If you’re a parent, you’ve likely heard of the book I Love You Through And Through (*) by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak. This highly popular book was a baby shower gift when I was pregnant with my daughter. Bernadette’s words became my inspiration for a photo project during the second year of Kendall’s life, while I was pregnant with my son. I’ll confess, I overestimated the ease of this project. It took me a few months before I finished what I thought would be something I could do in a week. You can stretch your awareness like crazy with this project, something we all need a documentary photographers. Through the project, my inner serial moment-seeker truly came to life.
Before Kendall was born, I set out to make one great photograph of her, daily, for the first year of her life. This project went beyond a year and well into 3 years (you can read more about that over on Clickin Moms, Diaries of a Daily Photo Project: 3 Years Later). In the first year, I was learning my camera while fumbling through poses & set ups, mixed with the in-between photos of our daily life (that I thought were placeholders until my next great photo set-up at the time… funny how my perspective has changed). So this project was perfect as a developing photographer in my second year, making the shots more about the context rather than, ‘did I get my exposure right?’ (fyi, I look back at these photos 2 years later and see my technical flaws, we’re always growing, aren’t we?)
Incorporating an Easy Theme Into an Everyday 365 Project
Using a theme for my 365 project felt like pressure. I kept the project open and free to shoot what I wanted, when I wanted. However, it was important to push myself and doing a sub-theme for my “everyday” photos worked well for me. The I Love You Through and Through project was the only time I set out to achieve a “theme” of sorts on an ongoing basis. Bernadette writes about physical attributes and feelings throughout the book (think happy, sad, silly mad). The book is written in first person, about unconditional love, and it rhymes. From a mother’s perspective, she talks many things we love about our babies. It’s all pretty genius, heartwarming content. One day as I was reading the book with Kendall, the details danced off of the page as photo opportunities to create of Kendall. What better way to celebrate and honor this girl I love so deep?! What happened resulted in much more than photos: my moment-awareness grew.
My goal was to create a photo that represented each page’s message from the book. I made a list of each item, 21 photos, and was on a hunt to find the opportunities to create the photos. However, I’ll fill you in on the secret to this project: a great deal of patience is required, something that has taken me much practice. This project is not like a pose you go out and create. You have to wait for the happy, the cries, etc. And more often than not, I was not happy with the photo I first created or found myself thinking “shoot! I missed that.”
Several images took me a few attempts. For example, photographing her nose was hard for me. It sounds simple when you think about it, but I didn’t want to take a snapshot just to take a snapshot. What I added to this personal photo project was that each photo really needed to mean something in my soul. It was important that I felt something from the photo and each photo has it’s own story or memory behind it. So if you take on this challenge, you will not only be on the hunt for various emotions, but you’ll really be mindful in how they play in the environment & what’s happening in order to create a more meaningful photograph.
The Resulting Photos:
If you are familiar with this book, follow along my photos to the pages of the book and you’ll totally get the images. I don’t feel right providing captions for each as Bernadette’s book is so simple that it would pretty much be plagiarizing 😉 These are my resulting photos from setting out to photograph a variety of Kendall’s emotions & beautiful features:
I’ve printed the series of photos into a little Guest Book from Pinhole Pro and it sits in our living room on a bookshelf. Two years later, I look through the book and am elated I have these photos (and guilty that my son is now 2.5 and I need to do this project or similar for him!). It’s even more fun letting her tell me what I love about her in each photo (for top side, she says I love her head ha!).
For real though, this series of photos takes me back to that spring with my 18 month old baby girl, which was one of my top favorite seasons in life. She was such an easy baby and our lives are much more complex with her baby brother around. Today, it’s hard for me to have one on one time with her unless Levi is sleeping. We do have dates, like going to dinner and to see the Pinkalicious play last weekend, but it’s not the same. It’s not the day in, day out, just the two of us (and daddy when he wasn’t working). It’s not that life was better then, we love our Levi like crazy too, but it was different. I recognize the change heavily. The way our life has evolved since these photos were created and how she has now grown into a bright, creative child, I feel nothing but gratitude when I look at these images (so thanks, Bernadette for writing I Love You Through And Through (*) and giving me the inspiration!).
If you are seeking to add more feeling and personality to your imagery, I highly suggest you aim to complete a photo challenge like this one. Because of this constant prowl for the next photo to check off my list, being a mystery at which one would be next, my awareness went through the roof. I felt in-sync with Kendall’s emotions and mannerisms paired with her physical attributes in each moment in time. Photography aside, I felt more in-tune as a mom than ever, because I was being more attentive than ever (and I felt pretty attentive before considering I was a stay at home mom at the time).
If you haven’t already, check out I Love You Through And Through (*) and I dare you to take each page as a photo challenge of 21 images.
To get a full list of ideas on what to look for and to photograph for your own personality photo project, click here:
* affilate links are in this post.