For many of us the thought of existing in photographs brings up anxiety. So often I hear from people, especially women, all their hesitations and fears. Insecurities tend to flow so freely from us, thoughts about our weight, our appearance, the cleanliness of the house, the behavior of our children, the opinions of others. We are so quick to define the parameters of acceptability and then carry them around with us like a box we must stay inside of.
I am so guilty of this in my own life. I so often try to see myself through the eyes of my husband because my own eyes are skewed by the fears of my heart. I constantly question if I look right or sound right, am I fun enough or not responsible enough, did I get it “right” today? So I stay small. I keep within my box. Yet, I know deep down life is not meant to be lived in a box, it is meant to be delighted in.
This is why I am so drawn to childhood, because children teach us to delight. Their joy over discovery is unbridled. Ever watch a child touch the ocean for the first time or find a freshly fallen leaf? They light up with awe and wonder. They exist in the moment, learning and daring to dream of whole new worlds.
Documentary photography for me is both freedom and a challenge. It is freedom to see again, to explore the world, to step outside the boundaries I put around myself. However, it is also a challenge to delight in the dailyness of life. Learning to delight means to see the dishes I wash for the hundredth time that week as a beautiful moment. Learning to delight means the walks hand in hand with my husband become cherished memories. It means knowing that when my house is a mess that I can see the home I built with my family and the love that lives within. Learning to delight means that when I see the 30 pounds I want to lose it represents the curves my husband loves and the culinary adventures we have shared together.
In an age where Pinterest perfection dominates it takes courage to see and exist this way. Yet, it is just what we need, just what so many of our hearts long for, to be real, to be known because that is family and that is beautiful. Everyday life is priceless, not perfect.
If I can leave you with one thought it is get in the frame, exist in photographs, participate in the memories, delight in your family. Leave fear and insecurity behind. We will always want to lose 10 pounds or get our houses cleaned up or want our children to “just behave”. Yet, no matter what stage of life we are in, it is fleeting. These moments will someday be just a faded memory. Documenting these moments leaves a legacy for future generations. So when we are asked “what was daddy like as a kid?” or “am I like you were as a little girl?” we can show them. It is a way to be known just as we are. When we look at images from the past we don’t we don’t wonder why grandma didn’t lose weight or why the house we grew up in was a mess. That is because we don’t look at the imperfections; we look at the love, the light, the emotion, and the memories. So hand off that camera, set a self-timer or hire a professional. Whatever it takes, don’t be absent from your family photographs. Because family writes a beautiful story.