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 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 this is what photography is.
And 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.
And it is hard, if not impossible, to realize that one day our child will look for pictures of us. They'll sift through a bazillion younger versions of themselves on our phones and on drives, seeking photos together, not just selfies but photos that align with the memory they have while filling in the memory 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.
We listen to thought leaders who encourage us to be vulnerable and assure us 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 the flaws will disappear with the file.
There's a practice in Japan called kintsugi where gold epoxy is used to mend broken ceramics so that 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, 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 also liquid gold.
This is why I do what I do, because I am always thinking about these complex, beautiful-ugly things. I can 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 and want desperately to collect them all. I am terrible at inserting myself so I write this for me as much as you.
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 in 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 that story later down the line. I want them to draw comfort, to cry and in time, smile.
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 always kintsugi and wabi sabi and life giving. They will pick up every delicious crumb of us that we leave behind. You don't have to put anything on social media right now if you don't want to, you can keep it in a vault if you have to. Just don't wait create more photos where you are the center and learn to make photography a practice. Where we, the parents, are the center.
I'm choosing to share photos here that I believe will have immeasurable meaning to the child/ren in the picture one day and the funny thing is, they are flawless. 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.