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My SxSW Grand Prize: Awkward Family Photos

I spent less than 72 hours at the infamous South By Southwest conference. Parties, clients, meet ups, panels, booze, BBQs, late, late nights and short conversations.

And, of course, lots of shwag–the beloved branded giveaways that we covet to take home in our suitcase.

The shwag here was o-plenty: posters and stickers and t-shirts and pens and stuffed Angry Birds.

With pride, I can honestly claim my company was the only one giving away superhero underwear (which is, my friends, a story for another time but I can assure you, a true crowd pleaser).

Typically, a business card from a social company is enough to secure the goods…but, in this instance, I have to credit my trusty BookSnob site in securing my SxSW Shwag Grand Prize:

A spankin’ new copy of Awkward Family Photos by Mike Bender.

Simply put, this guy slays me.

I had seen the website months ago. Sitting in front of my computer, my hubbie and I clicked through the pictures, tears streaming down our face with laughter, elbowing each other: Oh no! Seriously? OMG!

You see what I mean?

“This is me at our annual family vacation- it was the NC mountains. Note the bear less than 20 feet behind me. It just raises all kinds of questions. And explains a lot.

“The whole family seems to be so content as I choke off to the side… this is the epitome of my life. No big deal. I am alive and well now – no thanks to any of my relatives ”

Awkward Family Photos reveals and documents the absurd family dynamics we enjoy in great humor writers like David Sedaris, Jonathan Franzen, and Jonathan Tropper. He puts in pictures what we relish in words. He sparks our nostalgia—and not the sentimental woebegone perfection, but the cringe of our less than stellar moments. He triggers relieved guffaws. We are comforted that maybe our family actually

He’s a genius.

Because in this day of digital photography, awkward family photos are quickly becoming a collector’s item. With today’s cameras we can crop and delete these moments that are the truth. The moments we are silly and incomplete and well, awkward.

If he’s a hilarious guy, he’s understated too. Mike sat rather quietly on his barstool as our group engaged with theirs, swapped superhero undergarments until his friends egged him to reciprocate with his book (freshly printed). Maybe said book blog made me somehow worthy.

So he willingly shared and told me about the inspiration for AFP—which was an absurd ski vacation family photo his Mom showed him. He shared it online and the rest, is well, digital history. Photos started pouring in from all over the world. I think it’s fair to say he’s the world’s curator of awkward family photos.

There are so many reasons I love this idea: the humor, the possibility, the online spontaneity, and above all, the humanness of it all.

Who can’t relate?

We all have our version of braces and acne and bad hairdos, insane fashion, crazy uncles, and moments of misguided exuberance. Embrace them! Love them!

My grand prize was complete with the inscription:

To Katy, thanks for spreading the awkwardness”.

Was it the flash gordon underwear? Me? My outfit?

Um, well, I guess I’m gonna to just have to take this as a complement.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. carole sinclair #

    AFP is always a crowd pleaser.

    March 15, 2011
  2. Brian #

    I’m jealous of your trip to SXSW. I’ve always wanted to go. Did you see any good music?

    March 20, 2011
  3. Julie G #


    Behind on your blogs but will definitely pick up a copy. Can’t help but think about YOUR family trip to the Grand Canyon.


    PS – Can you send me couple pairs of Super Hero underwear??

    August 6, 2011

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