I feel like a lot of what I’ve written about documentary family photography so far is about remembering the magic of childhood. And I totally believe that photographs should document that: they should visually articulate this new bond between parents and their young children, siblings at a young age, and spouses growing together.
But I also think there is something to be said about having photographs to remember what you’ve overcome. I took the photo above of my dear friend Katie. It was easily one of the happiest and most difficult times of her life.
She had just given birth to an incredible baby boy and she was so in love with him. But she had this task of feeding him, giving him sustenance, helping him grow. And it was tough. Nursing wasn’t the easiest part of his first weeks of life, for either of them. But Katie was so determined. She did all the extra work to make this happen for them.
And I remember her explaining to me, as I took this photograph, how she wasn’t going to feel guilty for not loving this part of motherhood so far. How she wasn’t cherishing using a nipple shield or nursing for more than an hour at a time and how she was kind-of looking forward to the phase where she wouldn’t have to do this.
But now, she looks at this photo, and she remembers the work she put in, and the strength she had to do hard things. She is proud of what she did, and she should be.
To quote her, “I have so many mixed feelings about my body when I look at those pictures. I want it to not be quite so soft, but also I had just finished growing a human being inside of me an then miraculously birthing that person and then I kept him alive with milk from my own self. What the hell? That is freaking awesome and a pretty rad use of this body.”
I couldn’t agree more that it is a freaking rad use of a body. My hope is that every documentary session I do gives parents a glimpse into not only the magic they are creating for their children, but the strength they have while doing it.