I’ve always loved documenting life. I suppose it’s my mother’s fault. She loved each one of us six kids, and one proof of it was her dedication at compiling scrapbooks of each year of our lives. I literally have a scrapbook for every year of my life from newborn to high school graduate. And while in college, she sent me scrapbooking materials so I could continue documenting my life. Never got around to it … sorry, Mom.
I may not have kept up with the scrapbook paper and glue sticks, but the day I graduated my parents gave me a gift — a simple point-and-shoot digital camera. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was my first personal camera, and I loved it. In the years that followed, I found a lot of moments worth documenting (and many I look back on and wish I hadn’t).
I’m so glad I have pictures with my freshman roommates—some are still my best friends. I have pictures of my first date with my now-husband. At the time, I had no idea there was even going to be a second date.
When I was young, I never understood why Mom was always yelling at us to smile for just one more picture, but now, as I pour over the memories contained in those scrapbooks, I get it. When it comes to remembering an important event or a moment in time, there is just no substitute for photos. (I mean, I could describe my horrible perm post-swim season, but isn't the photo below so much better?)
I grew up in a small farming town in Southern California — Brawley. Ever heard of it? I didn’t think so. We spent the 120-degree summers practicing for swim team at the pool, riding our bikes to get slurpees at 7-11, and playing tennis (read “avoiding Dad’s fast serves) at Meserve Park. In the winter, we bundled up on the 60-degree days and played with all our new toys outside on Christmas Day.
My siblings and I spent a lot of early weekends and long summer days raking hay or discing fields for the feedyard my dad managed. During fall’s Cattle Call, we stayed up to attend the local rodeo and enjoy the homemade hot chocolate and kettle corn.
We grew up on the best Mexican food in the world, cheered our football team on during their annual rivalry game, and had the best childhood my small town could offer. In my spare time, I participated in all the extra-curricular activities my schoolteacher mom enrolled me in — t-ball, soccer, roller hockey, gymnastics, piano, violin, choir, poetry contests, the library reading program, service projects with our church, and more. I graduated top of my class in 2006.
When I look at photos of me running on the high school track or my younger sisters and brother washing the dogs on the front lawn, it brings back all the sights, smells and feels of my hometown.
My mom was always very careful to have a family photo taken every year. There’s the year of the perm, the year of the missing front teeth, the year my youngest sister broke her leg, and the year we all climbed on a vintage tractor, all perfectly preserved in full-color for us to gaze at and reminisce over.
Without those photos, I’m certain I wouldn’t remember Brawley and my childhood the way I do. I know I wouldn’t remember all the details those photos have captured.
Two years after I left home for college in Utah, I met my future husband. I have photos of our first date—he took me to a Hindu temple where we petted llamas and watched a 20-foot-high sculpture of a ten-headed demon burn.
We dated for 8 months and tied the knot between the end of a semester and my start at an internship with a local bridal magazine.
Over the next four years, I graduated in communications and held several jobs in the editorial field—collaborating with artists to create compelling content for magazines, websites, and events.
When our son was born in 2012, the number of pictures I took exploded into the thousands. And when our daughter was born in 2014, I decided to take my hobby to the next level and begin photographing professionally.
I feel so incredibly blessed to have people trust me enough to give me such an intimate look into their lives during a photo shoot. I never tire of the challenge of getting little ones to cooperate or figuring out the perfect angle for that first kiss.
Today, our coffee table is filled with photo albums and photo books. My calendar is filled with upcoming photo sessions — family reunions, weddings, new engagements, new babies, and more. And my heart is filled with gratitude for these opportunities to give the gift of documenting life to others—the gift my mom gave me and I hope to give my children.