Growing Up on Camera
By Helene Ragovin
A photograph a day, every day of the year
Ah, kids. They seem to grow up right before your eyes, don’t they?
In the case of Paul Nash’s children, that’s literally true. Nash, a senior information risk consultant in University Information Technology, has been taking a photograph of each of his three sons every day of their lives, and then compiling the images into videos.
In five minutes and 23 seconds, you can watch Nash’s eldest son, Nigel, who was born on Halloween in 2004, turn from a plump newborn with a shock of downy brown hair to a sandy-haired boy of five-and-a-half. In between, you can watch suntans and bruises come and go; catch glimpses of favored toys (and the occasional limb of a little brother); see the soft, round face of babyhood morph into the well-defined features of a kindergartner.
Likewise, Nash has logged a daily photographic record of his middle son, Darwin, now 3, and baby Simon, 8 months. Almost all of the photos are headshots, taken against the same background—a white blanket that Nigel was given as a baby.
While a couple of images have gotten corrupted—“that’s one of the problems with digital photography,” Nash says—he has taken the photos every single day.
“Ultimately, I want them to carry on this project,” Nash says. “I would love for them to have photos of every day of their lives. I know that’s kind of crazy—what will happen when they go off to college?”
His oldest, Nigel, takes it in stride. “It’s normal for him; it’s happened to him every single day of his life,” Nash says. “We’ve worked it into the bedtime routine: after dinner, it’s time to get your pajamas on; time to brush your teeth; time to take your picture.” And if the family is planning on being out or traveling, Nash takes the photo in the morning.
“I always wanted to do something like this,” Nash says. “On the day Nigel was born, I saw him for the very first time, and I knew he would change—he would grow old; he would stop looking like the baby that he was on the very first day. When I was little, growing up, whenever I would wash my hands, I would look at myself in mirror, and I’d think: I look like this today, but what will I look like a year from now? What did I look like a year ago? And as I got older, I would think: what did I look like 10 years ago? Now Nigel knows exactly what he looked like on any given day.”
An earlier form of Nigel’s video was included in a multimedia exhibition this past winter at the Parachute Factory Gallery in New Haven, Conn. The show, titled Family Business, examined family dynamics and family values through a variety of installations. “It was the first time that had I been involved as an artist,” Nash says. “I’ve been involved in IT all my life, and it was interesting for the first time to have a nametag that read, ‘Paul Nash, artist.’ ”
The reaction to Nigel’s video in the Family Business exhibit heartened Nash. “I got a lot of feedback from people saying the video sort of captured and rekindled the essence of childhood,” he says.
“I think this project is a tremendous gift we’re providing, not only for the three of them,” says Nash, “but also future generations.”
Helene Ragovin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.