Why I love to photograph real life


Imagine when you look at the pictures of your children, when they’ve left home and gone on to life their own lives.  What is it you want to feel when you look at them?

I know what I’d like, I want to be transported back to that time, so I can remember, just for a moment exactly how it felt to have those little people in my life.  I want to remember the games they played and the things we did together at the weekends, I want to remember them laughing together and the way they clung to their dad’s legs when he came in from work.

I’ve got nothing against portraits with a white backdrop, if that’s your bag then go for it.  But I know for me, that would mean nothing.

What memory is that?  ‘Oh there’s that time we dragged the kids to a studio and they wouldn’t smile and the little one did a poo, and the eldest child cried, and then dad fell into the backdrop’  We’ve never done a studio shoot, but I can pretty much guarantee that’s how it would go.  And I don’t know about you, but that’s not something I’d really want to remember, even if we were all grinning like cheshire cats.

So, when I photograph families I take time to get to know them, what they love to do together, what they want from these photos. The first 10 minutes of the shoot I don’t even take any photos I just chat and talk to the kids about what they want to do that day.  We might have a few natural type portraits of you all together but the rest of the time I’m just photographing you in a moment of your life, that you will want to remember.  I often get a very emotional response from people when they first see their photos and I think that’s because these are emotional photos, something captured that is more than just a set of photos, it’s your memories, your feelings, a section of your lives and your children, just as they were once upon a time, and that surely is the most beautiful thing.

When I look at that photo above I see my son, starting to get more grown up, his independence and determination growing by the day.  I see the pile of junk in our garden, that the kids play on everyday, I see my broken old stereo from when I was a kid.  I hear my partner and I talking about doing a tip run and then instead shoving another broken item behind the shed.  I see my son wearing his favourite dinosaur toy and his scuffed shoes.  I see how we let our kids take risks and run free. I see that moment in our lives that will be nothing but a distant memory in a few years. It’s more than just a photo to me, it’s a complete story.

That is why I will always choose to photograph real life, over staged moments.  Because as families, those really are the things that matter, these fleeting moments that make us so happy. our stories are the things we will want to remember when we are older.

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