shooting family photos how it felt — our family vacation
My one rule when shooting my family photos on vacation this summer was to shoot only what moved me emotionally. My images were shot with a small point and shoot film camera. I chose to bring that camera for many reasons, but mostly because its simple. There is freedom in simplicity. Having only one tool allows me to explore my creativity in ways I might not when faced with many technical choices. The more I limit my choices with tools or technology, the more my creative choices expand.
I did not feel compelled to document our entire vacation or to get particular landmarks or stories into our images. There were many moments and times the camera sat inside my bag while I enjoyed (or not enjoyed.. let’s be real) my time with my family. My goal was only to capture the moments that evoked strong emotion in me and hope that lead to images showing the authentic “us”.
A strong buzz word in photography is authentic. What people mean by authentic varies considerably. Authentic may mean a strictly documentary approach to some — where no one ever poses and the real actions of the family members are captured. Other photographers may argue that authentic family photographs should be posed and directed to try to condense and capture the real feelings the family members have for each other. Both answers can be true.
But to me, authentic means how it felt. My feelings can be evoked by tangible things. Light and color and blur and motion all convey emotion to me. Much more so that a technically perfect sharp image. I don’t know why. Is it just me? Perhaps. But its also why I am drawn to modern art — especially color field pieces. I can feel so much in the combining of colors and light and the brush strokes, more than I feel looking at a perfectly portrayed portrait or landscape.
Like all people, I have a long and tangled and crazy past filled with sadness and joy and loss and life and all the things that people go through in this life. My daily experience can be chaotic and shot through with unexpected paralyzing sadness or fear but also brilliant blasts of joy and love and sometimes both all at once. And that is what I want to convey – those moments of deep feeling. Its the way the light looks coming through a window that fills me with a strong gratitude for that moment. It is the the blonde curls on my youngest head as he plays on the beach that evoke my deep love for him.
These feelings eclipse the authentic but yet numbing daily grind of our life — the dirty dishes, the arguing, the playing, the boredom and endless piles of laundry — and distill it to the essence. At least to the essence I feel. And really all I can do with my photography is attempt to capture this essence that I feel. I am shooting it for me. I am capturing the way I felt in that moment, the sudden burst of joy or gratitude or connection I felt in that tiny moment — essentially just a few seconds.
Sometimes I force a pose or ask someone to hold a moment to capture that moment, the way I felt seeing it. Sometimes I catch it quickly. Sometimes I see it in the blur of colors and the steaks of light that can convey more easily to me those feelings than any technically correct image ever could. I just followed my one rule and threw out all the others.
A little bit of backstory: We traveled from Maui to Portland to Seattle to Canada (making it just across the border to a small beach town called White Rock) back to Seattle (where my husband and Noa flew home) then me the girls took the train to San Francisco for doctors appointments and family things then back to Maui. My interpretation of the trip and our family are of course informed by my personal perspective and all the backstory and history surrounding my family history including pretty much any issue you can name. It was imprinted also by the absence of my oldest son.
I guess what I am asking is can you see what I see? Am I alone in this? Can my images convey the feelings I felt to others?
Klasse W | Kodak Film |Goodman Film Lab