• Tina Witherspoon

Documentary Photography: Families


I’ve always loved candids. Every time I look through someone’s photo album I skip pretty quickly past all the posed shots and look for those stolen moments. So naturally when I heard there was this thing called Documentary Family Photography I knew that it was something I wanted to try. The premise is simple: embed yourself in a family's regular life for 4-8 hours and once they forget you're there taking pictures, the magic happens. People being themselves in their own environment is infinitely more fascinating than taking a picture while they are posed and smiling.

The premise is simple: embed yourself in a family's regular life for somewhere between four and eight hours, and as soon as they forget you're there taking pictures, capture the magic as it unfolds. Families being themselves in their own environment is infinitely more fascinating than taking a picture while they are posed and smiling.

So much of our world is captured in forced, posed images that we print and stuff in frames then hang on the walls to show the passage of time. But the real memories are the messy, in-between moments that are often not photographed, but become a story we tell after the fact. I wanted to experience this documentary style of photography, so I convinced a friend to let me follow him and his young family around on a Saturday and just see where the day took us. I'd known his kids for a few years, so they were comfortable with me photographing them almost instantly.

The day was filled with weekend shenanigans — no special plans, just breakfast, play time, a walk to the park with the dogs — but the images that we captured are truly special. An album full of fleeting moments creating memories they would never have photos of if not for me lurking in the corner clicking the shutter button.

I must have taken a couple thousand frames that day, shooting on continuous high speed, and when I culled them down to a collection I thought the family would enjoy, there were 300 photos. Do you know how many different moves a kid can make in 5 minutes? Let alone 5 hours. I barely took the camera away from my eye the entire time and when I did, I regretted it.

Once I get vaccinated and we all start to feel comfortable in the new normal, I'm hoping to resume this work and I would love to create lasting messy memories for your family!

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