Photography has long been a hobby for me, and I’ve always treasured old family photographs and the rich stories they carry with them, but it wasn’t until I became a mother that I became obsessed with the need to preserve and remember each phase and detail of my family life.
What makes ordinary moments become meaningful memories that we will carry in our hearts, minds and souls for the rest of our days?
I’ve been pondering this question lately. I invite you to close your eyes for a moment and recall a few of your most meaningful memories. Try to fill them in with as much vivid detail as you can recall. Now I want to know if you have photographs of those memories? I suspect that for many of you, photos might be what actually help to keep those memories alive and vivid in your recall. This is certainly true for me and it is one of the things I love most about photographs.
I think one of the greatest gifts that we have to offer as photographers is as memory-keepers and meaning-makers. Our unique artistic eye can look at the ordinary and everyday and find beauty and meaning in those simple details and moments. And when we record those moments, we give ourselves, our families, and our clients, the gift of forever-memories.
I’ve been thinking about how important this piece of my photographic work is for me. I am coming to the end of a passion project that I’ve been working on for over a year which is culminating in a course I’ve created called A SENSE OF PLACE: Learning to Intentionally Incorporate Location to Enhance and Elevate Storytelling. A big theme of that course is meaning and memory and how what we include by way of location details and backdrop can help add layers of storytelling and enrich the meaning of our most memorable moments. Photos can actually help maintain those moments with clarity in our memory.
I wanted to share a few of these memory-laden moments from my own family life so you can get a better sense of what I am talking about…
This first set of photos below helps me remember our home space when my daughter was young. The ‘Si Se Puede’ mural was painted on the outside of our first family apartment, the place where my daughter was born. The second picture is a self portrait with my daughter where she selected our outfits and I specifically wanted to get a picture of her bedroom and all the details of that space (another place where we no longer live). This photo will always transport me back to her rainbow obsession hen she was little, how the space looked, how obsessed she was rainbow order… everything has to be arranged Red-orange-yellow-green-blue-purple so much so that her name train on the top of her bookshelf red SERARI instead of SIERRA becasue it had to be in rainbow order. I love how I can see us reading a favorite book and that her dolls are in there too. This image is memory-laden and a time capsule for me but it will also be a gift that my daughter can see these spaces and be reminded of this age and stage even though she will probably have little conscious memory of this age and stage.
2020. The year that seemed to change everything. It was for sure one of the worst years of my life, but I also spent a lot of time recording the little details of my life. I am forever grateful that I picked up my camera as often as I did, and I have visual record of all the ways that year was hard and weird.
The first image below is before virtual learning even began but my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher did individual zoom calls to check in on his students. This is her amazing teacher introducing my daughter to his dog and my daughter showing him her favorite stuffies. Her desk is also covered with her upcycled art projects (which were a big theme at the time) and the beginnings of kindness rocks we were painting. This photo, and the little details of scene, really help transport me back.
The next photo below is a family portrait I took on Mother’s Day 2020. I love how the space surrounding us, the mood and energy, and the fact we were still wearing masks while outside (remember those pandemic days?) all help me remember the time. This photo *feels* like that day to me. Not that I want to return to that time, but I do want to remember it. And the second photo below is a moment of joy in 2020. During the endless hours with our whole family at home, my daughter invented a game called “balloon dance party.” I love that I have this recorded and that I can visually see the details of that apartment space since we have subsequently moved. All these details matter to me and while each of these photos could have been closer cropped portraits, it is actually the details of the spaces and location that enrich the memories for me.
These final images are from two of our favorite family vacations. The first is my daughter by the coast in Colombia. The beach is her happy place and this moment was one of the times she seemed most free and happy to me. This photo reminds me of her deep joy and connection when at the beach, and this trip, and this specific sunset…it’s one of my favorite photos because it transports me back in time to that meaningful memory. And the second photo is from our favorite family camping spot that we go to almost every year. My daughter wasn’t so into riding her own bike when she was little, but she loved pushing her Papa around on her bike. I remember this silly scene, and I love how this image helps record my two loves, being goofy as they often are, in one of our most special family places.
These images are all moments that have deep meaning for me, and it is the people and places that fill in the vivid details and make the moments so special in my memory. I hope they also will carry meaning and memory for my daughter as well. We have a gift as photographers to be visual storytellers and freeze time in single frame and offer our family + clients magic time portals to the past.
What are the details and stories that you will record and tell?
**If you are interested in how I intentionally imbue my photgraphs with meaning and memory as it relates to people AND places, I invite you to join my online course A SENSE OF PLACE: Learning to Intentionally Incorporate Location to Enhance and Elevate Storytelling launching February 1, 2024. I hope to see you there!