Technically I don't photograph family photo sessions anymore. I just needed to cut back on my work and focus mostly on engagements and weddings, but I do a certain number of family sessions for friends. One reason I love/hate family sessions is because family photos (in the traditional sense) often feel contrived, forced with major pressure for everyone to look happy at the exact same moment (which is rare occasion in most families!). This is especially true with small children. This goes against my gut desire to tell a story with the images I take. But the LOVE part of taking family pictures is the opposite- it's when I get to capture a family as they truly are, when the pressure's off for everyone to look and act their best. Even more so when I know the family because I know their story. My not-so-secret desire is to write a book about the lives of normal, everyday people and include pictures to go along with it. I think one of the reasons we are all addicted to taking pictures on our iPhones or little powershots is because when we freeze a moment, we are able to go back and appreciate it more than we could in that moment. When I'm away from my kids I look and show everyone pictures on my phone of my little guys. I realize how blessed I am. I realize how much I love them. My cup starts to overflow. I forget that pretty easily when one of them is screaming because he put both legs in one pant leg and the other is cranky and tired but won't nap. I need help remembering my life is good, my chaos is blessed, and it's a time in my life that I will one day look back on and long for (at least parts of it:). A picture does that for me when it captures life. I love it when life oozes out of an image- an expression, a laugh, a sweet moment that couldn't have been forced. I do my fair share of posing for sure, but its the images that reveal some soul that sing to me. All this to say I teared up when I went through the pictures I took of the Okie family because I saw the soul of their family in them. They have been friends of ours for the last year or so from our church. They are now moving to Maine for Tom's job (he just finished his PhD in history). Living in Athens means you get to love a lot of people and watch them leave. The Okies will leave a huge hole in this place. I talked to Kelly about their family pictures and she wanted to get images of them having fun, rolling around on a blanket:), laughing, doing what they do as a family. Clearly this was my kind of shoot. Kelly and Tom have Aida, Benjamin, and their newest, Eliza. I love them all, but feel a special connection to Aida. In fact earlier that day I ran into Kelly and Aida at the pool and Aida had made a picture for me- so she grabbed it out of her car and ran it to me. It is a really special drawing hanging in my house. I think Aida is especially cool, and even copied her haircut after she got her's done at a hip Athen salon. I could say a million things and maybe one day I can write a chapter about them in my book, but it's suffice to say that this family is rich. They are rich towards God, rich in relationships, rich in laughter, rich in honesty and struggle and fighting to trust God in all of it. Towards the end of our little session together everyone was starting to fall apart (pictures are exhausting for kids and grownups, too!) and Aida and Benjamin started whining. Kelly and Tom decided to play the whining game to see who could whine the loudest, and I think Kelly won. This quickly made the kiddos laugh and it became easier to shake off the whining. That's the kind of people they are as parents, quick to correct but just as wise to know what would really help their children. Afterwards as a treat for taking pictures they got to eat Captain Crunch cereal (with berries of course). They invited me over for some Cap'n, but I knew my own story needed to be re-entered into at my home. I came home that night and rocked my Andy to sleep, grateful for my own happy chaos. Seeing other people's stories have that impact on me- it compels me to hug more and squeeze those I love because I see they are my riches. Thanks Kelly and Tom for creating a family that is beautiful.You guys will be greatly missed.