Just as you are and why I love it

Just as you are.

It sounds pretty simple but at times it can feel far more complex than we’re really willing to admit.

When it comes to photographing my own family I have journeyed through “this is how I’m supposed to do it” to “this is how I want to do it” and the resounding answer is JUST AS YOU ARE.

Why? Because I see this as our most beautiful selves, when we can be just as we are without pressure to behave in a certain way, dress a certain way or even look a certain way. We can go about our daily lives and photograph that it in all its glory, mess and quirkiness.

Ultimately what I am most passionate about is being our selves because there’s no one else we can be, and isn’t it awkward, time consuming, difficult to try and be something we are not.

My number 1 goal is to document as honestly and respectfully as I can. This is not without it’s challenges, for example I am torn about documenting things like tantrums (although these feelings are valid is it necessary to document it? maybe I should be as it brings about more societal acceptance that it’s ok for small children to feel upset about different things - to them it IS important)

I hope through my work we can collectively (myself included) reframe our ideas of what family photography is and what is worthy of being photographed. And to also really embrace the multifaceted dimensions of life and all the complexities and simple joys it brings.

I spent a rainy Saturday morning with this gorgeous wee girl and her Mum who are dear friends of mine. We had a loose idea of some activities that we thought would be fun to document (making pancakes, getting ready for ballet, crafting etc) but litte Miss had other ideas. From brushing her teeth in a variety of colourful hats, masks and crowns, to an all out dance/gymnastic bonanza to the Moana soundtrack, we had so much fun!

The Pineapple Shorts

When I first started photographing our everyday moments I was drawn to the work of other photographers work as inspiration. In the work I was drawn to the children were beautifully styled and colour co-ordinated in their outfits and it all looked so adorable. I wanted my images to look as beautiful and I thought the key was in my styling. I began purchasing clothes for my eldest (I was pregnant at the time with my second son) that followed a muted colour palette, that were classic in design and that could be easily mixed and matched to what I owned. If I knew we were going somewhere that would provide a great photo opportunity I would purposefully attempt to dress my son in the clothes I had set aside as being photography worthy. As he was only 2 he didn’t care what he wore, apart from some exceptionally itchy woollen jumpers he was quite happy to be dressed and styled by me.

The problem was my pictures were still not great. I found the pressure of having the “right” outfit washed and ready for him to wear was stressful, my husband was quietly surprised at my insistence on specific clothing for our son, and worst of all I started to run out of ideas of what to dress him in.

One day my husband told me a story. When he was about 6 or 7 he had a pair of bright yellow shorts with tiny pineapples printed all over them. He loved his shorts so much that he wore them every single day for the entire summer, and even when they grew too tight and too short he still insisted on wearing them. For him these shorts were the best item of clothing he owned and all these years later he still remembers them with great affection.

In that moment I realised that I didn’t want to continue on this track of trying to style my children’s outfits with my own or the setting I was planning on taking photos in. I didn’t want the responsibility of thinking about all the elements that would have to come together to make a “perfect” picture, but more than that I wanted my children’s personalities to shine through the photos I was taking. In my husband’s story of his beloved pineapple shorts, the shorts were a representation of his personality and despite adult disapproval over the colour/style/continuous wear he LOVED those shorts. I want to remember my children’s clothing quirks, their favourite t-shirts, hats or shoes. I want to remember how they learnt to dress themselves and chose “odd” outfits for the season or event. I want to remember those things because it’s a reflection of them but also because it’s a nostalgic feeling touching on our own childhood.