The Importance of Getting in the Photo

I first met Carrie Geddie at the very first Little Bellows Film workshop several years ago. And instantly I knew she was someone I wanted to get to know more. Fortunately, I've been able to see her and connect more with her several times since. She is a kind soul with an amazing heart and huge talent. Today she is our guest contributor with an important and special post. Read Carrie's words below. (And then take her advice.)

With Mother's Day on Sunday, we have a chance to reflect not only on motherhood, but how we document the mother-child relationship through our art.  I think we commonly look at motherhood photography from the point of view of mom.  Mom is the one that hires us for the session, plans it out, and pays us.  She is our client, right?  Yes, but there is another important point of viewpoint that we often forget - that of her kids.

Right now you probably think I'm crazy.  Kids don't care about the photos!  And maybe you're correct.  Babies and toddlers are certainly not thinking about the photos they'll have after the session, and most school-aged kids probably aren't either (although my boys love to look at the photos we take together!)

What I mean when I talk about point of view is to consider what the images you create today will mean to those children when they become adults.  I always tell my clients that yes, the images we create are for them now, but they are really for their children in the future.

I lost my mother to colon cancer in 2000 when she was only 57 years old.  I wouldn't wish losing a parent on anyone, and I've learned in the years since that it doesn't really matter how old you are when it happens, losing your mom is hard.  While my mom and I were incredibly close, I've also realized that even if you're estranged from your mother, death is final and there are no more chances to change the relationship.  So while my mom's death has undoubtedly been the hardest thing I've gone through, it has also formed me as a mother - and as a photographer.

Not too long ago, I went through our family photo albums in my dad's attic.  I remember these photo albums from my childhood.  On a hot summer day, I'd wander bored into my dad's office and start pulling them off the shelves.  My mom had meticulously put together an album of my dad's family photos from when he was a child, another of her childhood pictures, and then made several albums of our family memories from years of vacations, birthdays, and other milestone events. 

One afternoon last year, I set about to go through the albums again, hoping to find some fun pictures of my mom and I when I was a kid to show my boys.  I found three.  Three.  Oh sure, there were group photos and lots of photos of me with my dad (because my mom was often behind the camera - does this sound familiar?).  But there were only three of just the two of us. 

When I talk to clients or friends (or anyone who will listen, really), I tell them this story.  It is my WHY and it drives me to document those little moments between moms and kids.  I don't share this story with them because I want them to hire me, but because it is so important they think about the creation of family memories from their kids' perspective, too.  As photographers, we create a tangible print or album that a client can hold in their hands.  And when her children stumble on those boxes of prints or albums in the attic years later, they will see their mother's love for them, her touch, and all the hope she had for them.  They will see the sacrifices she made and the way she made them laugh.  How she supported and encouraged them, as only she knew how.

If you think about this perspective when you work with your family clients, I hope your work will take on a richer meaning.  The good thing about it is that you don't have to actually BE a mother to understand it, you just have to have had one yourself.

I know that as photographers, we are usually behind the camera.  I am guilty of this myself.  But as you celebrate Mother's Day on Sunday, I encourage you to get in front of the camera with your kids.  Set up your camera on a tripod with the self-timer, hand the camera over to someone else (hey, full auto mode was invented for a reason), or use a selfie stick, I don't care.  Just start to create that tangible legacy not only for yourself, but for them.