Today, on Facebook, I shared a talk by Dieter F Uchtdorf. He said, ""If you consider success to be only the most perfect rose or dazzling orchid, you may miss some of life’s sweetest experiences." My favorite thing to photograph are spontaneous moments that reflect those sweetest of experiences. I'll be the first to admit that a lot of people don't "get" it. They don't understand why I take pictures of crying babies, skinned knees, and toddlers throwing tantrums. I do it for the same reason I take pictures of giggles, laughs, beautiful sunrises, holding hands. Because those moments are real and remembering all of them (warts and all) gives me strength.
A few months ago I was in a bit of a depressive slump. I had just started studying videography and was experimenting with making my own family films. The process really helped me enjoy those ordinary, every day, moments that I'm always talking about, but I felt the oppressive weight of inadequacy and shame for all of those years in which I didn't.
One week when I didn't take enough video for a new family film, but my children were clamoring for more, I collected some of our old home videos from my very first digital camera and put them together. While I was watching I couldn't help but notice evidence of my motherly efforts in the periphery. There was a casserole dish left on the table with a couple half eaten plates; evidence of a homemade meal that we ate together as a family. A laminated piece of paper with the letter "A" was taped on the wall; proof that even before I started homeschooling, I tried to teach my children the things they needed to know. I saw books on the floor, babies running around in nothing but diapers, and a sink full of dishes. All proof, not of my chronic laziness, but that motherhood is hard and I did the best I could then, just as I'm doing the best I can now. Sometimes my best looks better than others. And that's ok.
All too often I forget to be patient with myself, and that's why I take the kinds of pictures that I do. Because when I look back and see pictures of Alice sitting on her brother's head, I am flooded with memories of their friendship and playfulness. I remember how patient he is with her and how she would invite him to play by patting the space next to her in on a chair and say, "sit".
I don't want a million pictures of my kids smiling beautifully at me. I already know they are gorgeous. I want pictures that show who they are, not just what they look like. I want pictures of what life is really like, not dressed up versions of what I think it should be.
Not everyone gets it. Not everyone appreciates pictures of their children showing obvious delight in their naughtiness. But I adore them. My life isn't always pretty, but it's a beautiful reality.
When working with a family, my goal is to photograph images that authentically represent the personalities of the people involved, the raw emotions we all feel, and the relationships between family members. This is why documentary and storytelling sessions are my favorite. Together we choose an activity that a family enjoys and I join them on their family adventure or tradition, taking carefully composed images that tell a story and elicit emotions and family memories.
When you look through your photo album, or see your family pictures on the wall, I don't want you to remember a stressful process with a photographer ordering you around. I want you to remember family traditions, the quirks and personalities of your beloved family, and your happily ever after.
I explained this philosophy when the Stewarts and I discussed an activity for their session. We quickly decided on a trip to the ice cream shop which their little family frequents. We started at their home and began walking. A walk, a park, a bridge, ice cream, and a playground all combined to make a beautiful story of family, the love between a little girl and her dad, an nurturing mother, and a couple who clearly adore each other.
The best part about photographing newborns is being able to hold them, and Baby Layland was a dream to snuggle and swaddle, and photograph. The first time was in the hospital, just days after he was born. The next time was at home, with mama and daddy, where I helped them create some beautiful wall art for their home.
I met Ashley at a book group several years ago. We both lived in the same small town of New Mexico, we were both runners, and we both had recently had babies. Five years later, we are now both living in New Jersey and a few weeks ago she and her sweet family drove up so I could photograph them.
One of my favorite things is capturing authentic family moments and relationships. Most of the time, it's the connections between parents and children, or between siblings that are the most captivating, but every once in a while, I see a couple that are just magnetic. The years that Ashely and Justin have spent together has only strengthened their incredible connection and photographing their family was easily the most fun I have ever had in a family session!