A Lesson in Listening

photo of wheat in field mountains background by Michelle Leach

No Mommy, I don’t want you to take my picture, I just want you to be my mommy.

If our children were to unionize and go on strike, this might be their rally cry. The struggle is real for the children of photographers. Oklahoma-based wedding photographer, Michelle Leach made changes after registering this complaint from her daughter. On her family vacation to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado, she packed one roll of medium format film instead of a digital camera. She went in with sixteen possible moments to capture versus the infinite opportunities that a digital camera affords. She committed to the quieter, slower practice of film over the (often) relentless chatter of the digital camera. In this way, she was more mommy and less photographer yet she was still very much both, as evidenced by the following images.

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“What I liked about the switch from digital to film is that I carefully considered each shot. So while my daughter might be tired of me snapping, the snaps didn’t last long. I’ve taken time off from photographing her, but when those film scans came in of our trip I was elated. I definitely think there’s a balance between shooting too much, but film makes you take breaths in between each shot.” – Michelle Leach

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As photographers and parents, we have to honor both parts of ourselves as much as we carefully navigate the boundaries of our subjects. Leach is doing just that.

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“I think to my daughter, a camera is an interruption to her play time. But I’m hoping the transition of shooting just 1-2 shots is more noticeable than 200.  She loves seeing her pictures. Maybe I was a little too demanding. Instead, just being a mom in general has taught me not to expect anything and to never be surprised, so as a photographer I need to understand the same.” ~ Michelle Leach

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“Bringing my kids into the process, allowing them to tell me how they want me to capture them, and shooting in film which limits how much camera time is involved, is key.” ~ Michelle Leach

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As artists, parents and humans, we must listen astutely to the nuances of the world and people around us. It’s our duty hear our own desires as clearly as we hear the desires of our loved ones. By truly listening to and actually hearing her daughter, Michelle has found a respectful compromise and a renewed vigor and thirst for photography. It’s an important lesson for all of us.

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2 Comments

  • Kim says:

    The struggle is real! I have found myself in this very same boat. I told myself if I’m photographing my children that I wouldn’t ask them to look at the camera. Just capture them as they are. They haven’t asked me to put away the camera in sometime. Love your decision to switch from digital to film. Great way to cut down on the over amount of images.

  • I couldn’t agree more! With a digital camera and the label of ‘photographer’ there is a feeling that you ought to be constantly shooting. With film, there is a respect for each frame, an acknowledged beginning and end of a reel. Also, photographers tend to take on a different persona when they’re behind their camera which to a degree, means we’re not in the same world as our subjects. I have often been taking the photos at school plays when I’d much rather be watching them just as a parent. I find my memory of the play is not very clear and I feel like I missed out, like I got the picture but not the whole picture!

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