Revealing the winners of Collection 24! Click here to see the full Collection

Welcome to a new group feature here on This is Reportage: Family, where we ask any of our members if they’d like to contribute – we love hearing the thoughts and opinions of our members from all over the world. There’s a question that we sometimes ask on our family photography podcast, and we thought it would make for a great feature:

“Can you think of a certain photo that you took, that’s had some kind of lasting impact…perhaps that impact has been on your career, or your confidence, your direction, or just an image that’s just particularly memorable to you for some reason?”

58 of our photographers replied, from all over the globe, and their images and words are incredible: Insightful, poignant, and often deeply moving. Many thanks to these people who, in many cases, have opened up their hearts and personal lives to share such intimate and emotional stories about why certain images have had such a lasting impact on their lives.

This is a beautiful piece, and it’s an honour to share it.

Andrea Muehleck (Germany) – Website / This is Reportage: Family Profile

“Do you remember those moments in life when you feel that everything falls right into place? When your heart starts to sing and time and space dissolve? Those moments when worlds start to connect inside of you and you step into a somehow bigger frame that is kind of magical because you feel connected, whole, open, excited and peaceful all at once?

The moment I took this photograph has been one of those moment for me. We’ve been spending the day in early summer with friends at one of my favorite lakes near Munich. From the shore, you can spot the Alps in a distance and watch the sun set in the west in a hilly landscape. I’ve been randomly taking pictures of the kids and the family of our friends during the afternoon and when the crowds left the spot, we went to a beer garden and enjoyed some snacks. The 3 year old son of our friends and his baby sister were allowed to stay up with us and after dinner, the young man wanted to have a late swim. The lake is very flat at its shore and the toddler managed to escape his dad and jumped naked and without proper swimming gear right into the water to chase some goose who silently swam by. Within only a few minutes a documentation of pure childhood joys unfolded in front of me: escaping naked into the lake and hunting animals was followed by playing hide and seek on a wooden footbridge being officially closed to the public. His parents gave him the freedom to live out his joy. And I later asked myself who was actually more in his element – the little boy or me. When the water wings were put on his little arms, the moment was over and the clock started ticking again.

A little later that year I entered a photo competition and submitted this picture. Because it was one of the only photos I took in 2018 that deeply resonated with me. That had that certain something that you can’t prepare for, that you feel when it naturally unfolds. Where you have to just BE in order to embrace it – fully present, open hearted, calm and deeply thankful and humble for being part of this miraculous life. The picture won a prize. It’s been printed in 60×90 and is now hanging inside an art box above our sofa. It reminds me every day of how and what I want to create. That my work is about life itself, about being alive. It’s about the connection with ourselves and nature, the beauty of the mundane with all of its lights and shadows, it’s about being human.” – Andrea

Lisa Hu Chen (United States) – Website / TiR:F

“I made this photo from the sidelines of the football field as my son and his teammates were warming up before their game. As I laid flat on my belly on the turf, my heavy lens resting on the tripod formed by my elbows, I debated whether I should make any photos at all or wait for the game to actually begin.

This photo had a huge impact on me because it taught me a new and lasting lesson on composing my frame intentionally, and that what I choose to exclude is often just as critical as what I decide to include.

The first time I edited this photo, I cropped minimally. It included the busy field, some random figures, and a horribly awkward chop of the legs in the lower half of the frame. The image garnered some positive attention and I received encouraging comments including one by my friend, Karyn, who responded to my complaint about the chopped off feet with: “Can’t win them all! I like the crop…maybe even a smidge tighter on the feet.”

With that, her words ignited like fireworks in my mind. Excluding the lower elements of the frame (my interpretation of ‘a smidge tighter’) not only cleaned up the image by removing visual clutter, it forced the eye to focus on the only true hero of the shot: the tension between the ball and all the outstretched fingers and bodies.

If I could reshoot, I’d tilt my lens high to frame just the hero and the sky, which conversely meant that I’d exclude everything else outside of it. Instead, I re-edited the photo by cropping with that same intention and immediately I knew it was the right call to make.

This photo titled, Mine, was the only time I was featured on National Geographic Your Shot’s “Photo of the Day.” It was made with love, intention, a little luck, and a helping hand. ” – Lisa

Marisa Privitera Murdoch (UK) – Instagram / TiR:F

“In January 2020 we received an autism and ADHD diagnosis for our 7 year old. And then lockdown happened. Denny is brilliant and all the things a mother would say about her son – but he is magical, too. He is our teacher. He has awoken a new view of the world I didn’t know was possible. I had never photographed my personal space before, always preferring strangers I pass on the street, but Covid-19 reset everything.

Normally, I would never have let my children jump on the sofa but I stood back this time. Looking at Denny, I felt like I was seeing him clearly for the first time. At that moment, I let go of conventional parenting goals. I decided to let my son jump. I decided to let him fly – in his own way, in his own time.

