Every year on her birthday we would take Finns out to Callaway Gardens to enjoy the day and of course for me to take photos of her with the Fall leaves. Well this year baby brother kind of hijacked those plans when he came down with a rockin’ case of croup (Side note, this is also why he is dressed like a Lost Boy from Peter Pan, and has crustiness on his face and shirt!) And then it dawned on me, derp! We now have our own slice of heaven with acres to roam, and tons of gorgeous Fall colors! So me and the kids went adventuring and I brought my camera along for the fun.
Finns has turned 5. Each birthday gets harder, yet I become more proud of these little buggers with each passing year. I braced myself as I went in to put her down for bed the night before. My last time tucking in my 4 year old. My last time kissing my toddler on the cheek. For the next morning she would no longer fit in the toddler age range. She’s a kid now.
I wept. And the big girl that she is… she let me. She understood. I held her and told her about my tears, that they weren’t sad tears, they were happy tears. I told her about the day she was born. She loved me explaining about my water breaking and daddy’s reaction. I told her how much she has made my life better, and made me better. I told her how unbelievably proud I am of who she’s growing up to be. I held her longer, I lingered at her door longer. Never have I wanted to stop time like I did that night. But ever the wise one, she told me… Mommy, I have to grow up. And oh how right she is, because I cannot wait to see who she becomes! I have a feeling this is the lifecycle of birthday eve’s for the remainder of my life. May we remember to linger longer, no matter the day.
Thank you Lord for this precious girl I get to call mine. Thank you for giving her the most kind, generous, and tender heart. Thank you for making her brave, strong, and determined. Thank you for giving her a heart that longs to know You and love You. Thank you Lord for making her ours.
Just a snippet from one of our afternoons. Messes are encouraged and clothing is optional. I truly hope they will remain the best of friends. I often have to remind her she’s not his mommy, and she sheepishly replies, “I forget I’m not his mommy sometimes”. If you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she will usually reply, a super hero mommy. Honestly, some days I wish I had super powers of my own. And Alden is a dynamic package of dichotomies. He is the most loving, gentle, adoring, wrecking ball, firecracker of an impatient mess I’ve ever laid eyes on. And I wouldn’t change a hair on his curly head. He thinks she hung the moon, and follows her like a shadow, mimicking her every move.
Thank you Jesus for these two blessings that call me momma. Thank you for the responsibility of moulding them into decent human beings. It’s not easy. And I fail miserably some days. But Lord I pray that days like these will outweigh the others.
Let me first start by saying that one isn’t better than the other, one isn’t more beautiful, or more difficult, or more appealing. I think they both have qualities that will appeal to people for differing reasons.
Personally, through my growth and progression as a photographer, documentary photography has become my safe place. It’s where I find the most beauty, the most challenge to my creative spirit. I started out doing traditional portraits, families, weddings, etc. But when I started shooting births, a part of my soul was ignited and an insatiable need to capture the REAL took flight. There is no posing, or choreographing a woman in labor. The birth space is such a sacred place, I dare not disturb a laboring mother by directing a moment. And I think for the most part it’s obvious to the common viewer that birth is monumental. The photos are soul stirring. They are profound.
What I wish the common viewer could see, is that each day of our mundane lives is monumental. Soul stirring. Profound. I wanted to take the same passion that is captured the moment a family is born, the moment a first breath is taken… and reflect that passion as you navigate life with that same baby, who is now a toddler, a child, a preteen, or a parent themselves.
So let me dig deeper and tell you the difference between documentary and lifestyle.
I’ll walk you through a typical documentary session. Prior to arriving we have discussed what part of your day you want captured. Usually it revolves around a predetermined event: Baking cookies, bathtime/bedtime stories, camping in the backyard, grocery shopping, etc. It can be something that you literally do everyday, or a special day like the first day of school. I show up, we chat over a cup of tea, hang out, break the ice, show me around, and then you start your day. I’m a fly on the wall. I do not direct, intervene, or pose. I do not tell you what to do, or where to stand. And why is that SO important in a documentary session?! Because the whole point of these shoots is to capture your day as it TRULY is. Not some fabricated, and polished version. What good does that do you when you look back on these 20-30 years from now to remember how these days really looked, if it isn’t captured authentically. Yes your house is messy, will I move the stray Lego brick from the floor before we start shooting? Most definitely not. That stray Lego tells a very important part of your story. Will I photoshop the crayon streak off of the wall in the kitchen? Nope, that sweet artwork may be priceless one day. Don’t be afraid of the blemishes, of the imperfections of your house, of your life… there is so much history, and story behind those tiny details. Savor them, EMBRACE them, for one day, in a blink, they’re gone.
