People often ask me what I enjoy photographing the most. When I was asked this question a few years ago, I used to scratch my chin and usually gave some version of, “I really like all of it…” It may sound insincere, but at that time, there was something about all of it that lit me up. Only I couldn’t figure out what it was. It wasn’t until early 2014 that I was able to put my finger on the answer to that question. And for this photographer, it wasn’t about the photographs. It was about the impact the photographs had on my subjects. My clients. The incredible KKP Family.
Today was one of those days when I was reminded of this impact. I sat across the table from two parents, a little nervous, a little excited, about to see their family images for the first time. Eric bought the session for Gen for her birthday, and today was the day it all came to fruition. We started their Cambridge adventure at their home where they graciously allowed me to show up at 7:30Am for pancake breakfast. Afterwards we headed to their favorite park nearby where the kids spend a lot time during the warm months. The video montage started playing, and I waited. If you don’t already know this about me, THIS IS MY FAVORITE PART. Reaction. Love. Hope. Childhood. Parenthood. The future. The past. It’s all wrapped up in their reaction.
The video ended, the lights came up, and I turned to these two parents. I found mom in tears, and dad doing a darn good job of fighting them back. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I just can’t believe how fast they are growing. How fast it’s all going.” And then she said something that made my entire month. “I can smell them. Their hair, their skin. My kitchen. I can taste the pancakes. I can hear stove sizzling.” And then she said the funniest thing of all, “This album is going to be my dementia book. When I can’t remember anymore, this is going to bring it all back to me.” That’s when I lost it too. Three teary parents in a seaport conference room. Happy, nostalgic, grateful tears.
Now that I can speak as a parent, I can say firmly that I believe family story telling through a documentary approach is the most valuable vocation I could have. It’s not about creating scenarios that don’t feel, smell or taste like your real life. It’s about a SENSORY experience of your life today, that will stand the test of time. It’s about images that will bring value beyond just smiles in 20 years. It’s about providing the next generation with a visual inheritance that will make them feel, smell and taste their past. People who don’t exist yet, and who may never know you, will know your essence.
This is my life. And I’m so proud that you trust me with yours.
All images ©Karen Kelly Photography. Karen is a Boston-based photographer specializing in documenting and preserving family history. You can see more of her work online at www.kkpforlife.com, on Instagram or on Facebook. If you’d like to contact her directly, you can find her at firstname.lastname@example.org.