Living in a destination part of the country, where families come to vacation, I get a lot of inquiries for family sessions. Most of the time what ends up happening is the entire family is in town, which doesn’t happen often for many families. Without a doubt, I get the same question every time, “Do you photograph large or extended families?”
The next question, “Can you make me look as beautiful as the other people that I’ve seen in your photos?”
Yes. You know how I will do that? By capturing you in your happiest moments with the people you love most.
I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s always women that ask me this. It’s usually highly successful, older women who have teenage or adult children. Women have been taught that aging is bad. Society has glorified men’s aging saying things like, “Look at his gorgeous salt-and-pepper hair.” or “He just gets more and more rugged and handsome the older he gets.” and it’s perfectly normal for older men to be dating younger women.
Women, on the other hand, are judged so harshly. “I can see her grays, why doesn’t she get her roots touched up? Does she know how old that makes her look?” or “She should not be wearing that swimsuit at her age.” or “She has the money, why doesn’t she get botox?” I have very few photos with my own mom in them. It’s really hard to get her to be in photos because she never likes the way she looks. What I have to remind her of is that these photographs are not only for her. These are going to be our cherished memories as she gets older and long after she is gone. It breaks my heart that instead of focusing on the fact that she’s about to be in a gorgeous photo with her granddaughter, she’s so focused on how she looks and is so uncomfortable. You know what her granddaughter sees? She sees her incredibly strong, stoic, mountain moving, loving, incredibly kind and giving, beautiful grandmother. She has never once thought of my mom’s looks. She only knows how she feels when her grandmother puts her arms around her and smiles (I’m getting emotional just writing this).
We’re going to lose our parents. It’s a fact of life. One day we won’t be able to call them or see their faces. Photographs are so incredibly important to encapsulate the memories we have of loved ones. I’m here to say that those lines you hate on your face, I love them because I remember how much you laughed when I was a little girl. That little bit of extra weight, that’s because you make the best homemade southern meals. The hair that might be a little bit out of place is because you just ran around with your granddaughter. To me, my mom will always be the most gorgeous woman I’ve ever seen. When I see a photograph of her I’m just in awe of everything she’s accomplished in her life and everything she’s provided to her family.
Be in the photographs.
Think about the message you’re passing down to your own children that are looking up to you. If you constantly complain about your looks or not wanting to be in family photographs, what do you think that says to your children, especially your daughters. It’s going to make them question how they see themselves. It will put these ideas in their heads that women shouldn’t age. That women should feel guilt or shame in living their lives naturally and beautifully. If you’re at the place where you don’t want to be in photographs because you feel you have a few pounds to lose, you don’t like your haircut, you think you look to old, or whatever the case, I encourage you to put that all aside and get in those photos. You’ll be so glad that you did.
I encourage everyone to go read this article about a mom who didn’t want to put on her swimsuit (there are a lot out there like this because so many of us feel this great sense of shame):
I’m going to leave you with part of her writing:
I refuse to miss my children’s high-pitched, pool-induced giggles because of my insecurities.
I refuse to let other women’s judging eyes at the pool prevent me from exposing their eyes to the wonder the sun glittering on the water.
I refuse to let my self-image influence my children’s.
I refuse to sacrifice memories with my children because of a soft tummy.
Because at the end of the day, it is not just about me. It is about my kids.
I want them to remember twirling in the water with their mom.
I want them to remember splash fights together.
I want them to remember jumping off the edge of the pool into my arms.
I want them to remember that their mom was there, with them.
Today, I hope to encourage you to push your insecurities aside. Put on that bathing suit. Run through the sprinkler. Jump in the pool. Splash. Have fun.
Your child will remember those moments and your freedom – not how you looked in your swimming suit.
Be in the photographs.