I suppose it’s probably a little weird to begin a post about pictures I took with a picture of myself, but it’s important and has a point, I promise. Laura took this at the end of our time together last November – that is the cutest little peanut, Irene, I am holding. She just climbed right into my lap and melted my heart. Now my thoughts and concerns with becoming a mother myself don’t belong here in this space…if I ever publish them that’s a whole other blog post altogether. But I will say that this family inspires and encourages me in countless ways. And how they inspired me is exactly what I want to focus on.
Family sessions have always been a little bit of a grey area for me. I haven’t shot that many, the ones I have shot have kind of been all over the map style-wise and I certainly wouldn’t call myself adept at the art of family photography. Truth be told I’ve never really known what to do with it. Give me a couple and I’m set. I know how to work with adults and over time I’ve begun to realize how certain suggestions on my part will elicit certain reactions on theirs. But kids? Kids and I…I don’t know. It seems most young children like to view me from a safe distance, far away. We can wave and smile at each other all we want, but as soon as I get close they kind of freak out. Which I understand is completely my fault. I know I give off a lot of nervous energy around kids because I don’t know what to do. And I certainly don’t know how to get them to do what I want. Does anyone really know how to get a kid to do what they want? I knew from the beginning of my photographic journey that I wasn’t going to be one of those smiling-by-a-tree-in-coordinating-outfits family photographers. Not only because I didn’t want to be (I don’t like to approach any type of session that way), but because I couldn’t. The patience it takes to do that is outside of my reach.
It wasn’t until recently, probably within the last 6 months, that I discovered I had a passion for this type of session. I had always had an appreciation for it when I saw it done by other photographers, but I don’t know why I didn’t want to do this sooner. Because this was what I had been missing when it came to family photography. Some people have been calling it “day in the life,” others have been calling it “lifestyle” (although a quick Pinterest search shows me that term covers far too much), I don’t know that it needs to be called anything in particular. To me it feels more like the way things are, not necessarily a particular kind of session people can book me for. And while I’m at it let me correct my previous statement and say that this isn’t just a way to photograph families, this is a way to photograph people, in general, all the time. I’d like to think that this is the way it could always be done. Weddings are, of course, their own kind of beast, but I think that some of the aspects of this approach to photography should be applied there as well. When it comes to anything and everything else, here you have it. People should not be controlled, they shouldn’t be overly posed – they should be allowed to just be and what you have at the end of it is it. The truth of a person. The longer I photograph people and the more in love with it I become, the more intense the need grows to stand back and not get involved. I am fascinated in seeing what unfolds in the spaces and the silences between people or within people when left to themselves. I am so inspired by it. I’m making it a goal from now on to chase after that more.
I’m so thankful Laura and I are on the same page about this. When we chatted about what we wanted her session to be and she suggested that I come over and just observe for as long as I wanted, I couldn’t type YES fast enough. The best part about that day with Laura and Irene and Ingrid and Michael was that what I observed was, well there isn’t really a word for it. Beautiful, stunning, gorgeous. None of those sound quite right. How can you put into just one word something that is real? It was such an amazing and comfortable process getting to be a part of their day. Observing, capturing and giving no direction whatsoever. They gave me so much more than I would have been able to ask for. And that’s why I love this picture of me and Irene so much. I was a part of their lives that day and they were all a part of mine. We arrived at this surprising intimacy that I’ve only ever felt a few times when photographing couples in the past. It’s what keeps bringing me back.
If you’ve made it this far, I thank you. These thoughts have been swirling around in my head for a while now and it is a messy process getting them down and I hope they make sense. There are more, but they aren’t so concrete. I want to include a bit of Laura’s own words here because she wrote me the most beautiful email after she received her images.
“I had so much fun looking through these photos-I was totally in love from the very first image. I had the hugest smile on my face as I scrolled through each one…some of my very favorite images were the ones of me & my girls together. Michael does a great job of taking pictures when I grab the camera, but it’s very rare that I am able to see unscripted, thoughtful, images documenting real interaction between me and those two little people-and I just loved every one.
I will go on record and say that one of the reasons why I really love these photos, aside from the fact they that are beautifully shot, is that I know I can look back on them and not feel like I was acting. Have you ever seen an image of yourself and you just cringe because you know how much you were faking it or you can remember how uncomfortable you were? These images will only remind me of how much I love my family and how there is so much beauty in the mundane.
Thank you so much for your time, and talent. Truly, these images are such a gift.”
Laura, I can’t even begin to express my gratitude to you for allowing me to do this. You give me hope in what families can be. We both agreed it is tough as photographers to attract people to an idea if it’s one they aren’t used to. It helps to have something to show for it. I hope this is only the beginning for the both of us.
P.S. Happy February! Is anyone else as relieved as I am that it’s here?