If you ever took Psychology 100, you probably came across Asch’s conformity experiments.
In these experiments, people were often so swayed by the opinions of other people in the room that they changed their answers about simple things – e.g. the length of a black line on a piece of paper – to match the answers of those strangers. Little did they know, the strangers were actually in on the experiment, and they were deliberately reporting the wrong answer about the length of the black line.
Point of the story? We sometimes turn to others to tell us what is right, even if the answer is obvious without outside help, and even if what others are saying is obviously wrong. It’s human nature.
It goes beyond that. When the answers aren’t obvious, when we’re all just trying our best to make sense of these lives we’ve been given, we sometimes turn to others in a desperate attempt to get the answers we so crave.
How do I parent? How can I feel better about myself? How do I lose/gain weight? How do I… live a good life?
It seems everyone else has the answers. In reality, unlike the strangers in Asch’s experiments, no one is in on the secret of life. We’re all just plugging along, trying to find our own answers.
Now back to photography. A little while ago, I announced that I was beginning a new photography project, a package called “YEAR IN THE LIFE” (YITL), which aims to document the daily life of families over the course of an entire year.
The goal of this package (aside from my personal goal to get to know a family more meaningfully than is possible during a brief 1-hour photo session) is to document people’s real lives, because that’s most meaningful to them. Quick meal-prep, homework, after-school activities, family chats around the dinner table, and all the rest.
What the families choose to do is up to them, with the strong encouragement from me that it should be true to the spirit of their family. I don’t want you to be bending over backwards to present a side of your family that isn’t real, because these photographs are for you. Long after I've wiped down my camera (ha- i don't actually do that unless i'm photographing in a state of the art health-Canada-regulated cannabis-growing facility...), you will be viewing these photographs and remembering the days that made up your year.
The side-goal (or maybe consequence) of this project – I hope – is to show that real life is grand without being grandiose. Regular school-nights are magical without being put-on. Home-life is sweet without forced saccharine smiles.
The reality is that while you’re imagining all those other families have more glamorous lives than you, they’re just making dinner and having quiet conversation. They’re tired from a long day at work - just like you - and they, too, are looking to reconnect with loved ones.
There's no real chance to cheat your way out of this one: your answers in life will be hard-fought and hard-earned. And they will be yours and will mean the world to you.
So don't fall for gimmicks, tricks, or social media lures. Fall for your life. Fall in love with real.
Here is a series of photographs I took during the first session with my first YITL family, Jacklyn & Chris, their two boys, and their sweet and ever-present pooch Lyla.
(if you'd like to be a Year-in-the-life family, shoot me a line. If budget is the only thing stopping you, let me know.)