Since I can remember, and every person that knows me will attest, I have ALWAYS taken pictures. When I was about 7 years old, my parents bought me my very first (Barbie) camera. Which actually took photos on film that my parents would get developed for me. I was FASCINATED. And they encouraged me to take pictures of our family vacations. And when I look back on those photos, all of my pictures were of the PEOPLE I was with at the event or on the vacation with – not of the event itself.
(I didn’t realize this until my parents gave me a box of “my stuff” after cleaning out their attic). Throughout highschool and into college, I always had my camera with me. My friends were always saying, “Oh yes, and then there’s Stephanie, with her camera, OF COURSE…” much the way people quip, “She is definitely a Type A…” This was of course before camera phones. Now everyone takes pictures of everything…
And still today, at every New Year’s Party or family gathering, I am always the first to say, “Group picture!” To be met with the groans and moans that I simply have become immune to. (And for the record, people LOVE seeing my photos from “back in the day” now). My point is, I never waivered because it was in me – I had to do it. I couldn’t help myself! This was just background to my point in this post – so here I am fast forward to this chapter in my life.
Here I am blessed with this beautiful baby girl, a true miracle. And everyday she LETS me take pictures of her and literally swoons when I get my camera out. I have captured her little life so far with so many pictures. And I, unabashedly and proudly display these moments of time in my house, share them with my friends, on Face Book, Instagram, my Website, this blog – you name it, I have a photo infiltrating every aspect of my day. I simply adore that I can capture a moment in my life that I can go back to and instantly recall everything. Photography is my way of cataloging (if you will) my life. And as humans, we don’t have the innate ability to recall with detail what we did a week ago let alone five years ago. Even before giving birth to Mattelyn, I was snapping photos left and right of everything that was going on in my life while I was pregnant. I was taking the scary, obligatory photos of my growing belly, dedicated, new daddy photos of Matt struggling to put together baby “containers,” the nursery make over, the food I was obsessing over, the friends in our lives at the time, the beautiful work we were creating at the agency I worked for, the outside seasons as they changed from spring to summer, fall and winter and back to spring again. This tiny little life was growing inside me. As I changed, so did my photos. They became more and more important to me and somehow, they captured that time was moving very quickly.
At the same time, I was journaling (the small amount I could find to working full time) and texting my mom about all of my doctor appointments. I was considered a high-risk pregnancy (anyone over the age of 33 years old) and baby was trending on the small side. One day, I found myself feeling a little over whelmed – what am I doing with all of these photos? Why am I FERVENTLY journaling and capturing all of this information that I will surely never use again? And then it hit me – I wanted to be able to share her story as it was happening but with her. Her story had already begun – in my uterus, but already her journey! As she was developing inside, I would take a photo and write that she was the size of an apple and I would tell her how many bones she had now. I was keeping note that she had hiccups and kicked me on an elevator ride, that she was with me on her “first flight” to Houston, Texas, at her first “Holiday Party” on the 66th floor Metropolitan Club in Chicago, that she was 36 weeks old when I presented future plans to our client who couldn’t focus on anything except my large belly, that we already loved her more than anything in the entire world, that I got to see her practicing her breathing, that I was taking her on walks that soon she would be going on and able to look around. That she made me wait 22 weeks before she kicked me, but when she did, she moved the folder in front of me. That I couldn’t begin to imagine how beautiful she was going to be and couldn’t wait to hear her little voice. That I knew she was going to achieve amazing things in her life and that I wouldn’t be able to be here for her as long as I hoped and wished I could be. Yes, all of that. I was passionate about everything I was about to be able to share with her. Mainly, I wanted her to know how much she was changing inside me and how much everything in our lives was changing right along with her. And mostly, that I loved her and it began before I even met her. A love that was different than anything I had ever felt before and a love that would span a lifetime, coining the phrase to the moon and back and always and forever – somehow, she had given me a reason to live and put my whole life into focus.
These photos I was taking needed to be put somewhere. I looked into Shutterfly books as I had been inundated by direct mail pieces reminding me that I was going to have a lot of photos once that little one comes along (HA! Clearly, that was already happening). I noticed that all of my photos could be put into a book and I could add short notes to her. I could also be very creative with it and let me tell you, between this being the best moment of my life, having something that is beyond precious to me growing inside of me, being pregnant AWAKENED my SOUL and my inner creative just came popping out. Photography that had always been a hobby, a FUNCTION, was becoming something that I was really connecting with, a creative outlet that I wasn’t even aware of inside of me. It was crazy how much I was loving it. I became serious about my camera – noticing that lighting had a lot to do with my compositions. I noticed often that I would take a picture and hand my camera to someone else, and our photos were so different. Something about what I saw wasn’t what they would see, until I took the picture – and then they saw the little magic that I was seeing. Everyone began encouraging me to take more photos – especially my husband and my dad. My dad often says, “You will never regret taking that moment to capture the photo you want,” And, “Don’t think about what anyone else thinks or says, you do this because it is you and it makes you happy.” He refers to me as our immediate family’s “historian.” (I love my dad for “getting me” so well).
Capturing her life and stats before she was here. And so my obsession became a reality and I began her story – I created a book based on my first trimester writing it from my point of view to her. I completed my first one and showed my husband the preview before I had it printed so that he could proofread it for me. I saw tears rolling down his face as he told me it was beautiful and actually made it very “real” for him at that moment. And I knew I was doing something I will cherish forever and hopefully, she will too.
I wanted to pass along this idea. It isn’t new or unique as millions make them all the time. But how you do it for yourself makes it as unique as you want. And as time has gone one, and my photography style changes, so have my books. They’ve become more like art and books for the coffee table. I made baby books for both sets of grandparents and for her great grandmother of her birth through her first two weeks.
I just finished her “Baby’s First Christmas Book” that turned out beautiful. If you want to share your books and ideas, I would love to see them! Or, you can begin creating your own book at Shutterfly. I feel we gain SO MUCH from sharing in each other’s passions and creativity. I find something new to do every day! I am currently working on Mattelyn’s 365 Day book that I will complete on her birthday, this March 6th. I am very excited about this and trust me, it is a labor of love! I will be sharing that book as well. It takes commitment and after taking thousands of photos, it has been really difficult to capture the day in one photo. But, it is a challenge I have loved.