It's true. When it comes to photographing your family, you are the best photographer.
Photography is more about connection and story than it is about technique. Surely, knowing a thing or 27 about light and camera settings makes a difference. It is far more important, however, to illicit a response from a photograph. It's much more important to be able to lead someone to an emotion.
You can do that better than I because you have intimacy with your family I do not.
I've been teaching and mentoring more than I've been the sole photographer for families, and it feels right. Being able to sit down with a family in the hospital over coffee, tea, and a tray from the cafeteria to talk about how they can tell their stories - their individual stories and their family's story - is a wonderful thing. We talk about basics. We talk about creativity. We talk about storytelling. They create with me alongside them while I encourage and ask questions.
Teaching in this way is more about proposing a concept and exploring different paths rather than saying "this is how to do this."
What I see in these families is confidence. It's respite from worry and fear. It's joy, love, and lightheartedness. It's curiosity.
And when they see what they have created, it's stunning. They make striking images because they have so much to say. Because it's hard to find the words, sometimes it feels like the message or the story isn't worthy.
It's there. All it needs is a way out. It needs a tool. Photography can do that. You can hold a camera and release a shutter.
This image was created by a nine-year-old boy who was an inpatient at the children's hospital. His family had brought several items from home to help his room feel personal. He photographed every little thing he could find. He also photographed the collection of shoes from his parents and siblings. They kept changes of shoes in his room so they could be comfortable when they visited.
What story do you have to tell and when will you begin? I'll have an online course as well as an in-person workshop coming soon to help you document your remarkable, exceptional family.
These are the last cookies my grandmother made.
She always had a container of cookies in her freezer. Always. In college I would visit her once a month or so and one of the first things she did was pull out cookies from the freezer. Then she wanted to fix a plate of food and start my laundry.
I remember making cookies with her in her galley kitchen, standing on a stepstool to reach the counter.
Every occasion had a cookie to match. The really special occasions also included pie. This container held so many dozens of cookies in the freezer over the years.
Last week, my mother and one of my aunts pulled this container out of the freezer for the last time. The cookies sat on the counter, next to the small bag of peanut butter cups that became the last "food" my grandmother could stand to eat.
Her legacy is so much more than cookies. Oh, she was a strong woman. She was thoughtful and forthright. Gentle and firm. Gracious. Supportive. A miracle worker with plants.
She was the keystone. She didn't want to be the center of anything, and yet she was the center of everything in her quiet way. The kitchen was the center of her home. How appropriate that this humble container of cookies would move me.
Family gathered here for birthdays, anniversaries, and just because. They spilled out onto the covered porch, children running in and out while adults shared stories over beer. There were cookies every time. Cookies and Grandma.
This kitchen, this container, this countertop, and these cookies contain so many memories of her. I'm so glad I get to keep those, no matter where I am.
I see a lot of incredible moments of the human experience while being with families in love and grief. From each family I learn, and those lessons and points to ponder are what I wish to share with you here.