photogenetics (or: there’s no hiding those genes!)

In my line of work, I see a lot of baby pictures. As you can imagine. (No. Belay that. I’m not sure you can imagine . . . we’re talking LOTS of baby pictures. Babies nursing, babies sleeping, crying, crawling. Cover babies, messy babies, funny babies, happy babies. . .)

Occasionally, I come across a photo where there’s no denying that the baby in question is related to the mom or dad or sibling in the photo. Maybe it’s an obvious physical trait, like coloring or body type, or a distinctive facial feature, like the dark eyebrows my husband and son both have—but often it’s more indefinable. A mannerism or idiosyncrasy, angle of posture, gleam in eye or tilt of head . . . caught by the camera. (Photo at right of my son, Reeve, at age three, and my brother, Grant—demonstrating an uncannily similar method of mocking the photographer. Genes?)

I find this very moving. It’s as if our genes are doing the familial claiming for us, whether we will it or no, or are aware of it or not. And the camera is usually pretty insistent on pointing out the genetic connection.

Anyway, this came home to me the other day—along with the realization that this “genetic claiming” or resemblance among family members can also be seen in photos of the same individual across time.

I was going through some old photos and happened upon one, taken about 40 years ago, in which my sister, Cathy, and I are dancing. I was immediately struck by how much, in the photo, Cathy at age 6 looks like her son Ian. But I was even more struck by how much, in the photo, I at age 7 look like . . . me. See for yourself. (Top photo was taken in December 2008. Bottom photo, December 1968. That’s me on the right in both cases.)

I know, I know. A long, roundabout way of stating the obvious. We look like our families; we look like ourselves. Still, it’s kind of fun to see it laid out so plainly via the medium of photography.

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PS And a really weird thing about this is that between the taking of these two photos, I had at least ten years of training in dance. Sure wouldn’t know it from these pics. (Don’t tell my mom. . .)


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