Telling a story in just one picture isn’t an easy task. When it comes to writing I tend to be a bit verbose. Why say it in 10 words when you can say it in 20, right? Well maybe not that bad but you get the point. So why would my photography be any different? Well the point is that sometimes you can’t tell the entire story in just one sentence but at least you can leave the reader wanting more. So in photography, you leave the viewer waiting for the squeal, right? However, for the last assignment in this workshop that was the task…one picture to tell a story. I wanted to use people because after all, I LOVE people, they tell stories in all kinds of ways, actions, emotions, facial expressions, etc! But my planned session with a friend and partner were thwarted by the stomach bug. Honestly, if she didn’t want her picture taken she didn’t have to get sick to avoid it! HA! But in all honesty her being sick wasn’t a story I wanted to tell or share with anyone. I assume you agree with me on this thought.
So what is a girl to do when her subject has called in sick…you do the next best thing, you wing it. Well, here it was, the eve of Valentine’s Day…that holiday for love, friendship and all things, sweet, pink and red. So I was plugging along just like any other mother of 2 kids with school Valentine’s day parties the next day…I was stuffing valentines, writing all the proper TOs and FROMs, checking the class lists twice, all the while covered in flour after baking 6 dozen cookies to send along with the kids and of course some to share at home, work and the neighbors. After all, it was the holiday of love and friendship.
So here I was multitasking with the best of them…iPad on the counter, recipe up in one window, iTunes up in another, oven preheating, getting supplies out, the mixer going, Valentines and class lists on the corner of the counter, I’m mixing, I’m whisking, I’m cracking eggs, measuring this, measuring that when it hits me…there is a story laying right on the counter in front of me. It’s my story…my story as a mom of two young children. My story about how I love my children, how store-bought treats won’t do for special times, how you make sure you get the Valentines day cards at the grocery store because you realize the party is in 2 days and you haven’t bought them yet…it’s MY STORY! I’m tired, it’s late but I press on because I LOVE my children and would do anything for them, including addressing 40+ Valentines while making home-made chocolate cookies after working a full day, coming home to cook dinner, get through the night-time routine and instead of having down time after the kids go to bed, I do all of the above…and I don’t begrudge it one bit!
So here is MY story…not exactly in one sentence, and it most certainly is not the only volume in my life but it’s one of the most important ones that has many more chapters to come and I await anxiously for the next volumes that are yet to come.
I can’t say that the second part of this assignment was a favorite – honestly, who likes having their picture taken? Yeah, I didn’t think so! But…I have to share how the post written by Jessica is one that hit home…nearly 2 years ago! Yes, I first read that post on The Creative Mama in May of 2010. That was my introduction to Jessica. I know she didn’t write it FOR me but I it felt like she did. And my response to that post (which can be seen there) says it.
“Have you been talking to my mom? Did she tell you to write this post as a way to remind me that I need to relinquish the camera more so that I can actually prove I was there at all those fantastic moments – and even some of the just everyday moments? Well…if it wasn’t her that talked you into sending me this subtle message you still spoke so many wonderful thoughts about something I really need to do so much better.”
I immediately LOVED her heart and began following her blog. And I have to say she has lived up to those first impressions. Her words always leave me either inspired, laughing and occasionally crying but the good kind of tears. But most importantly, she is REAL! She doesn’t try to make her life seem perfect, she struggles with things and makes me (and others) feel normal because we share the same struggles of balancing life, marriage, children, work, and photography.
But what really made me realize I was doing something “wrong” was something that happened just before reading Jessica’s post…it just took that post to make it really hit home. I bought a digital frame for my husband for Christmas to have at work and it somehow just stayed in the dining room on the buffet because the kids LOVED seeing the pictures as they flipped by. It’s so fun to see their expressions and hear memories about certain events. My son will often say, “I loved that day…” or “Remember that time…” and then to see their reaction when they realize new photos have been added is so much fun. BUT…my then 6-year-old said, “I loved that day…but you weren’t there mommy so you don’t remember.” It made me sort of chuckle but is mostly made me sad…I reminded him that I was there, after all it was me who took the picture. BUT that comment (his reality) reminded me, yet again, that I need to be in front of the camera more and not always behind it.
Both of our children are adopted (from Foster care – so they’ve had tough starts to life) so I want to continue to do better at documenting more than just THEIR lives but our FAMILY’s life.
So what have I done to fix that? Well, I can’t way I’m a pro at the self-portrait, nor am I great at asking others to take pictures but what I HAVE done is the following: In the past 4 years we have had our family pictures taken professionally 4 times. Once after my son’s adoption, again shortly after our daughter joined our family, then again after the adoption of our daughter and most recently, this past summer while we were visiting with my family in Kentucky so we could have pictures of my mom, my family and my sister’s family. I adore those pictures and memories. I also bought a non-fancy camera for my husband to use because he gets nervous using my “big” camera. This mean I stand a better chance of being in a picture with my kids. I also realize that memories aren’t about mega pixels or f stops, apertures, and fancy lenses…memories and moments happen whether there is a fancy camera within reach or not. But one thing I almost always have on me and can quickly access is my phone’s camera. And quite honestly, some of my favorite moments have been captured this way. This doesn’t mean I am ready to abandon my SLR but it does mean that I stand a better chance of not missing something just because I can’t get to my “real” camera in time. Plus, it means that I can quickly text or email a smile to my family 1000 miles away so they can see something they would otherwise miss as well.
So the fact that I saw and read Jessica’s post nearly 2 years ago has led me to this very moment. I read it, it spoke to me, she responded personally to my post which endeared me to her even more. So I followed her blog and learned more, took her workshop, learned more about an art I already knew I loved. But it gave me a network of others just like me. Women who aspire to many different things in life…some are mom’s, some aren’t but all of which aspire to capture more beautiful and meaningful photos. She also exposed me to Brooke Snow‘s work and workshop. And so it all comes full circle…it doesn’t mean I enjoy having my picture taken any more than I did but at least I appreciate and understand the importance of it. I don’t want my children to look back at pictures from their childhood and say, “Where was Mom?”
I don’t LOVE this picture – but self-love is always a work in progress. Thank you for another reminder and the nudge that there really is an “importance of you” in photographs. I am committed to making this something I do far more often.