The biggest misconception about (my) documentary family photography

The BIGGEST misconception about documentary family photography.png

I've been thinking hard about my 'brand' lately, and I had this kind of massive realization about something I've been doing wrong...

I hear so many positive things from you, my current or former (or future, hopefully!) clients, and I've realized that it's all in there - in each and every kind review left by so many of you, you have shared with me the secret source of your happiness with my services & photographs. I just haven't been seeing it until now.

So here it goes:

I often introduce myself to people as a documentary photographer. I put that right on my bio, on my website, everywhere.

Do I think real-life/documentary photography is for everyone? Actually YES! I do. I am completely committed to the idea that the world is my studio, and that all the best pictures are unposed.

But there is a catch.

The catch is that I have made a mistake in assuming everyone knows exactly how this works! 😱

So, for instance, I realize that imagining having a photographer (me!) coming in to your home, or following your family to the playground, or to the mall, or going bowling with you, at this very specific moment, might sound a bit daunting and anxiety-provoking.

It might just make you want to run for the hills, right?

I totally get this.

No one should be pressured into having real life photographs of them and their real lives. Sometimes you want to escape real life - right? This is why we read romance novels, or watch rom-coms.

It's why we go on vacation 🌴🍹🛳

But if you do choose to opt out of a family session with me, I want to make sure it isn't because I failed to show you just how my process works. You might be thinking:

"I will have to clean my house, and what if she comes in and JUDGES me and my house and my kids? And what if none of us know what to do, or how to act, and everyone is just all awkward and the whole thing goes down the drain?"

Is that you? (Or was that you, before you had a photography session with me?)

To be honest, I have the same feelings when inviting people to my house. I live in a dingy old farmhouse (think shanty, not cattle ranch), about which I have total insecurities. FOR SURE.

☝️Guilty secret that is not so much a secret: I have read over 100 contemporary romance novels in the last three years. (For every ten such books, I read a "serious" book, so I can feel somewhat redeemed.) Let's face it, the romance novels are a whole different kind of release from the pressures of everyday life. Bonus is that I don't have to deal with my shanty-house.

SOO.... Here's the thing. Here is what I have been starting to realize lately about my photography.

Upon reading the reviews you have left me, I frequently noticed things like

"she made it so comfortable" and "I didn't know what to expect, but she was amazing with the kids"...

It struck me that it is all there! It always was. I listened to your words and felt their kindness, and yet only now am I realizing that the resounding message ("Viara has a way of making people comfortable") also is your way of telling me what is the biggest reason - over and above having beautiful photographs - that you put your trust in a photographer.

You put your trust in me because I try hard to dissipate any feelings of discomfort you might have.

This was a surprise to me. It shouldn't have been, but it was!

I realized I have been doing a poor job of telling you - prospective families - about this.

Without tooting my own horn, I haven't told you how GENUINELY happy I am to be with you, and to meet you and your kids, and to spend time with you, and how I will NEVER judge you or your house or whatever, because.... I have three kids and two dogs and three cats and a bunch of farm animals, and a busy life, and some days we all feel like we're juggling way too many plates or balls or whatever, and they will all just drop, and ... phew.

I KNOW what busy life is all about.

My Dutch landlord in Rotterdam was an elderly lady, who had raised three children as well. She told me on numerous occasions, while observing my children trampling all over remnants of our back garden that it is impossible to have a perfect home with young children.

So I feel you. I get the mess and the chaos. I live in that world, and speak the language fluently 😊

Because of this, I will be right at home in your busy house.

And, because I am so drawn to escapist, hopeful themes in my own life, I seem to create images that offer a kind of refreshing 'look' at your own life. I find epic moments EVERYWHERE, indoors, in cluttered rooms, in dark basements or bright dining rooms. The whole world presents opportunities for joy and hope and EPIC-NESS everywhere!

I focus on the best things in your life, and show them to you, so that you will see that you have nothing to worry about. That you are doing it JUST RIGHT. That there is NOTHING you need to change.

I keep talking about the extraordinary.

The truth is, the best moments in our lives are ORDINARY. By their standard definition, they are, anyway.

But trust me when I say that in that blur of events that constitutes your every day, there are clustered so many gems that it is quite astounding we frequently miss them.


And I want to show you, and I will never ever judge.

Now tell me, if you've been holding off on booking a session - did I hit on the reason why you've been holding off?

Or if you've had a session with me - did you initially have those same hesitations?

Please tell me, so that I can continue to reach out with images of joy.

I welcome ALL your words of wisdom and feedback, as I try to make sure I am doing right by you.

Photo by the amazing Liz Cooper Photography, shot on film, y'all, and in NYC 2018, as if we have this totally glamorous life. (Well, I guess, occasionally, we all do!)