on preparing for a family photojournalism session

yesterday our family was photographed by the talented suzanne gipson. she came and did a storytelling session in our home, photographing us as we went about all the usual sorts of activities: waking up from naps, drawing, playing trains, sitting on the front porch drinking lemonade, prepping dinner, tickling and wrestling on the bed, etc. etc. it was a session a lot like what i do for others, with one of the primary goals  being to keep things real and to create a snapshot of life as it is for our family in this particular season of life in our own context. 

when i do these sessions for others, i hope that they'll be able to relax and trust. i hope that they won't feel the need to get new clothes, and i certainly don't want them to coordinate the wardrobe amongst the entire family. i hope they'll leave some of their messes visible and not compulsively clean up all evidence that a real, living and breathing family lives in their home. i hope that they will somehow supernaturally be able to trust that not only will i not be put off by their imperfections but that i will also actually LOVE them; that i will be even more endeared to them for having been allowed to see and include their messes and their grown-out haircuts and their stained t-shirts. from where i stand -- which is behind the camera -- i am more than comfortable with their human-ness. 

so it was a little surprising to find in myself a compulsive desire to tidy up our house, to hide the objects that i don't really like, to get my son's hair cut, and to choose clothes carefully. confession: i actually even went to a resale store and bought "new" outfits for the kids. confession: hazel and gus both had haircuts the day of. confession: tim and i have been konmarie-ing the heck out of our house for weeks. confession: i put on some very light make-up (whereas usually i wear none). 

i was feeling a little embaressed about this. it was as if i couldn't practice what i was preaching to all my clients. i myself was having difficulty trusting that Suzanne could and would see beauty and make magic out of all our raw material.

but now i see that all these things -- the tidying/discarding, the haircuts, and the buying of some fall clothes -- needed doing anyway, and would have been done eventually. yet, we definitely were fueled toward getting them done quickly, with the due date being the date of our sessions. and maybe that's not all bad. as for the make-up... well, i'm justifying that one by saying it will make my face "pop" a bit more on film. ;)

here's the important thing: the way our family and our house looked the day Suzanne came to photograph us was not formed to match some idealized Pinterest board. the clothes and the haircuts were all characteristic of the style we tend toward and lifestyle that we live; they were not inauthentic.

a (raw, unedited) screen shot Suzanne sent me of one very real family moment from our session : the one in which Gus laid on top of Walt's head, while Hazel drove a train over his back. that's my arm in the top right, sweeping in to pull Gus off his brother's face lest he suffocate him. 

a (raw, unedited) screen shot Suzanne sent me of one very real family moment from our session : the one in which Gus laid on top of Walt's head, while Hazel drove a train over his back. that's my arm in the top right, sweeping in to pull Gus off his brother's face lest he suffocate him. 

so maybe that's the main thing: to somehow stand determined to be who you really are as a family, even if that presentation is a TOUCH more put-together than it normally is. for if we try to become something other than what we are, we aren't really capturing family history at all, are we? the moment we try to conform ourselves to an idealized vision of Happy Family, that's the moment we start losing ground in the goal to record our family history, and to hold in a collection of images the unique and perfectly imperfect chaos of our real life.

i still sorta wish i had left a few more messes around for suzanne. and if i had it to do over, i might have skipped the make-up.