Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Just Your Average Family Hanging Around On A Sofa In the Orchard

There is a certain type of family photograph sweeping the land of Zion here in Utah that is, like, killing me.  Really.  Every time I see a new photo depicting the epidemic a small part of me dies.

In fact, a solid third of my acquaintances and coworkers probably have eight or fifty of these particular photographs marking the passage of another year (Daxton Nephi is almost seven, we need to get our asses into an orchard, pronto!) hanging on the walls of their earth-tone stuccoed homes but daaaamn, y'all.  If I have to see one more family photograph wherein a big, goddamn couch is unloaded in the middle of an orchard...

Do they do this in other parts of the world?  Are there framed photographs of midwesterners laughingly lounging on antique furniture dropped, as if from outerspace, into the center of a wheat field?  Are the igloos of Eskimos adorned with beautifully framed portraits of The Fam casually perched atop a Pottery Barn Buchanan Sofa in Sierra Red half buried in a snow drift?  Because GODDAMN but the red looks simply stunning in contrast with all that white, white snow.  It's like RC Willey just rolled up at the North Pole and was like BAM, bitches. 

I mean, okay.  I was on board with the Denim Family Poses In Woods epidemic of 1995.  You know, legs propped on rocks, elbows resting on knees at jaunty angles as a waterfall glistens seductively in the background.  And fine, I was pretty nonchalant about the color coordinated clothing version of 2000.  What the fuck, Brayden Elijah?  We told you to wear burgundy and that shirt is as red as your ass is going to be if you don't CHANGE RIGHT NOW!  GodDAMMIT, Aunt Colleen!  Ditch the scarf or it's your ass!  Do you see anyone else wearing a scarf?  Exactly. 

But what is it with the fancy furniture lugged out into the wilderness? 

I recently saw a photoshoot replete with an entire, like, queen-size bed crashlanded in the mountains near a ski resort.   That's right, assholes!  Just your average family hanging around on a bed in the frigid Rockies having the best motherfucking story time of their lives.  Look alive, Grandma!  No slouching!  I don't care if your arthritis is "acting up." This shit is forever.

Because, you know, everyone is suddenly a photographer, every stay-at-home-mom is opening a photography business and they're all trying to one-up each other with the orchards and the furniture and the train tracks and the rusty pick-up trucks parked in corn fields.  And for Chrissakes match your fucking clothes!  There's a plan here!  A scheme!  Coordination.  This is art for hellsakes.  Photography at its motherfucking peak  and you, you numbskull that wore stripes, YOU'RE RUINING EVERYTHING!  What the fuck were you thinking, Grandma? 

I'm thinking of joining up with the movement, actually.  It's family photo time, bitches.  Show these orchard folks how it's done.  Maybe tow my entire living room out to, oh, I don't know, the desert?  The Great Salt Lake?  We're gonna do it up right.  Set up the flat screen, the coffee table.  Cover that shit with dirty dishes and old Us Weekly magazines and maybe some sand, like a desert wind storm naturally whipped that shit up onto the couch, you know?  Maybe plant a couple of Seagulls around the scene and then order us a pizza and stare at the television like we're having the greatest fucking time ever!  Because that shit is going to be above the mantle FOREVER and all you people who just putzed around on a sofa in the orchard will grit your teeth and wish you would've thought of towing your living room out to the desert.  

So yeah.  The Furniture In Orchard family photo.  Don't say I didn't warn you.  If you don't get your shit together and drag your Shabby Chic Seaglass Menagerie Bed with Whisper Linen White bedding out into the nearest orchard and have the best goddamn time of your life laughing and lounging around in coordinating (Did you hear that McKellan Brittany?  COORDINATING!  Not matching!  There is a difference between coordinating and matching!) outfits you should know that you have completely failed your family you fucking asshole.

Reader Comments (64)

I think you must have read my mind. I was having this exact conversation with my husband when we went to a pick-you-own apple orchard and a woman was posing in the orchard with her babies in an antique chair. This is in Wisconsin. So it is an epidemic rather than endemic to one region.

Having grown up in Montana, I've seen too many of the randomly placed furniture in "wilderness" settings. Cuz ya know, coffee tables exist naturally in mountain prairies and sofas pop up near mountain lakes. What. The. Fuck? I also hated how it was requisite that everyone own a fucking bronzed bison or cowboy just because it was "the west." Tacky shit.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjeneria

I've seen the antique-furniture-outside phenomena in wedding photos as well:

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

you must post one - I don't get it!

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

I was desperately hoping you'd have links to these pictures. I want to see them! the bed in the Rockies! The sofas! Please! BTW, I watched every episode of Sister Wives, and damn, your state is beautiful.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLiz aka EDW

Why I was just browsing "Awkward Family Photos" myself yesterday. It's a pretty spectacular time kill site.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie This is for a tv promo, but it gets the idea across. This website suggest what a neat idea it is to move that sofa outside. Says it all.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjeneria

I'm with Liz - I want pictures!

