where stories are told
I passed a house the other day.
It's windows were boarded.
Its wood was all gray.
Yet I could not forget it,
As I went on my way.
A long droopy porch,
With windows above,
I bet this old house,
Was once filled with love.
Its broad rock chimney
Sat at one end.
For warmth of the family,
And many a friend.
Its beauty I konw,
Had been one of glory.
I wish this old house,
Could tell me its story.
Then my mind went back,
To another time,
The family was mine.
No appliance or TV,
Only old lamp light,
Where Dad read the Bible,
And prayed every night.
A home filled with laughter,
A sister, a brother,
A strong, Godly father,
A gentle, kind mother.
Though they worked so hard,
Day after day,
They were never too tired,
Or too busy to play.
We walked in the woods,
We played in the brooks,
And learned things of nature,
You don't find in a book.
We gathered wild flowers,
While Dad made us whistles,
Picked berries for mom,
Through briers and thistles.
When we reached home,
The berries were dripping,
The flowers were wilted,
And we were not skipping.
And as the old house,
Came vaguely in sight,
We would all run,
And shout with delight.
The chimney, the porch,
The sunsets great light,
I wish I could go back,
If just for a night.
But time moves us on,
The family has scattered,
The house is no more,
It's the memories that matter.
That old House I saw,
Was such a sweet reminder,
But only of beauty,
In the mind of the finder.
- "The House" by Lillian Robinson Gordy
There is a place that only exists in my memory. Much like the words of the poem above (written by my precious grandmother), I catch myself being bitter sweetly reminded of it now and then. I remember the smell. I can't describe it, but I can remember it strongly. I remember the colors and decor. I remember the old piano- and somehow she never told us to stop playing with it...she encouraged us to figure out our talents.
I remember being sent out to the garden ( I need to stress that this wasn't a small raised bed garden- this was a large scale operation!!) with buckets to harvest all the veggies. My favorite was picking the strawberries! I remember once my cousin Abby and I had been sent out to pick tomatoes and we stole the salt shaker to nibble on tomatoes while we picked them! We were probably around 7-8 years old. I loved visiting because there were always cousins to play with. Always cousins.
I was having a late night talk with my mom and aunt a few weeks ago. I was telling them that if I could go back in time, I would go back to the Old House with my camera in hand. I know exactly what I would shoot and exactly how I would shoot it. I would take pictures of that old. worn piano. I can hear my Mawmaw now, playing and learning hymns by ear, her sweet voice humming the melody. I would take pictures of my Mawmaw at the stove...there seemed to always be something simmering. I would stand on the far right hand side of the kitchen and take a picture of the farmhouse kitchen table, hopefully with my family around it. I would photograph my PawPaw in the garden with his bucket harvesting the vegetables he grew from seed. I can picture his collared shirt (always tucked in), finished off with a belt and a hat. I would photograph the old table on the back porch, us kids used to sit at for meals. If this was a perfect dream-come-reality and I could choose the day to go back, I'd go back on a Sunday. Maybe even Easter Sunday. After church, after my PawPaw preached. Cars would be parked up and down the street as we all gathered for supper and an egg hunt. All 7 sets of aunts and uncles (8 if you include my mom and dad), all of their kids. Like I said, always cousins. I'd be sure to photograph the front porch and the view of the garden down the hill from the house.
The only 2 bedrooms in the house were joined at the closet by a "secret door" in the back of the closet. That door held the ultimate mystery to me and I could only imagine what was in there! (Spoiler alert, I found out as a pre-teen, and it was just clothes- but as a child, it was surely the entrance to Narnia) I'd photograph it, with the door closed to represent all the mystery it held for me as a child.
But as fate and time would have it, I'm 33 now and all I have left are my memories and a few snapshots shared on social media. If I would've known then what I know now, right? If I could only go back and photograph it the way I remember it, so my kids would know. So I could share part of their legacy in that way...
But I know now and I can do it now.
In my own home right here in Chesapeake. In your home.
Sometimes clients tell me that they don't have a great home. It's a rental. It's not "theirs". It's small. It's cramped. It's not their forever home.
Friends, if we waited for perfection in our lives, it would never happen. I need you to hear this: home is where you spend your time. It's a state of mind. It doesn't need to be perfect- nothing in life is. Your life is happening RIGHT HERE and RIGHT NOW.
