I have been told that my personal philosophy about photography is illuminating, so I want to share it with you. It can be summed up in this quote and how it relates to photography.
What we yearn for as human beings is to be visible to eachother–Jacqueline Novogratz
I know how strong this yearning is. I have seen it on many trips to the developing world (where cameras are not commonly found in family homes) and nearly everyone jumps at the opportunity to be photographed–even though they don’t know me and will never see the printed photo. This one was taken in Uganda:
I know this because children as young as 18 months come over to look at their own images on the back of my camera and shriek with delight when they find themselves in the LCD.
I know this because my own mother has a wall full of family photos spanning generations–many of people she never met but nonetheless make up part of our collective family story. I have spent a lot of time looking at that wall. There is a photo on that wall that, to me, looks just like my aunt, but is my grandmother. On the day that she began her 63 year marriage to my grandfather. Although I was lucky enough to have both of them around well into adulthood, the photo is of people I never knew. It was decades until we met. I can see their youthful beauty and their young love. I can see the resemblances that they passed on to their children and grandchildren. I can compare it to the wedding photos of my own parents and sister (my grandmother was able to attend that wedding about 70 years later) and watch the generations unfold.
And this leads me to the question, who are your photos really for? In the short term they show off how adorable your children are–a super special purpose, but it goes so much deeper. Photos remind you of how much they have grown. They recall for you their baby cheeks and toothless grins, and also your first amazement for and love of them. But that is only their first important role. The child in that photo will be lucky enough to have a record of their own development–to know that they were seen. Good photographs not only show the unique attributes of the individual, they show tell us something about their developmental stage. Give a child insight into their grandparents, show them their father as an awkward teenager, or how much their baby looks like their mom as a baby. My favorites often show special connections and relationships, capturing moments in which future-you can see how much you were adored, how others delighted in you. And, eventually, generations you cannot yet dream will look at them as cherished possessions.
This is how photography works to satisfy the most basic human yearning.
To illustrate I have put together a collection of photos from one family who I have worked with over the years since they welcomed twins into their lives, think about what a treasure they will be for generations: (and Stay tuned to the blog! On Friday I will have a super special announcement about how you can make another family feel seen!)
My how they grow!