As we pack our bags and contemplate the early start to the airport, let’s consider this scenario; under an azure sky a crystal sea gently laps the hot sand; neatly aligned parasols flutter in a breeze; bougainvillaea tumbles over the white walls of a nearby villa; children are happily playing on the shoreline. Suddenly there are excited cries and waving in the direction of the sun loungers - the children appear to have netted a shrimp or maybe they've built a sand tower that hasn’t fallen over for the first time, perhaps devised a new game with a piece of driftwood. Twenty feet away, their father lowers his newspaper in acknowledgement, reaches for his phone on the neighbouring lounger and, without moving further, takes a photograph with it before waving back and returning to his paper. I have made up this scene but I do witness similar all the time and can’t help wondering what happens to the photos in question.
The holiday abroad brings together family and friends in exciting and possibly unfamiliar settings. It also provides a little of that precious commodity, time - time to relax with a book or laze on a beach, for sure; but also time to explore, time to spend with the children, time to take photographs. My approach to the big holiday production is to cast myself in the role of director. The production team (in our case, my wife) has organised the flights, the transport, the villa or hotel and a cast of not quite thousands - just the two boys, maybe some friends. The director's job is to tell the story and if you are the one who has been charged with the task of taking the family holiday photos, I have to say that it does mean putting the book or newspaper down for a while. However, you also get to be that much more involved with your subjects and surroundings - and isn't that a part of what being on holiday is about?
Acting as director is something I have learned from years of photographing children; it involves recognising or setting up situations that are favourable to the camera in terms of light or setting but which allow the subjects freedom and space to express themselves naturally. The great thing about the holiday setting is this is happening all the time around you - it’s just a question of making a little effort and stepping in (and sometimes, stepping back).
I haven’t researched the numbers but I’m prepared to make an educated guess that the summer holidays are when we take most of our photographs - let's get off the lounger and make them meaningful.