Thursday, April 19, 2012


It has only taken me a handful of months, but I'm finally posting about our family photo session we had with Kate T. Parker at the end of 2011.

My delinquency is a direct result of my inability to articulate my back story to her  phenomenal pictures. I realized I couldn't do justice to the experience or her work, so I am relying on her images to carry you through this post, and apologize for the clumsy and artless attempt at context.

(I also must acknowledge that her photos are responsible for my updated blog banner and profile picture.)

One of my favorite images is the one above: our family in "silhouette" with the faint contrail in the sky. Kate received some well deserved recognition for this photo at a 1650Gallery exhibition in Los Angeles, too! Boo-ya!

Bee tee dubs, contrails are the clouds left behind an aircraft. Yeah, I didn't know that, either, until my almost 4-year-old informed me.

Back story: 2011 marked some significant personal losses for my family. Losing my paternal grandparents, in fairly quick succession, was incredibly difficult for me. I was a 32-year-old who was able to say she still had all 4 of her grandparents until late 2011. And after 32 years, I was a wink away from believing in grandparental immortality.

Disclosure: one of my biggest fears is not so much dying as it is being forgotten. Well, dying is a kinda scary prospect, too.

I am afraid my grandparents will be forgotten over time.

(Obligatory ellipsis coupled with another one of my favorite images from the session...)
My parents and Aunt and Uncle had the task of processing my grandparents' possessions. During that time, they unearthed a small sum of cash. It was probably internally earmarked for yearly birthday gifts, or Christmas purchases. It was decided to split it among the family with the explicit instructions "use this for something special." It wasn't a large sum of money, but it was a generous sum. Sure, I could use for something practical like chipping away at my students loans, but I immediately knew what I wanted--maybe needed--to use it for: a family photo session.

My grandparents never met my children, but "knew" them through phone calls and the library of photographs we sent to their house on Steinsville Road for them to put on display. Permanent fixtures in their house. Many pictures that are now back in my possession.
And perhaps photographic memories are a key to not being forgotten.
I'm not sure if it comes across on the blog, but I love photography. Not so much the "doing", but I have a fascination with portrait photography and what Kate calls "in between moments" photography. I am someone who falls victim to the...wait...hold your breath as I am about to hit you with a dated and lame John Mayer reference...trying to fit the world inside a picture frame. (Now let's pretend that didn't happen, m'kay?)

But what do I know? As far as I am concerned, an F stop is located right after Lindbergh station on the MARTA line, an aperture refers to trombone lips, and I'm pretty sure ISO was a yacht rock band in the early 80's.  

During my hunt to find an Atlanta area photographer to do our 2011 holiday family shoot, my friend JE directed me to Kate's website and I was instantly moved.

She gets it.

She composes pictures that take my breath away. 

She has the skills and eye to capture those"in between" moments that define our life.

So I let Kate figure out all of the camera buttons and settings and booked a session. Simply, I told her I wanted pictures of my family. Not staged. No matching outfits. And please can we avoid the Olin Mills back drops? No judgement on folks who choose to take more formal pictures, I am just acknowledging the intent behind our shoot. Okay, a little judgement with the Olin Mills dig...
I wanted someone who had an eye for capturing my family's idiosyncrasies and distinguishing marks...wonky ear, slight neck tilt, searing blue eyes, shy demeanor, gregarious spirit...the defining things and indelible moments I want(ed) my grandparents to see and remember. Much like I remember the chicken peck scars on my grandmother's hands, the age spots on my grandfather's temples, or that smile that you knew was going to be followed by a chorus of "aye ye-eye ye-eye!" 

I wanted images that speak to the essence of who we are, not who we can pretend to be.

And I wanted images that could sustain even after we are gone. 
What I love about Kate's aesthetic is her authenticity.

It was the first time we have ever had photos taken when I had implicit faith that the photographer would catch what we (I) wanted without perpetually thinking "was that the shot?"

Kate just sort of stood back while we...well...lived and played like we normally do. (There might have been fewer pieces of stained shirts, running shorts, and breakfast "crustles" around the mouth.)

Oh yeah, and then she snapped some pretty awesome shots.

I consider our life to be a beautiful wreck at times--imperfectly aligned, maybe even a little blurry at at the edges and peppered with scowls, boogies, lazy eyes, projecting chins, crooked smiles, and squint lines. But all of those angles are how I want our family to be remembered.

And Kate caught it all--the moments and the  angles.

The moments were fleeting and dissipated as quickly as the contrail in that first picture. But the memories? Eternal.

Yeah. Kate gets it.

And I'm pretty sure if I could have sent an album of our shoot to Paul and Lila on Steinsville Road, they would have gotten it, too.


  1. i am near tears....i am so thankful and glad to have done this session and that you feel i did it justice. you guys were amazing to work with and are such a happy and funny family.

    your writing is amazing.

  2. stunning. can you send her to new orleans?

  3. I am in tears. What stunning memories you now have. I am so sad that Mom and Pop didn't get to see, although somehow I believe that now they do...