Since I remember myself, I’ve been fascinated by our family photos. In my parents home, we had a huge photo album. I used to love to go through the pages and study every picture. Needless to say, at the first opportunity I bought myself a camera. It was 1996 and the camera was Kodak, they used to call it soapdish. Those were analogue times. The era of photo film, developing and printing. I used to photograph everything that drew my attention, with gut feeling.

Magic of honest

I always felt that photographing people, unposed and unpaused, creates the most honest and most beautiful images. But it is always very hard to capture people’s real emotions and sincere expressions. Ones they realise that I am pointing a camera at them, they freeze. Faces, full of life, turn into rehearsed smiling masks, and the magic is gone.

There has to be another way

The life-long passion of photography brought me to Photography college. The potential of professional photography to create beautiful and perfect images overwhelmed me. I’ve learned, I can create an art piece from a photograph the same way an artist paints his canvas. Even so, acquiring all this knowledge left me disappointed. I knew I want to photograph families.
But how many look-alike family portraits and wrapped up babies on soft tones backgrounds one can produce?

Sham of perfect

Make no mistake, I admire many talented family photographers who do just that. Their work is beautiful and deserves the love and admiration of their clients. But it wasn’t for me. From my first attempts at portraiture in college, I knew there has to be another way. Like many students in lack of professional models, I photographed my family. They were happy to help but not for long. At first, posing seemed like a fun activity but soon it would turn into the tedious chore. Here is an illustration:

Girl wearing scarf in family photos

Don’t get me wrong, I love those photos, but my daughter only shrugs her shoulders every time looking at them. The reason is – THESE PORTRAITS ARE NOT WHO SHE IS BUT MY IDEA OF HER.

There was nothing that could keep her in front of my camera as long as I needed to. Soon enough, I would get this:

Girl looking grumpy in family photo

I knew the photo session was over.

Documentary family photos are best

I graduated my college but continued to look for different ways to photograph families. Soon I came across Creative live course about documentary family photography. Kirsten Lewis, a family photographer from the States completely changed my life. She is one of the first photojournalists who made documentary family photography a growing and developing genre. Now this family photography genre is taking over the world. 

Since then I photograph like this:

Girl looking happy in family photo

That’s my girl! And this kind of photos always put a smile on hers and my faces.

Girl being silly in family photo

It might sound outlandish, but I always think about family photography from a historian’s point of view.

If some archaeologist in a 100 or more years time would come across family photos in some dig, what would people learn from those photos?
Would those photos be evidence of how we looked, what was in fashion, what did we eat for lunch (thank you Instagram)? I’d rather, they show what kind of people we were, what made us laugh or cry.

And when you’re thinking about getting your family photos done, now you have a choice. You decide how you want to be remembered. I know what I want to do!