This picture is taken from the series The Teacher and The Healer, which documents the chaos and magic of parenting two small children, one of which with a neurodiversity, during a global pandemic.” – Marisa

Elke Van Rulo (Belgium) – Website / TiR:F

“I will share a photo from fresh baby Sam with you, now an energetic 10 year old girl. Let’s hope I don’t skip a beat and go from A to C at some point, tend to do that sometimes…

I have always been a very camera-aware kid/teen/adult. Moreover, an extremely people-aware person. For instance, on the train or in any public setting really, I would feel uneasy if my friend started talking uninhibitedly about her weekend date, let alone ask me about my date. It always felt far too overhear-able and was never the right place for me.

For the longest time I found both this camera- and people-awareness to be negative characteristics, and hard to reconcile with the highly sociable and loud gal people took me for.

After a now-or-never panic attack while being pregnant with my eldest daughter, I decided to study photography and along came my first reportages. Friends asked if I could shoot the home birth of their daughter and during that intense experience I knew I wanted to document fleeting but valuable, honest moments between people forever.
Inexperienced as I was 10 years ago, I was able to deliver a decent series of photos only by embracing my friends’ trust in me, sharing their space while letting them be and taking the time to notice the moments pulling my heart’s strings. Not to mention working my but off…

I realised then and there photo skills alone mean nothing and mutual trust is the key element for a reportage to succeed. Both for me to photograph well and for my clients (families and couples alike) to drop their guard.

Since then I learned to embrace my undesired characteristics, the oftentimes annoying camera- and people-awareness, and put them to good use. I knew my clients would not drop their guard before they would feel I belonged with them in their space. I also knew I needed their approval of me being there and being close to make good photos. So I go into each session being my open, curious self knowing that gaining the trust we both need will come naturally while doing so.

Trust really is what makes a beautiful reportage sing.” – Elke

Myrthe van Boon (Qatar) – Website / TiR:F

“This picture means a lot to me personally because it was taken at my first real Day in a Life session with another family. I think that first session outside your house and with other children then your own is always quite nerve racking. Halfway through the day the kids of the family were at school and I had time to quickly look thorough the images on my memory card. When I saw this image I felt an instant excitement, I was indeed able to make cool pictures with other families and it felt amazing! I knew I had found my photography niche, and that feeling grew even more with every session I did.

For me starting up my own photography business was even more meaningful, because I had suffered serious medical problems for more then 13 years after a mild head injury. Working had never been possible and also having an active role in our family life was often impossible. That’s why I started making pictures of all the normal daily moments of our daughters. Because having to miss so many moments made me see how special they really are. Also making pictures when I had to be at the sideline, gave me the feeling of still being part of that family moment. So over the years I’ve had hours and hours and even more hours of training, finding the right moments 😉

When my life changed drastically after a special treatment and I could finally start to think of some kind of work, all the pieces of the puzzle connected when I decided to do Family Documentary Photography. So the above picture has this extra emotional layer, being able to build up something after all those difficult years. Even when shortly after my start up Covid came and I was stuck at home once again…… I still knew, looking at this picture, change will come and I will be back capturing all those amazing moments in the normal life of families sometime in the future…” – Myrthe

Saskia Albers (UK) – Website / TiR:F

“This is a self-portrait I have taken of myself with my son. It is not just this picture that has had a lasting impact on me, but the act of intentionally putting myself in the frame has been so empowering for me. I try to put myself in our family photos with my shadow, a part of my body or by taking these type of self-portraits. It feels so good to be part of our family’s visual legacy, to not be missing out of my own story any more.” – Saskia

Stephana Ferrell (United States) – Website / TiR:F

“This image is of a family I have photographed for six years now. They are one of the few families that wholeheartedly trusted me to capture their family unprompted when I made the switch from lifestyle to documentary three years ago.

I had been having a hard time nailing down my “voice” as documentary family photographer, and this particular image offered me an epiphany – my photos I connect most with are tied to the in between. Moments where we are pushing ourselves into new territory. Moments where we are wobbly or awkward. Moments of hesitation, quiet, and self-doubt. Moments that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and open to the encouragement of our loved ones.

Once I saw it in this image, I could see it everywhere in my collection of favorite images. It also perfectly reflects where I am in my own life as my youngest enters a full day of school and I now have the time to really focus on my business.” – Stephana

Susan White (United States) – Website / TiR:F

“My middle son, though high-functioning, is on the Autism Spectrum. We knew from an early age that he experienced the world differently from his brothers but had the biggest heart. He was fond of birds and was particularly attached to a giant stuffed penguin his aunt had gifted him when he was a year old. Over time, the penguin became more than a beloved toy; we began to notice that the penguin allowed our son to practice his social skills. Jim (formerly spelled “Gym”) the Penguin helped our son learn to take turns in a game, how to talk to a friend, and even curl eyelashes after he spent time studying how I would put on my make-up in the morning.

