What it means to document {Family photographer | Lithia, FL}

Family on the Beach. Photographer. Tampa, FL Defining family photographyUsing my own vision to define family photography


To document. 

To record something in photographic form. A memorialized representation of thought. 

To prove.

But what are we proving? Are we proving that we existed? Existed as a family, existed as parents, that our children had a childhood, that we did those "activities"? 

In the photographic world, there is a big debate about it actually. Those that lay close to the definition of a photojournalism and those that document with their own vision. They tell the story in their own words, with bias and feeling, not clinging to the holds of a photojournalist. Is there room for both of these? Do they need to be well labeled as to which is which? I believe they do, but there is room for both! 

This whole thought process really started for me after a conversation recently about the difference between lifestyle photography and documentary photography. Lifestyle is generally more pretty, pretty clothes, pretty places, pretty light. There is direction, posing. Documentary in it's pure form adheres to the definition of photojournalism. Shoot the scene as you see it, don't change things, don't move things, don't show bias or impart your own feelings.

I wondered where others fell on the spectrum and a fabulous photographer said "I definitely do not shoot strait documentary in the full definition of family documentary. I shoot what is happening artistically, focusing my in camera and post {processing} with a lot of depth/mood and focus on light and shadows" (thanks Lori from Lori Mack Photography for this line). 

"I shoot what is happening artistically". 

This line resonated with me. It's often how I shoot my own children. Taking the moment and bringing it forth with my own artistic vision. 

Then in another group the conversation came up about Sally Mann. She is often talked about as a documentary photographer, but as a good friend pointed out, she isn't in the true form. She documents life, but not in a photojournalistic way. She executes a particular vision instead of taking what comes as it is. (Thank you Katie from Red Turtle Photography, make sure you check out her latest project)

"executes a particular vision instead of taking what comes as it is."

As an artist I have found myself struggling with the labels and definitions. I document not for the sake of my own posterity, but for the sake of humanity. I chose "documentary" photography because that aligns with who I am as a person. I am interested in stories of people, childhood, motherhood, life. I want to tell those stories as true as I can, but I am coming to the conclusion that there are times that I want to impart my own vision on those stories. That while I might not manipulate the scene, it’s my own vision of the scene that I want to record. That might be the shadow of childhood, dark and moody or the fuzzy thoughts of life of a newborn's first few days. That emotion trumps all things, even if that emotion is boredom. That I want to shoot what I feel, not just what I see and those feeling automatically impart some bias. 

boy raking the yarddefining the term documentary for meUsing my own vision to document the stories around me

Then I read this statement by a wonderful photographer in Australia (Thank you Justine Curan Photography), "I also am accepting myself that I am indeed an artist and by trying to fit into a label is actually rather limiting and all I do is need to give myself Permission to create and explore. That's allowed, in fact encouraged in the field of art. Why on earth are we sticking to our corners saying ours is better than yours!! Rather than just exploring all corners and see what we like and what we can do with all of them!" 

"by trying to fit into a label is actually rather limiting and all I do is need to give myself Permission to create and explore"

Give myself permission. 

I am learning that for myself, I don't have the thought process to be a planner. I don't want to pose people, I don't want to tell them what to do, but I do want to give myself permission to guide people, to follow a vision when I see it in the moment. To create the art I want which might be different at different times. 

To give myself permission to just create art. To be an artist through photography. 

So then it brings the question, does there have to be a label? If I use no label at all minus the word photographer, do I have to follow any rules? Am I still documenting childhood if I ask that child to sit still and stare at me? Do I just need to improve my skills to get that image without having to ask? To have the anticipation of capturing that moment. Can I get those moments that I want in an hour session? What if I free lens in a session, is that still documenting or am I executing my vision at that point? Does it really F*ing matter? 

photographer. Tampa, FL Double ExposureCreating the art that we want

photographer. Tampa, FL Double ExposureCreating the art that we want

So now, the stranger that I am, is giving you permission to just be you. Create your art, get out of the box, be your own artist. If you want to follow rules, go for it, but don't feel bound to them if you don't want to be. 

Stop trying to do what you think people want and do what you want.

Follow your soul, not the herd. 

Photographer, Lithia, FL Self PortraitUSing my own definition of what it means to document life


Are you a person that wants to take a chance on an artist? Do you follow your soul and not the herd? Can we be friends? Contact me and let's find out!

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Tank you so much for your words! They really helped me understand my feelings and I love the fact that you are so appreciative in any direction. This came in the right moment and is lotion for my pondering mind ;)
Wonderfully worded! We wear many hats as artists, no need for labels - like you noted, trying to fit into a label can limit your creativity! I love the line: Follow your soul, not the herd. <3
Sweet jesus this is GOLD! Thank you for articulating so beautifully, the tangled mess of thoughts/emotions that I have been unable to really put into words about what kind of photographer I am--- But more importantly, what kind of photographer I want to be-- and that is this: the kind that shoots because she loves it, and not because she feels she has something to prove to anyone else.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your words! (and pictures! DAmn girl! Crazy talent!).
I feel fortunate that I learned to follow my soul and not what people want a while back. It set me free and allowed me to fall in love with photography all over again. This is a great post and a great reminder.
Yes!!! This is exactly the conclusion I came to a few months ago. What an amazing post. You are a wonderful writer!
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