After hearing Erin talk about how she feels about photographs of her family, I invited her to write a guest blog post. I have been photographing her family since Jaxon was born on May 29, 2013 and Hannah was born on September 25, 2017. One of the greatest joys I have as a portrait photographer is capturing for all time the changes in my clients’ families. I have been in my studio for almost 13 years – the babies that came in for photographs are now in middle school! Yes, school photos show the physical differences as the children mature from year to year but it is my goal to show the personalities and family connections. I feel like “Aunt Gretchen” to more than a hundred kids! I’ve included some of our favorite images.
“Hi, I’m Erin. Wife, former working mom, current stay-at-home mom, and elder millennial. I came of age in the post-9/11 world, spent a third of my life and all of my earning years during the uncertainty and cash-strapped years of the Great Recession, and spent my 20’s on a steady diet of low carb fads and cable tv pop culture like Sex and the City. Why mention the show? I’ll explain.
As an elder millennial, or xennial if you prefer, I am part of the generation whose adulthood is fully digital. There’s no shortage of camera phones at the ready, or user friendly apps to alter and photoshop to our hearts content. My generation is deeply affected by skyrocketing healthcare costs, unaffordable childcare, student loans, and needless to say, money is always in short supply. Most of us live day-to-day and can’t spend much time worrying about preserving our heritage or spending big on things that can be somewhat replaced with more affordable options. Making do with mediocre budget photos or DIY is usually the choice among families these days. So it’s no surprise when I show off my thousands of dollars worth of beautiful portraits hanging in my modest middle-class home that I’m often asked “Why in the world do you spend so much money on PICTURES?”
For me, it is not a question of money, but a question of passion. Which brings me back to the Sex and the City reference. The show’s protagonist, Carrie Bradshaw, is famous for her love of designer shoes, and being fabulous. She happily lived on ramen noodles in lean times to afford her beloved Manolo Blahniks. She once stated “I like my money where I can see it-hanging in my closet.”
To many people, that is considered, well, insane. But Carrie’s shoes were her passion. A part of her identity and they made her feel good every day. My passion is my family. My family is my purpose, and my calling. They are my career and my identity. I feel deeply connected to them when I look at their portraits, and I enjoy seeing them every day captured in good lighting and at the right angles. I like seeing myself in the photos with them.
As the mother, I am always behind the camera in the family candids, and lets be honest, I don’t always get to look my best. When I’m working with Gretchen (who is a certified professional photographer), I know I will look fabulous. It makes me feel good to see the best version of us, smiling, embracing, and happy. It’s so nice to have daily reminders of the sweet and good time of our lives together as a growing and maturing family.
I am just an ordinary woman, doing ordinary things. Chances are when I am gone, no author is going to be inspired to write a biography of my life. I’ll be remembered simply as “Mom.” But this doesn’t bother me. I know my ordinary life is captured in extraordinary print. My biography is expertly framed in museum quality frames, or protected within my gorgeous handcrafted photo box from Ireland. My descendants will see who I was, and they will see my husband and me clearly in love with each other and our children. My portraits will be the family history captured in images, reminding them to capture the present because it is only too soon the past. That to me is priceless.
So, why do I invest in professional portraits? Because I like my money where I can see it-hanging on my walls. And you can quote me on it.”
Hannah’s first year photos include Erin’s childhood rocking chair which was given to her for her first birthday. Erin’s father refurbished it for Hannah’s first Christmas, and Erin gifted this image to her dad for Father’s Day – can you imagine how he reacted?!
It’s important to know “why” we do the things we do – Erin’s story tells my “why” better than I can put into words! I love her and her family and look forward to each and every time they come into the studio to document another milestone.