The house that I'm gushing about? Two bedrooms. One, very small bathroom. Did you read how many aunts and uncles and cousins I have? On the outside, it's nothing special. It's the memories I made in it that make it wonderful. It's the people that lived there. It's the spirit of the home I want to photograph.
In 15-20 years, I don't want you wishing you had pictures of this season of your life. I want you to have them. I want you to be able to pull them out and look at them and feel comforted, to feel connection, to feel something in your heart.
If you're local to Hampton Roads and you're ready to schedule your session with me, click here or on the contact tab above. I'm happy to sit and talk with you and plan your storytelling session.
I need to tell you about a pretty powerful experience I had the other day. I didn't quite realize how powerful it was until about midway through the box. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I was looking for a certain scrapbook, one my mom made for me when I graduated high school. Specifically, I was looking for pictures of my maternal grandparents home. It's been on my heart lately and I really wanted to see it again- the way I see it in my memories. Filled with cousins. Aunts. Uncles. Always someone around the kitchen table. I wanted to remember the smell. The feel of that old farmhouse table under my fingertips.
But as I pulled out that old tote covered in tape and stickers from various moves, it evolved into an entirely different journey. Memories began pouring back to me, flooding my brain.
I called my kids over to see pictures from my very first Disney trip 21 years ago, to see the dog I grew up with, to see my grandparents- great grandparents they never got to meet. I showed them my first car, my middle school BFF (I also explained to them that I could literally smell the Bath & Body Works Cucumber Melon through the picture and they couldn't understand why we would want to smell like that), and what my nephew looked like as a baby. I showed them pictures of trips that my husband and I went on before we had kids! We came across pictures of loved ones who are no longer with us. With bitter sweet tears in my eyes, I was able to honor their memory by telling the story behind the picture.
I showed them pictures of my mom and dad, before they were Gigi and Poppa.
I found pictures from a vacation I didn't ever remember taking.
Can we think about that for a minute? I must've been about 16 in the pictures. That was only 17 years ago. I didn't remember taking the vacation (it was a cruise). Nothing. The part that floored me is that BOTH of my grandmothers went on the cruise with me- my maternal and paternal grandmothers. And I forgot about the entire trip. I can't get over that. I only halfway remembered because I saw myself in the pictures. I'm only 33 and my memory failed me-severely.
Another thing I noticed again and again, there wasn't many pictures of me and my mom. Because so many times, moms are tasked with being the family historian, the memory catcher. But that's another topic for another post...
This magical afternoon of traveling down memory lane wouldn't ever have happened if I hadn't pulled out that tote. None of this would've happened if there hadn't been actual, physical prints in that tote. I don't know when those stories or memories would've come up. I don't know when my kids would've heard them.
There is great power in holding an actual print in your hands.
Holding a memory. A legacy.
The digital images tucked away on a CD or hard drive don't have that kind of power. And as I found out, our memory can fail us- mine certainly did.
I'm forever grateful for that tote of memories. I'm thankful for the physical reminders of our past.
Document your days.
Leave a legacy for the generations after you.
Print the pictures.
Frame and hang them.
Keep them safe.
Trust me when I say that if you think pictures are valuable now, just wait 15 years. Priceless.
5/7/2020 0 Comments
I guess I am a little biased here, but I think photo sessions are one of the most important things you purchase. Why? Because this is your legacy. These are the items that are going to be passed down through the generations, this is the documentation of your life and your family. You're also paying your hard earned money for this session, so to me, it's not to be taken lightly.
I've been burned before, I was young and didn't know exactly what to ask or maybe I was just too shy? But I've obviously learned a thing or two since then and I'm here to pass on some knowledge to you so that you feel confident when booking a session (whether it's with me or someone else).
When hiring a photographer, there are a few things you should ask. This is no means a complete list, but this should get you steered in the right direction.
Here are a few other things to consider:
I hope you have found this helpful and that you are able to use some of these when booking your next family session. If you are considering choosing me to document your family's memories, please feel free to reach out to me. I usually always have a chat or Face Time session with a new clients before hand so that we can get to know each other a bit and I can get a feel for what's important to you.
Jess is a photographer serving families located in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She specializes in documentary and storytelling photography.
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