Gaining Closure of a Life Change Through Making Pictures

How to get your life back on track

The moment I said ‘yes’ in the decision to move south, there was a pang that felt a lot like loss among the excitement of adventure. If you knew me in real life, you’d know I’m an easy going, go-with-the-flow kinda girl. I LOVE new + change. Still, when I love something hard, I have a hard time letting it go. This is a story of my experience in how the camera + a pen can help you deal when some of your best living memories turn into the past.

Late one night, I looked around the house, processing what was happening.

“WE COMPLETED OUR FAMILY HERE!!(!!!) Our kids love this place. Another fam living in my house?!” I thought, feeling a bit territorial.

Touching the trim around our master bath doorway, I felt the many hours (and money) that Dave put into working on what was supposed to be our forever home.

(with an eager, loving intent to make me happy.)

That crushed a little — like we were cheapening this life we’ve built. For the most part, I loved our life there.

Emotions were already high from family and friends. I didn’t want my feelings to get brushed under the rug in the process of social visits, packing, and living our day-to-day. Mostly, I wanted to avoid arriving a few months into our new state and feeling sudden loss: wishing for just one more. If you’ve found yourself thinking, “HOW did I get here?” that’s exactly what I mean.

Bookmark this story by pinning this image:

Three things came to mind to honor this season o’ life:

  1. To document our home and as much of our town, fave places, people, etc. as we could before we go. So, Kendall (my daughter) and I started a photo project together.
  2. Instead of only focusing on new pictures, I curated some of my old pictures that spoke to our time in this home. Revisiting these felt so good and adding them to the new photos, now we have potential photo book on our hands.
  3. I wanted the new owners to feel how special the home was. So, I wrote them a welcome letter to greet them on the kitchen counter (shared in a separate post, if you’re curious).

1 & 3 are ways to actively preserve memories, but preserving memories wasn’t the point. It’s about so much more than those buzzwords we hear often in the photography community.

My mission was to (literally) move through the transition feeling mindful of every step. To not get lost in ‘what’s next’ and miss out on today. And so, I went on a mind hunt (with my daughter) to seek all the things that spoke to our home / our town. We used our cameras to strengthen the connection between sight and feelings.

This helped keep the dialogue open around what Kendall was feeling in this transition too. All I had to do was listen, but choosing what to shoot sparked the feelings and conversation.

My thoughts centered around 4 things:

  • Our journey into the home / area. From the day of closing, to moving in, renovating, and exploring the area. I’ve included some of those pictures too below.
  • What’s changed from our 2013 move-in to the present.
  • The people and places currently in our life – all the things / people / places I’d surely miss.
  • Why I wanted to move (what I didn’t love about the home / area).

It’s important you know that the pictures below are not mind-blowing. They aren’t meant to be. You’ll likely scroll by them without any reaction, emotion, or connection. But, that’s ok.

You have pictures just like this for yourself, if you let yourself make them. Pictures that appear simple, boring, lack of context, but when you look at them, you see experiences. You FEEL experiences. There are memories revolving around something inside that picture. And it’s the memory, not the picture, that elicits an emotion out of you.

The simple pictures of buildings with no people or the ones where I’ve missed my mark on composition or lack of story / a strong moment that YOU would recognize in my pictures are shared below, because they do that for me. They aren’t my best work, but they’re parts of my heart. Ask me about a picture and I have a whole story to tell you behind it.

I can’t speak for my {almost} six year old, but I felt like I acknowledged the value in pieces of our life and gained some closure to a wonderful adventure of our recent past.

{scroll to the end to get your homework}



If you’re still with me, I’m impressed! My mom goggles were on HARD for this post. Each an every photo is intimate to me in some way and I could talk your ear off with stories around each one.

Now, back to you…


You’re probably not moving, like I did, but you can spark up a similar photo project for yourself.

PRETEND: YOU’RE MOVING. Do the 3 actions I did above (make pictures of what you value, look back at old pictures around your home / town, and write a letter to the next owners of your home).

What do you recall from your journey to this home and the memories you’ve created in it?

What would you miss if you moved?

Get it out out of your head and onto paper:

How to Find Stories for Your Memoir and Photos

Author: MarieMasse
I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.

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    • Thank you so much, Annie. I don’t use any purchased presets at this point – though I used ACR presets + Photoshop actions when I was learning (from Colorvale Actions). I got a feel for what I liked and with experience I eventually created my own ACR preset for each new set of images + use it just for that set.

  • I understand your feelings. Thirty years ago my brother and I sold the home we grew up in since we no longer lived in town and our parents were both gone. We sold it to my best friend, who had also spent many hours there, both as a teenager and as an adult when he helped our Mom with various tasks after our Dad died. Unfortunately, I have very few photos from decades of life in the home my maternal grandparents built in the 1920s. When my friend and his business partners, who had bought it intending to do some renovations and then re-sell it, did sell a few months after buying it, he wrote me a very moving letter expressing how he then understood how I must have felt when I left it for the last time. He experienced similar feelings since he had so many memories of pleasure spent there. When my wife and I moved from our first home together, which she had owned for several years, we had managed to take more photos of its interior and exterior, although, as usual, there are not nearly as many as we might want. This post is an excellent prompt to take more shots around our present home, since at some time we’ll be moving on. Thanks for the post.

  • Absolutely adore these. The images in the South are so fitting, especially the image of your daughter with the Dollar General in the background. It just screams small town south. Reminds me of where I grew up. Love, love these photos and the story they tell.