As a portrait photographer, I have always enjoyed having the eyes of a mama when I photograph my clients: hunting for the “real moments,” finding the “real person” when making an image. It’s a funny thing (and not, I may add, at all relaxing), to try to create those images when I’m in them. I have had the rare privilege of catching the hearts of my children in their eyes, and they are gracious to me when it comes time for portraits. But working to see myself at my “best angle” isn’t easy. And while my sweet mom-in-law was on hand to press the shutter when we set up the shots, I’m not thinking it was too relaxing for her, either. (Note to self: next year, hire a good photographer you trust who has both the “heart” and the technical skill. So you can relax and be in the moment. Even if you have patient kids and a sweet husband who will go the extra mile because they know it’s important.) Still, I know a few things about family portraits…
As a professional and even more as a woman, I love photography because it’s an important part of the legacy I am called to leave. I’ve told brides, “I’m shooting for you, sure, on your day, but even more, I’m shooting for your grandbabies, so they’ll know who you were and be able to embrace their story through you!” This holds especially true for our portraits, because when I look at them hanging on our walls, I relive that giggle, the rare gift of a smile from our serious one, the mischievous twinkle in Blue’s eyes; the goofy banter of the brothers, the wise tenderness in our girl, and even the awkward smooch my husband and I insist on sharing to the utter embarrassment of our kids.
I notice, as my girl pointed out, that my husband gets his soft-hearted-easy-to-cry tendencies from his mama, and that they clasped each other exactly the same way when they wiped away the tears and squeezed each other tightly…
…and how much my little-girl-best-friend looks like her Nana, and how they have a special rhythm to their relationship that’s all its own.
…and I don’t even so much mind when I forget to strike a flattering pose, because I’m just in the moment.
When I look at these photos in our album someday, I’ll remember how our college boy stole quiet moments with each of his siblings on his first visit home as a freshman, and how they coveted that time with him.
I’ll be awed that the mama who was so scared of becoming a parent, was graced with a quiver full of arrows who daily dare me to be a stronger, gentler, wiser woman.
I’ll treasure the joy that comes out of my more reserved one when he gives us the privilege to be in the moment with him.
I’ll also remember the mad dash for a few new pieces of clothing for portraits (and the fact that most of what we already owned was perfect)… and seeing how grown up my girl looked that day, and how the flying of time overwhelmed me.
I’ll hold onto the silliness of the moment of cutting down a tree in good clothes, how big brothers are the best fashion advisors, and how mini Christmas trees make good temporary closets for bare-chested little boys who want to get serious about a new tradition.
When I see these images, I’m reminded of the gift of time with my mom-in-law, the missing of Papa, who was off hunting, the Thanksgiving meals we’ve whipped up together, the family who aren’t here, the first time we got to cut down our own tree (“the biggest one we can find!!”, they said), the wonderful forestry professor who helped us know what kind of tree we should buy, and the tv-less mornings on the sofa reading our Jesse Tree devotional and talking about what really matters about Christmas. And my favorite image of all is the one where I’m not “pretty,” but I’m full of joy at these people who bring me to my knees and who, by God’s unmistakable grace, perfectly-imperfectly teach me about love.
Merry Christmas, friend. Whatever your background, whatever your status in life, I’m praying with all that I am, that you know the Love of the One who went to a tree on your behalf and mine. I’m praying that you’re making memories and capturing them, and soaking in the love of the Light of the World. Sending you a big hug.
Are you a mama who thinks you don’t look good enough to be in your family portraits? This article captured my attention, and it’s the cry of my heart for my mama friends. I promise – my kids see me with eyes of love, and they think I’m beautiful. They’d be missing out if they grew up with no images of their mama, or of our times together. From one girl to another, here’s my dare for you this year: get yourself in front of a camera – I promise – it’s worth leaving as part of your legacy.