I was completely burnt out from my photography business: fatigued from the built-up excitement when an inquiry chose to book with me, documentary family photographer, only for them to fall in line with the rest of my previous clients… not actually understanding “documentary.”
One evening, I phoned a friend and paced my living room as if every step were a literal step closer to where I wanted to be. I argued for the value of what I wanted to do with making pictures.
At this time, I was looking at my pictures and reminded of my past memories that I hadn’t thought of in awhile. The pictures were drawing that out of me and it felt good. It was helping me see more of what really matters in my present life and how I’ve carried some of my past lessons with me into today.
It felt so good to feel this tie to other seasons in life — through pictures of the present — that I wanted to give that to others.
What lights you up?
What do you get out of your pictures or whatever your creative business is that you want to give to others?
Maybe you’re not in business. Maybe it’s simply how you show up for your family and others?
My LOVE and conviction for feeling connected + close to my stories, my experiences, and the people who matter in my life outpoured on that call, because that’s what I believe “documenting” does for us.
At least, it can.
If we allow it to.
If we wake up and pay better attention to the parts of our life that matter.
This isn’t a business episode, but if you’re in business: you can get off order-taker mode, put your Chef hat on, and wake your clients up with the most beautiful dose of gratitude + love for their life they’ve felt in a long time…
you’re probably like “I already do that” and yes, but you can elevate that feeling by going deeper with them. If you need help, start here.
I hadn’t been showing up in that way in my business especially.
I wanted to, but I’d been:
- making pictures of flawless faces in unmeaningful places by request of clients
- making “documentary” photographs for the sake of making documentary pictures – meaning moments that didn’t really matter to me (or my clients for that matter) – that just felt like they belonged in the documentary family photography community. They had a story and / or emotion, but not personal + intimately important. There is a difference.
Wanting to do something doesn’t get results. Action does.
So, I’ll never forget that phone call, because it was the beginning of a movement within. I was never into Day in the Life sessions (those became a well-known thing about a year later) or showing up at my clients’ homes for 2 or 4 hours, at a random time, to document their everyday life. This approach felt random.
Don’t get me wrong, documenting our every day is important, but it’s not everything. It’s not the only way we can use “documenting.” We can do more. We can document in a rich, intimate way that speaks to the moments and stories that have already STUCK with us.
In today’s society, we live in a hurry.
We work for more: to do more, be more, get more. It’s exhausting and no matter how far we go, it feels like it’s never enough. We’re always becoming, but it’s like, we’re habitually trying too hard.
Here and there, I’d look back at my life in gratitude and look to my present with love + contentment.
The problem is: we tend to dismiss this reflection.
We rush away from it, because we’ve got stuff to do. WE’RE BUSY.
We save this pair of glasses for “when we’re done” with whatever we’re working on. Or we save this way of seeing for times of milestones: birth, weddings, funerals.
Or, we overlook giving attention to other important parts of our lives entirely, because we can only see the season we’re in.
Photographer Pam Dubasek said this:
“People think they’re going to remember, but they don’t.”
In ep 002 on my story of Intentional Documentary, at several points in my life, I looked back at my life and realized I didn’t spend my time wisely. I didn’t appreciate experiences or people in a way I wish I would have until it was too late. Intentional Documentary became a vessel to keep what matters CLOSE. It literally changed how I see.
Can you relate to any of this?
- To living life in a constant fast-forward?
- To living with a sting of what’s changed or been lost?
- If you’re in business, to feel like you’re not being the artist or the chef as I call it, and you’re doing what doesn’t entirely light you up in order-taker mode?
Documenting is a tool to stop sleepwalking through our hurried lives and to STAY AWAKE.
When it comes to photography, don’t shoot your life. Shoot FOR your life.
Better yet, realize that documenting goes beyond photography.
Documenting starts with choosing to look for these moments + micro-values in your life regularly and to pause long enough to acknowledge them.
Making a picture?
That’s your response to acknowledgement.
That’s simply lasting EVIDENCE that you really saw the moment or the person who matters. You slowed down. You saw your home, your parents, your grandparents, your childhood neighborhood, list goes on, and you said,
“You matter. You made an impact on me.”
The power of doing more of that in your life (and asking your clients to do so) is HUGE.
What’s really cool and not talked about nearly enough in our community is that documenting isn’t limited to making pictures. It’s in films, in voice memos, storytelling, keeping mementos, in writing stories and letters, in tracing family history, and more.
It’s also not about bottling up and collecting what matters for the sake of accumulation or to check a box that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something.
It’s recognizing and FEELING what matters to you in the moment or when the moment has aged a bit.
It’s – here’s where most of us fall short – using what you’ve collected as means of DEEP, OPEN & VULNERABLE CONNECTION with the people you care for that results in strengthened ties + making these people BELIEVE they’re valued by you.
So here are some gut check questions for you:
- Are you documenting what matters in your life or what will look good in a photo?
- Are you hoarding all that you document or using it for high level connection (meaning, beyond tagging someone on IG or FB)?
- Do you feel like you’re living in a hurry or that you slow down to feel gratitude often?
- Have you expressed WHY someone matters to you lately?
If you don’t like one or more of your responses:
- What’s holding you back?
- What can you do THIS WEEK to change that?
More resources + goodies on this topic:
- Take Action: Download the To-Remember List PDF as a designated space to jot down what matters for different categories of your life, so that you remember to document it later
- For your client business, go deeper with this: Intentional Documentary Workflow video series + Questionnaire Collection
- Listen: 004: What’s a Legacy Box?
- Listen: 031: 4 Foundations to Document Your Life BETTER
Quotes (my pastor introduced these to me! How cool is that?):
“Unexpressed gratitude feels like ingratitude to the ones for whom you are grateful.” Andy Stanley
“Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.” C.S. Lewis
You might be wondering – wait, those are about gratitude, not documenting. What I’m learning that Intentional Documentary® starts with a moment of connection to something that matters. That something that matters? It’s often a feeling of gratitude. Not always, but often.
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