Mornings and new years have a lot in common. You start over, not from scratch but with more energy and insight. You stretch your arms high, yawn, shake off the past and set yourself up for the adventures that lie ahead.
A client (and friend) told me something about her family’s pictures this past fall that I can’t get out of my head or my heart.
She told me that my pictures are a ministry.
My heart soared for a split second before the bottom dropped out. My work wasn’t worthy of a statement of that magnitude. I can’t dismiss her words though, I respect her: she is wise and sincere. So we talked about it and she followed up with an email, she wanted to write it down.
“We often think of ministry and ministers in a religious context. But actually to minister is just to attend to someone’s needs, to take care of them. I see it as meeting people where they are with what they need. Your pictures do just that. They remind me to remember that my family is ok despite the mundane ups and downs we all go through . They remind me to stop all my Mommy doing and planning and worrying to really appreciate the beauty of our little ones and to apprehend all the blessings of our togetherness with joyful gratitude. They relieve us of striving to be perfect and really capture the authentic perfect essence that is already in us. Crazy that a picture can do all that. ”
(Andrea, thank you so much for ministering to me. I am learning so much. ❤️)
I can see the goal. A goal for myself as a mother and for myself as a photographer, as a practice. Simply, to attend and to give what is needed. Part of it is learning to be present and nowhere else, to be mindful, to channel my inner Thich Nath Hahn. Part of it might also be inserting myself less in order to experience what is in front of me more. To pay less mind to what I want to give in order to better see what is needed.
I can’t – I won’t – write much about my love for the family pictured here because if I’m tearing up a bit right now, the prospect of reflecting puts my keyboard in aquatic peril. My family, this family, our family: we run deep. I love these children, they are my nieces and nephews by choice rather than blood. There has been overwhelming joy and crushing loss in our parallel and interconnected lives.
I didn’t tell anyone what to do on this December morning of our “6 month shoot” for Evie, I just attended. I know that not every family will be willing to take professional photos in their jammy-jams and that not every family will be able to operate with me in their space and no direction. But I also know that photos like these are deeply relatable in their raw and beautiful truth. I must meet people where they are, wherever that that happens to be. I’m so glad that on occasion I get to meet here, at home, surrounded by the mundane and the magical.
So I will keep thinking about and working on this idea of ministry – the helping kind. In the meantime, see if you can hear the smooth sound of Norah Jones’ voice competing with an exhaust fan over the range. Maybe you can smell bacon and butter lightly frying in a pan and taste the comfort of coffee: good, hot and bitter. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the year than showing you a day when it is still new. These aren’t moments we necessarily think to photograph but they are the traditions we remember and carry with us always.
Happy New Year to you and to yours. It’s your year, it has always been your year. Grab it by the horns and don’t let go. There is so much love there.