One of the most frequently searched terms for my website is: photographer who comes to your home. I hadn’t realized just how popular it was until I began receiving calls from clients in Chicago wanting to book me for a session over the holidays. I can’t say I am disappointed as it is exactly what I do. Having been working as a portrait photographer in Montreal for over a decade, I long ago realized that the kind of photo people value the most is one featuring the people they love the most: their families. And while it seems obvious, having your family portrait taken at home is a convenient way to get a snapshot of your family at a moment in time in a place you feel most comfortable in.
As a father of a young daughter, people often tell me, “she’ll be grown up in a blink of an eye.” And it’s true. While I consider myself to be extremely lucky to have a career that allows me to spend a lot of time with my daughter, I already find myself thinking of when she was just a little baby and how long ago that seems now. I recently changed my screen saver on my computer with a shot I took of her and her lovely mama at her first Christmas, perhaps subconsciously wanting to hold her at that age forever. Of course, I know it is not possible, nor even desirable for your children not to grow up, but as parents we live for the sweet moments that only the love of a child brings into your life and want things to stay that way. While we can’t stop time, through the alchemy of photography, we can subsume that feeling in photograph and treasure it.
I think this desire, more than anything else, is what drives people to want to have a family portrait taken. We want to save a feeling – of pride, happiness, accomplishment, and most of all love – in a place we know will stay the same, unmarred by time. We want to hold onto a piece of ourselves and set it aside somewhere we know it will never fade or disappear. We want to see ourselves in our children and to see our children looking back at us, young and beautiful forever.
A family portrait isn’t just a preservation of a memory – it is a memory in and of itself. I can still remember the day we took one at my house when I was growing up, how the photographer placed us on the stairs in order of seniority. (I was on the bottom step with my younger brother, with my older brother and sister one up. Two siblings weren’t even born yet!) This was back in the day when photos were taken on negatives and the prints were developed and treated to look like oil paintings.
I still see that photograph sometimes of myself as a little boy with a seventies hair cut and a white turtleneck shirt, and I remember that day like it was yesterday. I never thought then that I would grow up and become a photographer but I think about that photo when I am shooting a family portrait for someone. I think about how what I am doing is helping them make and preserve a memory they will keep, I hope, forever and I treat the work I do there with the respect something that important deserves.