ICM518

Everyday Photography, Everyday Stories

Every day our lives are filled with stories – some big, but mostly small, micro-moments which tell so much about who we are as individuals, what we value in our environments, and how we interact with one another. For many years I have explored everyday storytelling through the lens of my camera. I have taken photographs on a daily basis to document my life as the mother of twin children. With almost 21,000 photos uploaded to Flickr since 2007, I have created an interactive photo album that tells the story of this phase of our lives.

Throughout this period, I have also engaged in various photography projects, including one called A Week in the Life by photographer, storyteller and scrapbooker Ali Edwards. The project invites individuals to be deliberate in photographing the small moments in your daily life, and then assembling those photographs along with stories in a printed album. In capturing photos this week, I tried to focus on creating authenticity, one of the  4 Principles of Visual Storytelling, to capture candid moments that will create a bond with the viewer.  Here are five photographs which I feel most reflect our life these days.

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Easy Like Sunday Morning
Camera: iPhone 7
Post-Processing: None

Sunday morning is spent getting through the last of the weekend’s homework, and preparing for the week to come. A typical scene in our home is the three of us gathered around the table with open laptops and notebooks. We work independently, but in parallel, close enough to offer help and guidance. I often take photographs from this perspective by standing on a chair, looking down at the table. I captured each of my children in the frame, not head on but from a different perspective. You can tell my daughter is familiar with me doing this, as she is not looking towards the camera or me standing on a chair, but rather remains focused on her work. The contents scattered across the table tell a story of our life at this point in time – a planner with the middle school mascot, a French textbook, get out the vote postcards, and always, coffee. The deck of cards sits as a reminder that we were playing before we got to work, and plan on playing again after. Slightly out of frame sits our collection of shoes by the door – flipflops, sneakers, and cleats indicating the time of year we are currently experiencing. This dining table holds our memories – not just our meals – but much of our lives are lived out sitting together around this table.

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Unwaivering Focus, Everlasting Hope
Camera: Canon DSLR Rebel T4i, Zoom Lens
Post-processing: Crop only

On any given Saturday throughout the Fall and Spring, I use the sports setting on my DSLR to capture 10-20 photos of my daughter playing slow-pitch softball. In this shot, a crisp Fall day as we can tell from the changing leaves in the background, my daughter is comfortably situated in her usual position on first base. Her jersey as well as her uncoordinated socks indicate we’re in the less formal “Fall Ball” season. I cropped this photo to create a tighter frame around my daughter, making her the focus of this image. When I did so, I noticed the ball entering the frame from the left-hand side, a throw from the short stop. I made sure to keep that ball in the frame, as it added to the dynamic nature of the photograph. You can see the concentration in my daughter’s eyes, and the action in her feet as she positions herself to receive the ball. The pitcher, in contrast, is standing still. Her work is done, and now she can only wait and hope that the play is made. Her back is to us, reinforcing the idea that the result is out of her control. All focus is on my daughter, who I have placed in the rightmost third of the frame. Again as mentioned above, I have been photographing my children from the time they were born, so they are very much undisturbed by the camera. However the zoom lens on my DSLR allows me to stay back at a more comfortable distance, while still getting an intimate picture of the action.

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The Chore of Parenting Tweens
Camera: Canon DSLR Rebel T4i, Zoom Lens
Post Processing: Adjusted curves to increase vibrancy of colors

This is one of a series of posed photographs of my kids while they were doing chores last weekend and helping to rake the yard. Even though I planned on getting close to the kids, I kept the Zoom lens on my camera has it has better focusing capabilities than my regular lens. I laid down on the ground and looked up from a distance that allowed me to place the kids in the center of the frame. I had them rake leaves up and towards the camera to fill the frame. This photograph is the strongest from the group. The leaves fall perfectly around my son, framing his figure. A bare tree in the background creates a nice line against my son’s silhouette. The leaves fall forward, some blurred and some clear, immediately evoking a feeling of Autumn in New England. Behind him the evergreens hold tight to their color, but the other trees show signs of changing. My son is wearing short sleeves, indicating it’s a warm fall day. He is looking straight at the camera, completely aware of my presence, and his expression shows that he is only slightly amused, and perhaps tired of raking. This photograph really captures the demeanor of a 12-year old child, asked to help rake the yard.

