I had a new client ask me recently what to expect from a lifestyle session & how to prepare for it. I smiled as I wrote her a response that went something like this: Lifestyle is a documentary approach to family photos. Its the everyday routine that you don’t necessarily see as exciting or beautiful until that stage of your life has passed. Its everything life is for families…joyful and loud, messy and real, but always stunningly beautiful in its imperfection. Much like life, the best way to prepare is to just be yourself…the truest version of you. No posing, no styling, just you loving your family and embracing all the beauty & madness that goes along with parenthood. And if the house isn’t showroom ready, or the kids refuse to wear the cute outfits you picked out for them, don’t worry. The house & the outfits won’t matter to you in 10 years. Being able to hold a print of your baby girl splashing you with the hose in a little plastic pool in your backyard, or your son’s face lighting up as you push him in the tree swing. These are the most stunning moments of our lives. They are priceless, and fleeting, and I absolutely love photographing them.
So there it is. What lifestyle is. To me, anyway. And the session below is a perfect example of how everyday moments can be filled to the brim with magic.
A little backstory before you start scrolling… Nicole is one of my oldest friends. Middle school days. High-waisted jeans (which seem to be making a comeback) and crop-tops (which are also inexplicably popular again) made more than one appearance in old photos from our tween years. A lot has changed since then. We’ve both seen our share of joy & heartache. We’ve become wives, and mothers, and artists, and given each other pep talks along the way. She’s one of the kindest, most selfless people I know. Photographing her wedding to Jon years ago & documenting Nick’s life as a newborn and one year old has been such a gift. He’s their miracle baby. With one open heart surgery down and one to go, Nicole & Jon have navigated the fear that goes along with having a baby with CHD in the most graceful, loving way. They are fiercely committed to their family and lemme tell ya, it takes a pretty badass couple to make 2 kids under two look like a breeze…and they do.
This session was meant to be. Despite Vivi’s fever the day before, the storm that was headed in the direction of Charleston, and the added bonus that my car was dumping water into the passenger floorboard, I had my bags packed and gear ready. Nicole texted the night before to say Vivi’s fever had disappeared, so I shoved a towel in my floor and hit the road. When I arrived late on Friday night, Nicole & I sat up and talked ’til 2am. About life, the loss of her beloved brother Matthew, how hard it is to find joy after losing your best friend, and the beautiful legacy he left behind. We laughed and cried until we were both falling asleep in our chairs. The next morning I woke to Vivi’s baby feet thundering down the hallway, and picked up my camera straight away. The second image featured here was the first frame I shot on this precious morning. Sweet Nick. You can see him taking it all in, in his own quiet way. The first ten minutes of photographing him playing trains in the sunroom were so soulful I almost teared up as he made soft “choo-choo” noises & welcomed me into his little world. There was an unspoken bond that formed between us in that moment, and although he normally isn’t a big fan of photos…he absolutely lit up in front of my lens. Once he decides he likes you, its on. That spark of fight in his eyes tells the story of a kid who’s had more than his fair share of battle wounds, and yet…he giggles and grins and loves the heck out of his mom & dad. And baby Vivi, toddling around with her smiley eyes and impossibly perfect pout. All drama & beauty with a tiny ball of curls on the top of her head. Even at a wee one year old, I’m putting money on the fact that this girl is going into acting. She gave a few Oscar-worthy performances on this sun-kissed morning. It took everything in me not to laugh as she threw herself on the floor screaming ( without a tear in sight..) only to pull herself up three seconds later & flash a drooly grin. Almost as if to say, “hey photo-lady..check this out.” I clapped and cheered and half expected her to take a bow. She is a gem of a toddler with the sweetest little spirit. Handing me toy after toy…even trying to make a few sit on my camera as I worked. As she tried to stuff her little people toy into my lens with her chubby hand, this overwhelming feeling washed over me. The feeling that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. And despite the fact that I can’t prove it, and you may laugh at the thought…I know exactly who made it happen. No fever, or storm, or floorboard full of water was going to get in his way.
He brought me to his sister. To tell her beautiful story the best I could. And I will forever be grateful.
Nicole, Jon, Nick, Vivi…and Matthew. thank-you. Love you all.