One summer evening our son was talking excitedly about Jim when he announced that the penguin was 12-years-old. I fell right into that trap when I asked, “when is Jim’s birthday?” Our son, delighted, said, “tomorrow!” and thus began our annual birthday party for Jim the Penguin. That next day I decided I would start documenting his relationship with Jim the Penguin more purposefully. I devoted the entire day to focus on this work, essentially giving carte blanche to our son to plan the party. That evening our neighbors joined us in the backyard, along with a plethora of stuffed animal friends, to celebrate Jim. Cake was had by all and, as the party was winding down, I made this photograph of my son, completely at ease with his penguin. Reflecting on how far he had come, when he wasn’t able to speak at all, to now hosting a birthday party and able to truly enjoy the experience, I photographed with the same ease. Something in that moment shifted for me. I realized how incredibly special it is to be in this intimate place of understanding my children and being able to make an image that speaks to that knowing. I’ve continued to come back to this photo time and again because my work changed after this point. I worried less about making work for others and became tightly bonded to making work that spoke to me. And, in turn, by honoring myself in this process, my images started to speak more to others.” – Susan

Laura G Gutierrez (Mexico) – Website / TiR:F

“Your strength, determination and grip on life show me all time that there are no limits.

You were born in a complicated situation, but everytime I see those little scars and I see how you enjoy life; “with the intensity as you dance and reflect in this photo”, you make me feel that this is why you chose to live.

You are my muse in my photography journey, your passion in your art has inspired me to create my first personal photography project…. Thanks my dear little girl!!!” – Laura

Pete Phelan (UK) – Website / TiR:F

“In March 2020 just before the first Lockdown in the UK I had the amazing opportunity to head out to Ethiopia with a charity called Compassion. I was asked if I could take my camera along and document the trip. Ethiopia has a huge place in myself and my wife’s heart as we sponsor two children there through a charity called Compassion. The trip was organised by the charity to see first hand the amazing work they do but also to meet the two children who have become part of our family through the many letters we have exchanged over the last few years.

It was a wonderful trip and it was against all odds, with the threat of the trip being cancelled and then curtailed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. On one of the last days we were taken to a project in a rural part of Ethiopia about two hours away from Addis Ababa the capital city. Whilst there, we visited the lovely mothers and babies featured in my
image. They were part of a child survival programme run by Compassion. The mothers and their babies were not only given food, medication and things like clothing but they were also taught how to properly care for their children to give them the best chance of survival.

The children that are part of the child survival programme are all children who without the charity stepping in would face the very real prospect of not making it. Diseases like HIV & Aids are rife in that area as is extreme poverty and malnutrition. Many of the families live on less than $1 a day and it’s not uncommon for their rent to account for 80-90% of their wage, leaving very little for food and education. I remember standing in that room looking at these mothers and their babies and just being so glad that places like this exist. So privileged that I was there to not only meet them but document it too. It was such a special moment that I struggle to fully express in words.

That’s why I love this image because as I look at this image I see these 3 mothers and their babies all happy and healthy. This images teleports me back to that tiny room in rural Ethiopia filled with healthy mothers and babies and my heart just gets so full of joy because it could have been so different.” – Pete

Katie Golobic (United States) – Website / TiR:F

“So often images can carry us back to the scents, sounds, and feelings we felt as they were when we made the image. This is one such image for me personally. While this moment may not have the vibrato or a grand apex to a story, it symbolizes as few things for me. It came at a pivotal time that shaped my path both as a mother and a photographer. It was this very image that solidified my intentions to create documentary images of my children. Proof that no amount of direction was more authentic than the subtleties of real intimate moments. The window, looking outward, the static electricity from my daughter’s hair. That could not be manufactured.

It was also this very image that laid the foundation to heal myself from a pregnancy loss. It became a battle cry, a calling, to both memorialize my children’s childhood and heal myself. Now, today, four years later, I feel like I’ve almost come full circle. I continue to become deeply rooted in the documentary genre when making images, I still photograph almost exclusively in black and white and I’m always fascinated with the subtle stories that can be found by my camera in the relationships between my children and myself. It gave me a voice when I did not feel like talking.” – Katie

Lauren Gayeski (United States) – Website / TiR:F

“I liken my experience as a mother with my own child’s childhood to the light of day. The twilight of dawn is an expectation, the sunrise a birth. A new baby is new light, a warming of senses of which we didn’t know were there. The toddler and preschool years are midday light, hot and exhausting, with a harsh light that allows our bodies to create shadows to protect our offspring from the beating rays of the sun. And then there are the golden hour years, when our children find their independence while still within the protective boundary of a family, the few years when we stop worrying about the accidents that befall babies. They understand danger and can take risks on the monkey bars, they can tie their own shoes and buckle their own seatbelts, read their own books, and write their own names. They can roll their suitcases through the airports and go to different countries and try new foods. They might complain, but they will do it. Then there is the blue hour, with a sense that time is running out. We know the night is coming and their dependence on us is waning, their childhood will fade into the black night, and they don’t understand that they won’t be able to get it back. The blue hour feels sad as the light is slipping, and even though you are desperately trying to hold onto it, it still fades.”

