Climbing, running, jumping, spinning, hanging, somersaulting. This pretty much sums up my children at any given moment…oh and go ahead and add yelling, shrieking, cackling, and roaring. They are busy. They have endless amounts of energy. They don’t have time to sit for photos. And frankly, they don’t want to sit for photos. I gave up trying to get my oldest to pose for photos by the time he was 3. I would beg him to look at the camera and he would just flat out ignore me. Then I’d get frustrated, and by the end of it I’m growling “PLEASE PLEASE JUST LOOK HERE FOR ONE SECOND!” And you know what? I was grumpy. He was grumpy. No one was happy and no one was smiling. I was usually so irritated that I didn’t even want to take the stupid photo anymore. So I’d put the camera away, and the same scenario would repeat another day.
So obviously, that wasn’t a successful strategy for me. I wanted photos, though, and I was determined to get them one way or another. I stopped asking. I started just taking photos. I would take photos of my son painting, playing outside, helping daddy with gardening. When my daughter was born, I continued the trend. And the same with my youngest.
I have been photographing documentary family style for about 8 years. I absolutely love the unscripted nature of the genre. It allows me to let the kids be kids—let them be silly, let them be weird, let them be wild. Kids exude a plethora of facial expressions and emotions. They are curious, exploring their environment constantly, testing to see how their world works. They push boundaries. They get overtired and have meltdowns. There is an unending stream of interesting moments to photograph when it comes to children.
My point is to say that for me, the best photos are the unscripted ones. The ones where the kids get to just be themselves. These moments are real moments, and there is so much information about this period in time packed into these photos. These were taken at a time where my kids are still pretend playing, still willing to get dirty. They’re not “too cool” for mom and dad yet. They play together, albeit it’s a bit of a love/hate relationship. They are wearing some of their favorite clothing pieces. The purple shirt my son is wearing in the muddy face photo is so loved, in fact, that it’s gotten holes in it and has been mended more than once. When I look at the top photo, with my daughter on the ground in skates, I think about the probably hundred times or so that she’s insisted on going around the block in those skates, despite the fact that she doesn’t really skate with intention, and ends up on the ground every 50 feet or so. It’s comical every time she falls–it’s just her personality. And the nerf battle photo. My son gets insanely into nerf battles. He’s all in. And I get his shouts and enthusiasm in my head when I look at that photo.
So if your kids won’t pose, don’t worry. I actually prefer that they don’t pose. I’d much rather capture those pure moments and deliver to you something that will bring you right back to that moment in time, no matter how many years later you look back at that photo.
Alexa is a documentary family photographer in the Brevard County/Space Coast area off the East coast of Florida.