A New Take on Family Photos

Last weekend I had the opportunity to photograph my eighty-seven year old mother-in-law Joan. 

Joan has always been an out-going, life-of-the-party, kind of lady.  And she still is.  But she also has dementia, and some days are better than others.  

The day of the shoot was not a great day for Joan.  She was tired and really just wanted to sit on the couch under some blankets and relax.  She wasn't over excited about being dragged up to the studio.  But we decided to move forward anyway.  We got her ready and sat her on a comfortable stool behind a desk (to give her something to lean on).  I thought perhaps we'd get one or two frames and then let her go back to her comfortable spot on the couch in the lobby.

But as soon as we got her situated and in front of the camera, everything changed.  She sat up straight, talked about her kids (all seven of them), sang songs.... she was herself in a way she hadn't been just minutes before.  Something about the photos brought this out in her, and it was amazing to see and to capture.

Most of my time in the studio is spent photographing newborns and their families.  I love those photos because they capture such a special moment in time. The newness of a relationship that is so unlike anything else.  That sense of wonder and the indescribable love that we all feel for our children. 

But what about the other side of that journey?  When at some point the roles reverse and the child grows into becoming the care giver.  

The love that is there on that end is a different kind of love.  It's the love that has history.  It has a lifetime of stories.  And memories.  And times together.  It's about the love children feel for their parents as well as the love parents feel for their kids.

I think that that was what Joan was responding to the day of our shoot.  

She was there with two of her kids.  They got to sit, with their arms around each other, and talk and laugh and just be.  

Moms and babies.  That is what I photograph.  And as any mother will tell you, your baby is always your baby, no matter how old they are.  And your mom is always your mom.  She's always that person who loved and cared for you, even before she knew who you were.  That relationship is unlike any other we will ever have.  And I'm so honored to be able to capture it at every stage.

Sandra Coan Photography, Families on Film
Sandra Coan Photography, Families on Film
Sandra Coan Photography, Families on Film
Sandra Coan Photography, Families on Film
Sandra Coan Photography, Families on Film
Sandra Coan Photography, Families on Film
Sandra Coan Photography, Families on Film
Sandra Coan Photography, Families on Film

Channeling Richard Avedon

I recently bought myself a present.  A beautiful 1950’s-ish Rolleilfex 2.8.  

My intention when buying the camera was to use it for my personal work.  But then, a few weeks ago, I decided to bring it up to the studio with me and give it a try.  

For ease, I mounted it on a tripod… which is weird, because I never shoot on tripods. Once it was on the tripod, I decided to take it one step further and tethered it to my strobes.

 It looked so cool.   

And having it set up like that, looking all cool, made me feel cool too.  

When my clients arrived and saw the unusual set up,  I told them (kind of jokingly) that I was going to channel my hero,  Richard Avedon, and we got to work.

Now, we all know that shooting film can be slow.  But let me tell you, shooting on a Rolleiflex that is mounted on a tripod and tethered to strobes takes slowness to an entirely new level.

But for some reason, the slowness of it didn’t stress me out.  I enjoyed it.  

My clients and I talked about the camera.  About Avedon, and how he would work.  We talked about their baby and their plans for the day.  It was so relaxing and so enjoyable that I was sad when it was over.  

And the photos were incredible.

Since that session, I have used the Rolleiflex at every newborn shoot I’ve had.  And I think it’s changing my work a little.

Avedon would often set up his camera on a tripod with a shutter release cable and then just talk to his subjects, or tell them stories, or sometimes flat out lies, and wait for the perfect moment before hitting the shutter.  With the Rolleiflex on the tripod, I’m able to do that too.

Sandra Coan Photography, Little Bellows

From my first session on the Rolleiflex.  Acros 100, Richard Photo Lab.

Being able to look a person in the eye, and wait for the natural moment is incredible.  I feel such a connection to my subjects when I’m shooting this way, and I feel like that connection comes through in my images.

So why am I telling you all of this?

Well, partly because I’m just excited and want to talk about it… but partly because I think there is power in trying something new.  

I don’t care how long you’ve been doing what you do, there is always room to grow.  Push yourself.  Experiment.  Allow yourself to be caught up in a moment.   

You may end up loving what comes out of it.

Sandra Coan Photography, Little Bellows

Ilford Delta 3200, Richard Photo Lab

And just incase you need a little extra creative push, our Little Bellows Film Retreat is happening next month.  Registration is closing tomorrow… so now’s your chance!  Sign up today.  Allow yourself to try something new and be inspired.  You won’t regret it!

Joyce's Favorite in Color Film February 2015

As I am sitting here looking through all the beautiful submissions on Little Bellows Facebook Page for this color film favorite blog post, this image by Nicole Lattanzi caught my eye.  Yes, it's about the exposure, the color, the composition, and the light...everything seems to fit well together to create this moment on a frame.  But there is more.  Much more.  It's a piece of childhood, the memory of a time past. Tonight, I witnessed my eldest son welcomed his younger brother into his Boy Scout Troop by placing a Boy Scout neckerchief and a slider around his younger brother's neck.   Where did the time go?  How did I end up with a boy who will "officially" becoming a teenager in exactly 3 months from today?

I can still remember the day when my eldest one was toting around his favorite threadbare lovey without the fear of being "uncool".  The little boy who used to wrap his arms around my neck and gives out loving kisses without the feeling of being embarrassed.    My sweet baby whose favorite TV show was Barney and Cars instead of Nacho Libre.    There used to be just me and him, not world, him and me.

I am trying to hold on...

the more I tighten my grip,

the faster it slips away...

This image reminds me why I am a photographer.  I want to cherish every moment, freeze every memory, soak in every unconditional love... for as long as I can hold on.


Nicole Lattanzi Photography


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