It's a passion of mine that has been growing ever since I've quietly begun taking on more family sessions over the past year.
I love the intimacy of these day-in-the-life family sessions... finding the extraordinary beauty in the everyday rhythms of a family's life at this moment in time. I see the small interactions and expressions and relationships that I get to capture, and know that while they are precious to the parents now, they will be priceless to their children later.
When I photograph family sessions, I think a lot about my own childhood. My dad was the family documenter. He filmed hours of home video and took countless pictures. You can tell in the videos that he just loved being a dad, and that he spent tons of time with us as kids - something that makes me smile each time I watch.
Though I've always had fun looking through old photos and videos, these glimpses into the past became invaluable to me when at 19, my mom - my warm, embarrassingly friendly (through my teenager eyes), chocolate-chip-cookies-for-the-neighborhood-making, Jesus following, beach loving, big smiling, always welcoming, curious, strong, endlessly positive, hilariously sassy, southern belle of a mother - died.
The way you think of your parents changes so much throughout your life. As a kid, they're just your parents - your protectors, entertainers, teachers, and pesky enforcers of rules. As you pass through teenship and on to the adulthood, you begin to see them more as friends, confidantes, and - gasp! - actual real live human beings.
I'm grateful that I had a good relationship with my mom, and that I was old enough when she died that I did have a little bit of time in that "friend and real person" stage. But still.... so often, I find myself desperately wanting to know more about her. I want to see her - and our relationship - through the eyes of an adult. What was she thinking and feeling at my age? What was she like as a young mother? I long to see evidence of the ways she loved me when I was too young to remember those precious moments.
And so, it's to the photographs and home videos that I turn, time and time again. Evidence of my mother and the life she life she led and the people she loved and the beautiful, imperfect human that she was. Evidence of the woman who lives on in my sister and me - of the personality quirks and expressions and struggles and talents that I continually discover do not belong to me alone, but were inherited from the woman who brought me into this world and raised me.
Over the past couple of years, something new has been happening... maybe due to my age and the stage of life I'm in. Going through old photographs and videos has been one of the major ways I've grieved my mom and understood my own identity through the years. But now they have now become dear to me all over again... this time for glimpses into the lives of people I love who are still living: my dad, my sister; my Gran, my aunts and uncles and cousins, my dear friends, my husband.
My favorites tend to be the moments that illuminate someone's personality, or the relationship between two or more people. Little details that tell big stories. Things I didn't notice at the time that I can see with clarity now.
And in videos, it's the voices... the expressions... the gestures... the humanity and realness of something that is so ephemeral and substantial at the same time. I can almost smell the air at my Gran and Gramps' house as we run through the sprinkler in the summer heat. I hear a phrase my mom says that brings back that childlike feeling of being safe and comforted - a particular way that only your mother can make you feel. I watch my dad as he encourages me to play and push boundaries and remember that he's always made me feel like I was capable of anything. I see the way I almost smothered my little sister with love and excitement after she was born.
I am filled with endless gratitude toward my dad for always having the camera nearby. I only wish we had someone taking these photos for us, so that all of us could be in the pictures and videos more often.
This is what I want to give to the wonderful people that I get to work with. This is what I hold in my heart during every second I spend photographing a family. And this is why my husband, Joe, has begun joining me to film family sessions as I photograph them. We can't wait to share what we've been up to with you.
Stay tuned for a follow up post in the next couple of days, but in the meantime, here are just a few family photos and one little family video clip (I wanted to share too many, so I had to narrow it down to one!) from when I was young :)