Natural Vs Perceived Perfection:
Why I stopped shooting family sessions.
For years starting out, my bread and butter sessions were families. From new borns to grown, established families with grandchildren and great grandchildren I shot it all.
I remember hearing someone say many years ago:
"Family is not what you see in photographs. It is what you do between them."
Something that stuck with me and was always in the back of my head as I worked with families. So eager to display the posed, perfect chocolate box life we often see in family portrait sessions.
I for quite a while struggled with the concept of what I was doing. I always felt I wasn't delivering their personalities or the true nature of the families. Kids becoming agitated because they were restricted to one spot. Parents embarrassed then annoyed because the kids were running amok.
The change came when I photographed a First Holy Communion in The National War Memorial Gardens, Dublin. The family were lovely and had Eight kids. They were great fun. The side of the minivan opened and they spilled out like clowns from a clown car. The parents said "Let them do what ever they want and just get photographs of it".
I felt at first they had given up trying to control that many kids at the same time and had resigned themselves to the fact it was going to be like picking up a dozen broken eggs by hand. Just impossible. The more I watched the kids laugh, explore and play, the more I realised the parents were clever.
These kids weren't uncontrollable. They were kids. As kids are. Genuine and funny. The parents didn't want the posed, plastic portraits of their family. They wanted to see the kids personalities in every shot. Something I always felt lacked in kiddie portraits I had shot before.
Life is not flat and poised. Posed to show moments of controlled stress trying to portray a form of happiness that doesn't exist. Even the Brady Bunch and The Waltons had their moments.