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

it must be an american thing because I don't get it either. are people taking furniture outside for pictures? or are they photoshopping it all together? and what are they doing with the pictures? is that like that christmas family photo thing you americans do? I'm so confused...

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermccutcheon

Hehehehehehehe. I have not yet seen this on the east coast yet, but it sound like something that deserves to be on awkward fam photos, for sure. I wonder if you could do a really weird version of it too, like moving your kitchen set into a graveyard or "everyone in the big bed" in the Target parking lot.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchristine

and btw I couldn't lift my sofa even if I wanted to...

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermccutcheon

me speak english sometimes. sometimes not.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchristine

Laughing my ass off! I know exactly what you're talking about. Here are a couple examples:

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAimee

What would be more awesome is to drag out a ratty Lazy-Boy recliner and recliner, and scatter a bunch of empty Bud cans around a waste water treatment plant. Wear some matching wife beaters and assorted pajamas pants and you have yourself one damn classy photo shoot!

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngeerah

Whoops. Typo above. That should be a ratty Lazy-Boy recliner and a rickety TV tray. Duh.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngeerah

Okay, I'm gonna jump in and be devil's advocate here: I don't mind the orchard photos. Orchards are an obvious choice to photographers due to the leading lines which make it easy to create a striking photo. Lines of trees are awesome. Adding furniture was a great idea to the first few people who did it. Couture photographers have long used out-of-place items in nature to create interesting photos.

Although I do agree it's very annoying that every Utah stay-at-home Mom with a hobby-pro-photo-biz is copying one another on this. Copying to the LETTER. They are starting to all look the same. As if it's the ONLY option for a family photo. Somebody creative started doing it, and those without the energy to think of their own ideas just copied. Watch out... next up is picnics with vintage briefcases and plates of cheese!

I do think the idea itself is better than the alternative Group Shot in the Fall Foliage. At least hauling an old chair into a wheat field is a little more interesting to look at! And for the record, I think hauling your actual living room - old dishes & US Weeklys and all - into the desert and replicating it exactly would make an amazing editorial photo! Haha...

It's all a quest to move away from the boring old posed-among-the-trees family shots. Then again, I'm a photographer, so what do I know? :)

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

This post made me pee. Seriously. And they're not only doing it in Utah. The craze is weeping the nation all the way here to Virginia! (We also have some nice foliage.)
But WTF.
And do the photographers make it a rule for the little girls to wear colored Uggs and big gigantic hairbows?
I don't hate it as much as "pregnant woman draped in tulle, holding a rose." Haha.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCristin

BWAHAHAHAHA Can't stop laughing!!!!! Hysterical!

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJill

Or pregnant couple staring longingly into each other's eyes through a film of Vaseline while he cups her gigantic belly as if to say "This is mine."

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjeneria

Your family photo shoot with the whole living room and the sand on the couch, that will be art! The regular couch stuff.. Nope, It just won't compare.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNatasha

Monica - I'm thinking you should take advantage of the Salt Flats. Drag said red Pottery Barn sofa out there - like your description of the Eskimos in the snow - think about it, that red sofa would just "POP!" on those Salt Flats! That's another thing, I'm tired of the use of "POP!" Just sayin'....

@Jeneria & Cristin - Oh yeah, and while I'm bitching, I too HATE the growing trend of the pregnant pictures! Honest, it makes me squirm; very uncomfortable. WTF is up with that one? Monica, don't do it!

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJill

I wasn't really bothered by the trend, hadn't really even consciously noticed it, until I saw the photo shoot of the big bed up in the mountains. I know exactly what and who you're talking about with that one. I was like WHOA! What's a bed doing way the hell out there? Who the fuck would dismantle a bed, haul it up the canyon, and then reassemble it, mattress and all, in the mountains? Things have gotten a little out of control.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnnalise

I double dog dare you to pull the trigger on that!

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Thanks for the visual Aimee.

Wow, that is s-o-m-e vision

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

Mwahahaha. I think I know who triggered this post. Maybe it's jealousy on my part, but those precious Anthropologie-clad families on the bed in the middle of the woods CREEP ME OUT.

It's like people are trying to whitewash their lives. An unapologetic Stepfordization. But most of us can see right through it. Life is messy, loud and obnoxious. It can be pretty and twee at times, but it is not a bed in the canyon.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachelD

Whatcha drinking thar, Marniker? Okay, in Jerseyville, they just pull down the orchard screen and shoot you right there in the back of Sears. Photoramagamma smile shoot!

