UPDATE: This post was made as Shinn Shots Photography and does not represent the style or goals of Blue Space Photography. Because I believe in knowing where you’ve come from, I’ve left this here as a reminder of the journey that led me to where I am today. I now only shoot storytelling sessions, so be sure to check out my current work in more recent posts! – Lauren
Awhile back, I started following Humans of New York on Facebook. HONY has become pretty well-known, but if you haven’t heard of it, you can check out the HONY website or buy the HONY book. Brandon, the photographer, takes pictures of people on the street of New York and includes a snippet from their conversation together with the photo. I swear…if I was single, young, and full of dreams, I’d be roaming the hills of rural North Carolina doing the same thing. I love people. I love photographing them in their element. I love hearing their stories and asking deep questions.
There’s a reason HONY has become so popular. The collection of our individual stories is what holds us all together. We’re naturally fascinated with each other. Brandon excels at quickly making strangers feel comfortable, getting them to open up, and then choosing just the right quote to pull the reader in.
Awhile back, Brandon posted this:
“I think society’s emphasis on family forces us into relationships that are otherwise unhealthy. Sure, a long time ago, when people lived miles from civilization, family was all you had. There was a very practical purpose to sticking together. But now I have six million people in my backyard. Why should I be wasting time with someone I don’t like just because they have the same last name as me?”
“Humans do everything they can to try to forget they are animals. We create these institutions and customs that deny our animal nature. Take our relationships with our parents, for example. No other animal keeps a relationship with its parents after its been raised. It’s not natural. Yet we insist, because we think that’s what makes us human. Think of the people you know. Are they happy when they go visit their parents? Is it something they naturally want to do? No. They [complain] about it. But then they go anyway. Because that’s what makes them feel human.”
I’m fascinated by the thoughts of these individuals. They speak to the way our culture is changing, and specifically the impact social media is having.
I know that there is lots more that comes into play when family is concerned. With a master’s in Human Development and Family Studies, I spent plenty of time studying the extensive impact family has on a person. Sometimes family results in deep-rooted emotional turmoil. Visiting such a family can be extraordinarily stressful and complicated. Even with that, I think there’s something to be said for knowing your roots. I don’t believe that everyone should be forced into family relationships, especially if they are unhealthy. But if the relationships are good, or have the potential to be so, family is irreplaceable.
The first gentleman’s quote makes me sad because I hold my family so dear. I wish every person could experience the closeness (and sometimes craziness!) that comes from having healthy family relationships. There’s a history with family that no friendship can match. There’s a connection…familiarity. There’s also the expectation and privilege of being there for each other regardless of circumstances.
Every year since 1983, my family has joined my father’s extended family on the North Carolina coast. That trip became the highlight of my year. Not only did I get to go to the beach, but it was the only time of year I saw all of my dad’s family together. With four granddaughters, there was lots of silliness and laughter among the cousins. We’d sing goofy songs while we floated on rafts, ride in waves together, and stay up late talking (or when we were younger, bugging each other). I have a deep, emotional understanding of how special it is when family gets together.
(I’m second from the right. Tears from laughter was a regular thing during beach week!)
So, when Allison called asking if I had time for a last minute mini-session because her husbands family was all going to be together, I quickly shuffled a couple things around so that I could capture some family portraits. It’s not very often that families from Nevada, Minnesota, and Georgia can all be in the same place at the same time!
As much as I love my lifestyle portraits, I still believe there is a time and place for the more posed portraits. When having everyone together is such an anomaly, sometimes you don’t want images of real life…sometimes you just want the faces of everyone you love looking back at you in an image you can enjoy when you’re not together anymore. I try to keep the genuine aspect of a lifestyle session in these more posed sessions by minimizing the “say cheese” requirement and working hard for real, genuine smiles.
Even with 12 people and a tight schedule, the session went very smoothly and quickly. We even somehow managed to finish early!
Thanks for inviting me out for some family portraits, Allison! I loved meeting everyone and getting to spend a little time with you all. Most of all, I’m grateful to be the one to photograph the whole family together. What a gift you gave to your family.