I didn’t grow up with a sister. I was actually lucky enough to be the only daughter with a brother before and after me, which is a pretty great place to be. But sometimes, when I see sisters, I think that relationship must be a pretty special one to have. And in this family’s case, there are three of them, which is even better (and CUTER). I loved documenting this family at home with their three little girls, especially after obsessing over every photo their mom has posted on Instagram (it’s not creepy, I promise — I’ve known her for years!). ;) Anyway, check out this cuteness overload:
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My friend Laura is one of the most insightful, genuine, and kind people I know. She approaches life with a wisdom and perspective that most don’t. When it came time for family photos, she told me that this year she wasn’t sure she was too excited about taking htem — because, in a way, it felt inauthentic. She meant that to present one’s family in a “perfect” light is to betray the realness of who we are as families (especially with young children). We are imperfect. We are flawed. Opinionated (have you met a toddler?). Tired (have you met a parent of a toddler?). We’re just human.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what she said since then. On one hand, as a photographer, I think it’s beautiful and wonderful to celebrate the goodness and joy in whatever life stage you’re in — even if your daily life doesn’t look like that one image might suggest. On the other hand, I think it’s raw and honest and vulnerable to present the parts of life that aren’t polished — that’s where real relationships form, and one of the reasons I love Laura as a friend.
So as I edited through her family’s photos, which were taken at the most picturesque time of year at one of the most picturesque locations in Kansas City, I was struck by how the beautiful and the imperfect intermingle in this space we call “family photos.” We’re presented with the lovely and the chaotic all in one space, which is such a picture of what family life is like. I love the image of Laura and her husband, Blake, laughing together under the perfect yellow trees. What you don’t hear in that image are the shouts of children running in the background (their children AND mine because they let me bring my OWN children to this photo shoot… see the next image after it, or the photo at the very end that shows my Luke covered in mud thanks to his big brother). ;) But in that image of Laura and Blake, their laughs are real. The story is real. It may just be a different one than you perceive.
So, I hope this year when you look at your family photos, you can appreciate the images of imperfection just as much as the holiday-card-worthy images. This time is fleeting. It’s happening right now. Document it well, and appreciate it for what it is.
(This is my little Luke, covered in mud by the end of the shoot…what kind of photographer takes her own kids to a photo shoot? Lol. The kind whose husband is out of town and it’s busy October and who has great friends who say “of course!” when you ask if your kids can come so you can fit it all in) :D
It was such a joy to get to visit San Francisco again and capture photos of Kara and Dan as they prepare to welcome their baby in just a matter of weeks! We revisited the same location we photographed their "first look" and portraits on their wedding day several years ago, which was so special! I love how Kara is literally glowing in these, and Dan's excitement to be a dad is so evident! Congratulations!
As the saying goes, home is where the heart is. It's where your people are. Where LEGOs are spread out across the living room floor. Where beautiful art sits side-by-side with kid-created masterpieces. Where laughter and silliness and the craziness of family happens on a daily basis. Yes, I'd agree -- that's surely where the heart is.
There is nothing quite like the first weeks of new parenthood. Everything changes, yet somehow quickly feels as thought this is what life has always been like. How you can't remember a time before this perfect little (yet sleep-depriving) human being lived in your home and heart. I love getting to document first-time parents in their home with their new little love. This shoot with baby Leah was so sweet, and she is one blessed little girl to be born into a family with such wonderful parents. I think they'd say the same about her.
While there's something so lovely about a great classic family portrait in a beautiful natural setting (and those have great value), I always think well into the future about what images are going to mean the most to my children when they're grown. I think it's the same kind of images that mean the most to be now that I'm an adult -- the images that transport me back to a place and time and a fleeting moment of family life. The images that tell a story of silliness, sweetness, fun, play, love, and home. When we photograph a family at home, it can sometimes feel a little crazy for the family -- and I know and love that about the process. I don't know about you, but my home is often a little crazy. Kids are running, playing, talking loudly. The treasure that lies in documenting a family at home is the ability to capture those in-between moments that we just can't do well with our iPhone (or don't have time to do in the busy day-to-day). I loved how much personality came out in this family session, because their kids were so comfortable in the environment -- their home!
I love photographing families in their homes. I feel like I say that all the time, but it's so true. I love it because of course, with all family photos, the people are special. It's especially fun to photograph those special people in a place that also has meaning. Where the walls hold their daily stories and the shelves house memories in the form of keepsakes, old photographs, and books. The place where the mundane meets the magical. Day in, day out.
I recently got to capture some sweet friends of ours in their home. A home they so lovingly have made their own -- every detail, every space becoming one that feels like them. It was such a treat.
Note: this story is not an easy one, especially for parents who may have experienced infant loss of any kind. However, it is a powerful one of miracles and hope.
