Once upon a time, I was a high school student in Matric wondering what my future would hold. I was going to Rhodes University the following year, and I'd been accepted for a Bachelor of Fine Art degree. I loved drawing, and I'd intended to major in painting. I'd always liked photography, but I hadn't considered it for my major.
Little did I realise, photography had already chosen me.
I should have known that this was going to be the path that my life would take. At age 2 one of my favourite toys was an old Instamatic that once belonged to my Grandpa. It no longer worked, which was probably a good thing considering how many "photographs" I would take around the house!
There was something so comforting about the "click" the camera made when I took my imaginary shots. Something so comforting about the "zzzzzzzt" the camera made when I wound on my imaginary film.
As I grew up, my Instamatic was moved to a bookshelf in my room - forgotten for the time being. I moved to Grahamstown and started my BFA. I realised quickly that painting was not what I wanted to be doing. I was far happier in the dark room, learning how to print my own black and white photographs.
When I finished my degree, I had no idea what to do next. I was used to shooting on film, and suddenly it seemed as if the whole world had gone digital. Had I made the right decision to major in photography? And what exactly was I going to DO with my photography? Around the time of my graduation the following year, I applied for a job at a family portraits studio who were looking for a junior photographer. In my mind, family portraits were stuffy, awfully posed against mottled blue backdrops. But, the studio was completely different. Everything was shot in a white room, with poses that were more dynamic. We'd get the family to tickle each other, laugh, mess around with props. Suddenly, I found my niche!
It wasn't just about being able to capture the images that fit with the style of the studio. It was about capturing the families themselves.
The more time I spent in the studio, the more I fell in love with what I was doing. It was the most rewarding feeling in the world to see the joy on my clients' faces. It made me wish that we'd had the opportunity to have family portraits taken when my sister and I were kids.
I grew up in the age where people still printed their photos. When the 1 hour service at the FotoFirst was the height of new technology. And many of these photos are the only memories we have left of growing up.
I absolutely adore this photo of my sister and I. We're captured so beautifully and I only wish I had more photographs like this one. Not just of the two of us, but of my whole family together. Like many families who were even lucky enough to own a camera back then, Dad was the one behind the lens. I have only a few photos of me together with my Dad, and now that I'm older and my parents have separated, I dearly wish there were more pictures of us as a family.
Nowadays imagery is accessible to everyone - I'm even guilty of taking my camera on holiday to Mauritius last year and taking all the holiday photos on my iPhone! It's great, because parents can document all the moments that pass by so quickly: babies taking the first step, the first day of school, the graduation...but for me, there's still a flaw in the system. Unless you are a selfie stick master, chances are you're not in the photos. When was the last time your family all got together in one photograph?
Many photographers refer to their images not in terms of price, but as an investment. This is something that really resonates with me too. When people ask me why I do what I do, or what made me choose family portraits, ultimately it was about capturing the same kind of joy that the photo above represents.
In all the years I have been doing family portraits, there is one image that has remained my favourite. Towards the end of 2009 I photographed a family who had been gifted a shoot voucher. They had never done anything like this before, so were really nervous at first. But then as the session went on everyone relaxed and there were lots of giggles and laughter. Then, I caught this one quiet moment, a hug between father and son. It captured everything that I hold dear to my heart about family. Trust, support, comfort, love.
If you've hmmm'd and haaa'd about the idea of a family portraits session, I would really recommend one. It's not just about the images on the screen or in the frame - it's about your relationships. It's also why I encourage both parents to be involved in the shoot as much as possible. Even if you might not want those images, it could be meaningful to your children one day that they have photographs of you all together.
Whenever I walk into a session, this is what I want to achieve as a photographer. I want to give you memories that go beyond "say cheese". It's why I keep doing what I do, and why I love what I do.
Please feel free to contact me any time - I love hearing your ideas and getting to know all the families I photograph.
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