My first baby and my photography business were born around the same time. So naturally, I have grown as a mother and a photographer simultaneously. Like a first time mother, I did things in my business that didn't totally feel right. I desperately wanted to be successful so I filled my portfolio with what all the popular family photographers were doing. I read all the baby books. Beautiful family portraits. Self soothing. Staged smiles. Denying my instincts. I coached my clients to dress like the people on Pinterest and suggested locations that looked similar. Clients were happy and my baby was thriving, but I always felt a piece of the puzzle was missing.
Before I became a mother, I didn't know there would be times where I'd stand still in my room, close my eyes and breathe in moments... how my middle child likes to snuggle with me while I nurse our newborn, how my big girl likes to do my nails, cannonballs in the summer, how I can handle a meltdown with grace now, bathtime with bubbles, and open mouthed baby kisses under the mistletoe. I didn't know how intense this would feel or how fast time would move. Once I became more familiar with this roadmap of emotion, my vision as an artist became slightly clearer and as an experienced mother of three now, I have even more clarity. This is what I've learned: The only regrets I have as a mother were not listening to my instincts or allowing myself to be talked out of them. With my business in parallel, the same is true for me as an artist. Feed the baby when I want. Put her the sleep the way I want. Photograph what I want.
And it has been wonderful. Breathtaking photographs and satisfying parenting decisions.
However, personal artistic goals and client work don't always mix so I have held back for months in offering this type of photography to clients. Would they want what I want? Then out of the blue, in a completely unexpected setting, I had an epiphany during storytime. In the dim, rosy, bedtime light, I read a children's book to my girls by Karen Kingsbury called Let Me Hold You Longer and I'll never get it out of my head. It reminded me that as parents, we share this space. All of us care about these moments. How could my clients NOT want what I want? What kind of photographer am I to not offer my clients, families whom I adore, the best of my work? Here are a few of my favorite verses:
Long ago you came to me,
a miracle of firsts,
First smiles and teeth and baby steps,
a sunbeam on the burst.
But one day you will move away
and leave to me your past
And I will be left thinking of
a lifetime of your lasts…
The last night when you woke up crying,
needing to be walked,
When last you crawled up with your blanket,
wanting to be rocked.
The last time when you ran to me,
still small enough to hold.
The last time that you said you'd marry
me when you grew old.
Your last few hours of kindergarten,
those last few days of first grade,
Your last at bat in Little League,
last colored picture made.
Silly, scattered images
will represent your past.
I keep on taking pictures,
never quite sure of your lasts…
Of course I take pictures of them, usually with my phone - blurry and without me in them. That's not what I will want to see in 30 years. It's surely not what they will want to see when I'm gone. So this year (and every year to follow), I'm going to hire someone to photograph my family looking pretty like I always do but I will not miss the opportunity to have someone come photograph us in our not so perfect home or on a real outing in a location special to us. I need to tell our story each year before the kids are grown and it's too late. I will offer the same to my clients and I'm THRILLED about it!!
I'm on a mission to tell the incredible story you have so beautifully written. For you, for them, and for their grandchildren. The love, the tears, the hugs, the joy, the firsts... the lasts. I love and value a pretty picture of my family but what could be more important than pausing, appreciating, and celebrating how our real life is right now? The crazy, the stressful, the busy, the fun. To me, NOTHING is more important.
Day In The Life/Storytelling Sessions & Pretty Perfect Portraits are both available in 2015.