LIFESTYLE: (Disclaimer, I no longer shoot Lifestyle sessions)
Now let me walk you through a typical lifestyle session. Everything up until the moment of shooting is exactly the same as I mentioned above. The shoot revolves around some kind of event, we chat, we break the ice… but now’s where it takes a different turn. Lifestyle is the polished and pretty version of what I spoke about above. I will tell you where to sit/stand in your bedroom, I will turn on lights, gently direct you on where to turn your head, and look etc. In a nutshell, things are POSED to look like they AREN’T posed. You sit lovingly on your clean perfectly made bed, maybe your outfits are coordinated, maybe I tell you to have a tickle fight, or let your kids jump on the bed. But 90% of what happens during a lifestyle session is directed and orchestrated to look organic. I will move that lego, I will photoshop that left over PBJ off your kiddos face. Because that’s what lifestyle is to me at least. Polished.
Give me the messy any day. Give me the real any day. Give me the snotty faces, tiny hand smudges on the windows, give me the mom top-bun and yoga pants you so beautifully and effortlessly pull off.
I mean think of the stress you put yourself under to get polished up for your family photos, the outfits you buy, the stress over will your kids behave, is the house clean, did I put away the laundry? Hello! None of that matters, bring it! Leave the stress at the door and embrace your beautiful life!
I don’t mean to sound bias on one or the other. I’ve done both for years and I’ve captured beautiful on both sides of the argument. BUT my heart longs for documenting the real. The more we show other mothers, other families the realness of our lives, the more we can encourage and normalize what parenthood really looks like. None of us are perfect, or polished. None of us really have it figured out, and definitely don’t have it all together. And per every mother of grown children, we will miss the noise, we will miss the messes, we will miss the mounds of tiny clothes that need folding, or the sippy cups that litter the sink, or the muddy soccer cleats left in the hallway. My friends, THESE are the details of our lives. Let them be told.
Find the beauty in your everyday, and rock the mess out of it!
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The timing of this blog post could not have been more perfect. Today, I celebrate these precious boys and their awesome mom and dad, by saying HAPPY BIRTHDAY Hart & Mills! One year ago today I watched your momma labor over 24 hours, I watched her fight for 9 months to get the birth she wanted, and I’ve watched her and your dad fall in love with you over and over again for the last 365 days. (If you’re feeling so inclined, you can view her birth story HERE)
Eliza and I have so many overlaps in our friendship and personal career, I’m certain she’s taken as many photos of my family as I have of hers. She’s my go to gal when I need to cry, vent, laugh, tell an inappropriate joke, or take a mom break. She keeps me grounded and helps keep my compass pointed North when life gets crazy. I think, if any of you who have a friend that sounds like what I just described, then count yourself blessed. People like her don’t come around very often.
Aside from adoring her. I adore her family. She and Mike have excelled at parenting these sweet boys. It hasn’t always been easy. As they say the days are long but the years are short. I know she is feeling the weight of that reality today as her babies turn 1.
Let this next part be a cautionary tale from this mother’s heart, rather than a sales pitch. Life happens. It happens in the minutes and seconds of each day. It happens even when you aren’t paying attention. It’s one of the simultaneously cruel and beautiful things about life… that we are only moving forward. While our hearts ache to slow life down, we rejoice in each milestone. The dichotomy of dreading the fact that they will need you less and less, yet that is exactly what our goal is, to raise these little humans to succeed without us. What we captured for Eliza and Mike during this session, is Life. Their beautiful life, wrapped up in those seconds and minutes that most days go unnoticed for the treasures that they are.
Aside from birth photography I’ve never felt so compelled to tell people about the power of family photojournalism. They are only this age once, you may move away from the house you brought them home from the hospital. Life happens. You may not be able to freeze time, but I can bottle up these handful of moments for you to relive forever.