Why are you taking the photos you take? And, more importantly, who are you taking them for? Are you a photographer simply because you like taking photos and people want to pay you to do so, or is it more than that?
As I flew home from The Family Narrative earlier this year, these questions were swirling around in my mind. It wasn’t something that just one person said at TFN that sparked this train of thought, but more like something I needed to hear from many people over those few days about the importance and value of what we do that made me want to take a deeper look.
For much of my career - which is going on almost 10 years now - I had thought the value of family photography was in holding time still for parents as their kids grew and changed. That’s certainly a very valid reason to photograph families - parents are the ones paying after all. But in the months that followed TFN, I started to examine my work to figure out what it was about the images I loved most that really resonated with me. In doing so, I realized that I am not taking pictures for the parents.
I’m taking them for the children.
When they’re grown, I want those children to see the joy on their mother’s face when they shared eskimo kisses, how proud dad was when they walked together hand in hand, and how much their brother made them laugh. I want them to see those connections, those emotions, and to remember how those feel.
It’s kind of cliché but it was a true “a ha moment” for me. It was something I’d been drawn to photographing for years but never really took the time to define for myself. Once I did, I felt and saw a shift in my work. It’s also been extremely liberating which has felt amazing! I find myself caring less about current photo trends or creating images that are going to garner the most likes or followers. Focusing on creating the kinds of images that are true to my “Who” and my “Why” has been an inspiration and an evolution. And most importantly, it has driven me to do better and invest more into telling every client’s unique story.
So, I’ll ask you: who is your Why?
Huge thanks to Jenna Elliott of One Eleven Photography for her beautiful words and photos above. She attended TFN in New Orleans in March of 2018 and agreed to give us her reflections on what TFN meant for her and her business. Jenna is a wedding and family photographer in Pasadena, CA.