On December 13, 2017, I got a phone call from Ashley. We had photographed and filmed her and Gustavo's wedding, and taken newborn photos of their daughter Belén. Most recently, we had run into them at Costco and heard they were expecting their second baby. On the day she called, though, it wasn't with news anyone expects. She was about 37 weeks pregnant and had lost their baby. Earlier that morning, she hadn't felt the baby move and she went in to the hospital to have things checked out. They told her there was no fetal movement and they couldn't find a heartbeat. Ashley asked if I would come to the hospital to take newborn photos after the stillbirth. I agreed.
Ashley then labored for about 36 hours. During that time, they grieved with their families, and planned a funeral. I arrived at the hospital the next evening and waited in the waiting room for them to call me back. A baby girl was born with no heartbeat and no pulse. A nurse placed her on Ashley's chest, skin-to-skin. About 10 minutes went by when the baby girl gasped for air. A natural reflex, they said. And then she did it again. And again. Ashley's doctor and nurse responded quickly, and felt a faint pulse. The respiratory team was dispatched and rushed into the room, resuscitating Ana Sofía -- a baby girl, fighter, miracle, gift from God.
The video below shares some of that story. It shows the moments in the delivery room right after Ana Sofía was rushed to the NICU. It shows her 3 days later, at Children's Mercy, undergoing therapeutic hypothermia to try and restore brain function after the lack of oxygen for so long. And it shows her a few weeks later, just after the new year, still in the NICU but obviously growing and exceeding expectations. And it shows her a few months later, at home with her family.
The road still holds a lot of unknowns. She has some hearing loss, but not the profound hearing loss they once believed. She will likely face cerebal palsy, but the effects are unknown. She is already moving, laughing, babbling, responding, and bringing light and love to everyone she meets. You can see it in her eyes. She is a light. A miracle. A gift.
Her dad, Gustavo, said something to me three days after her birth, while the prognosis was still very unknown, that I can't ever forget. About the future, he said: "I cannot be afraid, because I have seen God in my daughter."
Click the image below to play the video.
The Nelson is one of my favorite locations in Kansas City. Fall is one of my favorite times of year. And capturing a sweet family (even on a freezing cold evening!) in the fall at the Nelson couldn't be better. :) Here's a sneak peek of this family's shoot!
It may have been misting on us, but that didn't stop anyone from having a fun, personality-filled family session. :) Love this family and all of the personalities packed into one house. Here's a sneak peek from their foggy morning session at Lakeside Nature Center.
I love getting to see families over the span of years. I remember when these boys were so little, and I did a shoot at their old house where they showed me their favorite toys, we made Christmas cookies, and so many sweet things... they were probably around the age of my boys now! It's crazy how time flies by. These brothers are just as funny as ever, and I loved getting to capture their personalities. Here's just a sneak peek at their session!
When I was in the midst of newborn stage as a first time parent, everything was a blur. I just remember thinking nobody had prepared me for this. I mean, they did...sort of. But more in the "see all movies now while you can!" or "sleep while you have the chance!" kind of way. The pretty unhelpful way. People said our life would change. People said time would fly by so quickly. People said it was the sweetest time.
Now, I think I'm one of those people. Because our life did change -- in a million good and beautiful ways. And time does fly by so quickly -- our oldest is now over four, and I'm pretty sure I was just pregnant with him. And newborn stage was the sweetest time -- when they need you for EVERYTHING. In the moment, it's exhausting. Looking back, it's when the bonding began.
I love seeing new babies and new parents now, realizing that they're journeying through those same first moments together that begin it all. The journey of everything good, hard, beautiful, frustrating, worrisome, delighting, and unforgettable... parenthood. :)
Summertime is the season that is filled with nostalgia for me. Waking up in a room that already feels a little too warm, bright sun streaming in -- summer days start and end with reminiscent thoughts, almost as if the humidity carries all of those old memories. It might be because summer was when a lot of those sticky memories happened: vacations, slower days, playing outside, eating watermelon with salt from my grandpa's garden, sleepovers with best friends.
So when, as an adult, I get to help create summertime memories for my growing kids, it brings me so much joy. And when best friends who are still best friends come to visit, it's even sweeter.
My best friend since we were 6 years old brought her girls and her mom to spend the night with us, play in the sprinklers, and break in our new house a little. Before they left, we also had to do a quick shoot in the backyard, because that's what best friends who are photographers do. :) Love these girls.
Tap tap... Is this thing on?
Well, it's been a while. 7 months or so since I've visited this blog and written words and shared pictures. I don't even know why, except to say that when our historical blog content from 6 or so years didn't get moved over to our new site, the wind just left my sails. It stopped feeling like I was contributing to an ongoing story that had been recorded of countless people, couples, families, all connected because of my camera lens. It felt like starting over, and like the voice didn't exist. And also, life has been really busy. I'm learning a lot about seasons. Seasons where priorities have to adjust to make space for new. I thought, this is a season where I'm too busy to write. And if I don't write words to go with pictures, then how is this better than just sharing a few sneak peeks on Facebook? So I asked the question of my Facebook friends, and almost everyone who responded said: get back to blogging. Stories are bigger than Facebook.
