Through the Looking Glass

The Ray Family at Bumblebee Hollow

LIFE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE LENS

Photos by Kristen Anastacia

Written by Ashia Ray

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Letting go of ‘doing it all’ as a mother and photographer…

…and following my own advice.

A Day in the Life @ Bumblebee Hollow

Photo by Kristen Anastacia

I can be an active mom.

I can be a focused photographer.

But I can’t be both at the same time.

To be a good mom, I have to ignore my ego

I knew, in my heart, what it would take to tell our story. I wanted the humorous moments, the hard work, and the imperfections. That would mean following my own advice – providing the family history my sons deserve, being my own perfect client.

My ego, however, wanted more. My ego wanted a clean, dramatic story that I could show off on the internet. My ego wanted a flattering, stylish-yet-classic outfit and a perky non-nursing bra.

My ego wanted a grown-up, professionally inoffensive haircut for my about page. My ego wanted to show the world what a great mom I was, perhaps dragging the boys to the Science Museum, as if I normally take weekends off to go on educational field trips (I keep meaning to – but never get around to it. Shame spiral!)

My ego wanted to lose twenty pounds of baby weight, sew that curtain I bought fabric for in 2014, and hang my best work all over the house to show off.

My ego wanted to do all of this, and it wanted to hold the camera, too. It wanted to show me as the best mom I could be, and it wanted to show off some mad photography skills while we were at it.

My ego doesn’t want to tell the truth about our story, our life together, and how grateful I am for my awesome life. My ego only cares about how everyone else sees me.

Screw ego.

Calamus having his third (?) meltdown of the day. He

Photo by Kristen Anastacia

Luckily my brain knows better, and together with my heart, it shut down ego that nonsense – so I could focus on what matters to my kids – not anyone else.

I share this handy-dandy advice with families before our sessions. Doing less and accepting more creates albums families fall in love with, full of images that grow more valuable over time.

After 14 years of experience, I know that letting go and focusing only on what matters – our life as it is right now – is what creates the deepest, most beautiful stories. So, it’s easy to dispense this advice, because it works. I can follow along with a family during a seemingly boring, ordinary day filled with spirited, grouchy, or shy little kids and all the clutter they create, and catch the beauty in the chaos – the stuff that matters. When they are blind to it, still in the turmoil of parenting, the photographs show families the fascinating rhythm of their lives from a new perspective.

To tell our story, I needed to be with them. I needed someone else to hold the camera.

A rare moment when I can just snuggle Nikolai while his brother hangs out with his dad.

Photo by Kristen Anastacia

After finally accepting that I can’t juggle my camera and my kids at the same time, I decided to relinquish control of this year’s family portraits to my lovely friend and fellow photographer, Kristen Anastacia. Kristen is a family photographer who creates clean and dreamy family portraits on the beach with a palette of ethereal pastels.

Her style is elegant, modern, and romantic. The antithesis of my active, rumble-tumble stories, detailed environments, goofy reactions, and hyper-color palette, her work comes from a completely different perspective.

Kristen had expressed an interest in providing documentary day in the life sessions for her clients. After her own adorable family’s Heliograph session, which I documented for her with this winter, we discussed how she could capture our story at Bumblebee Hollow. She was interested in expanding her photography, prepared for the demands of a Day in the Life session, and happy to take my guidance on the moments that I wanted to capture.

I knew she would be the perfect person to give us a unique perspective – a completely different look from the photographs I take myself. This could be our opportunity to create the story I want my sons to have, the moments when I’m too busy being a mom to think like a photographer.

I prepared her for what to expect – the story of our day, the scenes that mattered, and she created her own compositions, perspective, and toning to create images to suit both of us.

dashed_line_2ptOur Story

The Ray Family at Bumblebee Hollow 2016

 Photographs by Kristen Anastacia

dashed_line_2ptOn following my own advice

I didn’t put too much thought into my outfit – who has the time? So on the morning of, while Kristen was snapping away downstairs, I got dressed, realizing that my daily ‘mom outfit’ consisted of a pair of jeans I bought during my first pregnancy and an old sweatshirt that is literally disintegrating with age (the zipper was once replaced after being eaten by a foster kitten). The jeans had a giant rip in the tush, and the sweatshirt gives me a virtual muffin-top.

And my hair! I look like a clown! Why can’t the back just lie down flat?! I look like the caricature of a middle-aged Punky Brewster (or Aja from Jem and the Holograms – the inspiration for the first time I colored my hair blue back in 1994). So old! Ridiculous! What was I thinking?!

But this is the outfit my kids see me in every day. This is what a mother looks like to them. This is the hair I wear when I kiss their boo-boos, this is the outfit wear when I pick them up from school. And yeah, I’m way too old to have blue hair – according to nobody who counts.

When I first looked through our images, I kicked myself for not ‘staging’ my house more. If only I had moved that laundry basket, that hanging shirt, that bulky stroller!

A week later, I don’t notice or care about this stuff. The pictures have grown on me and I love them. I see our story – what our life looks like together, the stuff and action it takes to get through the day.

I’m grateful that I listened to my heart, and not my ego

I am convinced now more than ever that this is the story my boys will hold dear. Because they won’t care about my best artistic compositions, the work of my ego and my career. They will care about the job I had in relation to them –  my career in motherhood.

This is our story. This is the validation of how hard we work as parents, how much we love each other, and how much we are loved. These are the fleeting moments, the last months we have to hold on to us as a family with a 1 and 3 year old. Maybe we’ll stay this close, but we’ll never stay his young.

I kept this all in mind my why when discussing our family. I told Kristen that I wanted Quill’s tantrums. I wanted Nathan’s dedication. I wanted R2’s peak adorableness and the way he toddles after his brother. I wanted our experience as parents, as sons, as brothers, as partners to be documented. I wanted that ‘cozy dozy’ moment nursing my son down for his nap, which will only happen for a few more months.

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