I wrote this article last fall for the Professional Photographers Association of Massachusetts newsletter. I feel its important to share this with a wider audience, as we need to keep on documenting milestones, no matter how big or small. Moments are part of our photographic history and legacy.
As photographers one of the best parts of our career is that we are gifted with the opportunity to document milestones of families and their children we meet. We are blessed with creative eyes to capture memories that our clients can’t do themselves. Those fleeting moments that they miss because they are part of the moment or just don’t have the skills to achieve themselves. But what happens when a milestone comes into our family? We have all experienced this whether it’s our own children, family members or with our own furry children. Yes, we can hire someone to capture those moments but there is something a bit more special and challenging to do it yourself. As we know our own family is not the easiest subject. From complaining about not wanting to do the session, liking how we are particular with clothing and being picky about how their hair looks. Everything our clients go through but it’s so much more heightened when it’s your own family member and more so when it’s your own teenager.
This fall, my oldest son Ryan made it to his senior year. I knew for months this was coming, but of course the pandemic hit and then my photography session scheduled booked up quickly… clients always come first. Finally, we had one afternoon when I knew the foliage would be gorgeous at the location that was closest to my studio.
Let me go back to 2003 when Ryan was born. I was a full-time staff photojournalist at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and luckily I had accrued enough sick and vacation time to be able to stay home with him for his first few months of his life. During that time, I started thinking about transitioning away from photojournalism and started researching going into the portrait photography business. But on my terms. I wanted to be able to tell children and family’s stories in a storytelling way using my journalistic style. I went back to my field of photojournalism after my maternity leave while still researching how to break into the portrait business. Then came baby boy number two in 2005. I was ready to leave photojournalism at that time. I photographed Ryan and Trevor constantly but not the smile and look at me type of portraits. It was more just sitting back and being their own personal paparazzi. When Ryan was about three years old, we ventured to the Wayside Inn Grist Mill in Sudbury, just a few miles from our home. This location is heaven for a curious boy. He was wearing his favorite overalls. He had maybe four pairs and lived in them. As he explored the area behind the mill, he would skip along the path. I just kept my distance while quietly documenting the scene as he found new things. This first image is one of the images I captured from that day in 2006 when he was three.
As we were going from location to location to find the best natural light and background for his senior portraits this year; he started walking down the path he had skipped along in 2006. I captured him again not realizing how fast his journey had brought him to this moment. I know it’s cliche’ to say this but it was like I blinked and he was suddenly a young man. At that moment all of those memories came rushing back to me. While in 2006, I photographed the scene in the spring, it was now fall of 2020. It all just came together to show seasons change as a young boy grows into a young man.
Ironically, one of my first PPAM competition merits and Hallmark Gallery award in 2009 image was titled “The Journey”, he was also photographed at the Wayside Inn Grist Mill in his favorite overalls.
Please remember those milestones can be every day moments that will have so much meaning in the future to a family. A moment in time that shows movement, emotion, growth and change without a face, can be just as important. Documenting milestones are part of each family’s photographic legacy to be passed down to the next generation.
Paula Ferazzi Swift, M.Photog., Cr., CPP is the owner of Paula Swift Photography,Inc. studio in Sudbury, MA. She is the current VP of Technology for PPAM, and is nominated to be the incoming PPAM president for 2021-2022. She lives in Framingham with her husband and three sons. After a career as an award winning photojournalist, she now offers a full array of studio and location photography services. She recently earned Bronze Medal status in the 2020 IPC.