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Please Don’t Go To Work, Mom!
Camera: iPhone 7
Post-Processing: None needed!

Capturing dogs in photographs is not easy. They are almost constantly moving. As soon as they see you, they run over, tail wagging, to try to get a pat on the head. Photos of sleeping dogs are sweet, but you don’t capture the full essence of their spirit with their eyes shut. However this week I was able to capture the perfect dog photo. Piper was sleeping in a bean bag chair, wrapped in the special blanket she brought from the rescue. As I was leaving for work, her head popped up, eyes open. As a product of the social media age, I always have my iPhone in hand and quickly snapped this shot. I had the advantage of natural, but cloud-diffused light coming in through the sliders. I crouched down to get closer to her face, and fill the frame with her sleeping arrangements. As she was looking up at me, I was able to capture her expression which is definitely one of wanting. The quality of my old iPhone’s camera never fails to surprise me in its ability to capture the detail in her fur and the texture of her blanket.

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Family & Victory, on a Fall Day
Camera: iPhone 7
Post-Processing: None

And here we come full circle to yet another Fall Saturday at the softball field. While this photograph may not be technically strong, I wanted to include it because it captures the story of this exact moment in time. My daughter has just won her playoff softball game, making great plays on first and with two solid hits at bat. She is calm as usual – you’d never know they just won the game by her demeanor. She is drinking water out of a Hydroflask, which is so very 2019. She stands at the center of the frame, appropriate as we have all just spent two hours of the day at the field supporting her. To the right, my father is engaged, but ready to go home. He is holding his chair and his body is starting to turn away from the rest of us towards the car. My partner is sitting, comfortable, clearly in no rush, and physically wrestling with my son. They are wearing hoodies, as it was a crisp, cool day. Behind them is my mom, probably picking fur off my son’s sweatshirt. Everyone is smiling, and their proximity to one another shows the comfort of our family. This isn’t a picture you frame on the wall. But it’s a picture that will immediately bring you back to this moment when you come across it in the future.


Conclusion

Every picture tells a story, and with the prevalence and ease of digital cameras and camera-enhanced phones, we all hold the power to capture those stories. The memories that make up our life are not always the big events – but rather the magic of the little stories we are telling every day.

4 comments on “Everyday Photography, Everyday Stories

  1. Hi Kristen.

    I so enjoyed your choice to photograph the “everyday stories.” Your commentary is also excellent; thanks for sharing the details of how you captured each shot. Your story unfolds in perfect concert with the photographs, and I found myself feeling engaged but relaxed as I read it. Great use of voice.

    As a mom with a daughter who has grown up and moved away, my favorite photo was your last. This is a great example of the fact that emotion can trump the technical aspects of a photo. I also enjoyed the photo of your son raking, the leaves swirling about capture the chore and fun that is wrapped up in a pile of leaves. And the Sunday Morning photo shot on an angle from above, again excellent. You really have a great sense of composition.

    Thanks for sharing your family with us 🙂

    Best-
    Holly

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kristen, thanks for giving us a peek into your daily life.

    I enjoyed the “Chore of Parenting Tweens” followed by “Please Don’t Go to Work, Mom!” For the latter, I’m very familiar with that look.

    You certainly adopted David Sutherland’s mantra: “Fill the frame, control the background, and wait for the moments.” Judging from the angle of the “Tweens” photo, I can tell that you had to lie on the ground to capture the moment. I like how you had to crouch down to snap Piper’s photo.

    I empathized with your son in having to rake the leaves. That photo stirred fond memories for me, since I had to help my parents with this chore.

    I would’ve liked to see you cite in detail some of our readings and include a quote from one of the authors to reinforce our learnings.

    –Julia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Julia, Thank you for your comments, and your connect with David Sutherland’s mantra! I really do think it speaks to how I approach photography, especially of my family. There is often a lot of clutter in the background of whatever we are doing, so I do spend a lot of time blocking that out of the frame, or sometimes even moving things. It results in a cleaner and more focused shot.

      My family is always saying that my iPhone camera is better than anyone else’s (which is ridiculous, since I have one of the oldest phones in the family!)…but we all know the truth…I’m just better at being patient to get the shots! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely photos. All are very sweet

    Like

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