A favorite photograph… #1

Today I am introducing another new blog series. As you can tell from my 2014 goals I shared recently, I am changing things up and am going to spend more time writing about things that are important to me, like books, creating with my kids, and more. And this new series is all about photographs – some of my favorite photographs. They aren’t necessarily technically perfect, and it’s not about what camera they were shot on. It’s my opinion that a really poor quality photograph is better than none at all if it serves its purpose of helping you remember a moment. Instead, it’s about why they are my favorite. As I share my favorites, I hope this series helps you to stop, look back on your many photographs, and reminisce too. Be reminded of a wonderful, or hard, or ______(name the feeling) moment in life. Afterall, isn’t that why we take photos?

Here are a few of my thoughts (and I know there are many more reasons than this, and feel free to share some of your own in the comments too!)…

For the joy of taking a great photograph. As a photographer, I can say that sometimes it’s the simple act of composing a beautiful shot that is enough for me.

For some, it’s just a social norm to whip out your iPhone and grab a quick photo with no real intention of what to do with it or no care in doing anything with it after. A way to experience life using a screen.

Sometimes photographs are a way record some quick information (who needs a pen and paper these days?) – like what level you parked on inside a parking garage (that actually works – just snap a photo of the parking space details).

For others, it’s to share the photos with people in our lives. I think there is a remarkable power of sharing your life with others through photographs. Sure, do people get carried away on social media? Yep. But there is something wonderful, too, about a community of people who enjoy your life with you – all through photographs. It’s really not that much different than the pre-social media days when we spent time emailing out photos to each other, and before that, mailing prints to those who you wanted to keep in the loop.

I think mostly, we take them so we can look back at a later time and remember. Remember whatever it is about that moment that we were trying to capture. I think it’s pretty amazing, really, that cameras exist for us to do that. What an absolute treat. I love when I read stories about a person in more remote places of the world discovering a camera or seeing an image of themselves for the first time (here’s an article about African children who have their first experiences with using a camera to record life, or these kids who see themselves on a digital screen for the first time, or these ones who have never seen an iPhone before). The awe. The excitement. It’s pretty incredible. Think of how much we’ve learned about the world because of photographs. Mind blowing.

That’s why I take photographs for my clients. To capture a moment in time for them to fondly remember as life changes and ages. So they can remember: a look, a feeling, a style, a hug, the way their messy kitchen looked perfectly lived in as they cooked a meal together, the quietness in a home as their kids are tucked sweetly in their beds, the overjoyed moment that they became married, the tears in the moment a new life joined their family. I make images for my clients so they can remember the rich details in a given moment of their life.

So if we are taking photographs to remember, then we ought to make time to look back on them from time to time too. And if you never or very rarely look back on your photographs – and no judgement in that – for A LOT of folks, photos simply get lost on computer hard drives, or just sit on your phone, or on your memory cards – then why spend time taking them? My thought is, if you’re never going to spend time looking at your photographs, then you should really just put your camera down and live the life you have going on right in front of you. Don’t put a camera buffer in between you and the moment, unless you actively choose to make time in your life later for enjoying those photographs. And there’s nothing wrong with that, contrary to social norm, you don’t have to have a camera out every second of the day or at every big event. You can enjoy other’s photos, or hire someone to take them for you. Or simply be present in your life.

But if you’re a photo lover like me, and have thousands or even hundreds of thousands of photographs that you’ve taken, that’s a lot of looking to do! I think it’s great that most people respond to the question of what would you take with you in a fire, with “my photographs.” Of course… because those are memories that you would only have in your mind if you no longer have your images. Photographs capture experiences in a tangible way to help us remember great people and great moments in our lives.

I look at my photographs pretty frequently – its something my kids and I do often together, but this year I’m making an even more conscious effort to spend time reminiscing and pulling out some of my favorite photographs (and printing them more often too – more on that later). My photographs are maybe not quite as profound as those stories about the first time someone sees their own image in a photograph, but to me, they are moments in my life I will hold dear to my heart. They are profound as part of my life story. And I want to share my favorites with you.

Now, obviously, I have tons of thoughts on this subject, but I will stop there and share my first favorite image in this series. Thanks for reading on this long, I really do hope it inspires you to spend time enjoying your photographs too.

Favorite photographs series by Emily Walen
Mother Daughter Photography
Oh, my heart loves this photograph. You may have seen this one on my Facebook page last summer, and it’s still one of my favorites. My husband caught this moment of me, being photographed by my oldest daughter at my old studio. I can’t even tell you ALL of the things I love about this photo, there are too many. But this photo makes me smile every time I see it. I remember how excited she was to use my “big” camera, and with her sweet little voice, she directed me to sit down, look at her, and smile. Though she would’t have needed to say smile, because I remember feeling so proud to watch her be a little photographer. She told me that maybe someday we could share a studio and do photography together (oh, little girl, wouldn’t that be wonderful). I love the little bow headband in her hair, and how sweetly she is holding the camera. I love so much that my husband thought to grab my iPhone and catch this moment that I was cherishing. I love the light that pours in through those windows. But mostly, I love this moment of watching my little four year old girl happily do something I love so much – make photographs.

And here is the photo she took of me that day. I love this photo too because it’s how she sees me. At her level. With her eyes. I hope she always sees more smiles on my face than frowns as she grows. And I hope she keeps taking photos and grows up treasuring them like I do.
Emily Walen - photographer and writer

Cheers to favorite photographs,

PS – I promise future favorite photograph posts will be shorter. At least, I’ll try. Really.