This week Simona Dietiker of Momoland Photo based in Switzerland is sharing her documentary family photography point of view along with her photographs:
Years ago, I came across a photo of a mother and her daughter looking at each other and smiling. Something in this particular picture spoke to me and I kept staring at it again and again. It was the connection between mother and daughter that impressed me so much; you could almost feel the emotions and love between the two. That’s how I met documentary family photography for the first time. Through this picture, a new world opened up to me and the seed for the discover of my life passion was planted.
At this time, I was pregnant with my oldest daughter.
We had, like many other parents, the classic “baby in the basket” session (it was more like an accident, but this is another story). At first I was really happy with the photos, which are honestly ok, but after a while I thought they were “empty” pictures.
The photos are aesthetically good, but it doesn’t feel like they are of my daughter: it was just another cute baby with a knitted bonnet on a white fluffy blanket. I can barely recognize her in those images. Even as a newborn, she had a very strong personality, which I can see in many other spontaneous photos I took. So, I’m still not really emotionally attached to these posed photos.
Then I started documenting our life almost every day and printing albums one per year. It takes me plenty of time (which I don’t actually have), but it’s so worth it! My life isn’t perfect, I think that being a parent is the most challenging, exhausting, yet wonderful job in the world. I really struggled with my new role as a mother, and sometimes I felt like I was doing everything wrong – as if all other mothers and families were so much more “perfect”. Social media did not help this feeling, seeing everyone’s incredible holidays, wide smiles and so on.
Documentary photography helped me see the beauty in every day, even if this was not always in the moment, but later when I looked at my albums with my daughters.
I believe documentary family photography can help us overcome this feeling that we are not enough, that our life is not that cool, that only the perfect things (perfect children, perfect clothes, perfect holidays.) are worth documenting. It can hep us embrace our perfect imperfect life with our children, partner and pets. It can help us see how much humor, love, and tenderness each day can offer.
Photographing other families help me see the gifts that our everyday life bring to us, and I’m really grateful for that.
While photographing a family, I’m specially drawn to quiet and tender moments, small gestures and laugh or eye contact. I love to capture connections, but also the funny moments and the weird things that only children could do, and that are so special for each one of them.
I believe those pictures are a big treasure for parents, who can remember their small children as they really were; as well for children, maybe even helping them get to know their parents better, when they will look at them as adults.
I’m convinced that photos are even more precious and important, as time passes. There is nothing like discovering old pictures and looking at them with fresh eyes, remembering these moments, exactly as they happened. No need to stage or change anything, real life is just more than enough!
Learning to cherish every day is a (possibly) life-long process, and I’m still learning, too.