The day I asked the families I photograph to stop looking at the camera was the day my career changed. It was the day they stopped focusing on me and the moment they started focusing on one another – on who they are as a family.
We’ve been conditioned to look at the lens, to sign up for the family portrait, to sit pretty, say cheese and beautifully call it day. Those photos are fine photos. They prove that we were there – that we’re one happy family. Look! Smiles – right at the camera! Do diligence done. Check box, move on and Holiday cards sent.
The real family portrait reminds you of who your are as a family, of the things you love about one another and offers the opportunity for you to look lovingly into your partners eyes and say, “I see you. I hear you. I love you.” It provides context to steal back moments that have been fleeting by and immortalize them.
Dear, beautiful, family,
I don’t want you to pose for me. I want you to do you. I’m granting you permission to do the thing you’ve been dying to do, but it’s been lost in the madness that’s daily life. I want you to snatch that child in your arms and swing her round and round. Trust me. I’m ready. I came prepared for this. It’s why I couldn’t stop asking questions about what you love most about her.
You don’t have to wait for my cue. I want you to scoop your partner in your arms and make the declarations of love that (maybe) she hasn’t heard you say since the wedding day. I want you to take his hand and with your eyes, that he knows so well, tell him how amazing you know he is. I want for you to take the time to completely and whole heartedly revel in who you’ve become together.
I want you to be present. No. I mean it. Really, really present. You’re in school. You have a job. There’s meetings and dinners and parties. You’re ships passing in the night and tuck-ins and sweet dreams and it starts all over again the next day. All the pieces of yourselves get swept under rugs and it becomes hard to sort it out. Lets take the rug, shake it out and see what’s been missing. We’ll make some beautiful art with what shakes out. I’ve been preparing for this moment – the moment when I see all the beautiful things you described to me. More importantly, the moment when you see each other, having been reminded of all those beautiful pieces of each other that you described to me. Like spotting an endangered species in the wild, I’ve waited with bated breath for you to emerge in view of my lens and believe me, I know it when I see it.