I believe that there are two great love stories in which we all play a role. One is about searching for and finding our partner for life. And the other is about being part of a family, whether as parents or children or siblings. Telling these stories in an emotionally authentic way is, for me, the whole point of photography.
Every story consists of a series of events, tied together by emotions. Which is to say, I believe that there are big moments, and there are little moments. As a former sports photographer, I know my way around big moments. But quite honestly, it is the little moments that most captivate me when I am looking through the lens.
I think of big moments as the happenings, the goings-on of a plot that give the day its timeline. In a wedding, these might include the exchange of vows and the first dance. For a family, they could be as simple as a trip to the playground, or building a snowman. In a photojournalistic sense, it’s critical to document these moments well because they provide the framework for the entire affair. To do so requires anticipation, improvisation, and a willingness to scramble.
If the big moments constitute the event itself, then it is all the little moments that give the occasion its meaning. They are the telling details wherein the emotions of the day are revealed. They might be seen etched in a bride’s face as she tries to calm herself while being helped into her dress. Or they could show up in the way the groom holds his bride’s hand by clutching just two fingers.
Sometimes as parents raising our families, we can be too absorbed in getting through the day-to-day to appreciate all the little moments as they happen, but it doesn’t make them any less meaningful (if only in retrospect). They often reveal themselves in the body language and expressions of children who are discovering something new, or just completely having fun…
Whether it is behind the pageantry and trappings of a wedding, or within the familiarity of a family’s day-to-day-in-the-life, the great love stories of our lives are hidden in the subtle and the understated. To find them, you have to quietly wait, and watch.
As a photographer, I believe above all else that faithfully documenting these stories requires as unobtrusive a presence as possible. Often it’s when we don’t even know our picture has been taken that we are captured being our genuine selves. And isn’t this, after all, the way we most want to remember the people and events in our lives?