A few thoughts and favorites…

It’s funny because when I first seriously got into photography, almost exactly two years ago, all I really wanted were pictures of my daughter that looked like a professional took them. But not just once a year for 20 minutes. All the time. Every day. I knew back then that the moments I wanted captured the most “professionally” weren’t the ones that took place in a field of wild flowers or on a spotless beach with everyone dressed up in clothes purchased for no other reason than to be photographed. There is nothing wrong with pictures like those but that just wasn’t enough for me. What I wanted was for the snapshots, the everyday stuff, the iPhone pictures – all of that, to be better. To be “professional”. Whatever that even means.

So I learned my camera. Took some workshops. Became somewhat obsessed with photography. Got really comfortable with manual mode. Got really comfortable with editing. Then, like many amateur photographers, hit a wall. Realized maybe the goal I had for myself was reached. I had professional looking photos of my daughter. I had lots of every day moments in perfect focus, perfectly exposed. So what was next? It’s hard to become so passionate about something and then when it’s good enough, to just leave it. So without really asking myself what my goals were, I just kept plugging away. Upgraded my camera, upgraded my lenses. Took more workshops, followed more photographers on Facebook, started a blog.

Then I started doing the occasional photo shoot for friends. You know, to practice. And for fun. Because it’s fun to photograph people and when you’re so passionate about something you love new subject matter. New stories to tell. New compositions to try. New art to create.

Sometimes when you don’t actually set a goal, someone else will set one for you. Some goals I thought I was supposed to have were to become CMPro, go into business, teach workshops, create art, and in doing all of that, get as many likes on my Facebook business page as possible.

I did become CMPro which I think finally gave me permission to tell myself that I didn’t really have to have other goals if I didn’t feel like it. Or I could have totally different goals from everyone else in the photography world and that’s totally okay. Because I don’t actually want to go into business. Ever. And I don’t really need a business page. Or even to be an artist. I don’t need a macro lens to take pictures of rose petals because I need to round out my portfolio (although I would love one for eyelashes. :). I don’t have to work on shooting vertically more often. I don’t have to scrap the sweetest image of my daughters smile because I didn’t nail focus. All I have to do is stay true to my goals.

So here are some goals I have as a hobbyist photographer. They aren’t really new goals. They are the goals I had two years ago but didn’t have the insight to put into words. They are goals that were buried under other goals that had to be hammered out first (like learn the exposure triangle and compositional basics and what white balance means).

So, my goals as a photographer are as follows:

  • I want my daughter to look at the pictures of her childhood and have them feel so real that they will be mistaken for memories.
  • I want her to see what it looked like to live in 2013. The stores, the cars, the people.
  • I want her know what it was like to be her mother. All messes and magic.
  • I want her to come across a picture of her great grandmother and remember her smile and her pyrex dishes and they way her eyes lit up when talked to her great granddaughter.
  • Someday, while perusing old photo books with a friend, I want her to say “my mother was a photographer”.
  • I want to look at those very photos when my little baby is long grown up and I’m 92 and in a nursing home. And I want them to take me back in such a tangible way that they are mistaken for memories.

It’s easy to feel like your work isn’t anything special when your subject matter stays the same. Except it doesn’t. It changes in tiny, minuscule ways that add up to mountains of change.

Another photographer (I can’t remember at the moment) shared this fitting quote by C.S. Lewis:

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…”

It all really boils down to one goal I guess. I want to remember. I want Isla to remember. I want to remember what it felt like to be here, the way we are right now.

Maybe photography is a way of grasping at time, trying to make it wait, slow down. And as much as I can appreciate a beautiful photograph of a dreamy landscape, a flawless portrait of a wrinkle free senior girl or a timeless image of an apple sitting on a windowsill – none of those things mean anything to me as a photographer. None of those things will make me cry in a nursing home (I don’t think anyway!) So I’ll try new things when I’m in a rut but I’ll also learn to be okay with just shooting my life and nothing more. And if all I ever have to show for it are a bunch of worn out family photo albums, I will consider myself the most successful artist who ever lived.


Update: Liar liar pants on fire. I went into business. The business of telling stories for families – the business of remembering. And I honest to God, could not be happier.

Check out some of my favorite sessions from my first few months in business right here.

Contact me to book your own session.


  • Amanda Bergantino - Those are great goals 🙂 The image of Isla looking out the door with the dog sitting next to her literally moved me to tears. Your work is so phenomenal-you will both look back on these images very fondly. As Isla grows up I’m sure they will become a most treasured possession. ReplyCancel

  • Maria Gernert Conover - This is the most perfect post ever. “I want my daughter to look at pictures of her childhood and have them take her back in such a tangible way that they will be mistaken for memories. ” That is absolutely beautiful. I feel honored that Elyza and Sadie made it in the gallery!! Oh and bbcc. You have no idea how much I truly love all your words you just shared. ReplyCancel

  • Megan Schreurs - Beautiful, Jessica! I love this!ReplyCancel

  • Kate Densmore - Jessica, this speaks to me in a way you wouldn’t believe. I love your words, and your work, and I have no doubt your daughter will someday love the very tangible gift of memories you’ve given her. <3ReplyCancel

  • Candice Sheiree Zugich - I love this! I was thinking and putting my daughter and son in this and realize our daughters have the same name 😉 … This is try beautiful and true! Made me rethink it all xoReplyCancel

  • Agata Cicha - First of all, you will not be in a nursing home. I have a feeling Isla would never let it happen. Second of all, no matter what you decide to do with your amazing talent because I don’t think it’s only skills, it’s your choice and nobody else’s. I’m so happy that I’ve met you and I can enjoy your art. The pictures of Isla, your home, your dogs, your life are my favorite anyway. Probably it’s because I had a chance to meet you and they are not just beautiful pictures of strangers. And I’ll be very happy to look at your photo albums when I’m in a nursing home. They are so alive, full of joy, love and everything else that life is about that looking at them will definitely feel like going back in time:) Love all of them! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You know you should be the writer too, right?:)ReplyCancel

  • Carrie Ching Yuan - Love this blog post so very much! You are so talented, my friend!ReplyCancel

  • Felicia Chang - Jessica, you’ve always inspired me with the honesty you infuse in your work. I love that so much about your photography. But more than that your WYSIWYG-ness is what makes it magic. ThAnk you so much for that! ReplyCancel

  • Sashaographer Holloway - THIS was amazing. I love this, I love how you capture your day to day, and your work is sublime. ReplyCancel

  • Jacci Morgan - Ohhh, Jessica. YES. Like, a million times. And you made me CRY! “My mother was a photographer.” I let out a little stifled sob cry. This is exactly where I am right now. Except, we’re going into super part time business (like one session a month)… just because my heart really wants to keep making these tangible memories for others, too, and I can’t keep doing it for free… But, even if no one hires me, I’m good with it. I’m good with just photographing our days. Earlier this month I made a list of what my goals are *not*… it helped so much. My heart is very much where yours is. Kindred spirit <3ReplyCancel