When I was a little kid, I kinda hated getting my photo taken. Going to the seaside was about the sea and not keeping my hair nice for twenty minutes while my father was getting a hold of his new camera. Christmas was also a drag. I mean, exchanging presents and sitting at the table was wholesome, but organizing everyone in front of the damn tree so nobody would fall out of frame -- not so much.
However, family photos aren't just for the people in them but for future generations as well. Someday, my children, nieces, and nephews will look at them and realize that my crooked smile doesn't mean I hate them. They'll realize I've had it since forever. And hopefully, it'll make it easier for them to get along with my grumpy old butt. They're about creating memories, documenting growth, and revealing character.
Awkward Family Photos is an online celebration of these things. It's a place that invites people to submit all the funny, cringy, and of course, awkward moments their family has caught on film, proving that we all know how to make a fool of ourselves, and our descendants will certainly get to enjoy that.
"My friends Grandma's house. She put a magazine cut out of Leonardo DiCaprio over her late (not so nice) husband's face. The 80+ year old's version of photoshop."
Recently, Awkward Family Photos even released Cringeworthy, an outrageous adult party game of painfully hilarious, unbelievably awkward situations. But you could say the road to where the project is today started way back.
Mike Bender, one of the main people behind Awkward Family Photos, has always had a connection to awkwardness and comedy. "As a kid, I was very aware of awkward situations," he told Bored Panda. "I didn't exactly want them to happen but when they did, I was excited to have a new story to tell. I think it led me to become a writer after graduating college. I wrote my first movie at age 22 called Not Another Teen Movie and continued to work as a screenwriter for about 13 years."
When the film business began to shift, Mike started to search for opportunities online and saw there was a lot of potential for creative expression there. "Around that time, in 2009, I went home to my parents' house for the weekend and saw my mother putting up what was for me an awkward family photo from my teenage years. She had framed it and was going to hang it in the wall."
"I thought that was such a peculiar idea -- to memorialize this awkward moment. But I also thought it was intriguing. So I met with my writing partner and friend, Doug Chernack, who I grew up with in New Jersey, and he told me that his childhood home was full of awkward family photos. And so we decided to start a website and our only hope was that if we posted our awkward pics, others would do the same."
“I took my 2002 Senior Year with my bird, Jeff. It made the yearbook. 10 years later, I caught him reflecting on our long history. Sentimentality in its truest form.”
There were only a few blogs built on user-submitted material at that time, so the guys put up the site and within a week, it blew up, blowing them away, too. "We started receiving awkward photos from all over the world! It felt like something big was happening."
Now, Mike is 45, married, and has two kids. Awkward Family Photos gets hundreds of photos a week, focusing on the most surprising ones. Mike thinks their project got so big because we all can relate to these photos in some way. "Even if it's not their family. they see their family in others and there's something comforting about knowing that you're not alone."
“Grandma wanted a photo with her Thanksgiving table settings. Nobody thought to check the mirror.”
“My mom has this picture hanging on her wall in her house for everyone to see. She sends it to me every Mother’s Day. This is me when my kids were little. Apparently my kids needed me and so did the dog, while I’m on the toilet.”
"My daughter looks like a mom that regrets all her life decisions."
"My Great-Grandmother, born in 1899. Never met her, but definitely a legend."
“This old picture of my great-grandmother, far left, makes it look like the cameraman just stumbled into a secret meeting of the grandmas.”
“My hubby is a teacher. I’m a stay-at-home Mom. We have 5 kiddos, 4 of them adopted through foster care. A long time ago, I heard our pastor point out that when it comes to kids, rules without relationship = rebellion. From that day forward, I made a promise to myself to always make relationship with our kids a priority. And that means having fun with them and having a sense of humor. We want to teach our kids that being able to laugh at yourself (not in a bad, degrading way, but in a good way) is a wonderful attribute. So, we always do crazy photos for our Christmas cards. This year, we decided to make an awkward family photo.”
“During a cousins photo shoot, my brother fell off the stool mid-temper tantrum and the photographer managed to catch all of my cousins’ reactions.”
"Reason #82 why dads shouldn't be left alone with their kids."
“This picture was taken at my daughter’s preschool. I think the photographer thought having her hold a flower would make for a really cute and innocent picture.”
“My parents keep this framed on the wall. It’s a poem written and illustrated by my brother in second grade.”
“One year my mom made my brother and I outfits from the drapes that came with our beautiful couch.”
"My friend's baby pictures look like Mrs. Doubtfire."
“Her husband went to the pregnancy room with her to cheer her up.”
“This is me and my dad 1977 Coney Island. He would be vilified and in jail today for this.”
"When your Grandma looks like Taylor Swift and your Grandpa looks like Hugh Hefner's Brother."
“Bring a toddler to a wedding, they said. It will be cute, they said.”
"My dad teaching math in Southern California, late 70's/early 80's."
“My mom said this was one of my favorite things to do as a child.”
"Just thought I'd share this old picture I found of me and my dad. Hopefully you guys enjoy it as much as I did."
"My mother and grandmother demonstrating safety standards in the 1960s."
“There’s a reason why my sisters were accepted into private school and I wasn’t.”
"Our social distance Easter photos turned out terrifying."
“My great-grandmother worked for a photography studio in the 80’s. She was watching us one day and decided to surprise my mother with professional photos of the three of us. This gem was one of the pictures. I love how my sisters look so cute in the corner of the photo while I am in a food coma floating in the sky.”
“I was baptised when I was about 10 and yes, those are my legs.”
My grandfather sent me this photo, which he took in celebration of his eightieth birthday.”
“If your mum wasn’t making herself into a ramp for your new BMX, did she even love you? 1980’s.”
“Got my 10-year-old daughter dressed up for a nice New Year’s Eve dinner and tried taking a pretty picture of her. I got a haunting photo that looks like she is missing her evil twin.”
"My Mom took me to a Glamour Shots in the mall when I was 11 years old. I walked out as a middle aged woman who wants to speak to the manager. This is framed in my parents living room."
"That moment you realize you're not the only child anymore."
"My great-aunt uses her old television as a stand for her new one."
“We had the worst wedding photographer in the world. I think this says it all.”
“Halloween 1994, when my parents told us they were a sock and a sock box, and asked us to put on our white pajamas, because we were dryer lint.”
"This is my friend’s husband inside a pumpkin bounce house. Nothing better than a family outing where you see a live breech birth.”
“My siblings and I were forced into a ‘pet look alike’ competition. It still haunts us.”
"My Mom's bed hung from chains, and she had a mini bar for a headboard. 1972."