Recently, a fellow documentary family photographer and I did a session trade. We swapped an eight hour documentary session of each other’s family. The Hales (that’s us) were up first as we were moving away shortly and Sharon (of Sharon Troy-Baldwin Photography) was able to fit us in before the move. It is something I will be forever grateful for because as a super sentimental and emotional person (I cry watching Christmas ads for not-for-profit organisations or reading about people being kind to each other), I really think it helped me process our move to a new area.
The lead up to our session
I was so excited! I couldn’t wait to see how another photographer photographed my family. Would she see different personality elements in the girls or find pockets of light I had never noticed because I had some ‘go to’ ones at various times of the day? What do I miss noticing because I am in the thick of this thing called parenting?
Then it happened…
All those little thoughts and fears I tell prospective clients to not worry about started creeping in. Worrying about the clutter/size/cleanliness of my our home, wondering if we are even very interesting and can supply Sharon with eight hours of ‘moments’ and thinking about activities and things I could cram in to her time with us, considering whether or not I should pull out a newish/stylish outfit for the girls, searching my brain for a figure flattering outfit and if I should wear makeup even though it is something I usually reserve for weddings. Then I started to
laugh giggle (laugh here has me thinking of something maniacal). If me, ME! – someone who is so supportive and a huge advocate of this approach to photography is having these thoughts creeping in, it is no wonder I field these concerns on every phone call or email at some point before a client session. I will say that now I have an actual understanding of how you feel and will be much more understanding rather than just reiterating a blog post I have drafted that was intended to reassure potential clients that all these issues are of no concern because “the mess is a sign of children and this season of your life” *shudders at that and glad it is still only in a draft phase*.
So what did I do with those creeping, niggling worries? Well, I reminded myself why I was so excited for the session and what I love about documentary photography. The honest depiction of an ordinary day including tears, tantrums and love.
Clutter/size/cleanliness – Not much I can do about the clutter, we have accumulated a fair bit in to our little home. Yeah, there are bigger/cleaner/styled homes out there but this one is ours and it has provided us with shelter, safety and security for 6.5 years. I tidied the house but no more than I would if a good friend was visiting. I have never dusted and I wasn’t going to start now!
Are we even interesting? – *shrugs* I don’t know if we are but I find us interesting and besides, it isn’t really about how dazzling we are to others. These sessions are about capturing the connections and small details of our family as well as the bigger picture. Plus, they are FOR US, not a social media jury who determines the interesting levels of families. We didn’t cram any activities in to the day nor did I suggest things that were out of the ordinary for us.
Clothes – I did not choose, guide or coerce the outfits of anyone in the family and I wore my usual clothes (though I did make sure I wore my flesh coloured bra not a black one under a slightly see-through tshirt). Also, I remembered I never know how to properly apply makeup and always look/feel silly so left that off as well.
During our session
The contact leading up to our session, which involved a decent chat on the phone and a few texts/Fb messages, was invaluable in making that first actual meeting a pretty instant click. Once it started, I felt like I was exaggerating my movements as though I was smiling in a ballet concert again and to be honest, I am not sure if I was or if it was just being self conscious but it didn’t come across as exaggerated in our delivered gallery. While the visit to our local ice cream parlour was spontaneous, it was somewhere we often went and would be our last chance for ice cream before we went away. The girls declined a library visit which was also a favourite hang out but I didn’t push the issue and we went home. Josh had come off a night shift but wanted to be in the pictures so he got up while were out getting Sharon from the train station and eating ice cream which turned out to be up too early and he went back to bed during the session. One of my favourite shots is one that Sharon took of me waking him up a little while later (see below); a common occurrence when he has to sleep through the day and one I have never thought to capture. It wasn’t long in to the session before I felt like we fell in to our normal daily life and even though Sharon interacted and chatted with us I lost that feeling of giving a performance; oftentimes almost forgetting Sharon was there or that she had her camera out.
A beautiful series of images that were true to us. They could be from any December day in that home and many of the images Sharon delivered could be from any day at all. They are a true snapshot of us, not some ‘perfect’ version that was on display for photos. These are the images that I want to look back on. I have found I am now even more of a believer for, and advocate of, documentary family photography than ever before.
If you are in Sydney, I recommend contacting Sharon to document a day in your life.
Want to see a day in my life?
Here is the slideshow Sharon made for us with a small selection of images from the eight hour session. We love it and watch it often.
Image by Sharon Troy-Baldwin Photography
To see the session I did for her family, stick around because a blog post on that is coming soon!