Sometimes you just feel conflicted about something. Personally, my conflict radar is super high, especially when there are one-sided issues where everyone seems to be spewing nasties (i.e. Mylie Cyrus' debut of the earth-shattering "twerk"). My radar is on high-alert when I find myself saying, "I know there's something deeper here." An issue. A moral. A spin. It's typically difficult for me to pin-point what that is, but it keeps my mouth shut when people decide to jump on the "what a depraved world" bandwagon of mockery and judgment. Sometimes I give up, and catch the train as it's leaving the station, but sometimes I wait to see how the situation develops in the hopes that my perspective lightbulb will brighten.
Sometimes I feel this way when it comes to photo shoots. Not portrait sessions, that families and individuals schedule to track the growth and changes in their lives. I'm referring to those planned, "pin"-able stretches of creativity and exploration for portrait photographers. Sometimes I love these sessions. I love them. Sometimes I want to be in these sessions, because they're just plain pretty and look like a good time. All in all, they can be freeing when a photographer feels stuck and lacking in creativity. Sometimes it's that extra shift that a photographer needs to continue to be successful in what they do. I know, because I've done it. It's fun to feel like Annie every now and then! Sometimes, though, it becomes a roadblock to living life fully.
Sessions like these let people look like living spreads in Vanity Fair: a mother cuts through the frosting of a dyed cake, revealing the gender of her unborn child. She smiles, maybe even sheds some tears through her professionally applied make-up, as her husband, dressed like a casual man from the 1920s, hugs her and grins. She twirls, he dips her, it's pure magic. When they kiss, the heavens break, the sun rays shine, and three white doves soar above the scene. Now, on to Facebook, Instagram, and the social media of your choice. Let the "like-shower" begin as the followers decide your image is adequate. Sound familiar?
These moments can be truly fantastic. They might even be exactly what the couple wants, just for themselves. They might add to the experience of being pregnant, and celebrating that long-awaited child. If that's the case: huzzah! I'm not even opposed to photographing these sessions, and I might even find them fun. ;) When I see them though, I can't help but wonder: what did grandma think when she found out her job title just got promoted from mom? What did the maid of honor from their wedding do when she scrolled through the moment on her newsfeed? How did their siblings react when they realized "I get to be the uncle/aunt of this little one?!" and they envision the wisdom they get to pass down?
I want to see that picture. I want to see the open-mouthed smiles of sisters that know they get to spoil a little girl, the tear tucked in the corner of a newly pronounced grandfather's eye who can dream of "showing the ropes" to the next generation, the face of a mother that now knows her daughter gets to share in the joy of parenting a little darling. These moments stir my heart. They propel me forward. They give me a reason to keep on shooting. Even when so many things seem meaningless.
My radar was blaring, because these moments that should have been rich and full of life, that should have been candid, were suddenly contrived. Life-altering moments are airbrushed, consumed, and filed away. Moments that are intended to add to the experience, oddly enough, dilute it. So next time you feel the urge to have a session to mark a change in your life, and your mind is struck with creativity, think about the people you really care about. Think about how much they will love to hear it from you, personally. Maybe instead of planning a photo shoot, make a phone call, or better yet, plan a party. And don't forget to hire a photographer. :)
Plan a party not a photo shoot.
That felt super serious, so I'm ending with a film selfie.
I only say these things, because it's so important to me that people don't miss out on the lives put before them. At the end of the day, do whatever floats your dang boat. Dress like Daisy and Gatsby, and pretend things went well for them. Photograph it and feel beautiful! Just so long as you remember what really matters at the end of the day, when your hairstyle is washed out, and you have a ketchup stain on your dress. I'm going to let you decide what that is for yourself.
In the meantime, have a great Friday everyone and give June a happy hello!