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.
Jess is a photographer serving families located in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She specializes in documentary and storytelling photography.