I wrote these words around the same time I made this image of my sons (ages 15 and 13) in August 2020 as my two oldest children wander further and further into their teenage years. And while they figure out who they are, they drift in and out of our family circle, leaving the nest for periods of time while they make their own friends, keep their own secrets, and dream their own dreams. The threads that connect us are the things unseen, like the bond between brothers who once shared a room but who now share secret handshakes after they jump off bridges together during an evening swim. Some days, I yearn for the years I could hold these children in my arms and the thought of the countdown to university aches in a way that feels like muscle being gradually torn from the bone. When those feelings drift into my head with more frequency, I know it’s time to make images and connect my feelings to photographs. Because although the hours may be blue, they are still so beautiful.” – Lauren

John Steel (UK) – Website / TiR:F

“This image is special to me because this was the first day of lockdown at the start of April 2020 that I got time to spend with my kids. Before this my children had been in self-isolation for 2 weeks so I hadn’t seen them apart from through a window and on Zoom.

It was our first day of home-schooling and as part of our craft activities my eldest decided to make a kite. She didn’t ask for any help and it was all of her own idea so I just let her get on with it. In the afternoon we headed out for our daily exercise and she insisted on taking this kite. Despite the fact that it was absolutely terrible it didn’t stop them running around for a good half an hour trying to get it to fly.

This picture is historic to me and it’s my first real experience of the pandemic with my kids. These are the pictures that I know I’m going to look back on so I know I just have to capture them.” – John

Patricia Faustino (Portugal) – Website / TiR:F

“I chose this photo because it has a strong personal impact.

This photo was taken on 19 December 2020, a few days before Christmas. It’s me taking the photo and my older kid Leonardo looking through the window to my grandmother.

She lives in the countryside about 20km from our house, we go there a lot so the kids can play freely surrounded by nature, just like I did when I was a kid.

Since covid started we continue to go there, but we never enter the house, we never hug her or kiss her. We say hi from a distance or see each other through this window. It’s been almost a year.

This is us looking at her as she was there doing her things around the house. We’re so close and yet so far.

I was taking pictures of my kids playing outside as I always do, suddenly my son says: “hey look, gramma is here” I looked and saw her in the light and point my camera.

This is a portrait of the pandemic, a portrait of separation and a portrait of togetherness.” – Patricia

Susan Eikenaar (Netherlands) – Website / TiR:F

“I made it during a workshop (Foundation Workshop in Texas) 6 years ago. During the workshop I had to shoot for 2 days with a family, and tell a story about their life. I made this image at the end of the second day. I was tired from 2 days of shooting, and overall just very tired of trying to make good images and feeling that I ended up with nothing that was good enough (to me).

Suddenly I noticed the light outside the family’s house. I went outside, layed down on the ground (in some chickenpoop), made a composition and waited. The family members walked in and out the door and in this frame everything came together: the light, the chickens, the cat, the boy. I NEVER thought I could make an image like this. I always used to believe that the photographers that I admired so much had a special talent that they were born with that made them great photographers. But this image made me realize that it’s not ‘talent’, they work HARD. And I learned that if I work hard to shoot past the obvious and stay patient and wait, I can create good images.” – Susan

Emily Renier (UK) – Website / TiR:F

” ‘The Real Power of Photography’

This is a photo of the very first birth I photographed. But, for me, this is also a photograph of closure. Of completion. Of acceptance. Of forgiveness. Of peace.

Over the span of a decade, I had one stillbirth and 7 miscarriages. Labour and childbirth were two aspects of life I could not come to terms with for a very long time. I have never been diagnosed with PTSD but for many many years, anything to do with ultrasounds, maternity wards, or sounds of labour and infants crying took me right back “there”, in an instant. Although I have come to not just accept but actually welcome my childfree life now (note “childfree” and not “childless”) there had always been those very memories I couldn’t quite …well… embrace and go back to “safely” . Considering I didn’t have many memories of my time with my son, it was sad that I had to block these out completely.

