the gift of photography

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A couple of weeks ago, my friend Korey approached me.

“Karen, I was wondering if you could do me a favour.”

I adore Korey, so my answer was immediate. “Of course, what’s up?”

“Well, I was wondering if you could take a photo of our family,” he explained. “Lisa and I realized that we don’t have any photographs of just the four of us, and with the baby coming, we want to make sure we commemorate this time when we were just four.”

“Absolutely,” I said. “When’s Lisa due, again?”

“End of April.”

My eyes grew wide. “Dude, we gotta do this fast. We’re running out of time!”

So this past weekend, Korey, Lisa and their beautiful kids came over, and we photographed them.

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Aren’t they the loveliest family?

Now as a rule, I don’t do family portraits. It’s not that I don’t love doing portraits — in fact, it’s exactly the opposite. I adore doing portraits. But I never want photography to feel like a job, so usually when people ask me to photograph their families, I often politely decline, and recommend other family photographers in the area. Of course, photography is a big part of the work I do — when I speak, I often use my own images, for example — and I love travel photography. But portraits for hire? Not my bag. Let the folks whose living depends on family portraiture get the gig, I say.

But this time, when Korey gave me the opportunity to photograph his lovely family, I had to do it. Because here’s a secret:

I hadn’t actually taken my camera out for a serious shoot since before Hurricane Harvey.

For the last 20 months, I just haven’t had the urge to pull out my giant dSLR camera. I mean, I’ve shot occasional photos, but nothing major — I haven’t taken it with me on trips, I haven’t set aside time to just shoot. Of course, during that time I’ve taken photographs — this blog is testament to that — but more often than not, I used a small point-and-shoot or my smartphone to take the shots. When I’ve used the dSLR, I’ve shot one or two frames, and that’s pretty much it.

See, back during the flood, literally during the hours and days while we were trying to figure out where we were going to live, or if we were going to rebuild, or if we’d be able to save anything from our home, I received several messages from people saying that they “couldn’t wait to see the photographs that I take of our experience with the flood.” Honestly, the messages angered me: while Marcus, Alex and I were trying to salvage our lives from the muck, the idea that I “should” take photographs of the experience for other people to enjoy made me really bitter. Bitter enough, apparently, that I let my camera, for the best part of two years, collect dust.

I’m not proud of this, by the way.

So after almost 2 years of relative disinterest in my camera, sweet Korey inviting me to photograph his young family felt like a true gift. The shoot began at my house, and then we wandered over to the nearby woods, and I photographed them as we explored the forest. And as I was shooting, listening to the chatter of their sweet son, and gaining the trust of their shy daughter, I began remember why I love photography so. It is such a gift to connect with people, and photography is a lovely distraction while that happens. It’s just a gift to be allowed to witness people who love each other interact with each other. And honestly, I forgot how fun it was to simply figure out shots — how to frame them, how to manipulate the light, how to shoot quickly before a child loses interest. And Korey and his family are so charming, every single second of our hour together was a joy.

In so many ways, it felt like coming home.

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So Korey and Lisa, I can’t express how grateful I am to you for sharing your light with me, and allowing me to return to photography. I hope you enjoy the photos, because I so enjoyed taking them, in a way that I haven’t in a really, really long time. You really gave me a beautiful gift this weekend.

(And if you ever need additional photos after the little one arrives, please don’t hesitate to let me know.)

Soundtrack: More than one way home by Keb’ Mo’