Why I am a Photographer

 

woodlands wedding photographer_0041

If you want the short of it, I am a photographer because I think it is fun and important. I am also good at it. Who doesn’t like being good at something? But, if you want to know my heart, here’s the long version:

For me, photography has always been and I think will always be proof of life. When I was a little girl I would go to my grandmother’s house and pour over her albums. She would tell me stories of her and grandpa and the trips they would take. I remember in particular the pictures of them that came from one of their trips out west. Standing in front of a giant teepee they stayed in for a night. Watching a parade at Disney Land with people dressed up and walking among on them on giant stilts. These images are what defined my grandfather to me. Because he passed away when I was 2, this was the best I would get to know him in this life.

As a child and into my teenage years I was awkward like most but also very introverted and a little shy. I was however, blessed with an amazing group of friends. Taking pictures of my friends and the adventures we had together was proof to me that I fit somewhere. That I was a part of something real and fun.

After Eric and I were married for 5 years, I became a mother, which is all I have ever wanted in my life, even as a little girl. In those bleary-eyed, exhausted, early days of motherhood, photos helped me recall the sweetness of my brand new son. His wrinkly, peeling skin. His scrunched up face and cone shaped head. After 9 years and 3 more children, I couldn’t treasure these photos of him and the beginnings of our family any more than I do now.

As my kids get older, the years are flying by, and life gets more complicated. I want to remember them as they are right now. I want to remember my oldest at 9. I want to remember his voracious appetite for reading and learning facts. What a responsible and helpful young man he is becoming. I want to remember my daughter at 8. I want to remember how much she loves helping me in the kitchen and with her baby brother. How she asks me everyday, “Can I help you with anything?” How she talks baby talk to her baby brother and calls him Sweetheart. I want to remember my 3rd child at 6, how he dotes on his baby brother and loves to snuggle with me under heavy fuzzy blankets. How he loves to whisper secrets and giggle. I want to remember the baby at 18 months, with his chubby legs, soft skin and fuzzy hair. His mischievous smile, absence of fear, and the way he runs everywhere he goes. Most of all, I want to remember how I (and their dad) are their whole world. Because although I know that won’t last for long, sometimes I still ignore it. Here’s the problem: sometimes life gets busy and hard and scary. As the pressures of life come, I start to realize how little I am in control of and then I begin to worry.

Am I feeding my kids the right things? Am I teaching them to be kind people? What if my 6 year old never learns to read? What if one of my friends drops by and sees what a failure I am at keeping my house clean? What if we can’t pay the bills? What about our children’s future?

When I begin to worry is where things start to break down. Instead of being in the kitchen cooking with my daughter, I am shushing them while researching the dangers of preservatives on the internet. Instead of snuggling up under the blankets with my 6 year old and a book, I am yelling at him about why he can’t remember what the letter M looks like. Instead of believing that my friends love me as an imperfect person, I am scouring every inch of the house and barking orders at my kids to keep it clean. Rather than playing a game with my kids I am shooing them away while frantically trying to meet a deadline, change the website, or come up with marketing strategies. Soon I am unrecognizable, not the mother, wife, or even friend that I want to be, and certainly not a shining example to my children. And I. Am. Tired.

The days are like bubbles, floating on a blustery wind. Fast and gone in a second. Fragile and uncertain. Too many of us learn this too late, after too much time has gone by, or worse, when one of the bubbles bursts unexpectedly, and changes everything.

If photography has taught me anything, it has taught me about editing. Perfectionism is kind-of an issue for me, so early on in our business editing required either taking that perfect picture, everyone posed, looking, and smiling, or editing it to look that way. As time went on and my photography evolved, I spent a lot less time making every photo “perfect” and started to notice something more important than perfect. (More important than perfect??? What could that be!?!?) I stopped worrying about how Dad wasn’t looking at the camera and started noticing the look on his face as he gazed at his beautiful wife. Instead of throwing away that picture of the toddler running away from the spot I set him and Mom with her face lifted toward the sky laughing, I treated it like a treasure, amazed that I got to see this beautiful glimpse of their life as a family right now, joyful even in the midst of crazy and unpredictable. Reality and relationship began taking priority over posing and perfection. And as that began to happen, and I began to embrace that change, what I do became even more important….to me AND to my clients.

I came into photography hoping to learn how to edit the perfect picture, but what I didn’t expect is that photography is instead teaching me lessons about life. Editing is nothing new… it is a tool that I have been using for years. With the help of facebook and pinterest, I have been using it to make myself appear smart, talented, beautiful, interesting, put together…perfect. But after a time, I started to notice that while on the outside I looked like a savvy business woman and magnificent mother, on the inside I was feeling alone, unworthy, not good enough, and fearful about what would happen if someone found out. Putting up the facade became exhausting. The pressure was paralyzing, the fear of failure was stifling, and my reality became debilitating. Trying to look like a perfect mother, wife, and successful business owner was actually making me impatient, inattentive, and bitter. I had no joy.

As the editing process began to change in my photography business, it began to evolve in my everyday life too. I was tired of putting on the show. I finally decided that instead of editing myself to show how perfect I am, I would begin to edit my expectations to remind myself of how blessed I am. I became committed to seeking out and focusing on the good instead of spending all of my time hiding or worrying about the bad. Again, I was learning the lesson of trading perfection for relationship. This is still a work in progress, but I have found that as I loosen my grasp on control and perfection and embrace life, as it is, right now….messy, unruly, always changing…I am gaining freedom, honesty, joy, and a life worth living.

Photography is a passion for me, not only because it is fun and I get to be creative. It is a passion for me because it taught me lessons that pointed me away from myself and back to what is most important. It not only preserves my life and the life of my loved ones in photographs, in some ways it changed my life.

Our sincere desire for each client that walks through the door is to provide them with images, not just pictures on a flash drive shoved in a safe or a desk drawer, but with artwork on their walls or in a book on their coffee table. Artwork that shows them just as they are right now, flawed but beautiful, uncertain about the future but blessed beyond belief, exhausted and overwhelmed but loved deeply. It is our hope that this artwork will serve to both remind them of what they have and inspire them to prioritize carefully because the winds of time continue to blow, sometimes faster but never slower, and never in the direction we ever could have imagined.

 

~Jana