it's a good thing to ask. kids get that (too much). adults sometimes not so much. but in order to know what we want we have to know why we want it. some why's are universal in their answers,
why does the sun rise in the east?
why is burnt cheese so darn good?
why are those green beetles so bad at flying?
good questions little padawan, here's my iPhone, ask siri.
there are others which are more personal (though we often don't bother asking them)
these have to be answered on their own. the answers aren't "out there", they are "in there". such as
why do I want children?
why do I wear clothes?
why do I want photos of my family?
as my kids are in major overtired mode and can't seem to stand each other's company recently, I'll lay off the first two. but I've done quite a bit of thinking on that last point.
I can't answer why you want photos, but I could share a bit about why I'm so passionate about them, and maybe that will help you come to your own why.
I love my life.
yeah it's hard as heck, I'm exhausted, and sometimes feel as if I'm a referee surviving on a steady diet of coffee and grilled cheese sandwiches. my nerves are frazzled, my house is a mess. but it's my mess. it's a mess of choice. it's a magical mess. filled with the love and shouts and cries. laughter and life. I want to remember this life. not tomorrow, not yesterday. I want to remember the now. I don't need nor want some idealized version of myself or my family. the dirty faces, torn pants, mismatched socks. this is my life and I love it.
I'm 31. my memory was never that hot. honestly, I have hardly any memories from before I was 10. in the moment we think ourselves invincible, and think of happening as being so indelibly engraved that they just can't disappear. but the truth is those indelible engravings get filled up so quickly with dirty dishes, pb&j sandwiches, fermented sip cups, and life, that well, you just can't remember it all that well. there's this dense fog in the way, and we could make out the forms of our life past, but just barely, some memories swimming closer to our conscious, some right below. my life won't look like this forever, and while I'm always excited about what the future holds, I desperately want to remember the past.
life happens. quickly.
the days may seem like an eternity, but the years just slip by. yes I could push off photos until tomorrow, but tomorrows have a way of always being a day away. I don't need tomorrow documented, I need today. tomorrow my kids will be older, things will be different, and I'll want that documented as well. photos have a wonderful way of not just reminding us of that moment, but they bring back from that fog entire swaths of time, bringing faces and expressions to those murky forms.
documentary photography? day in the life? huh?
I've been doing this for so long I forget how much thinking I've done about this and how words can mean one thing to me and something else to another.
once we know why we want photographs we can figure out what kind of photographs we want.
if I love my life, am scared about forgetting it, and aware of how quickly life passes by, then I know I want true memories of my now. I'll want honest documentation of the beauty that sometimes is hard to see, the loveliness and magic in the mess and chaos. I'll want memories of things we do in places we live in clothes we wear. I'll want to look at those photos and feel what my life felt like more than just to see what it looked like.
that's why it's how I photograph my own family and it's why it's how I photograph my clients. it's also the most horribly worded sentence I've written in quite some time. I want to honestly and artfully capture the beauty that is your life. so one day when we're all older and wiser you can sit down with your adult children and laugh and cry about how absolutely wonderful your life was. as they sit there all teenagey and angsty (and beyond), not realizing how strong your love for them is, how painfully real it is, you could open this album and relive their childhood a bit.
that's all my why. it's why all the photos on this page are of my children. they are my why. what's your why?
okay fine (fine! enough of the "whys" I have kids!!), but why zalmy?
oh man, I was hoping you wouldn't ask. no one really likes talking about themselves, and the ones that do aren't worth listening to.
in fact I'm not even going to try to sell myself. once you know why you want photographs of your family and what kind of photographs you want, please find the photographer that will best fill that void. if it's me, I'll be ecstatic and if it isn't, well the world will be boring place if we all had the same taste.
(my wife told be I should stop here, but I. just. can't. so here's a bit more about photography and how it speaks) photographs are like words. when we say "I want to read something", usually we have a specific type of reading in mind. maybe an auto-biography, or a spy thriller. maybe poetry about quoting ravens and the like. usually not the warnings on a bleach bottle, or the obituaries (I'm not judging!). generally we know words. we've dealt with them for decades, we know their syntax, their grammar. we are intimately aware of how words affect us and why they do. and while many of us have a soft spot for beautiful prose and crafty wordplay we are well aware that the point of speech is to get messages from one brain to another, or even to share something with our later selves.
they say photographs speak a thousand words, but give the same thousand words to poe, shakespeare, dahl, or suess, and you'll get completely different stories, even if the characters are the same.
the story your photographer will tell will be the one he sees. choose wisely (and stay away from the third door on the left).
with love, zalmy berkowitz and co. (co being my 7 year old who sits on my lap while editing and says, "brighter!" "darker!" "ooooh! do that one black and white!")