At the end of the night, I used to spend every wedding reception thinking about what song my dad and I would have our dance to. I’d see other people’s first looks with their own fathers and think about how excited my dad would be to see me on my wedding day. I’d do family sessions and see how the grandpa interacted with his grandchildren, and would think “I can’t wait to see how fun of a grandpa my dad is going to be.” My client’s daughter would stand with her dad and practice slow dancing to a sweet song, and I’d remember the first time my dad had me stand on his shoes in our living room before the father daughter dance in first grade. On June 2nd, 2019 I realized many of the father’s speeches, first looks, and dances I had witnessed and visualized for myself for the last twenty years weren’t going to happen to me. I realized the super-fun, way too goofy grandparent I imagined my dad was going to be wasn’t going to ever become a reality. I realized I was never going to take a photograph of my dad holding my baby and his first grandchild. This was (and still is) all really, really hard for me. I very much do not view other people’s happiness as an absence of my own, so it is easy for me to still smile for my couples when I’d see them hugging their parents on their wedding day. It’s easy for me to still smile at those moments, but they have a new meaning to me now. I know this blog post isn’t starting out as a fun one, but I view this as a place for me to get these heavy things off of my heart, and share parts of myself with my clients I don’t normally get to at our sessions. I’ve been formulating these thoughts since the first wedding I photographed after my dad died, and the list seems to grow every session or wedding I do. So, here goes it; ways the death of my dad has impacted myself, my heart and how I photograph things.
I pay more attention
I have always found your family to be an important part of your day. I always grabbed photographs of my couples with their parents, siblings, and anyone else they told me was near & dear to their heart. Somethings changed since then though- I don’t just photograph photos of you together but I pay attention to how you interact with each other. I notice the way your parents look at you more. I notice the last hugs, the last few minutes together, the smiles and the connection you have so much more. I spend a lot more time listening and trying to let you enjoy your time with your parents, and less time squeezing you together for a formal photo. I know I would rather have a photo (or even just a few more undocumented moments) of my dad and I joking around rather than smiling at a camera. I think both are important, and I’ll definitely be capturing both but I pay more attention to the feelings and things that are happening naturally between you.
I cry a little bit more during the sappy moments
I always jokingly called myself a walking Hallmark card because I am just such a sentimental and corny person. I’ve been doing this since 2015 and I still teared up during the special moments during the day. I’m being fully transparent in this blog post, so I will add that the crying has gotten much worse. I started writing this blog post in October and It’s now December 9th as I write just this line. I full on cried-cried for the first time at a wedding two weeks ago, and the feelings I have seem to only magnify now. I realize that when you look back on your life, my professional photos of you and your family will be ones that you look at for the rest of your life. This fills me with overwhelming pride and it’s honestly hard for me to not tear up at just thinking of all the people who have trusted me to document their wonderful lives. It’s very likely you’ll see my eyes get a little red and shiny (I have green eyes, so it’s pretty obvious when my eyes are swelled up and about to cry) when you’re hugging your parents or reading a letter. I now know that wedding aren’t just a time for firsts, but also for lasts. It makes me cry (happy tears mostly) a little bit more.
I have created more balance in my life
I spend more time with my loved ones and less time stressing out about my business. I have spent the past few years of my life going nonstop. Building a business is hard and while I have heard many, many, MANY times how ‘lucky’ I am to be so successful at ‘such a young age’ I have sacrificed so much to be where I am now. One of the many things I sacrificed was time with my dad and brother. I am a totally believer in fate, and I believe that everything works out exactly the way it is supposed to work out. That said, I can not help but look back on all the times I had to say “I’m sorry dad, but I can’t do xyz because I am too tired from working two weddings this weekend” or “No, I can’t meet you for dinner I have too much editing to do” and not feel an overwhelming heaviness on my heart. I thought I had more time with my dad. I thought I had more time in general. I missed so many things in my life because my business was the most important thing, and unfortunately that meant it was more important to me than creating healthy boundaries and having more time with my family. I don’t answer messages when I’m spending time with others anymore. I don’t have my phone with me even half the amount of time that I used to. I don’t double book weddings anymore. I am now actively choosing to spend the time I have left to enjoy my life not only as a business owner, but as a 20 year old girl with a brother who is growing way too fast.
I push my creative boundaries more and set higher goals for myself
My dad was always the most honest person in my life. The most beneficial and hardest thing my dad ever taught me was that I suck sometimes. Whether that be as a human being, a friend, a daughter, a business owner, a cook, or anything else in life- I’m going to fail sometimes. He would without a doubt always be there, with no judgement and always unapologetically honest with me. I always relied on him being a phone call away to get his opinions on marketing ideas, or whether my photos looked great vs needed work. I had an outside opinion always there to say ” You’re doing great” or “maybe you should try something new”. I feel like now more than ever I need to constantly be working towards being better. I won’t have my dad around to kick me into gear and it’s made me feel like I need to hustle even more to make him proud.
Thank you all so much for taking the time to read this. I think I wrote this completely for myself, but even as I am typing this sentence I feel like a little bit of weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I know that he’s not here to read this, but I like to pretend that my dad’s going to get an alert on his phone that ‘Bare Moments Photography has a new post’ and know how lucky I feel to have him as my dad. Here’s a hug to those of you who unfortunately know the pain of losing a parent. I love you always, dad.
in loving memory of jason crawford