We’re still in denial that it’s winter here, even as snow falls outside our window and forecasters warn us that we could wake up to a foot or more tomorrow morning.
The kids and I have severe cabin fever and long for the days we could spend our days in the backyard with Zooma The Wonder Dog in the warm sun. Sunlight isn’t something we see much of these days so if it peeks out from behind the clouds, we either rush outside into it or we sit in the square of it that shines on our floors.
When my dad decided he would take the kids down to see how frozen his pond was last weekend I rushed to get my coat on, even though 1) I didn’t want to go out in the cold and 2) my 4-year old needed a nap. I needed to get outside and photograph something – anything. None of the photographs were exciting but at least we experienced nature – freezing cold, cough-inducing, nose running – nature.
Once at the pond Dad cut a hole in the ice and measured it. Since it was only two and a half inches none of us could go out on it – except for the dog. The youngest didn’t mind since she was still crying, partially from the cold, and because it was clear she desperately needed a nap. I had to carry her both up and down the hill which isn’t as fun now that she’s almost 30 pounds and solid muscle. Once back in the house she fell asleep within a few moments and I decided maybe we’d continue admiring the sun from inside the house, at least until the temperature rises again.
Sometimes I want to give up on photography that speaks to my heart so I can make a quick buck with some quick poses but then I remember why I love lifestyle, or what I also call storytelling, photography.
It tells stories.
It’s memories frozen in time, not poses.
One of my favorite, newly found photographers is Lisa Tichane and she spoke at Click Away, a photographers’ conference, this Fall about why she incorporates movement in her family photography.
She’s right. I have frames full of photos a family member used to give us every year for Christmas. It was the only gift she ever gave and it was her children looking uncomfortable and unnatural in posed portraits. I don’t want this to sound like a complaint, because the images were a kind gesture and we appreciated them each year. However, even though the lighting was lovely the only thing those photos tell me about her children is they know how to follow directions and be forced to smile. I couldn’t tell from those photos that the youngest was full of crazy fun or the second oldest loved all things sparkly and shiny or that the oldest was a sports fanatic. Eventually these portraits made me uncomfortable, partially because the family members no longer spoke to us and partially because the expression of the one girl was so full of discomfort I felt bad she’d been forced to pose. I put those images in a closet and filled my walls with images of my children being children. There is one of my son standing in my parents driveway, wearing my dad’s fishing hat and another of him standing in a pool of light in a local creek. There are others of him smiling at the camera,but none of them were forced and I didn’t ask for the smile.
The photos on my wall tell a story for me of a boy who likes to explore the fields at his grandparents’ house. They tell a story of a family who isn’t always perfect, but is loved, is trying, is striving to be better.
I have images of smiling faces, but almost none of them were obtained by asking for them, they came naturally, they were gifts, given to me in naturally happy moments.
Most importantly, the images I treasure most tell a story and that story is what I want to remember as the years pass.