Why documentary photography? | Athens, Pennsylvania photographer


Sometimes I want to give up on photography that speaks to my heart so I can make a quick buck with some quick poses but then I remember why I love lifestyle, or what I also call storytelling, photography.

It's real.

It's emotive.

It tells stories.

It's memories frozen in time, not poses.

Child photography Athens Pennsylvania


One of my favorite, newly found photographers is Lisa Tichane and she spoke at Click Away, a photographers' conference, this Fall about why she incorporates movement in her family photography.

If I look at this image, (posed portrait photo) what does it tell me other than look how sweetly they were posing for the photographer? . . . this isn’t real. They are playing a role. As a photographer what story am I telling here except the photographer was there? . . As a family photographer this is not what I want to provide my clients. I want to create memories for them. Memories that wll remind them who they really are in 2015, not the fact that I was there.

She's right. I have frames full of photos a family member used to give us every year for Christmas. It was the only gift she ever gave and it was her children looking uncomfortable and unnatural in posed portraits. I don't want this to sound like a complaint, because the images were a kind gesture and we appreciated them each year. However, even though the lighting was lovely the only thing those photos tell me about her children is they know how to follow directions and be forced to smile.
I couldn't tell from those photos that the youngest was full of crazy fun or the second oldest loved all things sparkly and shiny or that the oldest was a sports fanatic.
Eventually these portraits made me uncomfortable, partially because the family members no longer spoke to us and partially because the expression of the one girl was so full of discomfort I felt bad she'd been forced to pose.
I put those images in a closet and filled my walls with images of my children being children. There is one of my son standing in my parents driveway, wearing my dad's fishing hat and another of him standing in a pool of light in a local creek.  
There are others of him smiling at the camera,but none of them were forced and I didn't ask for the smile.

The photos on my wall tell a story for me of a boy who likes to explore the fields at his grandparents' house. They tell a story of a family who isn't always perfect, but is loved, is trying, is striving to be better.

I have images of smiling faces, but almost none of them were obtained by asking for them, they came naturally, they were gifts, given to me in naturally happy moments.

Most importantly, the images I treasure most tell a story and that story is what I want to remember as the years pass.

“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”
— Karl Lagerfeld