THE DOCUMENTARY PORTRAIT SESSION

 
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A few months back I did a session that completely changed my perception of what portrait photos must look like. The shoot was for a little 2-year old girl named Charlotte.  Charlotte's mom, Cassie, is my hairstylist, and she's been pimpin' myself and my husband out for YEARS. She's the one who convinced me --- an Asian with black hair! --- to dye my hair blonde! If you are looking for a new stylist I encourage you to stop in at Salon Jo-El in Phoenix, Arizona and schedule an appointment with her pronto.

Cassie and I coordinated a photo shoot at a local park. When I met Charlotte on the day of the shoot, I exclaimed, "wow, she is so adorable!" I gushed over how beautiful she is (those eyes! that hair! those ruddy cheeks!) and thought, this shoot is gonna be easy! I'm gonna get awesome shots!  So, I set down a blanket, and told Cassie to plunk her down on it so I can get cute photos of her smiling at the camera.  Great plan, right? I thought so too. And most of the time, kids generally do just that. Charlotte, however.....well, she had other ideas. All Charlotte wanted to do was PLAY.  

I spent the next hour chasing her around, trying to get just ONE shot of her holding still and looking at the camera. For the entire session, I worried that I wasn't getting THE SHOT- that one, framable portrait shot that Cassie could hang in her hallway, the one that everyone sees and says, "wow, that's a great picture of Charlotte!"

When I went home that night, I was nervous about looking at the photos.  And, sure enough, I was right--I only got one good traditional formal portrait of Charlotte, and to be honest, it wasn't the best one:

 
 

 

But here's the thing.  Going through my photos, I realized that what I did get were some amazing photos of Charlotte racing around, rolling around on the grass, laughing, playing, and just being her little 2-year old self. My favorite images are the ones that I caught between the times I was trying to get THE SHOT:

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I realized something that day. Going through the photos, I realized that I did, in fact, take formal portraits of Charlotte-- they were just different from traditional portrait shots. Because Charlotte never stopped moving, I had to stop trying to get the perfectly poised portrait shot that I thought other people expected. I was forced to shoot photos in the best way that I could at the time, using my signature documentary style. Sure, in my version, she isn't posing nicely in front of the camera.  Sure, in my version, she was laying on her stomach. She ripped the bow out of her hair, was covered in grass, and had messy tangled hair.  But you know what? They are still a beautiful shots, and they really capture Charlotte's independent, free spirit.

I recently visited Cassie's house and I'm happy to say that she loved them! She has already framed a bunch of the photos from our session and has hung them proudly on her living room wall :)

I photographed a Day In The Life session with Cassie's family recently.  I hope you check in so you can see more photos of the beautiful, sassy Charlotte, and of the rest of Cassie's amazing family!

xo

Christine