There’s just something about brothers… and when you throw in an age range from 2-13 and a dad who uses a wheelchair due to a motorcycle accident years ago, it gets even more challenging to win everyone over enough to capture moments that feel authentic to the family.
During our getting-to-know-you date, mom told me that she has a million photos of her youngest, and quite a few photos of the boys, but that whenever she has had their photos done the photos of her with her husband look so forced. She said, “I know it isn’t easy to photograph families when one member uses a wheelchair, I just wish we had some photos that represented us as we really look every day.”
I asked her about their day-to-day life, the relationships between various family members, and the things each of them liked to do. I also asked what they did together as a family. Without hesitation, she said the only thing they really all do together is go for walks around the neighborhood. She also mentioned that the boys loved to skateboard. An idea was born…
I suggested we just meet up and go for a walk. The boys can bring their skateboards, and we’ll just meander about and not worry about getting any pictures. Then we can come back to the house and focus a bit more on getting those family photos.
When I go out on a play date with a family, I usually propose a loose plan like this. Just because there is a loose plan, however, does not mean that I know what will unfold! My job is to work my way into the family. Once I’ve been accepted as their guest, and even their friend, I am allowed to play with them. From that vantage point, the images I capture feel like they are taken from the perspective of someone who is right there playing with them. Later, looking back, the family members find it easy to see the scene from this perspective – as a participant rather than an outsider.
And when you are a participant, you never know what will happen next! I asked the older boys how they played with their little brother. One of them mentioned with a gleam in his eye that sometimes they liked to skateboard down the hill in the backyard. I could tell he was testing me, and his mom, a bit… but it sounded GREAT to me as a participant! I looked to mom and said, “Do you think that would be ok?”. Seeing my implicit consent, she said that it would be fine. What unfolded next was pure magic. The images captured in the back yard are the images this family will look back on and say “Yes. That is just what it was like to live in our family at that time.”
And that is what it’s all about.