By Ashley Manley on | No Comments
Confession: The last time I had professional photos taken were my senior pictures in 2002. Did you just gasp and fall over dead?! Let me explain.
I’ve always been a documenter of life, filling scrapbooks and albums since I was a teen, but before I personally became a photographer, the idea of hiring to take photos of me was very strange—unnecessary almost. At my wedding (before I knew documentary photography was a thing) a hobbyist friend of ours did our photos after I asked if she would be up for a “no posing approach.” She sweetly agreed. And while I’m now exposed to the beautiful and talented wedding photographers because I’m in the industry, I actually have no regrets on that decision because the photos she took are a treasure to me and in some ways are part of my own photography journey.
Once I learned photography and became passionate about it, specifically documentary photography, I became picky and a little crazy…the idea of trusting someone else to capture things the way I wanted them was totally unnerving to me. I know I sound crazy, and every year I would tell myself, “This is the year I hire a photographer!” but every year would pass and I would chicken out, scared I would be too critical or unhappy passing the torch. I don’t even think I’m exaggerating when I say, if I was getting married now, I’d literally find a way to play bride and photographer because I’m that insane. My poor husband, right? Don’t worry, this story has a happy, less crazy-person, ending. After years of thinking I have to do it all and nobody could be trusted to capture our story, I finally relaxed.
Meredith, one of my favorite clients, is also a fellow photographer dipping her toes into the world of family documentary photography. I’ve documented her family several times and followed along as she documents her own kids and life. When she emailed me about booking a Fall session for her family, I had an idea to run by her: a family documentary session swap.
….and she agreed.
I was oddly nervous going into the day. The setting was going to be one of my favorite places on the planet, the farmer’s market, but the anxiety was still hanging. Most concerning, what if after years of preaching “documentary or bust!” I didn’t like the images? The realness? What if I was a fraud?! But, ready or not, the day came, and the kids didn’t disappoint on bringing their real factor. Crazy antics, mega meltdowns, and genuine expressions of…weirdness. I knew in the moments of our morning, before even seeing the images, they were going to be treasured images. Within seconds of her shooting, all of my anxieties melted away. Even if every image ended up out of focus and had blown highlights, these were going to be the truest photos of my life.
Less than a week later, the gallery arrived…and as I expected, I loved them. I loved the meltdowns of the kids, the smiles of my husband, and the weird expressions on my face. But most of all, I loved how real it was. I do a pretty good job of getting in the frame regularly, but this was different. Nothing was forced for a 2-second timer…it was genuine and true. It was really us, in the thick of it all. Our own artifacts of this exhaustingly wonderful time of life. Most of all, I was relieved. Relieved to have our story documented in such a perfect way that didn’t require me to stress over a tripod and camera settings and playing mom and photographer. In these photos, I was just mom, and it was such a great feeling.
I had always hoped a family would hire me to document them spending a morning at a market, but that never happened when I was in business. Having these photos where we are at the market? I would say that’s better than any dream session I could have hoped for.
To see more work from Meredith of Poppins Photography (Peoria, Illinois photographer) check out her instagram page. And she’s the sweetest, so be sure to say hi! :)