I came across birth photography on a podcast a few years back and actually realised that I really wanted to give it a go. There isn’t a single person in my family and friends who didn’t show great concern for me once I had made my decision. But I knew I could cope. I have always approached any work as a professional and this was no different. So when I got my first booking, I was looking forward to it, one hundred percent. My preparation was meticulous, organised and thorough. It had to be. It was going to be: “I am a professional. I am taking pictures of something beautiful. And that’s all there is to it.” There was genuinely no fear or anxiety associated with my history. The only thing I was worried about was that I might pass out at the sight of the head crowning.

What happened on the day? Well, you know… peace actually happened. I had been in a previous career where you had to put your emotions on the side and focus on what’s at stake. This was no different. Even when the little complications became bigger complications, my brain was funnily just obsessed with “taking all the right shots” and doing my job well and being there for my client. Perhaps I can thank photography. An art which enables us all to put anything aside for a little while, an art which gives us complete control even for a few moments. So yes maybe it was because I had a camera in my hand. But this camera didn’t just enable me to take a photograph of Charlotte as she was born. It allowed me to access precious memories of my son without trauma being associated with it. When Erica was screaming and pushing through another contraction, I wasn’t taken back to my nightmare, I was allowed in her “here and now” and rushed to celebrate it, to preserve it. I covered 27 hours of Erica’s 43 hour long labour. And I can be totally honest when I say that not one minute or second did I feel sad. How miraculous is that? That I could be by my client’s side, look into her eyes, with calm and peace in mine and reassure that all her hard work was just about to pay off.

I really hope you don’t think I am boasting here. I didn’t have to be brave. I didn’t have to show strength. Being a professional and having a camera with me is what gave me strength. It just happened.

So this is the photo. This is the photo that had lasting impact. It has had lasting impact on my client because she now has access to memories she will never lose and, totally unexpectedly, it has had a lasting impact on me, because it has opened up another career for me, bringing me closer to my son even for a few hours without any associated sadness.

And finally, thanks to all this, I have started to open up about my story again and making connections with other parents from all over the world. I have started a photography project for which I already have a few volunteers. The project is called Parenthood – I am still looking for volunteers if anyone is interested. Lockdown has halted my first few shoots but hopefully we should get started again as soon as the law allows it!” – Emily

Jo Haycock (UK) – Website / TiR:F

“During the first Covid-19 Lockdown I began a personal photo project in response to my feelings, the emotions and fear around the unknown of this time in our lives.

My parents had been shielding as my father had been diagnosed with Leukaemia some months earlier. He’d spent the past winter in and out of hospital as the medical team managed his blood levels. They were beginning to enjoy some better health and plan some new adventures when a global pandemic hit.

Over those months, we had got into a routine of me doing their weekly grocery shop and making doorstep deliveries. It was during one visit that my daughter came with me and began to cry, asking if she’d ever be able to hug them again. It was at that point I realised this house we’re delivering to each week, unable to go past this doorstep, was my childhood home. A place holding so many memories and a place we all had continued to gravitate to with our own families over recent years.

Through My Childhood Window explores and journals some of these memories and feelings of what each room in this house means to me. Photographs were made each time I delivered their groceries. My window reflection became an intentional part of these portraits with them. A way of connecting me into the photograph and the story. Though this is the first of the series, the opening shot and the one that reminds me how vital this creative project came to mean for all of our well being during this time.” – Jo

Thong Vo (Vietnam) – Website / TiR:F


I took this photo a long time ago, back in 2010. The lady who sat silently with the waiting eyes was my late grandmother. The context of the photo was at my brother-in-law’s wedding ceremony. As everyone in the house was rushing outside to meet and greet the bride’s family arriving at the groom’s home, only me and my grandmother stayed inside, waiting for everyone to come in. At this exact moment, I with the camera in hand, witnessed GrandMom’s glance of eyes towards the crowd. The glance of the elderly who was unable to join in the fun with the youth, only able to stay and wait in patience because she knew that’s all she could do.

This photo resonated in me so deeply and strongly that it urged me to think about the life of the elderlies – our great grandparents, our grandparents, uncles, aunties. They are all in the few last chapters of life, we may never know how much time left they have with us, nor how meaningful we may suddenly realize they were meant to us once they’ve already gone. Everyone of us, as an individual, as a family member or a member of society, should pay a lot more attention, love and care to our beloved elderlies. They are the treasure of a passed golden era, with their legacy, experience and lessons that us offspring will be grateful that we still have them beside us right in these present moments.

