You need to photograph the important people in your life before they’re gone.
Yep, that’s a pretty intense way to start off a blog post. I didn’t gently ease you into it. Nope. I just hit you over the head with the point. But, well, this is just too important to dilly dally with. If you don’t read any more than the first sentence, at least you’ll know what this was all about.
Ok, backstory. In case you didn’t know, we held a giveaway for a camera right now (today’s the last day to enter, fyi. If you haven’t entered yet do that AFTER you read this post, ok?). If you’ve participated in any of our giveaways before you’ll know that we like to ask a question for entries. Not only does it get you thinking (which is always a good thing), but it gives us some really valuable insight into you, our awesome readers.
This giveaway that’s going on right now has the question “If you had the opportunity to photograph one person, past or present, who would it be and why?”. We were expecting to see lots of names of famous people in history. And we got a few. But there was another type of answer that showed up time and time again. It totally surprised us, but now, seeing these responses, it completely makes sense. The answers were along the lines of…
“If I could photograph anyone in history I’d shoot my (great)grandmother…my (great)grandfather…my mom…my dad…my cousin…my son…”
For the majority of our readers, it was a family member that mattered far more than anyone else in history.
Reading all the answers was incredible. We got a peek into what made these people photo worthy, whether it was their smile, their kind heart, their incredible sense of style, their bravery… On and on it went, answer after answer. Photographers wishing they could photograph someone who is gone.
So it boils down to a very simple lesson for all of us. We have to photograph the important people in our lives before they’re gone, and we no longer have the opportunity.
The Next Generations
One of the big things we need to remember as photographers is that we’re not just shooting for ourselves. We’re shooting for future generations. Children. Grandchildren. Great-grandchildren. And they will want to see images of their family members. Understand their roots. See the people they may have never had a chance to meet.
Photographs let you see someone that may have been gone before you were born. You grow up hearing stories of them, and being able to put a face to those tales is priceless.
You, as a photographer, can take on a very important role—the family historian. And it’s easy! All you have to do is shoot when you hang out with family. They may seem like simple snapshots now. But that’s the beautiful thing about photos. They gain in value with time. Without fail. In 50 years those snapshots become incredible windows into the past.
There was one word that came up so often in these responses that it really stood out. And that word was “share”. Folks wanted to take photos of these special people not just for themselves, but to share with their family.
And there again we can see that photography is not just for ourselves. It has the power to transcend our own experience. We can share what we see and feel with anyone who looks at the image. Magic.
So take photos not just to have, but to share. Keep that in mind when you’re shooting. Who else is going to see these images? Who will these be shared with? I think that when we meditate on the purpose of our images, it can affect the way we shoot, and add depth and meaning to our work!
Photographs can also be a way to remember the people who have gone from our lives. Their smile, how they looked when they laughed, their eyes, and, with some photos, their essence.
My memory isn’t great. Sure, I remember the big things. But it’s the details that get fuzzy. And I’m starting to suspect that the details are what make things really special.
Photographs are awfully good at capturing details. They fill in those gaps in your memory. You always think you’ll remember at the time, but then days, months, years pass and poof. Gone.
See, there’s a theme here. You’re not shooting for now. You’re shooting for the future.
Grown Ups Are Special Too
I don’t know about you, but I find it far easier to photograph the kids I know. They don’t have the hangups, they don’t tell me which is their good side, or not to shoot them because they “feel fat” that day. They just go about their business, enjoy themselves, and I get to capture it.
But here’s the problem. The kids get lots of pictures, but the adults are left out of the record. Big huge gaps. Not good.
Photographing adults in casual company is awkward, I know. But it’s worth pursuing, and letting them get used to it. Seriously. Because again, the photos aren’t just for them!
So don’t overlook the older folks in your family. Every stage of life is important and deserves a pictorial record.
Beauty is such a complex idea, far deeper than glossy magazines suggest. Many of our readers mentioned that their family member was beautiful, inside and out, and that’s why they wished they could photograph them.
Were those people all models? Of course not. They were regular people, like you, me, and that guy over there.
Were they beautiful? Absolutely. You know that old saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”? Well, it’s totally true. And I’m going to pair it up with another quote.
“Things are beautiful if you love them.” – Jean Anouilh
These important people in your life, you probably love them. Very much. So they’re beautiful to you. And when you photograph them, that’s what you’re looking to show.
You know what? They might not see it. They might get all hung up on their imperfections (which we all have), and their insecurities (which we all have), and that’s why they complain about having their photo taken.
But the simple act of asking to photograph them, and then to take that portrait, and capture that beauty you see…Well, that right there is a gift. To them, and to the people in the future who will want to see who they were—as shown by someone who loved them.
Look, you just never know when it will be your last chance to photograph that special person. So carpe diem—seize the day. And the image. The future will thank you.
P.S. Thank you so much to all our readers who commented and shared these thoughts with us. We learn so much from you, and really really really appreciate your openness. :)