Last June, when Danny and I announced our transition from wedding photography to portraits, we put together a new website, changed our search engine optimization so people wouldn’t find our business when they searched for wedding photographers, and we added the title “Legacy Portraits” to our brand. In that one blog post when we made our announcement, I gave a little rundown about what Legacy Portraits means to me. I offer an even shorter summary on our website. But then Danny and I realized, we never shared why we felt the draw to something we called Legacy Portraits.
That’s the story I want to share today.Let’s rewind to February 2014. That was the month when Danny’s grandmother passed away at the age of 91. She had lived a long life, raising her four children and helping raise her grandchildren. Before that, she went to medical school (against her father’s wishes) back in 1940s Korea — she actually ran away from home and lived with her brother to pursue her dream. Then she married a fellow doctor she met working at a hospital, and before they moved to America, she ran a women’s clinic out of her home while taking care of her own babies.
And those were all things Danny learned after she passed away. He was floored — he had spent half his childhood in her home, going over to visit after school or staying with his grandparents while his parents worked, but he knew almost nothing about his grandmother’s early life. Then, just before her funeral, we began going through her old photo albums. The pages were pasted with gorgeous moody black and white portraits and candid photographs that documented what life was like at an all-women’s medical school.
We had no idea where these photographs had come from, or who had taken them. What we knew was that they were beautiful. They told a story. They left a legacy for Danny’s grandmother that he’d had no idea she had.
What we knew was that these days people rarely have photographs like that, chronicling their lives, showing them not only at their most relaxed but also their most refined. We have many, many more photographs these days, because a photograph is only just a click of an iPhone away. And so we take them for granted. We’re often more concerned with taking photographs of our dinner or blurry sunsets than truly documenting the way we live for our own memories’ sake — and for future generations.That was when Danny and I noticed a paradigm shift in the way we approached photography. Previously, my favorite aspect of shooting weddings had been all the beautiful details. I wanted to capture the emotion of the day, but I was giddy if there were elaborate flower arrangements and magazine-ready details everywhere I turned. But once I began analyzing what it was that people would want to remember when they looked back on their wedding after a lifetime together, the details began shedding their significance for me.
I began to think about how couples would cling to the humanness of their weddings. They would trace their fingers across photographs of the groom’s mother squeezing her son’s arm, looking at her little boy suddenly turned into a man. They would return again and again to the first dance photo, or the picture of the newlyweds walking up the aisle, or the two of them in a quiet moment during their candid portraits when they caught each other’s eyes and just sighed because this was real life.
And then I began to think about how much more I wanted to capture that realness, that contentment, that quiet joy in people’s everyday lives. That was when we began the transition from shooting weddings to exclusively photographing portrait sessions. And that was when Legacy Portraits, as we call them, really crystallized as a concept in our minds.All too often, even when people set aside time and money for portraits, and even when photographers prepare their camera gear and show up for a session, the emphasis isn’t always quite in the right place. There’s a little too much tense-lipped “Cheese!” — and not enough just looking into each other’s eyes until we can’t help but smile because that’s what happens when we look at the people we love most. There’s a little too much concern about catching our best angles and looking skinny — and not enough reflection on why we love each other in the first place and want to document that love.
That’s why I have fallen so in love with the concept of Legacy Portraits. Because the artistry of the images still absolutely matters, but these are intended to be photographs that resonate deep within your heart rather than simply pictures you label “pretty.” They’re intended to be photographs that help you leave a legacy you might not yet even realize you have.