Do you know I left my own professional portrait session feeling nothing short of sick? It's true, and what's more I'm grateful for it, because that experience lead me to my core belief in the power of a genuine narrative.
My brand, personal and professional, is hinged on my unwavering belief in the power of authentic storytelling. I have some Native American Indian heritage, so maybe the tradition of storytelling is bone deep for me. At any rate I believe that stories, well told, have the power to preserve, to empower, to heal and to connect. And I believe that real stories trump “perfect” ones every damn day of the week.
Years ago, just after Mila was born, we had a family portrait session. The process was unremarkable. At the time I was on leave from a career in corporate marketing. I’d always appreciated photography and loved taking pictures but never with any technical know-how. I’d studied film and psychology, so while storytelling was in my blood, a career in photography wasn’t on the radar just then.
I remember our viewing session. We sat in a darkened studio and were shown slick images of our beaming faces, once sleep deprived and wrinkled, now miraculously Vogue cover smooth.
We’d received a promotional session, so we were here to choose our free 8x10 print or take the opportunity to upgrade. Eventually we agreed on an image of the four of us. We paid to upgrade to a much larger size, but just walked away with that one image. No other prints and not a single digital file of this or any of the 30 other photographs we’d seen.
Three weeks later we went back to collect our single framed print. I noticed that the studio owner (a master photographer) had signed the artwork, despite the fact that a young apprentice had actually taken our photographs on the shoot day.
We left feeling sick about the experience.
Now don’t get me wrong. This is a truly lovely portrait. The kids look super cute and we look young and 1000% less tired than we are now. So it still hangs on the wall outside our bedroom.
But it doesn’t tell a story. It’s not a real memory. It’s not a shared experience or a preserved slice of life. It doesn’t say anything about us as a family other than the fact we managed to co-ordinate our outfits reasonably well that day. It’s simply not authentic in any way. From our over-smoothed skin to the fraudulent signature adorning it.
And there in lies the rub.
Ask any one of my friends and they’ll tell you that I’m a pretty straight shooter. I love pretty things and well co-ordinated fashion. I drool over Scandinavian styled homes and I feel at my best when my roots are the same colour as the rest of my hair. But I’m real. I’m authentic. I like to just shoot the shit with my friends over a big glass of wine and I feel more comfortable in Cute Casual than Sunday Best.
For me real always beats perfect.
And that’s why, when I started my own business, I knew that what I offer has to be authentic. Sure it’s gonna be pretty (heck yeah it’s gonna be pretty!), but it’s also going to be true to the families I’m working with. An enjoyable experience where we create authentic, playful, sentimental, personal images. Images that capture the real you - and tell your story.
I believe in the power of storytelling. And I believe that no matter how messy, complicated, big (or small) life feels right now, your family’s love story is worth telling.
So what are you waiting for? Lets tell your story.