Full disclosure: I am not a photographer.
Another disclosure: I know Erin.
Last thing: I am obsessed with Erin’s photography.
For the way they make me feel. She’s taken our family pictures since my oldest was a baby and has captured our clan every year since. When I get an email that our gallery is ready my heart skips a beat. I’m serious, there is a real flutter as I open up my inbox. How did they turn out? How was that last shot? The light? Eek! And then I sit at my laptop, stupid tears streaming down my face. Seeing these photographs, really us, as we are.
They’re just so damn right.
I click through the shots, moving quickly through the movie stills on my screen. And I love what I see because I don’t often stop and value it: my life.
Her pictures have that effect: getting us to see what’s right in front of us.
Each time her beautiful pictures float through my social streams I get giddy. Babies! Tiny feet! Teenagers and parents!
And Mamas. Cue the heart melt. Again, I love what I see because it’s something else I get to see: your life.
I don’t know you but I feel like I do. Each picture makes me smile. Every time. And each time I take in the beauty of life staring back at me I soften just a bit, fullness filling the edges. There’s a pause. My heart honors your life work. And the beauty you’ve added to this world.
The pictures range: the possibilities presented in those stunning engagement shoots on the water. The soul speaking wedding photos, joining hearts and families with love. There’s absolute awe and stillness after birth. Joyful tears. Sheer happiness and pride in those one year pictures, the ones that scream “we made it! By the power of coffee and beer, we did it!”
The sweet family shots: families of two or three or four or five, generations in rows or linked in arms, grandparents, sisters, brothers, partners holding hands or holding diaper bottomed littles screaming “cheeeesse!”
Toddler toes and bows. Crazy chaos.
Screams. Giggles. Splashes.
The poses. The candids. The God damn Cherry Blossoms. I
So much love. And so many tears. I well up when I think
See, it’s not about comparing our lives; it’s about seeing the unique distinctions of our loves. There’s no time for comparison, only compassion. I see your life’s mile markers and hope you see them the way I do: as a stunning version of living your own way.
You people are nailing it.
What I see: your life mingling with my lived experience; my moments meeting yours. I see a larger love tapestry: an interwoven, overlapping connection. I notice your route on life’s roadmap; I see your stops and reflect that each path is just perfect: It’s yours. Here’s mine. It’s ours.
I realize these pictures don’t often capture the messy moments, the less Instagram worthy. Like, five minutes after yelling at your child. Or the heartbreaking ones: The divorce. Your miscarriage. The tough decision. Do I want a picture of me packing lunches for the umpteenth time? Um, no thanks. While they don’t get the spotlight they’re moments, no less. They might be mundane but they’re part of big picture life-living. They add up. I often find myself returning to Erin’s pictures during hard moments because they get me to see clearly what I sometimes can’t: the foundation I’ve built, right in front of my face. They offer us a necessary life pause. These pictures become places of solace and refuge during life’s tsunamis.
In a shoot, when Erin tells me to “be natural” and don’t look at the camera, I’m like “whhhaaat?” Isn’t it supposed to look like I’m loving it? That it’s effortless? Doesn’t my smile solidify how much I love this? What’s she’s saying is “Just be.” Don’t worry. The camera will pick up the rest: the love. Their light. Your life. And that’s been some darn good life advice. Stay present and be where you are.
So, in this season of picture clicking and sunny snaps, you keep looking beautiful. Let your joy shine. And just be. From Seattle down to Portland, I’m impressed with your life’s work: those magic, messy, living moments.
I’ll just be over here on my phone with tissues. Scrolling through, seeing you -soaking up all the gorgeous you’ve got.
Natalie Serianni is a Seattle-based writer and teacher. Her work has appeared in Seattle’s ParentMap, Crosscurrents, Yours Truly and other literary journals. She’s currently working on a collection of essays about grief, gratitude and motherhood. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.