As I thought about how I wanted to shoot our family photo this year, I had to consider my “why.” Why is it so important to make an intentional frame of the five of us together? I do want to be able to document what we look like in this stage of our lives, but my “why” is so much deeper than that.
If I had to pick only one memory about my children that I fear will fade with time, it is how they feel in my arms. When they were infants, their bodies curved perfectly in the crook of my elbow. Their heads relaxed right where my head and shoulder meet. As toddlers, their legs wrapped around my waist when I carried them. (Ollie and I used to call this the “foot hug.”) When they grew older, they climbed onto my lap to read, to be comforted, or simply to snuggle. Their skin is soft, their bodies are warm, and they still find ways to curl up just so against me.
When I think about how I want them to remember my husband and I, I recall pictures of my own parents and grandparents and how I used to marvel at how young they looked at a time when I didn’t have the perspective to know how slowly, but how significantly, we change with time. When I look at photos of us from even five years ago, I can see easily how we are aging. We will never be this young again, and I want our kids to have tangible memories of us at the time in their lives when we drove them to school and ran around with them in the yard, laughed at their jokes, and watched TV together.
The occasions are certainly occasional when we all expend effort to look our best. When it happens, of course I pull out the camera to document the event. Unfortunately, the more formal affairs are generally accompanied by tight schedules that leave little time for photographs other than quick snaps in front of the house or garage or fence or wall or couch or some other place where the setting does not match the mood I want to remember.
With this in mind, I solicited the help of The Morris Inn and of Heather Strycker, who styles all of my client shoots. I explained my inspiration, the setting, the feeling that I wanted to convey. Each person’s attire was influenced by the personality who would be wearing it: Megan with her history-loving tomboyish femininity, Jacob and Jason being all about comfort, me with my desire to be stylish but comfortable, and Oliver with a little bit of flair.
The end result is a photo that makes me feel warm, soft, cozy, beautiful, and at peace–just the way I feel when my closest loved ones settle in next to me.
To see more about how and why I make specific photographs, check out the previous posts entitled The Backstory.