Why Documentary Family Photography

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Documentary family photography - examples and suggestions of why this is such a gloriously meaningful way to photograph your family.

Documentary family photography – a blow by blow account of the highs and highs of the documentary approach. What it means to me, and what it means to you.

Why Documentary Family Photography?

Knowledge is… nice

If you want to really know about documentary family photography, then it is important to know this: documentary photography wants to know you. In fact, it is currently knocking at your door, holding a box of chocs and a firm belief that you and your family are really, really brill – and that it can SHOW you.

The stuff of memory

It is also convinced that the pictures it wants to show you are the types of photographs your memory will crave in years to come. Photographs that show the real interactions, goings on, atmospheres and textures of your real life. And they include all this ‘messy’ stuff because, quite simply, this is the stuff that make the memories in the first place. The stuff of pure, human, value.

Understanding

And one further thing, says our chocolate-wielding friend: this stuff is beautiful. It is beautiful because it is yours and because you cherish it more than anything. Our friendly documentary photographer gets this. And your friendly documentary photographs will get this too.

So what have we learned?

To clarify: you’ve learned nothing about documentary family photography so far. Sorry about that. What follows is a useful list of everything that it IS and why it’s as great as you are:

Real moments

Documentary family photography - examples and suggestions of why this is such a gloriously meaningful way to photograph your family.

Sometimes the most important moments pop-up between other more apparently important ones. For instance, between pancakes number 3 and 4. Documentary family photography gets this.

Activity

Documentary family photography - examples and suggestions of why this is such a gloriously meaningful way to photograph your family.

In short, documentary photography and ‘activity’ of any sort is a match made in heaven. I offer an entire session based around the premise of play – called Portraits of Play. They work so well because kids play so well!

Environment

Documentary family photography - examples and suggestions of why this is such a gloriously meaningful way to photograph your family.

Think of a cherished memory in your life. Now, where was it? Yup, you can even smell the grass, the sand, the furniture… You know JUST where it was. And that’s weirdly important. Accept it’s not weird in the slightest. Sometimes it’s EVERYTHING. And documentary photography gets this.

An environment can become like an extra person in a documentary photograph – colouring people’s interactions with one another and adding resonance to emotion. Just like your own environment does in your life. Either inside or out. Documentary family photography is so brilliant at capturing meaningful interactions and relationships between people because it is capturing them in the context of real, meaningful, life.

Why

If I’m honest, I don’t really know if I can answer this for you. But I know that you value your life, your relationships, your family and your friends so, so much. And that you also value the act of looking back and looking forward equally. In your life, and not just in theory. And that it matters to think about where you and your family have really come from, and where they are really going.

I learned this properly myself the moment my son and my Grandad first met, and folded 100 years up around each other in an instant. I write a blog entry from time to time inspired by the life of both of them. Feel free to read them. It’s the best sense I can give to my own feeling of the value of all of this.

And I just have a hunch that, in your own way, in your own time, and in your own life-story, you have come to the same conclusion about looking forward and looking back at your own family. And that, when push comes to shove, looking ‘good’ really doesn’t matter so much. All you really want to see is a photograph that shows why your family laugh and cry the way they do – both now and in the past. And you want to laugh, and to cry, at this photograph. And you want your future family to have the chance of doing the same.

So here we are: me, a family photographer in London, and you, an awesome person with an awesome family that you just love to bits. So why not see just how you can see it.

Author

Ben Heasman

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