Why I did a Generational Portrait Session
“Grandma is in the hospital.”
The distress call went out and immediately, family from all over were pouring into the hospital to visit and comfort my traumatized grandmother. She had fractured her hip and could not walk. Frightened and confused, she was held in the hospital under supervision, constantly being reassured by nurses and doctors. Yet, it didn’t feel like home quite yet. The nights were the worst when the halls grew quiet and the visitors less frequent.
My mom volunteered to spend nights with her and brought over photographs to make her room feel more cozy, hoping to warm her up the space with the smiling spirits of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. One of those images happened to be an image just taken a month ago by me.
When I originally sought out to do a generational portrait session for my grandmother, I wasn’t anticipating that tragedy would hasten the need for printed images to evoke their superpower of nostalgia and joy. Initially, I wanted to set up a legacy session to celebrate the family I have and our matriarch while we were all still living. My great grandmother lived to be 100 years old, and I still regret not orchestrating a major family portrait of the many branches that came from her roots. I was younger and had not yet established photography as a profession, of course, but the desire to leave a tangible memory for my family was evident.
As family members breathed new air as infants and breathed their last as ancestors, as my grandparents grew older and older—now in their late 80s—the time was now or never.
These sessions were photographed in Florida, where my family resides. I was able to get 3 of my grandmother’s branches together to celebrate their legacy and family tree. These types of portrait sessions only function with clear direction and vision, down to attire.
Shout out to my 13 year old cousin who I taught to use my camera when he was 8 years old! He was able to capture my family and me together (which is rare without a tripod!).
Most of the other family images of us together were captured with a tripod and timer. Yes, I was sprinting to get into the frame before the 10 seconds were over!
As you can see, my family is really silly and has a good time everywhere we go.
Laughs are inevitable. Love: unavoidable.
I cannot wait to do another generational family session with all 100+ members of my family in attendance. Besides the images, it will be beautiful time to fellowship and just be.
I look forward to creating more tangible pieces of history. These images aren’t all technically perfect, but they do showcase us being us, and that’s true freedom in photography. At the end of day, decades from now, I want those feelings of nostalgia and joy to come rushing back.
My friends, if you haven’t already, print your history. It is so much more powerful off digital screens. If you don’t believe me, ask my grandmother.
P.S. Grandma is currently sitting up and is doing well in her physical therapy. She can’t wait to get back to walking so she can spend time with her dog, Little Bit. 🙂
Musical Inspiration: “As” by Stevie Wonder (Anthony Hamilton and Marsha Ambrosius Cover)