Why I Have a Documentary Approach to Photography

There is something about looking at old family photos that I have always adored.

Some of my fondest memories are of my mom and sisters sitting on mom's bed with shoe boxes and albums full of photos. Laughter always illuminated the room in those hours and things like "Wow, Dad's shorts were REALLY short!" or "Oh, that was my favorite house we lived in! I remember that room!" were often mentioned. In my adoration of those hours and desire to continue having "all the feels", I begged and begged my parents for a camera. Finally, the day came and I didn't realize it then, but my heart was being prepared to do exactly what I do today. I had zero desire to pose anyone or ask anybody to move, by nature I just observed and documented what I saw in front of me.

I didn't realize it then, but one day I would look back and cherish these (non-typical) family photos.  

I, to this day, take time to go through those old photos that I took with my first camera. I recently came across a photo of my father's hands cutting wood. Just a mere photo of his hands doing woodwork and instantly I could smell the saw dust. The gorgeous sunlight peeking in from the window onto the project piece warmed my heart. I closed my eyes and I was standing there, I mean I was completely taken back to that memory. That one image prompted a memory that I ( otherwise ) would not have probably been able to pull out of my banks! Not only that, I showed it to my daughter and was able to tell her how her Pop-Pop loves doing wood work and how absolutely talented he is at it! She was so enthralled by it all, and there I was in a moment with my own sweet girl. Shoebox full of not just photos, but memories, stories, our family history. I unknowingly continued on in this approach of photography in my personal life. 

When I first started my photography business, it all felt so official, I was wet behind the ears and so I was grasping at anything to build my portfolio. I desired to find my place in this very saturated industry. Right off the bat, I found a few things rang true: 1. Posing people felt incredibly awkward and 2. The photos that were most emotionally evoking were always my "outtakes" or practice shots (aka: candids). Now, I'm not saying that posed photos are awkward - they are gorgeous! I am simply stating that for me, as a photographer, it was not an area I was extremely skilled in. Can I do it? Absolutely! Does it give me all the feels and spark a flame? Do I get my best work out of those types of images? Not really.

Sure - it seems simple: grab a camera, group some people together or just plop a newborn infant on a beanbag and BAM - you got it! Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. This could not be further from the truth! It takes skill and talent. ( So be sure to give your portrait photographer a hug ). The area I have found is my strength, is exactly what I ( unknowingly ) have been practicing almost my entire life - documenting and storytelling. See, there are posed ( portrait ) and 'un-posed' ( documentary ) types of photos! 

My strengths lie not in 'styling' family portraits, but in capturing family memories

I was then introduced to the world of Birth Photography, which only reaffirmed my love for this official documentary/storytelling approach to photography. Be still my heart! It also showed me that this is where my heart sparks flame. I mauled it over, still unsure of whether I wanted to full force move forward with this approach until something happened.

I came across this one image...

There is nothing special about this day, it was not a birthday or a holiday. It was an ordinary day. I just on a whim decided to do an impromptu photoshoot of my sweet girl napping. Nothing crazy at the beach or stylized for a brand... just her ( 20 minute ) nap. 


Can I just tell you, when I saw this image my eyes welled with hot tears I did not know were waiting to pour from the depths of my heart.

I look at this image and do you want to know where my memory takes me? 

It takes me to the time I was a new first-time mom, trying to find my place, not knowing if I was getting this 'parenting thing' right. I can see my self three years ago laying there, snuggling that sweet baby. I can feel the texture of the sheets. I can smell the baby smell on top of her head that was quickly fading. I can see her opening her eyes from that nap and giving me a huge smile and in that smile I was always reassured I was doing something right.

So there you have it, this is why I became a documentary photographer... because

"The days are long but the years are short." - Gretchen Rubin

These are the memories I know I personally live for, and so I want to provide you the ability to have the memories you cherish most preserved. 

Whether it be nap time. Whether it be snuggling your sweet newborn. Whether it be the birth of your child. If it is important to you, it is important to me to capture it. I have made it my new mantra:

I don't take pictures. I capture memories. 



You may also like: