I first photographed twins, London and Katana, for Sacramento Parent Magazine’s cover kid competition about four years ago. They won – of course – and we got to hang out again a year later at a local kid’s clothing store for a subsequent shoot that was featured in the magazine.
Since then, these girls have gone on to have fun careers in modeling and acting, with London embracing modeling and Katana preferring acting roles. The two have such different personalities and you get, after spending time with them, why their energies pull them in different directions. London has an intensity and focus that works well for photography while Katana is more physical and curious.
Mom, Breata, contacted me recently for updated headshots of these awesome kids and we met at William B Pond Recreation area at sunset to capture that spark of uniqueness in each of them.
What a fantastic afternoon I had with these three ladies in Old Sacramento this month!
I had met mom, Kate, when I photographed her and her husband for some headshots late last year and was so excited to meet her mother and her daughter, Izzie, in a session orchestrated by Izzie from the East Coast, where she now lives.
Mother-daughter relationships are especially close to my heart because of my own experiences as a daughter and a mother to a daughter, so it was wonderful to see these three smart, witty, and formidable women together, laughing and sharing stories about the past.
It was interesting too to see how similar grandmother and granddaughter are; outgoing, talkative, and vivacious, while Kate’s personality is much more thoughtful and subdued, soaking up their laughter and energy. I loved watching her watch them, enjoying their constant laughter. This, too, reminds me of my own life, where my daughter and mother are thick-as-thieves and I have often found myself being the one quietly watching them together.
Multi-generation family sessions are a wonderful gift to yourself and your family. We spend so much time photographing the youngest members of our clan – and for sure our little kids are cute – but we need to keep remembering to document the love we share with those a generation or two above us.
I have been photographing the Rogers family since their son, Nicholas, was born 6 years ago. Mom, Sara, and I calculated during our recent session that we have had probably more than 10 photo shoots together since then!
Arriving at their beautiful Craftsman home in East Sacramento, I see my photos on every wall. As a photographer in a mostly-digital world, I can’t tell you how satisfying that is, to see your photos printed and hung, to know that the moments you captured are seen and enjoyed by the family every day. I am definitely a digital file hoarder myself (my eleventy terabytes of storage give me away, so there’s no point in lying) so I get why folks want to know they have that file. But there’s nothing that replaces the images on the wall where you pass by them in the morning, sleep in your eyes, or during the day with a laundry basket cradled in your arms. You can’t get that from a digital image that you have to sit down at a computer and purposefully open and then stare at. Does anyone actually do that?
Our session this January started at their home, where I got to meet Sara’s dad (aka: Grandpa) and spend a little time capturing him with Nicholas. Then Sara, Jeremy, Nicholas, and I all took a walk through their awesome little neighborhood and stopped at some alleys with cool murals and rusted, corrugated metal walls.
I loved the combination of capturing them getting ready to head out the door, some portraits, and some more documentary-style shots of them on their walk. I talk a lot about how my sessions can be a little bit of everything if you’re willing to play along with me and Sara and Jeremy are a great example of a family who are always willing to do that. The result is that they get their family-together shots, their portraits, but also the moments that otherwise get lost on the cutting room floor, the ones that remind us in 20 years of what it was like to be us at that moment in time.
Family sessions don’t only have to take place in Fall
When your photography mentor, the person who has pushed you the hardest throughout your career to up your game, has believed in you and your potential even when you were ready to throw in the towel, and who herself has a successful decades-long photography business built on a reputation for beautiful, high-quality images, asks you to take her family photos… first, you vomit into the toilet, then you hover over the “n” button on your keyboard, before scolding yourself for being a coward and then saying “absolutely, I would love to!” (Closely followed by a large glass of Chardonnay to slow down your heart rate.)
Lisa Richmond is an incredible person: caring, driven, creative, dedicated, funny, a true professional. And, in truth, despite my nerves, I was honored to have been asked to photograph her and her family this past December.
Lisa is also a take-charge type person (we have this in common) which meant that I had to walk into this session ready to run it and run it my way. We are both awfully nice people but, when we sense that their is a vacancy of leadership, we’ll step into the space and do our thing. So, I was determined that, no matter what she and her family ended up thinking of the photos I delivered, I would succeed or fail on my own merits. That meant no doubt, no jitters, no second-guessing myself, forgetting who was in front of the camera and focusing on getting in the flow.
