This family is a special one. Through a series of unlikely events while on my bike tour, I showed up, stinking and sweaty, on their steps with my cycling friend, Sean, in tow. Dave and Cindy welcomed us inside and slid plates of watermelon in front of us. When we told the Grooters about our journey, they insisted that we stay in their home. They had an engagement to attend that evening, so they left tow strangers alone in their home. If that’s not goodness and trust, then their next gift surely is. Sean and I wanted to take a peak at the Royal Gorge so we asked how far of a bike ride it was. We were told it was about 15 miles uphill. We had a rest day planned for the next day, so we thought we’d go ahead and try it.. but then, Dave HANDED US THE KEYS TO HIS TRUCK and told us to have fun. I don’t know about you, but as much as I trust people and try to see the good in everyone, I’m not quite sure I’d be willing to let a complete stranger drive my vehicle.
The light this family emits is contagious. As a way to somehow try to thank them for their kindness, I shot their first ever family photos.
One morning, about 5 months ago, I received an email from Danielle connecting herself to me by way of a mutual friend. She informed me that she’d be following my Instagram for awhile and said that if I was ever in Jacksonville, she’d love if I could take her family photos. The funny thing is, I already had a trip to Jacksonville planned for the week before I was to leave on my epic bicycling adventure. The beauty of it is that Danielle had no way of knowing my travel plans.
Just as beautiful is the way our at-home session turned out- there isn’t a moment about the morning they shared with me that would change. Danielle answered the door in her robe and immediately offered me a coffee (in a camera lens mug no less). We chatted and laughed and eventually I pulled out my camera to document the morning. The Ramirez home is SO brilliantly them and they allowed me to capture them in such an authentic way. <3 all around.
In the last several years I have created hundreds of thousands of portraits. I’ve made pictures of professionals at conferences, artists making pretty things, good people volunteering, couples who want to shout their love from the rooftops, and friends and family celebrating at weddings. But by far, my favorites have been capturing hands embracing a belly full of life; the long hours of laboring to meet a sweet babe; an exhausted, but so in-love woman rocking her infant, chasing after her toddler, tickling her child or laughing with her teenager. The common theme being “mamas”.
This has definitely been the year of mothers for me. I’ve been contacted by so many excited, new mamas and mamas who have never had family photos taken. I’m elated that I get to capture memories for so many families- whether it be the first time ever or the first time in ten years. But what has moved me to write this post is the response I’m receiving post-session. Time after time. I answer phone calls, read emails and open thank you cards with some pretty emotional overtones- mostly exuding joy, but some with tears. Tears because, for so many years they made excuses for avoiding being in front of the camera with their babies. From one amazing mom: “After our session (which was fun), I was on the verge of tears. I goofed up. I should have been taking family pics way more frequently, not letting my personal insecurities dictate documenting our family. So, to the young moms out there – take family photos. And to the (ahem) older moms out there – schedule an appointment now.”
I was recently sent an article from a client, entitled “The Mom Stays in the Picture”, which perfectly describes the point I’m trying to make. Whether it’s simple snapshot taken by your husband or an entire session session captured by a professional photographer, I urge all mothers get in the picture..and stay there.
But we really need to make an effort to get in the picture. Our sons need to see how young and beautiful and human their mamas were. Our daughters need to see us vulnerable and open and just being ourselves — women, mamas, people living lives. Avoiding the camera because we don’t like to see our own pictures? How can that be okay?….So when all is said and done, if I can’t do it for myself, I want to do it for my kids. I want to be in the picture, to give them that visual memory of me. I want them to see how much I am here, how my body looks wrapped around them in a hug, how loved they are.