are out and about.

“Mom when you are taking pictures, when you are in ‘the zone,’ you are here, but not here. I don’t know how many times I am talking to you only to realize that you have stopped to take a picture and are no longer listening to me.” This sort of hit me like a brick. I know I do tend to exist in my own little bubble, but I don’t think I realized just how much I tune everything out around me. And I definitely didn’t realize how much it affected my family. I stopped in my tracks – my heart breaking a little – my desires for a fun weekend outing with my baby and getting those last shots of a German Christmas market doing instantaneous battle in my head.

My eyes teared up a little, I apologized for being so absent, and admitted that I would not be able to abstain completely from my addiction during our day in Cologne. M just laughed, rolled her eyes, and said “I know mom.” I promised not to get completely wrapped up in photography, and to focus more on the mother/daughter bonding part. I’m not sure I was successful, but we did have a pretty good time browsing through the holiday markets, braving the creepy waiter at the Hard Rock, shopping in the amazing stores in Cologne, and talking each other out of buying that flamingo onesie that would be used solely to torture her older sister.

At the end of the day, we spent a lot of time being silly, shared a great deal about our hopes and dreams for the future, and did an incredible amount of people-watching (our favorite being 3 guys at Douglas -a Sephora-type store – trying to buy presents for their girlfriends. They looked so scared!). It also helped me to understand that not all experiences need to be documented. Sometimes it is enough that they are enjoyed.

Oh! And I got a couple of decent shots! I see it as a win-win. Hopefully M does too!

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