I was asked a question in the middle of the Atlanta airport by a long time friend of mine. “So, what made you want to become a photographer?”
I had to return home to attend a family funeral. You really get a full self evaluation and perspective on life at those times. Thinking of my own family who was not able to join me on my trip, and my client’s projects on my mind, and making a mental transition into accepting my joyful aunt, whom I adored had passed, I was a ball of nerves and not myself at all.
It has always been a saying in other families that “The only time we get together is at Weddings and Funerals”. This is true, to a point, but my family has also made a tradition of a family “Reunion Vacation” over the past 15 years. Where every other year we choose a location and all meet up for a week. So, I’m grateful to see my whole family on a regular, planned basis.
While at my parent’s house, my mom had set aside a few boxes of memories for me to go through. It’s probably more so a box of junk from high school, but yes, many memories for me. The second box I went through said “breakables”, so I was very careful in opening the box. However, it was full of photos, picture albums, and small photo collages that I had put together years and years ago.
And I realized this as I’m looking through the box of photos. This is my family history right in front of my eyes. Me as a baby, teenager, my siblings as children. Birthdays, weddings, camping trips, Girl Scout outings, and summer camp. Prom pictures, my parents at dinner, graduation, my grandparents house for Christmas. I had taken pictures of weird trees and sunrises, East Coast mountains and the Grand Canyon, the ocean waves and striking sunsets. Actually, I don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t have my dad’s camera or a disposable camera in my purse. I’ve always had a camera in my life. I was destined to be a photographer from birth.
My uncle was a professional photographer in the 1990’s and I adored his work. I aspired to learn the craft. That was the beginning of understanding the art and love of photography.
I have taken and printed photos my whole life. This realization smacked me in the face that day. Thank goodness I took all those photos. Thank goodness I printed all those photos. I have always thought (for the past 10 years or so) that it is going to be a daunting task to organize all these photos. Because not only do I have on entire box at my parent’s house in Atlanta, I have 2 boxes of photos at my house in Colorado.
I got some kind of feeling that morning. Like the pictures came alive as I was looking at them. I remember that time, I remembered that sunrise over the Florida beach. I remembered that last Girl Scout camping trip I took with my troop while preparing to earn my Gold Award, I remember going to homecoming with my best friends and my brother, I remember cutting my baby sisters 9th birthday cake, I remember holding my aunts hand with a big smile on my face in the Florida sunshine. A place I visited often, and as life flourished, I graduated college and married my true love, a place I would visit less but always carry in my heart.
So, the question of my profession came up as we were eating ice cream. "That’s my why," when I answered my friends question about being a photographer, my whole face lit up when I was telling him my story. From the sadness I was feeling to the joy I was remembering in those photos. I silently pledged to myself that providing families with that same service would be something I would do. Capture their memories, put it in a tangible form, place it in a beautiful frame for preservation. No, the past 35 years of family photographs do not belong in a box in the garage. They belong on the walls, and in protective albums on a shelf. Where I can pull them down and show my son. Who cares that I had giant glasses and bangs in the 90’s! It will probably make him laugh, and hearing my child’s laugh is one sound that will never leave me. Just like how I can remember my aunts voice and laugh from looking at those pictures.
Who knew that a box of photos that had been in my childhood home for years would speak so loudly to me? Who knew that the realization of my “why” would be at one of those break point moments in life? Just when you feel that you are too busy and too tired to do anything. But you can’t sleep, feel less creative and are trying to find the secret to life. Living in the digital world has its benefits, but I feel like it has also taken away some of those candid moments in life too. Like the ones that we yearn to remember again and cherish exactly that moment frozen in time.
There are not a lot of things I would do over in life. I’ve always said I lived my life with no regrets. Everything happens for a reason and the lessons I’ve learned along the way have been all too powerful. We all want to relive our glory days and one way to do that is to go back through your old photos. Take a peek into the past. Remember those who impacted you. You froze that moment in time for a reason, because you wanted to remember it. That one photo you took that summer of your last semester in college, that was the time you wanted to remember. And the photo of you blowing out your candles on your 3rd, 5th, 16th, and 18th birthdays, those are the moments your parents wanted to remember forever. The joy on your face and the light in your eyes.
Be that person now that captures your memories again, family reunions, growing cousins, growing babies, aging aunts and uncles and grand parents. Be the person that prints out and displays your photos and tells the story over and over again to new friends and visitors. That’s what your friends will remember about you. That you had fun memories and told great stories about your family. Photos tell our life story, our ups and downs, our house moves and promotions, our growing families and loud neighbors. Our busy toddlers and excited doggies. Our celebrations and our family gatherings. Don’t leave out yourself now, give the camera to someone else and be there, be in that one photo where it was like wrangling cats to get everyone in the picture looking in the same direction, quiet, not throwing a fit and by using bribery, but you will remember that moment forever too. Take the stress off yourself and hire a professional to take that photo so you can preserve your memories of your family.
That’s what we are here for, family preservation and memory making. And, every now and then, you will find something along the way that you were supposed to be doing all along. So, when people ask me how long I’ve been a photographer, I can answer, my whole life, right?
KW Designs Photography