Just the thought of this blog post is a little bit surreal as it seems like just yesterday Addie was a baby crawling around on the bedroom floor trying to say her first word. She finally got out "bubble" while playing with me in my little sister's bedroom while she and her mom were in town from Charleston, South Carolina. Although that seems like a lifetime ago, it also simultaneously seems like yesterday, and I'm not entirely sure how 17 years have flown by. Moms, I can't even begin to imagine what you feel like in the year leading up to your child's high school graduation scheduling senior portraits, touring colleges, going over ACT scores, receiving acceptance letters in the mail, and helping plan the "next chapter." Although I have no first hand experience in watching this human being whose life yours has essentially revolved around for almost a quarter of your lifetime grow up, I do know how much the pictures mean to both you and them. They will one day be a ticket back in time to a series of memories that will hopefully bring a smile to your face, and at the same time they are also a passport stamp into the future.
In a society that often looks at what is "wrong" with us, in a world where we are inundated by beautiful people and things with the click of a mouse button, or the swipe of a finger on a smart phone, a senior photo shoot can be the key to a new found confidence and self-love in one of the most influential times of a person's life. I think for photographers [and any creative person really] creating a story through images comes somewhat naturally, so often it is easy for us to get lost in this idea that we have dreamt up in our heads. So I think it is also important for us to remember that the person on the other side of the camera has placed a magnitude of trust in us (in this case me) to capture them in a way that is honest. The camera is a really powerful tool, and what we choose to leave out of the frame is often as important as what we choose to include in it. Photographs of course preserve our past making our memories somewhat immune to the distortions of the human mind, but in a certain context, they also have the potential to create their own memories modifying the integrity of the life that they documented.
At one point in time, an individual's photos probably ended up in a box in an attic or a drawer or a cabinet covered in dust waiting to be uncovered by them or a loved one years down the road. Now it will perhaps be a flash drive, a disc, or some other digital device that we will have to plug in to a computer to discover the past of our family members, our spouses, or our friends. The memories that are attached to those photos will hopefully be genuine, but they could be fabricated- they'll either be an honest representation for future generations, or in one frame, one click of the shutter they'll create an entire persona that never actually existed. When I reflect on this power that I hold every time I pick up my camera, I am even more humbled and honored that the people who have allowed me to take their photo, have trusted me to tell their story. My goal? My goal is to get to know each one of them, to listen to their ideas, to foster a high schooler's creativity by hearing out their ideas for their photoshoot, and to make the memories that they associate with their senior photo shoot be ones of laughter, adventure, exploring, growth, confidence, and beauty, but in an authentic way that leaves them with a new perspective of themselves. My hope is that this new perspective will be that in this crucial time of their lives, they know that they are enough; they don't have to be good at everything, but they should know they are gifted at SOMETHING; that being healthy is more important than being skinny; and that there is more to being pretty than the clothes you wear, the makeup you buy, or the way you cut your hair. My dream is that when someone sees the photos I give back to them they gain just a little bit of confidence when they are amazed and I respond with "That's you!!!" The teenage years are something I have developed a passion for initiated by my time over the past several years as a high school cross country coach. It has now carried over into the creative side of my life. To have the opportunity to collaborate with high school seniors and give them something they can feel good about, something that lasts longer than just their photo shoot is quite frankly one of my favorite things about my job!
If you are a parent reading this, I hope and pray that you will place extremely high value in the person you hire as your child's photographer and also in the experience of their shoot as a whole. If you are a parent reading this whose child I have photographed, thank you for trusting me with the most treasured piece of your life. To wrap things up, I asked both Addie and her mom, Kim, if they would mind sharing on Addie's overall experience before, during and after her photoshoot, and what I got back truthfully brought tears to my eyes. You will find them accompanying a selection of Addie's photos below.