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergina

Why does the girl in the wedding photos have hairy armpits? That makes me more sad than the furniture.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercharity

Funniest thing I've read all week.

When my kids were small, we could barely afford Sears. Who has this kind of money to do the sofa shoot in the woods as a regular thing?

However, your ideas in regards to the complete living room in the desert are wonderfully edgy and funny. You should. You really should.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNinabi

Oh... My... GOD!!! Dayum gurrrl I love you! I really think that I totally and completely love you. THank you for saying it in only the way it should be said! PREACH!

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBexx Terry

Kind of like Clayton Austin? 'Discover the goodness?' While he's hauling a piano and all kinds of random shit all over the country? LMAO

Your post was great - I don't get what's up with photographers these days. I'm only 29 but I guess I'm not cool anymore since I won't haul shit out in the middle of the woods for 'styled' shoots.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Goodness

I am totally going to be guilty of doing this kind of shoot, but I laughed like crazy reading your blog :)

And should you want to do that shoot, I'd love to photograph for you, seriously. It will kick butt. But there also has to be Martinelli's because that is pretty much the standard bubbly drink, as well as pajamas, because everyone wants to hang out at the Salt Lake with pjs on.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRaShea Drake

Yes, we do this even in the midwest! hahahaha

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJF

Like everything in photography, there is a right way and a so-wrong-it's-obscene way to do this. Day bed to shoot engagement session in an orchard? I'm fine with that. Bed up a freaking mountain? Those people have WAY too much money and not enough people brave enough to say no to them.

Actually what made me laugh the most about this post was the names. McKellan Brittany? Daxton Nephi? It makes me cry because it's true!

Great article. xx

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannon Gillespie

McKellan Brittany! Love it! I lived in Utah for five years and the names of the kids sounded like they actually HURT their parents to come up with. Like they opened a dictionary, picked out a random word and then changed one letter, you know, to make it kr8tiv. I had to move before I met another kid named Aiden/Brayden/Caden/Jaden.

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

Monica. remember that wonderful spring weekend where we had a full on show across the street? The orchard was full of people, the bride, the 2 girls "now skip away from the camera" the green couched couple and the rocking chair? We had the perfect view lurking out of the upstairs window. It never seemed to end all weekend long, watching the photographer pull up, open the van door and drag out umbrellas and couches and crap, it was all happenin in the peach orchard that weekend....good times!

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermama

LOLLL God bless you!

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaria Petrova

Thanks everyone...i've a good laugh this morning.
In New Jersey it's barefoot family shots on the beach wearing denim and white. I'll have to dig up a few and post.

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChrissy

Thanks to the chick on the 2ps MB I've found your blog! SO funny - but you hear that all of the time, right?
BTW, ever hear of this blogger?
She's got a mega-following, but this blogger, and her followers always post the funniest stuff about her. You'll see. trust me!

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

Definitely not a mormon thing. . .a lot of religions (and lack of religion-folks) love these kinds of photos.

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

Hysterical!! You just nailed it, Monica!

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkate


October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Gipper

Oh my goodness, this cracked me up. IT IS SO TRUE.

Also, if I see another girl in a tutu on railroad tracks... seriously, making your kid look like she's in a life threatening suicidal situation -- and then framing it and putting in on the mantle? Really? REALLY?

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

Pwah ha ha! I love it! I agree with Jenny and say the first few pictures I saw, I liked... but really?! I was a stay-at-home-turned-photog for 5 years, but it was just too embarrassing to be included in that group so I quit almost 2 years ago.

I LOVE your livingroom idea. I would pick up my dusty refectors to shoot that one.

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAme

I mean reflectors.. whoops.

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAme

First time to your blog and I laughed, more than a bit. Being a photographer (and a Mommy one), I can relate... it's not my thing. BUT the real funny thing here is.... I know you and you do know me, (not a stalker type deal). Heather of Travis and Bob fame, remember??? We must give high fives and hang, especially if your living room is currently hanging out at the salt flats... even better.

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

Im a tiny bit in love with you. Thats no creepy in anyway. Right?

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPam

I hope your kids don't talk like you. Your language on here is ridiculous. If you don't like those pictures, fine, have your own opinion. How about focusing on something positive that you do like?

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMe

You seriously hit the nail right on the mother fucking head. Thanks for saying what I was totally thinking about the whole couch epidemic!

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

Well you know, that's the great thing about this whole furniture-in-a-field thing. YOU don't have to have it done if you don't like it. Now carry on to bitch about something else.

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfrom 2peas

Thanks for my entertainment of the day! You do have a way with words :)

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPam L.

Thank God a part of you dies every time you see one of those photos. Regardless of the absurdity of the orchard photos, being subjected to your classy writing certainly killed a few of my brain cells. WOW.

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

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