Last week, a friend of mine sent me this link from The Columbian about a photography studio in NYC called I Heart New York that specializes in capturing everyday moments through photography. I’ve been on a mission to help people do this for years now and, as much as I try to explain it, I find it’s still a foreign concept to most people. They say “But I have a cell phone. I have a camera. Why would I hire someone to take pictures for me if it’s not a special event? I can just do it myself!”
When I say “I help you remember the best parts of your life through story-based photography”, people imagine me coming to every birthday party, school play, etc — but what I’m getting at is something deeper than that. Something more basic than the plot line. Life (and any good story) is more than just a series of events. I’m getting at the essence of what your life is when your child is a certain age. What does your family look like? How it is to be in life with her. How does he fit into the world at this age?
What blew my mind about that article was that they described my dream! Why make do with blurry cell phone images of just the baby when you could have a gorgeous image of the whole family? You could remember the love you felt. You could see what everyone else sees when they tell you you’ve got it made. Why waste time trying to capture the moment when you should be living it?
Let me tell you a personal story.
When my husband and I set out on our journey to adopt a child, we had to put together a “family book”. This book needed to contain photos of us being ourselves so that potential birth families could get to know us through pictures and limited text. What we realized at that time was mind boggling. Our photos made it look like we didn’t even exist in the same world. One or the other of us was always taking the picture, so there were very few images that showed us together. Our engagement and wedding photos didn’t really count, because they were TOO “professional”. Too staged. Not believable as “us”. And the other images of us together were all selfies from hikes, trips, etc – the same photo over and over again. Who knows where we were or what we were doing there… And most of the time a little blurry, with red eyes and bizarre angles.
Which one of these pictures shows you who we really are as people? The one with the terrifying red eyes? The one with the rocks in the background? The one where my husband’s face is sideways? Don’t we look like we’re super authentic – living our lives? Uh… we obviously needed to re-think this before sending it out to the world and hoping to convey who we will be as parents…
We ended up hiring a photographer to go on a day trip with us. We worked in our garden, went to the farmer’s market, went for a walk at the river, and ate waffles. From that one day, we got some of the most amazing photos of us as a couple. These are the pictures that we will show our child when they ask what we were like before we adopted them into our family. These are the pictures that will remind us what our life looked like before we had a child, and that show the love, the energy, and the silliness we treasure in our lives.
This is what I want for all the families I work with. At every stage of life, it’s valuable to capture where you are – the essence of you at this moment. And having this visual record will bring you closer as a family. It’s not a question, it is an eventuality. Through capturing these memories, you will be reinforcing the shared experience that you live with your loved ones. You will be showing your children (and your partner, and yourself for that matter!) that they belong to something. And that is what it’s all about.