Photographing families is not something that originally came easily to me.
I have this awkward…everything about me that comes purely from a place of insecurity – but in the beginning (and still now and then) it would jump up and yell at me at every opportunity. I didn’t know how to talk to the Moms…because I was barely one myself, and who was I to pretend I knew anything about raising children? I didn’t know how to talk to the Dads, because I had, in the spirit of transparency, not many male relationships in my life, which were limited to my Dad, my husband, and a small handful of friends, half of which were cousins or might as well have been. I didn’t have married friends whose husbands I joked with, and the male colleagues I had over the years worked with me during a time when our work was techical, methodical, and factual. Never emotional. Ever.
And the kids. Oh sweet jesus the kids. Well now I’m 32…and it’s finally…slowly, beginning to settle in that I’m no longer a socially inept 19 year old with zero fashion sense and a voice too deep for the girl it’s supposed to go with. When I started though – I didn’t know how to talk to the kids. I wasn’t a babysitter growing up…so what does one do with the 3-10 year olds? And what in God’s name do you do with a baby???? Then the teenagers…ohhhhhh the teenagers. They’re cooler than I am. They know more than I do. They dress better than me. Well f*** my life.
In the beginning, I was terrified of photographing families. I was so focused on my side of the relationship, it was handicapping me from putting my personal blinders on…and seeing the only thing I was there to see. Them.
I didn’t get to photograph many families this year, as the wedding season kept me busier than usual; however I hope to create some change there this year. I’ll be blocking off weekdays and certain weekend days each month to dedicate them only to portraiture; something I’m extremely excited about. Weddings are incredible; and the immense gratitude I feel for being able to photograph them for my clients is indescribable. Photographing families is no different however. It’s just the next step. My clients that were married 1,2, 3, years ago are now calling me to photograph them as they expect their first child, and their second. It is invites to first birthdays and Christmas cards and the same beautiful flow that follows a wedding client’s Save the Date. They are all related. They are all intertwined.
The Richards family came to me through horses. Grace, the beautiful middle daughter, is an accomplished young horsewoman who caught my eye about 2 seasons ago at a local show. Finally, her mom Emily and I synced our schedules and brought everyone together for a pre-holiday session. This family is beautiful not only in the obvious outside way (have you seen such gorgeous hair?); but they are each gorgeous on the inside. Emily and Michael have been together forever, and they still laugh and play like they’re 18. Madi is this statuesque, quiet stunner whose brilliance you can see swirling around in her undecided mind. She keeps her laughter to herself at first, but when it finally comes out, it brings you with it. She and I share a love of the foggy cities of the Northwest and I can see myself running into her at Pikes Market someday in the not so distant future. Zach, the youngest…the 6 foot tall 12 year old that I mistook for the oldest at first because he towered over me.Zach is the indestructible boy glue in the family…that perfect, goofy laughter that comes around exactly when you need it, and the young man that will grow into the fiercest of protectors of his sisters. Grace; the beautiful silent champion with eyes only for her horse. I felt such a pull working with Grace, feeling the quiet struggles that I experienced as a young woman in horses, and the difficulties that can accompany it. I remembered how disconnected I sometimes felt from other girls my age; how I wondered what made me so different – and as Grace and I talked about nothing and everything in particular; I watched her light break through and shine. I drove home after their session and cried. I cried because I have come so far from when I first began photographing families from a place of fear…because now I can feel their palpable joy. I can see inner struggles and I feel, I FEEL them with every fiber of my being. I want to hug my young clients and tell them that I understand, I GET it, and while I have no desire to fix it for them, I want them to know that they will be ok. They will be more than ok. One day, you will wake up at 32, and realize that you have a 12, 14, or 18 year old version of yourself standing in front of you, and that it will finally come home in your heart that you made it.
The documentation of our families, however large or small, is so important, I could spend a day writing pages and pages on it. And in this time of everyone gets a fancy camera for Christmas, I encourage you to take those fancy rigs and document your family. Every day. Every now and then however….call me and let me take care of it for you. I want you to be in those moments, not behind them. I want you to be a part of the joy I feel, and then I want to turn that canvas around and let you feel that day’s experience all over again. Here’s to the good life friends. You make my life beautiful.