It helped that Lisa chose the location (I had to give her something, hehe) and that the light there on this particular winter afternoon was absolutely magical. It also helped that her entire family laughed more than any family I have ever photographed, ever. Sure, there was some element of awareness around how their position and reactions would play to the camera but, in general, I don’t think I have ever been with a family for whom laughter was so clearly a natural part of who they are together.
Jaz and Ember are both in boarding school on the east coast (cool fact: the same boarding school that Lisa attended as a teenager) and so I know this session came at an important time for her, coming to terms with the empty-nest syndrome earlier than many moms who typically don’t see their kids fly the coup until college.
I also know that the girls miss home. They love spending time with their friends but not being able to “escape” (their words) from the drama of school can sometimes be hard
I hope these photos give them all a little comfort when they’re missing one another.
Our session ended with some photos of Lisa for her website, camera in-hand, as I’m usually experiencing her.
I loved every minute of photographing Lisa and her family. They made my job easy. The best reward was Lisa’s smile and thanks at the end of our session, her appreciation and recognition for the energy I put into my sessions to help my clients be in the moment, let go, and have fun.
This morning, I got an email from her after she saw her photos for the first time…
omg… just took a quick run through. I am absolutely never letting another year go by without doing this. I LOVE SEEING my family….we’ve grown so much, we’ve worked so hard. and we are still laughing.. and you caught it all. Thank you from the bottom, top and middle of my heart.
Now booking newborn sessions and weddings for 2019
“The great thing about real life is that it belongs to you. You can make it up as you go along!” ― Victoria Ashton
Sham of the Perfect is a collaborative photography project made up of an international collection of photographers who are passionate about both family documentary photography and being parents. The project’s name is inspired by the poem A Spring Issue, by Sarah Dunning Park. Our intent is to tear down the sham of perfection shown in more idyllic work and present life, parenthood, families, childhood, and home as it actually is; full of flaws and full of beauty simultaneously.
2019 will be my 5th year contributing to this project. Here are my photos from 2018, mapping our year in weekly images.
Want to document your real life moments?
I may not be able to follow you around all day every day, but I do offer Day In The Life sessions, helping you to capture the small but important moments with your family. Click here to get in touch and learn more.
I have known this family since their oldest, Atticus, was a baby. I worked with his father, Brett, at Lyon Real Estate’s head office more than a decade ago now. I remember Atticus frequently sauntering up to my cubicle, his red-cheeked little face alive with curiosity and displaying a huge, naughty grin. Brett would follow shortly after, laughing, and yet a little proud at how social his son was.
He would tell me stories of “losing” Atticus in Starbucks while he was ordering, his son off at a table somewhere, conversing with a stranger. Brett loved his family and we would share many end-of-workday conversations in the spaces between cubicles talking about them and about life in general. We disagreed on politics but jovially so. Brett had an amazing wit and generosity of spirit that I always enjoyed.
When my daughter was born, Brett, his wife, Jessica, Atticus, and the then terrible-twos Micah, came to visit us in the hospital. I remember laughing so hard that it hurt because Micah wanted to grab and play with and climb on anything that wasn’t screwed-down (and possibly some things that were.) The main casualties were the barf bags. I remember her being obsessed with the barf bags, which we allows her to abscond with.
And then, one day, Brett was with us no more. Gone far too soon and far too suddenly. His Facebook page is still active and, occasionally, I will go to tag a friend on a post or something and a photo of him and Atti, taken by a good friend and fellow photographer of mine, will pop up. It still doesn’t seem real that he is no longer here.
I see him now in Atti’s smile and Micah’s cheekiness. I feel him in the innate joy and playfulness that he gave them. And I am thrilled that their family has once again been made complete with Whitney, who I met for the first time during this session.
Whitney’s warm, quiet, but large presence makes me feel like he has arms and heart enough to wrap around the whole family. You can see from the obvious easy affection between him and the kids that this is true. I know that Brett would want nothing more than that: to know his family is loved and cared for.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to reacquaint myself with this family after too long being strangers, to meet Whitney, and feel the beautiful colliding with past and present, held together by so much love and joy.
Now booking newborns and intimate weddings for 2019
Know of someone having a baby or getting married next year? Please connect me. I have wonderful packages for newborn photo sessions in the Sacramento area that include gift registries and albums, as well as affordable coverage for smaller weddings in the Sacramento region and beyond. Get in touch here.
I'm Michelle and I love vampires (before they were cool), peanut butter and that deliciously off-balance feeling you get when you step off a plane in a new country. I'm also a mum, a writer and a visual storyteller.
Click here to learn more about all that.
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