Telling Your Story is Not About You

Michelle, Mike, and Baby S, January 2006

I love documenting people's lives. As soon as someone else pulls out a camera or other recorder, though, I get distinctly uncomfortable. I don't want anyone to think that I think my life is unusually profound. And, I'm not so sure that this is my finest moment.

I often hear this concern from people contemplating recording images and stories from their lives. What if we don't look very graceful in our pregnancy photographs? What if we don't say the right thing during the recording? Is it weird to focus so much energy on us, our story?

Over time, I've learned to recognize these concerns as coming from my 'little picture' self - the part of me that's worried what others think of me, my flaws and imperfections. The part of me that thinks of the hour-to-hour, day-to-day, not the grand scope of my life and my purpose.
To me, though, that 'little picture' voice represents the opposite of what telling one's story is really about, which is stepping away from the little picture, and into the big picture.

To me, documenting people's lives - and my own - creates the opportunity for a big picture view, the ability to see where we have come from, where we are heading, how we have changed and yet, how our truest essence remains wonderfully the same. If you are a journal-keeper, you know this experience well. You look back at a journal from 10 or 15 years ago and realize that the seeds of the person you've finally become were there all along.

I've had the privilege of documenting Michelle and Mike's life for nearly four years now. Here's a glimpse at what has unfolded. In the photo above Michelle and Mike were weeks away from the birth of their first child - and probably getting their last decent nights' sleep ever since ;)

Here's what happened next:


That's little S, at one month, three months, six months, and nine months old.

Fast forward to our most recent session, in April:

Little S, April 2009

I know - she's ridiculously adorable, isn't she? She has grown up so much.

And, that's hardly the only thing that's changed in the family.

Little S and Little A, April 2009

Meet Little A. It's like deja vu, isn't it?

So. Who is this documentation really for? It's for Little S. It's for Little A. It's for their grandparents. It's for their grandchildren. It's for their great-great-grandchildren, whom they will probably never meet. It's for Mike and Michelle - for today, for 10 years from now, for 50 years from now.

And yes, it is about all of them. But not little-picture them. Big-picture them. Their essences, steadfast even as they travel through the unpredictable storybook of life. It's about who they really are, way beyond any one moment in time.