“THE AWAITED LADY” is among the most wonderful, self-satisfied and meaningful photos I ever photographed, if not to say the best one. The inspiration drawn from this photo is the motivation force for me to discover in-depth documentary photography, and by early 2020, I eventually started to practice family documentary photography as my main job, quickly followed by the establishment of my own brand “THONG VO PHOTOGRAPHY”

So, it is not humble to say that this photo is the turning point of my life :)” – Thong

Erica Hawkins (UK) – Website / TiR:F

“There is a few reasons why this photo has a lasting impact on me and my work. It’s not because its the most creatively interesting image, or one that has pushed my skills forward. But it’s an image that always reminds me of the importance of photography and capturing real authentic moments. This is a photo of my mum deep in thought, with the sun warming her face, humming along to the song ‘Perfect day’ by Lou Reed, what you can’t see is that she’s in her garden, surrounded by all her grandchildren while they hunt for Easter eggs.

8 weeks before this photo was taken she found out she was dying, 4 weeks after the photo was taken she had passed away.

When we found out mum was dying I very quickly started to take lots of photos of her. I wanted to document as much of her as possible, knowing how important these photos would become in the future. But as the weeks went on and mum became more unwell so fast, the mum I so desperately wanted to remember was harder to see, and what was more evident in the photos was that mum was really sick, and that was hard to see pass. I found it harder and harder to reach for my camera.

This photo was taken on Easter Sunday, the scene was almost typical of most families at Easter, all the family together, kids going crazy looking for eggs. But there was my mum, sat in the garden looking over her family, she knew she was dying, she was in so much pain and must have been so scared, but when the sun hit her face, she closed her eyes and started to sing perfect day. She stayed sat like this for about 5 minutes and I was able to take this photo.

So much about that moment sums up my mum, her strength and gratitude at the end of her life, along with her ability to take pride and comfort in the family that she had created. I look at this photo with such awe for my amazing mum, the image and the story behind it helps paint the picture of the kind of woman I will remember she was.

In the three months that mum was ill the photos I took during that time document her battle with cancer. I didn’t know this at the time but most of the photos bring me nothing but pain when I look at them now. They take me back to a moment in my life that was so gut wrenchingly difficult it’s almost impossible to look at them and see anything other than a dying woman. And that’s the power of photography, to help remember, evoke feelings that might have been lost if not captured, to preserve someone’s character in one frame.

I am so grateful I was able to capture this photo of my mum, I got lucky, it’s one of a handful of photos that I took during her illness that I can actually look at.  Photos are investments, sometimes you don’t know the worth of a photo until many years later. When you lose a loved one, a photo can represent pain and grief but over time they can bring back feelings and memories. The moment that illness and death creeps into your life, there is life before that moment and life after it, and it’s the life before you’ll want to remember the most.” – Erica

Alice Chapman (UK) – Website / TiR:F

“OuOu and Billy” was the first personal project I embarked on outside of my own family. OuOu is Billy’s autism support cat, accompanying her everywhere she goes. When Billy contacted me for a personal shoot I felt an instant pull to photograph her and OuOu. That was the first time I’d felt the urgency of shooting a personal project. In itself that had the huge impact of feeling the joy of shooting for myself all over again.

Talking to Billy, I learned that she wanted to say something to the world. Through the process of shooting I thought hard about my own point of view on the project and the challenges of documenting a subject who perhaps wants to be seen and not seen at the same time. This image stays with me: to me it’s about collaboration and communication of point of view.” – Alice

Phil Salisbury (UK) – Website / TiR:F

“Chloe – My daughter, my happiness, my soul, my partner in comedy crime! This image means the absolute world to me. During the past 12 months I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at this photo. For me it captures everything about life we need to remember and look forward to again. I’m all about moments and this for me is one of my favourite images I’ve ever taken. It captures the joy of youth, freedom, laughter, love, warm summer weather. It brings about many emotions for me reminding me our children are heroes during these current times adapting to life as we know it currently.

It’s my daily reminder that good times are coming, warm summer weather, we will be able to laugh, smile and play again soon. A reminder to embrace every moment, live life and even when you’re challenged to keep positive, find fun in everything you do and smile, laugh and love.” – Phil

Karlijn Goossens (Netherlands) – Website / TiR:F

“It was a hard choice to make, but finally I chose a picture which had impact on my development as a photographer and personally. I am convinced that one effects the other and the other way around. My personal development will always be reflected in my images. The image that I have sent is from summer 2020, my very first documentary outside the house and with strangers. At the time I was trained as a birth photographer and one of the assignments was: get out of your comfort zone! Tell a story of a family you don’t know!

I can tell you, I was unbelievably scared. I can remember when my coach asked me to hang around on the Skype after everyone else had gone. I burst into tears from the tension and uncertainty. But I wanted to grow so badly and realize my dream so badly that I stepped out of my comfort zone. The night I took this photo, I kept myself busy as long as possible before going to the family so that I didn’t have time to think, get scared, and get out of it. I stepped in and started doing my thing and it was fine. The parents indicated that they felt as if they had known me for years and taking the photos went very naturally.

