Everyone depicted in this post is alive and well.
Heckova start, I know. Just please keep reading....
Kate sent me this 👇🏻. It resonated with her and she knew it would resonate with me too. I took those last best photos of the love of her life and the father of her children.
Even if you have never studied photo history, never heard of a momento mori or the slogan "secure the shadow ere the substance fades"; even if you have never studied the work of Nick Nixon or read Susan Sontag, some part of you knows.
Because you have, at some point, rummaged through photos looking desperately for images of the one your heart doesn't know how to live without. Images that serve as proof they existed, proof they loved you and proof you loved them as well as you could. Images that secure your memories, tacking them firmly into place, because the substance is fading.
Some part of you knows that the death of moments happen continuously, that we trade one life for another every day that we are lucky enough to wake.
We are responsible, we call the lawyer and draft the will.
My loves, please leave more of you behind.
Not just filtered selfies. Not just photos in nice clothes with nice smiles in a sunlit field. Please also leave pictures of the life you are living together, giving and receiving love, photos that align with the memory they have while filling in the memories they don't.
We're in a strange place in photo history. Unlike the days when photographers pulled up in horse drawn carts, urging townspeople to make a singular proof of life, we are inundated with images. Flooded. And because we can make them anytime, easily and instantaneously, we often don't.
We are aware, as we scroll, that most of the images we encounter are made to keep a public face, not to one day become precious like a lock of hair.
The message du jour is that we are enough. "Being enough" in front of a lens isn't something most of us know how to do. We know the performance of taking pictures: smile, adjust the hip, suck in the gut. We know to delete the images that reveal perceived imperfections. We hope our flaws will disappear with the file. Better yet, if we're never in the frame, perhaps they'll never know.
There's a practice in Japan called kintsugi where gold epoxy is used to mend broken ceramics and the flaws become part of the piece's history, uniqueness and beauty. I think its also like this with our laugh lines, the softness of our aging skin, our thinning hair, the furrow of our brows when we give "the look" and the squish of our bodies where tear-streaked faces bury themselves to hide their pain from the world. So often the things we fear others might see are liquid gold.
This is why I do what I do. I see the kintsugi making each family unique, holding a life together. And this is why I annoy everyone in my own family, taking pictures in moments they find puzzling or when they least want a camera present. Every click of the shutter is the death of a moment precisely because we are breathing and living and I am hyper aware of it. I see these moments passing me by, I am the end an 80's TV commercial touting "collect them all!"
I am asking us to get in the picture even when the world is burning and life isn't going so great, even when irreplaceable people are missing, even while living between worlds and through uncertainty and weight gain and aging. Because we are alive and our story is unfolding and I want them to find your story when they need it most. Like a gift too large to leave under the tree, let them follow the ribbon you tied through each and every floor of the house, all the way to the very beginning.
And this is why "at home sessions" feel like my truest, deepest purpose: I know that whatever happens next, they will see your love for them as they remember it in all its gorgeous, real and one of a kind imperfection. They will have something affirming to hold as they heal. This work we do together is rarely glossy or Insta-worthy but it is wabi sabi and life affirming. They will pick up every delicious crumb of yourself that you leave behind. You don't have to put anything on social media if you don't want to, you can keep it in a vault if you need to. Just don't wait create more photos where you are the center and learn to make photography a practice. Photos where we center our relationships.
I'm choosing to share photos here that I believe will have immeasurable meaning to the child/ren depicted one day. This display could never be exhaustive but I hope it inspires you to take more, delete less, give yourself grace, decide flaws can be gold and hire and trust professionals to capture time that you can't wind backwards. I hope it inspires me to do the same.
I hope you love yourself hard. Because you are absolutely and in every way photo worthy.
You do everything else for them so do this for them too.
Thanks to Kristin Sweeting for permission to share her words and especially to the amazing Kate H L who gives her love in this world and beyond, who still gets in front of my lens regularly and might be the bravest person I know. I did not share her photos here because her story will be all of ours in time.