There is so much I want to tell you when it comes to photographing your family with intent, that I end up not saying anything! I find it difficult to translate my thoughts into (few) words until I lie in bed in the evening, way too comfortable to get up and put them down on paper.
However, today, I remembered that one of the mums from the Photographing your Family with Intent Facebook Group said something beautiful a few weeks back. She had put into just a few words something I was trying to explain for a while.
She posted a photo of her son sitting on the dining table among lots of Christmas decorations and you could see the rest of the room behind him with the naked Christmas tree, the couch, fireplace, drying clothes etc. Not messy by any mean, but a normal house where people (and children) actually live as opposed to a show house. This is not what we notice first when we look at the photo, yet, it often stops parents from taking it in the first place.
Along with the photo, Julie wrote: “Capturing the moment and ignoring the mess. I was looking at old childhood photos lately and what I was interested in was the old box of cornflakes and the old kitchen table in the background. What’s mess today will spark memories and nostalgia in years to come.“
I had been sharing photos and thoughts on the group about embracing our family and interior whether they were picture perfect or not. It seems to have resonated with a lot of mums and that made me very happy. I’m a very sentimental person and it feels like I’ve made a small impact in their children’s lives as they will own very precious photographs of their childhood, showing what it was really like. Photos that their parents wouldn’t have otherwise taken or kept, because of the mess or the “imperfections”.
Here are a few more quotes from the group who made me emotional (and proud):
“I rarely get into the photos – I’m usually the one behind the camera. Today I am paint splattered, with hair that needed to be washed yesterday. And my other half captured this: me putting our son to bed – on his first night not in a cot, he has transitioned to a toddler bed. And before I’d have deleted it (giving out about that state of me), but it’s the moment, it’s beautiful and I see that now. It’s not perfect but it’s a start ❤️”
“I took this photo of my son and his nana today. I have this page to thank for the inspiration. Ignoring the chaos and mess to capture the moment.”
There are a lot more, but you’ll have to join the group if you want to read them :)
A few words of wisdom (if I can say so myself)
If I speak so passionately about this subject it’s because mess (and self-consciousness) was getting in the way of capturing precious moments of my family. I’ve been there. I’ve gone through a big shift in my personal photography (and even clients) in the last two years and it’s very liberating. Would I even dare say “therapeutic”?
We all need to free ourselves from this idea of “perfection”. We know we can’t be perfect parents, that our children are not supposed to be perfect either, so why do we want to photograph something that doesn’t exist or that’s only partially true? Why cannot we embrace our reality? What are we telling our children when we are trying to show an improved version of our lives?
We need to start accepting who we are. What our family is. The imperfections. The mess, the chaos. It’s no different in any other houses. What everyone shows on Facebook isn’t the whole truth and the truth is even better.
Photographing our true everyday life is telling our children that they are good enough. Their life is good enough. Our lives are good enough. Moments are more important than the background behind them!
I picture my daughter having babies of her own. I don’t want her to feel overwhelmed/guilty because she can’t keep up with the “perfection” showed in the media and social media. I want her to know that it was hard for me when she was a baby, that I was beyond tired, that I wasn’t “coping” at all. I don’t want to paint a black picture because it wasn’t all dark, but I don’t want to show her only the good sides. I want to show her the truth as much as I possibly can.
I actually wish I could go back in time as I have very little photographs showing the hard times of sleep deprivation and trying to get her asleep. I only have one or two so I’m glad I also wrote in a journal for her.
We need to practice self-acceptance for us and for our children. Not only to photograph moments that they will treasure but so that they don’t have a distorted/polished vision of what their lives used to be like.
I’m a big fan of the Body Neutrality movement and we should start sharing more real photos on social media to lower everyone’s expectations and empower every mum to feel good about their imperfect normal life.
20 Photographs Your Children Will Thank You For Twenty years from now
Download this 10 page PDF with prompts and photo examples of what your children will find really meaningful someday.
Some you may have already thought about… and some you may not :)