The night I sent the photos to the parents, I received a very unexpected phone call half an hour later. The mother called to tell me that they were incredibly happy with the photos and never expected them to be so beautiful. You have REAL talent they say. …. I was silent for a moment and very moved. Making this report and therefore this photo has changed my life path! Afterwards it feels like a crossroads where I have stood: choosing the safe path and not following your heart or getting out of your comfort zone and learning that this is the best feelings ever to feel yourself growing. Just to go and stand for myself and my dreams.

It showed me and helped me believe in myself as a person but also as a photographer. It made me dare to show myself and my images to the world. Made me dare to follow my heart. I made a beginning to flow a new path that just feels amazingly good. I still want and have so much to learn. I want to learn and grow so much and there is so much that I want to capture. By daring to take this very first step at the time and the confidence that the reaction of this mother gave me is a basic life lesson for me that has become a common thread in my life, a way of life and a way that I want to teach my children with conviction.” – Karlijn

Charlene McNabb (UK) – Website / TiR:F

“I took this image of my daughter on holiday in Halkidiki a few years ago. I was just getting back into photography and had found a real pull towards playing with light and shadows. Capturing fleeting moments and all that. After 20 years as a film-maker it was a real challenge to think differently for the still image!

We’d only been on holiday for a few days and as our family at home shared WhatsApp photos of the hottest summer on record in the UK we sat sheltered in our hotel room, hiding from the worst storm Greece had seen in decades. The mood was low, my husband was particularly grumpy that our ‘hot’ holiday wasn’t starting off as planned, and the room was starting to feel very small. I was in that ‘over excited in taking photos’ phase and so my husband was also a bit fed up of me being attached to my camera too.

But whilst he sat on the bed reading his book and my daughter sat next to him in her own little world, the wind outside was battering the windows…I saw this beautiful framing, under my husband’s armpit would you believe!

The usually naff hotel light was softly falling on her profile, her wind swept hair falling down over her cheek. That gorgeous pout, the light catching in all the right places. I took the photo and my husband looked at me with disdain that I was taking a ‘pointless’ photo in a boring hotel room. Also slightly confused as to why I was looking under his armpit haha.

I knew this was one of those moments I would love as both a photographer and a Mum. It captured a feeling only a mother feels about the little details of our children’s faces as we take it all in. It reminds me of a ‘quiet’ moment on a family holiday despite the chaos outside. And it makes me proud as a photographer too because I saw something in that armpit framing. I felt compelled to capture that moment. It reminded me that there’s something pretty special about capturing those simple, everyday things we take for granted as parents. Her face has changed so much since but I’ll always remember this moment thanks to this photo.

Oh and it won Gold in the British Institute of Professional Photography Awards in 2019 too for self-commissioned portrait. That took this image to the next level!

Looking at it now it’s a reminder to slow down. To see things differently. To know that even in the most dull and lifeless scenarios and in terrible lighting there can be moments and pictures to be made. 3 years on and it’s still one of my all time favourites.” – Charlene

Marieke Zwartscholten (Netherlands) – Website / TiR:F

“Of course I’m happy with this image, because it won an award. But it goes so much deeper than that. I live in the Netherlands and took this photo in the US, so it reminds me of a wonderful trip. But there’s more.

This is my friend and colleague Rebekah. I met her in 2015 during a very intense photography workshop in Texas. Almost two years later I got the opportunity to photograph her and her beautiful family in their home. When I took this picture, I knew everything fell in place, I knew immediately I would love this picture as much as I love this family. I love the composition, the moment and the way it shows their love and care for each other and the fun they have.

I was in the US, and combined it with visiting Rebekah, to do a part of a mentorship with Tyler Wirken. So after visiting her, I travelled to Tyler, who taught me so much about documentary photography. One of the things he figured out about me very quickly is that I always try to incorporate the whole family in one picture. Even when that doesn’t help the picture at all. It often resulted in horrible compositions. So I had to learn to let go (which is a big lesson for me, not only in photography).

Of course we agreed that my wish to have the whole family in one image, was a success in the picture of Rebekah and her family. But I learned not to make that a priority. So I’m very thankful for the lessons I learned because of Tyler and Rebekah. It helped me as a photographer, but also as a mentor. I love figuring out which beliefs helps a photographer and which beliefs don’t. When should they pursue something and when should they let go.

In brief: this photo makes me happy!” – Marieke

Aaron Daly (Ireland) – Website / TiR:F

“This photograph of my daughter and it is printed in our home. It reminds me of my first year shooting full time after many years as a roofing contractor. I had been second shooting a wedding the week before and the main photographer that day had taken the bride and groom into this field of buttercups with a couple of white horses.. My mind was blown, what a location and the first opportunity I got I went back for a shoot. No horses this day but this shot makes me smile every time I see it.” – Aaron

Franziska Finger (Germany) – Website / TiR:F

“I was curious because birth photography always fascinated me so much. That’s why I was so happy to finally be able to attend a birth. I gave birth to two children myself so I obviously knew what it feels like to be in the process of giving birth. I never saw a natural birth from the other side though. The strength a mother owns – her body – a miracle!

