I had just sat down to my computer after putting my boys down for a nap when I opened an email from a client. I’m not a very emotional person, but my heart just broke upon reading the email. In it, she wrote about trying to decide whether or not she and her husband wanted to participate in their upcoming photography session. She was leaning towards just having the pictures done of her children. She and her husband didn’t want to be in the pictures because most poses look good on “skinny people,” but not them.
As a mom myself, my heart went out to her. Most of us have been in her shoes. We have a baby and don’t lose the baby weight as quickly as we’d like. Some of us have never been happy with our appearance. We weigh too much, don’t like our hair, don’t like our nose, think we look old. It is so disheartening. We moms just don’t give ourselves enough credit for how beautiful we really are. When I photograph families, I often notice how self-conscious moms are of their appearance. One mom may joke about me deleting crow’s feet in Photoshop. Another may squirm trying to find her “good side.” I remember once photographing a young mom who looked like she could be a model. She was so tiny, too perfect to have just given birth months prior. When I first met her, I remember thinking “wow, she could really be a model.” But as the session began, it was so clear to see that even she didn’t think she was pretty in pictures. I wish all the moms I photograph could see just how beautiful they really are, inside and out. I see how you are with your children. I can tell what kind of mom you are by the way your three year old son wraps his arms around your neck or the way your shy twelve year old quietly holds your hand. I just want all moms to know that yes, you should be in pictures with your children. You may not realize it now, but you look amazing. You moms of teenagers who’ve been so stressed out about college funds, you moms who had a baby six months ago and haven’t lost the baby weight yet, you moms who have just never been happy with the way you look. You should know that you really do look great in pictures.
I also want you to know what your children see when they look at you. They don’t see the crow’s feet, your hips, your belly, your uncooperative hair, your untanned skin. They see mommy. They see their hero, who has held them, played with them, and raised them. Your kids think you are beautiful and when they open a photo album twenty years from now, they will want to see what you looked like. I love being able to capture the love among members of a family, and someday it will mean so much to your children to be able to see portraits of your family together. One of my favorite pictures of my own mother is when I was around two years old. The picture was taken when my parents were building the back deck on our house. My mom and I are in the picture, both of us wearing bikinis. It is just such a funny picture, of a mom and her toddler both wearing bikinis and nailing down boards on a deck. It just speaks of who my mom was when I was a child. She could swing a hammer, but also mow the lawn and plant a garden full of flowers. She was a great cook and an amazing artist, able to create any craft or paint in any media. A lot of pictures of my mom stick out in my memory. I don’t remember much about when I was two years old, but I’m happy I have pictures of my mom to show me what she looked like back then and what kind of a mommy she was.
So, the next time it is your family’s turn for portraits, I want us all to tune out those negative comments that we tell ourselves about the way we look. Let’s forget our weight and our wrinkles. Let’s find a new outfit that makes us feel like the beautiful moms we are and let’s proudly be in the family pictures. Do it for yourself and for your family. They love you very much. Trust me, I can see it through my lens.