If you had seen us last month on a certain weekday morning, you would have seen a complete mess. Rick and I being snippy with each other, our boys refusing to nap and going crazy, running through the mall looking for outfits for our family photos later that day, showing up late for my hair and makeup appointment – and me almost in tears by the time we arrived at our shoot. As we pulled up I thought to myself, “Is this what’s it’s like for our clients?!?!” I remember back when I used to be a 120 pound track star and run 50 miles a week, and even though so much has changed since then (getting married, having babies, being a busy small business owner) sometimes, inside, I still feel like that person that I used to be. I feel skinny and in shape and sexy and all of those things I used to feel back when they were true…and then I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. And I see a body that has nurtured three babies and hasn’t hit the gym consistently in years, complete with stretch marks and cellulite and a double chin and all of the things that seem to come with getting older and being a busy mom. And to be honest, those things really don’t bother me very much on a daily basis, because Rick tells me I’m beautiful every single day and I believe him – but I have to admit there’s a special kind of fear that hits me when I have to step in front of the camera. Because when I look at photos of myself those imperfections are the only things that I see. Like most moms, I look at photos of my family and my eye goes straight to my own image, analyzing it for extra weight or that double chin that I hate so much…and if I feel like I don’t look good I immediately don’t like the photo – regardless of how the rest of the family looks. And sometimes I find myself thinking horrible thoughts, like, do I really look that bad??
I pride myself on being passionate about creating memories for people through photography, but the truth is, I rarely feel up to stepping in front of the camera to create my own memories for my family. We’ll do photos in the spring once I’ve lost 15 pounds. I’ll just take photos of the kids today, I don’t need to be in them – they don’t need to see me like this. And the worst part is that on a daily basis our clients confide in me that they feel uncomfortable or awkward getting in front of the camera, or that they never like how they look in photos, and I easily and quickly reassure them, telling them to just be prepared to enjoy their shoot and that we’ll take care of all of the rest. I find it absolutely effortless to convince someone else of how important it is for them to exist in photos, but the truth is I find it almost impossible to convince myself. And that makes me feel like a big fat hypocrite (no pun intended).
The crazy thing is that my boys adore me just how I am. When they see me first thing in the morning or when I walk through the door in the evening after being at the studio all day – I’m met with a flurry of footsteps running down the hall and a joyous chorus of “Mama, mama!!!” and I’m attacked with hugs and kisses, and they look at me like I’m the most magical thing they’ve ever seen. When I come out of my room in a skirt or dress, Dylan dances around me and tells me that I’m the prettiest mama in the whole world. They don’t see my imperfections. They see the warm body that’s nurtured them, they see the arms that hold them tight when they need me, they see the face that nuzzles theirs every evening while we snuggle on the couch before bed, they see the smile that makes them happier than any smile in the whole world. I wish sometimes that I could see myself the way that Rick and the babies see me.
All of that aside, I mustered up the courage to get in front of the camera with our family last month, and let me tell you…
Photography is magic.
I mean, to be able to create a permanent memory of a single day, a single moment in time – to hold that photo in your hand knowing that 50 years down the road, whether you’re still on this earth or not, your kids will be able to hold that same photo and to remember how it felt to be on the beach with you that day. For them to have the chance to see how you looked at them with such adoration when they were just 3 years old, and to remember how much you loved them. To see their hand in yours and remember how their little palm felt pressed against your skin. To remember that one crazy summer when their parents drove them 3,000 miles across the country and you all camped in the Washington wilderness for 3 months straight. Imagine, if I were gone tomorrow, how priceless those photos would be to them and their little hearts.
I look at these photos and I see an amazing man who has given me all the love in the world, and two perfect babies with one more on the way, and the beauty of our relationship blows me away. I look at these photos, and it brings me right back to the Pacific Northwest, where we grew our business together, where our boys were born in the comfort of our little historic home, and where I think the weather is perfect. I can feel little Trevor’s hands in mind, those tiny little fingers that will never again be as small as they were that day. I can see Dylan’s grumpiness on his face in the few photos he would cooperate for, and it’s perfect because that is SO him when we try to take photos of him – he’s as stubborn as his mama. I can feel the way my baby belly felt that day, the tightness under my hands and little kicks and tumbles going on inside throughout the shoot, and that’s extra special because I know that this is probably the last time I’ll be pregnant. I look at these photos and they make me feel beautiful and proud, with my pregnant belly and my family around me.
A couple of years ago we were out on a shoot in Seattle when we happened to walk by another husband/wife team heading out on their own shoot with their own clients. And there was just something about them. We all stopped at the same time, we introduced ourselves awkwardly, exchanged cards, and moved on with our day. Later that night we connected with them, and it turns out that that chance meeting in the park that day has led to a wonderful friendship between our families – including picnics at the beach that end with all the kids swimming in their underwear and late night dinners having passionate talks about the ups and downs of our businesses. It was such an honor to have them photograph us this summer – and although I’ve tried today I know it’s impossible to put into words what these photos mean to us. What an incredible gift our friends Joe & Patience have given us through these images. What an incredible gift we give to the people we photograph… What a beautiful family I have. What a beautiful wife and mother I am.
And a couple of shots of our families together after the shoot…what a wonderful industry we work in where the photographers up the road turn into your lifelong friends…