I can now say with great authority as Christmas Eve has arrived and most seasonal greetings have been delivered by post, that the family photo card has now reached a contemptible climax. I mean no offense to those who choose this method to communicate good tidings and cheer, truly.
Let me start with sheer mechanics. The brilliance of the traditional holiday card is that it is built with peacockian motives, to be flaunted and admired in tiny, ephemeral galleries. The flat, double-sided photo card can’t even stand independently on a mantle. It must be propped up like a drunken uncle against something sturdy. Or even worse, suddenly one’s refrigerator becomes festooned with a patchwork of foreign faces. I don’t need the judgement of a hundred eyes when I’m digging through the cheese drawer for a succulent triple-cream.
We are living in the pinnacle of the digital age wherein one can share hundreds of photos with loved ones (or complete strangers) at the push of a button. We are able to watch babies grow into young adults halfway across the globe. In real time! Which draws me to the following conclusion: the photo card is the absolute zenith in narcissism. After all, there is nothing more permanent than a physical manifestation that you - YOU! - are living your best life! The import of the delivery, the thrill of opening the envelope paper cuts notwithstanding, this ceremony cannot be replicated in a swipe and scroll world. Most paramount, this representation of one’s self cannot be ignored.
Now, I’m not implying that I am above a little narcissism. Quiet the opposite, actually. But if you are determined to exploit your vanity in the name of Christmas, I plead with you, for God’s sake, get creative.
Need inspiration? Turn to the old masters. Gather quotidian objet for props and create a level of Flemish portraiture that is so inspired, it is displayed far beyond the holidays. Grab that linen tea towel or some wax paper, go forth and conquer! I cannot wait to see the results next year.
The work of photographer Hendrik Kerstens.