What is Documentary Family Photography
Over the last few years, I have started to realize that things change. I don’t see myself as a different person than the one I was about seven years ago, but my daughter is already 1,3 m tall, and she didn’t exist seven years ago. So.. time is definitely passing by. Couple years ago, with that whole “the times they are a changin” thought in my head I was at my folks place, and I somehow gravitated towards an old green box full of pictures. Going through them I had realized that the photographs I have the most connection to, the ones that means something to me are not the perfect ones when I and my family stand in line in front of a camera but the ones that my dad took with his old Zenit camera when no one was looking. Not the “stand here sweetie, look at me for a moment” vacation pictures, but the ones where I can see my old home, the old garage in the backyard that no longer exist, the way my old room looks like and my family looking…normal. My pictures are not the same since that moment. I have decided to step away from the traditional family portraits for myself and my clients as well and move to a documentary style photography.
So What is Documentary Photography?
It’s a form of photography used to chronicle events or environments both significant and relevant to history and historical events as well as everyday life. Also, the general rule of thumb is photos are being created with no photographer interaction. So no one tells anyone what to do and where to stand.
This is the kind of photographs we usually see from serious photographers covering serious social and political topics and travel photographs documenting the life of different cultures somewhere far away. More and more photographer adapted the style and approach when it comes to wedding photography to the point that unposed, candid and real moments from the wedding are now a must have for your wedding album. But for some reason, people tend to write off this shooting style so quickly when it comes to photographing other aspects of life. Especial family.
I did ask more than a few people about their favorite memories shared with their families. I love some of the answers, and I have the to admit that I anticipated a little that lots of them would be about something seemingly not special. Not big events and holidays but those tiny little moments that are so important to us later on.
1st trip to the beach with the eldest child. Sunny day and Chloe amazed at the texture of sand.
Normal summer day that we spend having fun and when we came back home we felt exhausted and happy at the same time
All the children in my family playing lava floor.
I wake up in the morning and I can smell the fresh coffee my mom is making in the kitchen, I hear the radio playing, and I know she will wake me in 5 min.
Documentary family photography ( Let’s call it Day in Life sessions from now on ) are a way for your family to revisit what your life was like then. Almost transport you back to that moment in time. I believe that documentary session preserves history. The history that will be looked at years and years later. Day in the Life sessions are a cure for bad memory ( check out nr 5 in the 10 doubts that are stealing your memories) and allow you and your family to return to moments otherwise forgotten.
How does it work?
Think of me as your private photojournalist. I will spend time with you and your family taking pictures of what typically goes unphotographed. Your children waking up, brushing their teeth, messing around the table while eating breakfast, playing puzzles, watching telly together. Doing absolutely “nothing”. That nothing that will be everything to you in 15-20 years when your daughter will be moving out to college or your son will proudly present his wife’s pregnant belly. I’m not going to lie. I want the future you to cry looking at those photographs 🙂
I know lots of people think that that life is not exciting, but that’s not true. The dynamic of your family is unique. Your everyday traditions, habits, routines. There’s no other family like that. I’ll say it again. I believe that the most significant days of our lives are disguised in routine and monotony. That there is magic in the mundane and beauty in the chaos if we are just willing to stop and recognize it. My mission is to tell a story about your family and preserve those meaningful pieces of your everyday life.
There will be some good moments, some hilarious moments, tender moments and possibly a tantrum ( please, please let it be a tantrum, there are always some great photographs there 😉 But in the end, you will have real unposed pictures that will forever remind you what your life use to look like.
We think that life that we live right now is the life that we are going to have forever. We know it will change a little, but more or less it will remain the same. So it’s so easy to take everything for granted. The ordinary day’s that starts with helping your children brush their teeth and ends with a story time under a blanket. Somewhere during the day there is a walk in the park, a crayon drawing to hang on the fridge or maybe a board game. Countless yoga classes, and football classes, and drama classes. Knee scratches, smudged finger marks on the mirror, and school runs. So many schools run.
There are good days and bad days. Ear aches and sore throats, a best friend who got mean for now reason, dead goldfish, chicken pox and so many brother and sister fights. But mostly the days seems consistent, solid, stable; Life is what it is.
But eventually, things will get different. The change will probably slowly sneak in without being seen. Toy cars disappear from the hall ( kind of like you always wanted but different), no more smudged finger marks on the mirror. A bedroom door that has always been open quietly closes. And you will realize that the last piggyback ride was over five years ago and that there is not going to be a next one.
I believe that we need to savor every minute of the life we have right now. Every family dinner. Every cup of cacao. Possibility to say goodnight in person. Because any moment now, you’re going to be hugging a daughter who’s turned into a woman. Or standing on tiptoe, saying good-bye to a son who’s suddenly six-feet tall, and heading off to a college halfway across the country. I believe that the life is happening here and now.
I believe that those perfectly ordinary days are what is it all about.