Documentary family photography: Telling your story in images

What do you think of when you hear the phrase "family photography"? My guess is most of us think of some form of portraits, posed images of a family together in a beautiful location, like a field or the beach at sunset. Everyone is wearing clothes that match and compliment each other and they are all smiling at the camera. The kind of images that you see on people’s Christmas cards and on canvas prints above the fireplace.

While those types of images can be absolutely beautiful, my goal and my mission as a photographer is to provide you with something different. You see, I don’t know about you, but very little of my family’s life happens in a field at sunset. Actually, I’m not sure we have ever spent time in a field at sunset. Where we do spend a lot of time, however, is in our home, doing normal everyday things, wearing our normal, everyday clothes. That means my son is most likely wearing a t-shirt with a superhero logo on it, and my daughter is probably in a stained onesie because she is an incredibly messy eater. And unless you catch us on the afternoon after the monthly visit from our amazing house cleaner, there is going to be dirty dishes in the sink and clutter on our dining room table, because that is just what our house looks like these days.

But even though the setting may seem less-than-perfect, that is where the moments happen that I want to capture with my camera. So I do that, every day for my own family. I capture my son learning how to write his letters, or playing with a favorite toy. I capture my daughter covered in spaghetti or how her chubby little toddler hands grabs at things.

I capture how they interact with each other, both the sweet moments that make my heart melt and the moments when they drive me crazy. And I capture how they interact with my husband and myself, because I know that even just a few months from now, that will look completely different. My son is almost 5 and when he gets up from his nap, he still wants me to carry him down the stairs. His skinny little arms wrap around my neck and I have to really watch my step because frankly he is getting a little heavy for me, but I do it and I make sure to get that moment captured, because I know a day will come soon when he will be perfectly content walking down those stairs by himself. I will bring my camera into my daughter’s room when my son is helping give her a bottle before bedtime and snap a picture of the two of them snuggled up in the rocker, because I know that in a few months, she won’t be getting a bottle before bedtime, and so that routine will look different. These are the moments that 20 years from now, or even 20 months from now, I will want to be able to look back and remember, and so these are the moments that I capture in images.

This style of photography is called documentary photography, and basically what that means is that I don’t stage the scene and I don’t pose the people in it or ask them to smile for me. I just watch as the moments happen and I capture them with my camera, using my technical skills and my artistic vision to do so in a beautiful way, a way that does justice to those moments. Because all those little moments that make up our everyday, they matter and they are beautiful.

So, I want you to think about the season of life you are in right now. When you look back on this season, whether it is a year from now or 10 years from now, what are the moments that you want to remember? The answer to that question is what I want to capture for you during a storytelling session. Those little moments in your family’s everyday, they are the ones that make up your story. It would be an honor for me to tell it.