Growing up, I remember my mother being very serious about our family photos. Rushing home from work, getting two reluctant kids and a stubborn husband dressed for the big occasion. Jetting over to JC Penney's and arriving just in time to catch a glimpse of the prior family finishing up. How are they dressed? Are the kids crying? Did they bring their dog like I wanted to? Ultimately, we came through for my mom. One of the best parts of visiting her home is seeing ALL of those family photos flood her walls - like no paint showing.
Taking the torch from my mom, my family had our first session a couple years ago. Our photographer was Kate of Betty Clicker. Initially being somewhat reluctant, Kate helped us calm those feelings. Not necessarily with words but with just who she is and her philosophy on capturing moments. Thinking about my experiences, I had a few questions I wanted to ask Kate to shed some light on the evolution of family photography.
Why is family photography an area you chose to pursue?
The short answer is nostalgia. Some of my favorite memories growing up include going through boxes of my dad’s old film scans. Nothing feels more fleeting and important to me than capturing the evolving life of a family and creating images that pull the viewer into a moment in time. And nothing feels more fun + interesting to me than drawing out personality and intuiting a family dynamic.
You photograph a diverse range of families. Have you noticed a common thread regarding family values?
Fortunately I work with families who value photography and the importance of documenting their evolving narrative and the dynamic unique to their family unit. Because of this, I notice a common theme in families wanting to keep things real, let kids be kids, and preserve what it felt like to be together rather than what it looked like.
Since family photography is on the upswing, how do you stay in touch/collaborate with your peers who are also pursuing modern family photography?
Family photography is scattered with multiple personalities. It has developed a reputation of being cheesey, stiff, or overly staged... which far from the reality of family and the human condition. Last year, a few photographer friends + I realized we shared a longing for connection with other family photographers beyond Instagram, Facebook, and the occasional networking group and started The Family Narrative - a workshop for family photographers to take place next week (!!) in New Orleans. We created the workshop with the intent to create a lasting and growing community of family photographers to inspire, learn from and support one another as we try to evolve the narrative in our line of work. We have an inclusive lineup of teachers from all over the USA (+ Canada)
How does collaborating with clients differ from wedding / engagement clients. Is there a different level of input you add?
Fortunately most of the families I work with are repeat clients and my relationship with them evolves as their family grows. Occasionally I have the opportunity to work with previous wedding clients who want to continue documenting their story whether that story involves the couple alone, the couple with pets or the couple with kiddos. The work I do with families is very loosely structured to create room for spontaneity and following along with the mood du jour.
Families have always wanted to capture moments together. Why has this area been somewhat neglected?
Ooh, this one I could really dig into! Insecurity would be my best guess. There’s certainly a time and a place for posed family photography, but I’m not interested in creating images that contribute to a family keeping up appearances. I’d like to think that families are becoming more open to portraits even when things aren’t smooth-sailing and that parents are becoming more open to a photographer documenting their child’s messier moments -stained shirts, temper tantrums- and routines- baths, naps, and meals. Those are the most meaningful memories to be photographed.
If you were planning a shoot for your family what would the mood be?
My husband and I love to cook together. We seem to fall pretty naturally into our own roles in the kitchen, but sharing a task also stirs up our strong personalities- sometimes playfully snippy and often sassy and argumentative. I’d want the mood to be as honest as possible.