where stories are told
Lazy yellow moon comin' up tonight
Shinin' through the trees
Crickets are singing and lightning bugs
Are floatin' on the breeze
Baby get ready
-The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Summer is upon us and we've had a heat wave here in Virginia. I grew up in Georgia and South Texas, so I have lived this sort of thing my whole life. It has brought back memories of my childhood like a flood. I have the opportunity to document this for my family. I have the opportunity to give them something that they can show their children and their children can show their children. They can show them exactly what childhood was like for them.
As I was shooting this, I was so inspired by the summer evening light and the moonlit shadows cast in our yard. We have beautiful sunsets and when the moon rises over the river behind our house, it looks like a million brightly sparkling diamonds scattered across the water. When we moved here, the first time I saw it, it brought tears to my eyes. It's that spectacular.
I'm inspired by ordinary, every day events. If you look close enough, there's something wonderful in every moment. We ate dinner on the deck with the dogs eagerly awaiting fallen tidbits, followed by chocolate pudding. And what is summer without staying up late? Waiting for the lightning bugs to come out must've seemed like an eternity for the little ones, but when the first one was spotted, it was like their light sparked an electric current in their little bodies. They chased lightning bugs with a net with a hole in it and a mason jar, in the cool evening light. Thankfully for me, I had my camera handy. One was barefoot with pudding on her dress and her characteristic unruly hair and the other in rainboots passed down from his big cousin with dirty britches and a shirt he insisted on wearing that is just a tad on the small side. And I was there, capturing every moment until my little guy climbed up on the table to turn the candle off for the night.
Certainly, tonight was one for the books- locked up tight and filed under Childhood Summer Memories.
Did you do this as a child? Do you do it with your children now? What are some things that make you feel like summer? When it's freezing cold and bleak in the dead of winter, what do you long for about summer?
On any given Sunday in Chesapeake, Va, you can find this family, at some point, in their home. The house by the river that sat, patiently waiting for this particular family to fill it with love and joy... to make it a home. In a little neighborhood that has escaped the hustle and impartialness of the modern world. A warm and welcoming neighborhood that still embraces friendship and family.
And if you were to peek inside this home, you would see the sweetest family. You would see a family that values the most important things in life. God, each other, family, love, friendship, and charity. You would see a family, living a real life, that has had more than their fair share of hardships, but have also experienced a few joyous miracles too. The little guy in the pictures is one of them. If you knew them, you could feel the love they have for each other. 1 Corinthians 13:8 says, "Love never fails"; love is a constant, love sustains us, love is unchanging.
Luckily, I can show you what that looks like through my eyes. I can show you what I saw. I can show you what I felt. My sincere hope for all my clients and everyone I work with is that you can feel emotion just by looking at a picture- a moment frozen in time forever. I hope one picture can take you back to a season in your life, a memory, or perhaps, a feeling. For a mother, I hope she can look at a picture 20 years from now and remember the way his little head felt on her shoulder, smell his hair, or how he felt curled in her lap. For a father, I hope he can look at a picture and in 30 years remember how they used to nap together on Sunday afternoons. How one time, his son held his finger while he napped in the recliner together. When the mother looks at the picture of her husband and son, I hope she instantly recalls how her heart swelled with love as she silently looked on from the other room.
Here's what that particular Sunday looked like from my point of view.
Once upon a time, there was a family of seven, in a charming home with room to grow, on a quiet and quaint street in Norfolk, Virginia, waiting on the eighth member of their family to arrive. And there was a little dog named Lou, too.
Every corner of the house whispered love and little preparations for baby were tucked here and there. A banner of birth affirmations made by treasured friends and loved ones hung above the pool he will be brought Earthside in. A stack of tiny diapers folded neatly on a shelf waits quietly for a wiggly baby boy. Nearby on the changing table, a picture is waiting to greet him that was carefully crafted and drawn by his big sister.
I watched the children play and carry on with their day, all while gratefully relishing in the fact that they allowed me and my camera to tag along. My job is usually to stay quiet and be a silent fly on the wall- but I was drawn in by them. I was drawn into a world of creativity and wonder; a place where one was building whimsical homes for her "am-in-als" with the most perfect details, one was fearlessly swinging from a tree branch, one was tucked away reading Jane Eyre, one was exploring a creek and gathering materials for his project, and one was doing a little bit of everything. And there were two parents inside soaking up the few minutes of silence. I could have stayed there all day.
There are so many beautiful moments to be seen and stories to be told in an ordinary life, on an ordinary and overcast day. These are their last days being a family of seven and that chapter will close. Soon, a miracle will be born and one more birthday will be made. Their hearts will grow bigger with love and eight will be their new number. A whole new beautiful and complex story will unfold, right before our very eyes. But for now, they will patiently wait.
This is life ya'll. And ain't it grand?
"Be still, and know that I am God" Ps. 46:10
Documentary style photography is the art of the unscripted, sometimes forgotten moments. Does photography that tells a story speak to you, like it does to me? To book your own documentary style session (maternity, newborn, family, or Day In The Life) please use this contact form , by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org , or by finding me on Facebook.
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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