Family photography has always held a special place in my heart and soul, but it sometimes feels weird to talk about why even though I know I should. I'm passionate about documenting families from all walks of life, in all shapes, sizes, and combinations and I should be shouting from the rooftops about that passion, right?
Well to put it simply, I'm afraid my why will make people sad. For years, whenever I say "my brother died when I was seventeen" it is almost always followed by the response "oh I'm so sorry". And while that is a totally fine thing to say, I'm never looking for a sorry; I'm looking for connection. Connection to those who have also experienced loss or heartbreak or devastation in the hopes we come out of it teaching each other something that leads to joy and feeling a little closer to knowing ourselves and those around us.
For Christmas of 2011, my siblings and I decided to hire a photographer to take family photos of us four and my parents as a gift to them. The last time we had family photos done was when I was in fourth grade so the idea of updated photos when I was seventeen was amazing. I couldn't wait. My oldest brother, Kale, contacted a family photographer and the date was set so all we had to do was wait.
12/25/2011: Christmas morning was wonderful as always. It was filled with homemade rolls and gift giving so we finally got to tell my parents that we had a photographer booked for the very next day! My mom was ecstatic, of course and while I don't remember my dad's exact reaction, I am sure it was along the lines of "Well this is awesome, but what am I gonna have to wear?" Fast forward a few hours later and we'd started the final preparation of our big Christmas meal (all still in our pajamas) and begun to discuss location options. We'd settled on Champoeg State Park, near Butteville, Oregon but just to be sure my mom and dad suggested me, Sarah, Kale, and Jered pay the park a visit. We put on our boots and beanies and took off. The sun had come out as we got there so we were all smiles and giggles. I adore spending time with them all but since I am the youngest, I like to just sit back and observe sometimes. I appreciate each of them for very different reasons. We took a couple hours to walk around the park just because we could. We made sure not to lose track of time because we had dinner waiting for us when we headed home. The rest of the day was filled with gravy and love!
12/26/2011: We meet with the photographer at Champoeg State Park at 10:00 a.m. The session went great; none of us felt awkward or uncomfortable. We simply enjoyed the time we were spending with each other.
2/26/2012: Jered was killed in a car accident. The photos are no longer just photos. They are beloved memories...memories from a day we hadn't realized at the time would mean so much.
2/27/2012: The framed prints my mom ordered previously online, are delivered to our home.
The photos hang proudly above my parents' mantle and I assume will hang there for the rest of their life. They also hang in my home and in my sibling's homes. And that's my own story of how our family photos went from a simple gift given with love, to priceless treasures. Nothing can take that day from me or my family.
After all these years, my passion for family photography has not dwindled. All I want is for families to have photos they can look upon for their entire lifetime and appreciate that small window of time before everything changed.
Oregon Family Photographer | Canby - Oregon City - Portland
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The Wells Family | Champoeg State Park | 2021
Jen values connection and believes that true connection is what absolutely leads to emotive, powerful imagery.