I know mama, I have been in your shoes. Heck, I'm in your shoes now. I'm in the midst of this wonderful journey of motherhood too. I have never ending chores, mouths to wipe, mountains of laundry, floors to sweep, boo boos to kiss, dinner to make, homework to help with, and stories to read. I'm also the official legacy keeper and documenter of our days. I'm trying to preserve the memories that we are making together so that they have a visual representation of our love for them. When they look back on their childhood, I want them to see how they were loved more than the air we breathe. I want them to see how their mama and daddy loved each other so. I want them to see me in my element- the most important and beloved role I've ever had- and that's being their mother.
But that can be really hard to do, right? Taking the pictures and also being a subject in them as well? It is. I've had to get creative. When they look back, where will I be in their pictures and in their memories? Holding an actual, physical photo in your hand is a very visceral and emotive experience. I want them to feel something when they hold a photo of me. I want them to remember what my arms felt like around them and to see on my face what they mean to me... and the photo above of our shadows doesn't quite cut it. There's not a lot of emotion there. It's quite literally just documenting my existence and the fact that I was there.
This self portrait is a lot better- me and my littlest, hanging out on the bed together. It shows connection, emotion, and I love the way I am looking at him. But, self portraits are few and far in between for me.
I feel this so deeply in my soul.
I want to be able to give you this. I want you to see yourself the way your family sees you. I know what it's like to not want to be in front of the camera. I see all of my imperfections, but yet, my body has been so, so good to me. And you know who else doesn't care about your imperfections? Your family. Your husband. Your kids. They only see you, the woman they love mightily. I want you to see yourself in your most brilliant role of your life. I want you to see yourself the way they see you. Your imperfections are perfect and you are perfect for your family. You are right where you need to be.
And that, my friend, deserves more than a blurry cell phone selfie. You deserve more than that.
Instead of just documenting your mere existence, let's do something amazing. Let's tell a story without words. A story of love, struggle, courage, and warmth. Let's tell one about the adventures in motherhood and the days that last 874 hours, but the years that go by in a split second. Let's tell the story of the days when the toys were strewn around the house and how laundry was never quite done. Let's tell the story of motherhood. Let's make a visual diary that documents your love, not just your existence.
If you're ready to document more than your mere existence, let's talk a bit about that. Let's create some beautiful artwork that represents this season in your life. You are worth it. Your memories matter.
Click here or on the contact tab above and we will get in touch.
Did the title catch you a bit off guard?
I believe it with my whole heart. There are somethings I just don't do in a session and this is one of them. The same goes for everyone in the session. (For Day in the Life Sessions, I reserve 10 minutes for a loosely posed, smiling family portrait at the end!!) One of the things that makes documentary photography really great and unique is that there is a level of trust established between you, the photographer, and the camera. And one of the most important lessons I've learned over the years of documenting peoples lives and intimate moments is that it's imperative that you convey that you accept them right where they are and exactly where they are at in their life.
One of the ways I do that is to express to my families the desire to blend in. I always say right from the get go, I'm like the adorably awkward, yet fun, Aunt the kids haven't seen in a while. I tell them that there are zero expectations from me and that this is meant to be a zero stress experience. And lastly, I don't ever ask them to look at the camera, be fully aware of it, and smile. Because let's face it, a lot of us don't love to be in front of the camera.
*But it's so, so, so important! Click here to read some of the reasons why I want you in front of the camera and being an active participant in memory making*
I believe that when you ask someone to look at the camera and smile, you are subconsciously telling them that this is the way they need to appear. They need to always appear happy and smiling. The truth is, sometimes life isn't happy and smiling. But that doesn't make it less beautiful or worthy of remembering.
Sometimes there are quiet moments.
Sometimes there are chaotic moments.
And every single human emotion in between. Humans are complex and we have such incredible minds. We have such a wide range of emotions and they make up who we are. I value that.
As a mother myself, I can often romanticize memories and look back at them with a rose colored lens (and that's okay!). Having pictures that document our days helps me to remember the hard times, the quiet times, and just exactly how fleeting these moments were. And it puts it into perspective that all of these moments make up our lives, not just the good and happy ones.
Our emotions are valid. Our feelings are valid.
I won't ever ask you to smile if you don't want to. I'll take the picture with a quiet reverence and feel grateful that you trusted me enough to let me in your space. It's really an honor to share your days with you.
If you want to book a storytelling session with me for your family (or if you're expecting a new little one!), please click here to reach out to me or use the Contact tab above. I have a super helpful little guide to send to you that will have all the important information you need to book your session with me. Got questions? I'm here to help. Reach out to me here or on Facebook or Instagram.
I've always been the sentimental type. I'm the kind of person that holds on to memories and mementos. I'm the kind of person that thinks the most ordinary of things can be beautiful.
I remember when I first started to seriously pursue photography, I focused on learning traditional portraiture. A huge flash and umbrella, props, posing, backdrops...not lifestyle and carefully curated "candids"- real traditional portraits. But in my personal shooting, I captured my kids playing in toilet paper. The cows in our side yard. Weekly trips to the zoo. I honestly captured my friends in their role as mothers. These things made me smile. They made me happy.
But in the back of my head, I kept thinking, "But this isn't real photography..."
"Nobody wants this everyday stuff."
"Nobody wants to pay people to take pictures of them in jeans and a t shirt."
"This isn't good enough."
So, I continued learning and studying light, learning about composition, and advanced technique. All the while, happily shooting my own kids in the most authentic of ways. My style eventually moved to lifestyle and natural light, with more relaxed posing. And I grew to be a very, very confident shooter.
About that time, my daughter decided that for the whole year, she only wanted to wear costumes. It made me so happy to see her living out her most whimsical dreams! I shot her every day like that. Learning and growing with her in our own respective ways.
I realized that shooting in that way wasn't honoring what I was feeling inside. And I had (still have) this deeply held belief that motherhood is a hard, beautiful journey. It's filled with ups and downs- days when you feel like you've got it under control and days when you feel like you're a failure. You look around at the mess in your house and think it's a reflection of your life and how you're raising your family. And it's simply not true. Yes, it's true that life gets messy. Yes, it's true that life gets hard. Yes, it's true that you may lose your temper. But that doesn't make you a failure, it makes you human.
In 2016 I decided that I was going to follow my gut. I am going to shoot honestly and authentically- and I'm not just going to do it for myself. I'm going to tell the stories of our days and shoot in a way that shows us that life is about more than "pretty". Life is about loving and feeling things deeply. It's about human connection. Motherhood is a journey of self love, forgiveness, and grace. I'm going to shoot these memories for mothers and provide them with photos that document more than their mere existence.
And so my friends, that's what I have done. This is my why. This is my reason for doing it. I want you to have more than blurry cell phone pictures of yourself and your kids. I want you to be able to look back on these memories that you treasure in your heart and have a visual representation of how that looked and how it felt. A picture is more than just the actual picture, it represents a season that you experienced as a family. A season you can't get back, a season of people who may no longer be with us. Something deeply more personal and meaningful to you.
It is real.
It is good enough.
It is valuable to the legacy of our family.
And that is why I do it.
If you'd like to book a storytelling session with me, click here or on the contact tab above. I'm happy to help answer any questions and help you plan your perfectly imperfect session.
Jess is a photographer serving families located in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She specializes in documentary and storytelling photography.