"Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it's amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it's ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That's just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it's breathtakingly beautiful." - L.R. Knost
COVID-19 Shelter in Place Orders: Day 47
I made a keepsake film for my children a few weeks ago-right in the midst of COVID and homeschooling our children. I had signed up for the class prior to the shelter in place orders here in Virginia. Even though all of this can be really overwhelming, I felt that it was important to push forward. To show my kids that they aren't alone in this, I am learning with them, and life is still going on. I also felt like it would be really meaningful to document their lives during this pandemic in film, stills, and in writing (they are keeping a journal). This was a huge accomplishment for me, because film really intimidated me. It still does! It something new, something I don't understand like I do photography. If you've started out as a photographer, some of it seems really counter intuitive.
I am a firm believer in continuing education. Always seek out knowledge, never stop learning. Hobbies, skills, academics- just never stop. So, here I am, going out on a limb, and learning new things... and it feels really good. I'm so proud of the end result!
The main idea of the film was to create a keepsake for them from their mama, with me reading a letter to them that I had written from my heart. One of the things I say in the letter is that I hope and pray that they are able to always see that life is beautiful, even when it's hard. The beauty is there, you just need to know where to look for it- and be open to seeing it.
As a family documentary photographer here in Hampton Roads, I have trained a lot differently than portrait photographers. My job as a storyteller is to observe the connections, the things that are important to your individual family, and shed light to the details that make up your everyday. No matter how small. My job is to not interfere with the scene. Only to artfully document what I see, so that hopefully you can see how beautiful your life really is.
I encourage my clients not to really change the scene. I'm not there to judge your dishes in the sink or the crumbs on the floor. See the picture above? That's my everyday. There's cheerios everywhere, the dog has even stopped picking them up. But it's beautiful and meaningful to me because it's mine.
These are your memories. The images only need to speak to your soul.
Needless to say, I've been in the habit of documenting our daily life for over 5 years now, so I have an array of photographs showing what our life looks like. The quiet moments, the fun moments, the messy moments, the loving moments, and the hard moments too. I've always focused on the details, but lately I've come to really appreciate documenting the empty scene.
I appreciate the life that it represents. The living. These spaces are where you spend your time. Where you raise your family. Where your heart is. I appreciate the messes and the beautiful souls that create those messes. The perfect imperfections that make up the precious life that we live. I appreciate the sentimentality that is attached to our belongings and the things that help to shape our personalities.
And what I certainly love is when the space reflects those living there. That is truly beautiful to me.
So please, enjoy these scenes from our everyday life. And mama, know that you are not alone- during this pandemic or otherwise. Our lives may look very different, but we are all connected by the thread of motherhood.
Jess is a photographer serving families located in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She specializes in documentary and storytelling photography.