So, here I am. Jumping back in to blog a session featuring one of those lovely voices who said, "just try again. It's worth it." And this is the perfect session to do that with, because Renee is a woman of intention, of thoughtfulness, of celebrating beauty and goodness even when things feel a little crazy.
I spent a short time last week with Renee and JP in their backyard, where they've been tending to all sorts of gardening projects. I have seen this backyard before -- most notably, as a place of celebration for a big life event, full of people and noise. But on this night, the backyard is a place for celebrating the little things that make up life, although those things aren't regarded with any less importance. This yard is a place where they retreat to do work that feels like an escape from work. A place where butterflies get saved. Where weeds are pulled to make room for the beautiful. Where mothers are honored with blooms. Where dreaming about hostas the size of people happens. Where there's room for big talks, little talks, or no talking. Where plants are rescued, just like a beloved dog. Where rocks are painted to commemorate special people, special dates. Where roots meet soil. Where the good stuff lives.
Everything has purpose. Everything has meaning. Everything is cared for.
Renee and JP, thank you for this.
We have this little plastic toy camera that we love to use for some nostalgic-feeling videos, like this one of our family in Paris when Ben was just learning to walk.
I (Erica) have never used it for anyone but our own family, so the Hisers agreed to let me try it out during a family portrait session in their home. I love the results. It's low-fi, simple, grainy, and shaky. But it has a certain feeling and sweetness and rawness that I just love. And this song is one of my favorites as the year ends and a new one begins.
I hope you enjoy this little video of a sweet family.
I (Erica) am sitting here in our quiet house. Our boys are asleep, their toys are still scattered across the living room. My couch is half put back together, but the rest of the pillows are still stacked in the remnants of a fort wall. The dishes are clean, but it's a minor miracle. The dog is curled up on my brand-new wool blanket that I should probably make him move from but he's so cozy that I can't make him move. The Christmas lights are on, and the house smells like frasier fir (and dinner and Vicks Vapor Rub and I'm-not-sure-what-else).
These kinds of days, these are it. These are the days that stories are made of. Not big stories, like my grandpa(s) used to tell. Not stories that make a whole room laugh at a punchline. Just life. The little things -- the anecdotes, if you'll humor me -- that make up the bigger story of WHO we are.
We launched Anecdotally Yours back in 2012 after several years of running separate photo and video businesses. When we did, we named ourselves this silly name because we wanted people to resonate with the idea that we are capturing anecdotes (short, biographical stories) of their life when they invite us to photograph or film them. Often, it's on a really important day or for a really important milestone. But sometimes, it's just normal, just everyday. And I'm realizing those are some of my favorite things to preserve.
"Story" has become quite a buzzword. It's in so. many. advertising messages. You can't escape it. And you know why? Because we, as humans, CARE ABOUT STORIES. Our own story and other people's stories. I promise we're not about buzzwords or targeting our marketing at you. We really care about your story, and need to get better about capturing our own.
So, in honor of stories, and you, and us caring about stories and you, let's do something fun. We're going to give away a family documentary photography session. All you have to do is comment on this blog post with a short version of your favorite personal story from 2016. Tell us something you don't want to forget about this year. Could be something big, but it could be something pretty mundane. Comment below, and we'll randomly pick someone to win a family documentary photography session!
- For people/couples/families in the Kansas City metro area only
- Must leave a comment below with a piece of your story from 2016. Make sure you write your name in the comment if you're not logged in to a Google or Facebook account, since your post will appear as Anonymous.
- The winner will get a one-hour family documentary photo session (typically in your home. This isn't a "traditional" family, baby, or engagement session, and can't be used on a wedding day. It's more real-life documentary and less posed images!)
- Digital files included
- Photo session must be redeemed before April 1, 2017
- Entries accepted until midnight on Friday, December 9th
- Winner will be announced after the 9th here on our blog and on our new Instagram account, @anecdotallyyours
- Want an extra entry? Follow our brand new Instagram account (we're really trendsetters, just now getting a separate account for AY...) @anecdotallyyours and post a photo on your own IG of one of your favorite moments of this year and tag @anecdotallyyours in the caption (that's the only way we'll be able to count your entry!).
Also, we've just launched this new website to freshen up our look and it's exciting for us! The last 5 years of our blog posts from our old site are still missing...we're working on it. And we still have some more content to add to the photo galleries (this many years of stories is kind of lot to work through!). For now, have a look around. Let us know if anything isn't working right or if you want to see more of something.
We're thankful for you all. Thank you for sharing with us, and for trusting us to tell your stories.
I had the best time document Brooke and Brit's life on their Kansas farm. They are the sweetest couple who wanted to preserve what their life is like in images, in part so they could use the photos in their adoption portfolio. They are going to make amazing parents, and a child is going to LOVE growing up in this gorgeous place with these two as their guides.
(Clicking on an image will let you view their slideshow larger on screen).