For so long, everything was new.
Newlyweds. New to parenting a baby girl. New town. New home. New to parenting a baby boy.
At some point, new turned into routine. We watched the same scenes happen over… and over… in time.
My awareness for this became a bit of a game as a documentary photographer—I was more aware of the photographs I’d already made.
It started with the tiny story of getting the mail. In the fall of 2015, the kids, my camera and I went for a late afternoon walk almost daily. They were pulled behind me in their red, Radio Flyer wagon. We made many stops to pick up rocks. We threw the rocks into the creek. And, as we walked home, we stopped to get the mail.
One day, that déjà vu feeling washed over me as my daughter stretched and reached to open the mailbox. I was aware of how often I’d watched this scene unfold before and I photographed it… again… with previous scenes on my mind.
Above is a unique Then & Now. The top (canvas) is my son drinking his bottle in 2014. The bottom portion (the wood) is from 2021. My son cut, split, and stacked that entire stack of wood at only 7-years-old.
You could easily take all your old photos and then go reproduce them.
You’ve probably seen Then & Now projects like this before. You know the one of a pregnant woman in a certain scene and then in that same scene again later with baby in her arms?
This is different.
This is documentary.
This is noticing and responding—no planning, plotting or orchestration. It’s about your level of awareness in your day-to-day, not seeking a photo.
Noticing all of these “this has happened before” scenes in your mind while fully experiencing the present moment is absolute consciousness—completely enlivening.
Making the next photograph is simply a bonus.
The feeling of being awake for my life has been everything… more than the magic of the photographs themselves.
Sidenote: Being “awake” for your tiny stories takes practice, but soon it becomes second nature. I’ve created the free Art of Noticing Toolkit to help you get started.
There was a time when my daughter couldn’t reach the mailbox. Then, she grew and grew. We added a baby brother to the mix. Today, he can reach the mailbox… which has caused many a “I’m gonna get the mail!” arguments.
It was only weeks later when I photographed my son stretching and reaching to open the mailbox and there was something else I noticed in his photograph: the background has changed. What was once a wooded chunk of property has been flatted into farmland.
This little game of noticing and recording new, but familiar moments has been cathartic.
We get to take notice of what’s changed and evolved, and also what’s stayed the same, withstood time, and the tiny stories that’ll last—beautifully reliable for the future.
These are a few of my favorites…
2019 | Manual Tools
2020 | Power Tools
I’m positive, if I really looked through my photographs, I’ve got dozens more. Coming home to my parent’s house. Dave’s dad waving goodbye from their front porch. Arriving to the family cabin. Our favorite pizza place that turned into a store for glasses. These stories are all around us.
The point is not in making pictures. It’s in how awake you’re living to notice these tiny stories to begin with.
Another fun, more planned version of this:
Pictured below is (left) my pregnancy in 2011 and (right) my sister’s pregnancy in 2021.
10 years apart, same location.
Take time today to notice your stories.
Notice the changes or the similarities of the tiny stories you’ve experienced in the past—whether you have pictures or not.
Be open to receiving opportunity to warmly notice these moments again in the future. How you respond—in pictures or in savoring—is up to you.
Look at ALL the stories in your life, not only your children.
Look at your partner, your parents, grandparents, friendships, your neighborhood and community, your career—all of it.
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