I was so impressed of all this. It reminded me of war and peace at the same time and got me thinking about how close these two opposites actually are. I guess I never made such an intense experience as a photographer and I probably never made such important and memorable photos before. These are just so special, raw and real like nothing else. I will definitely continue to photograph births, it’s amazing.” – Franziska

Soven Amatya (UK) – Website / TiR:F

“This photograph is special. Why? It’s special because of a mother and father’s love in Belgium for a gorgeous baby girl living in Togo.

The father is a close friend of mine. He is also a photographer. I first met Maarten at the Fearless Conference in Budapest in 2017. We were both staying at the International house with other photographers attending the conference.

We kept in touch, and we shared a room at the Split Fearless Conference in 2018. Later that year, I travelled to Belgium to help Maarten photograph a wedding. A wedding I still remember fondly today. Maarten was a bundle of nerves and excitement before, during, and after this wedding.

Fast forward a few more months in 2018, and Maarten was in Surrey to help me photograph a wedding at Pennyhill Park. We ended up with another set of beautiful photographs.

All through this time, Maarten was excited about adopting a child. The uncertainty of not knowing, some false dawns, but eventually, Maarten and his wife, Tine, flew to Togo to adopt their beautiful daughter.

After returning to Belgium, Maarten insisted I come and visit them in Belgium. I had to decide whether to visit before or after my trip to Nepal (to photograph a wedding). I decided to go before my trip. During my stay, I took photographs of the family. This photograph shows the unique love and preciousness of life (and top it off, it’s also part of a TiRF Story Award)

I’m glad I decided to visit Maarten before my trip to Nepal. On my return from Nepal, lockdowns and travel bans came into effect.” – Soven

Loren Haar (United States) – Website / TiR:F

“This image immediately came to mind when asked what photo I have taken that has had some kind of lasting impact. It’s nothing special but it is the image that created a paradigm shift in what I was willing to create. My brother, who is a graphic designer, said it showed a photojournalistic sensibility. That was all I needed – a term for what kind of work I wanted to produce, something to work towards, a genre I could dive into. My friend had asked me to take a few pictures of the happy birthday song, but I kept shooting through it, and was rewarded with this “who wants cake” moment.

At that point in my career I had been photographing families for a couple of years in a small, side hustle business. But the mini sessions at the park, while fulfilling in the way that working with clients always is, were starting to feel monotonous. And fake. I have never enjoyed posing clients, and almost always the images they ended up loving were the candid ones. I knew I had an eye for moment and nuance, but that is a hard sell when marketing to mini session clients and families that want the what-to-wear advice and the stylized treatment. I am so grateful for this image and the strong reaction my family and friends had toward it because it taught me not only to be discerning in what I am willing to photograph, but also to be honest about the kind of photographer I actually am. It helped me “niche down,” so I will always think of it as my turning point image.” – Loren

Miriam Aland (Germany) – Website / TiR:F

“All photos tell a story. Some are allowed to tell their own stories, some are assigned one. My photos are allowed to tell their own stories and this photo was one reason to give photos their “freedom” and to tell stories as they are.

Additional photos belong to this one. This photo tells its own story, but it is also part of a story: The story of a grandfather who dedicates himself to his granddaughter’s passion for marbles and the two a “technical talk” about it. Sometimes critical, sometimes knowing, sometimes laughing about a joke.

This photo speaks volumes of its own: about growing up and being big, about the bond between two people from different generations, about the preciousness of time, about the magic of everyday life. And the preciousness of such memories.

I know that this photo, this memory, will become a greater treasure for this family every year. With every year that the girl gets older and the grandpa gets older and they move away from this moment; with every year and with every day this photo becomes more precious – as a gateway to a journey into the past: the time of being a big happy family.

Ever since I became aware of this power of memories that I create through my photo, since then I have met every family report with calm and gratitude.

Because I know about the wealth of happiness and love and special moments in what seems to be the same everyday life. I know that especially in everyday life you can’t see the forest for the trees. And I know that it can be healing and reconciling to be able to form a photo of your own childhood later on. To see once again the loved familiar faces that may no longer be with you. To feel how the well-known smell of grandpa rises in your nose again when you look at the photos.

And I don’t want to falsify any of this. I want the photos to be able to show what was. To let the story be as it was.

Because I know that the past is precious for the future.


Alle Bilder erzählen eine Geschichte. Manche dürfen ihre eigene erzählen, manchen wird eine zugschrieben. Meine Bilder dürfen ihre eigenen Geschichten erzählen und dieses Bild war mit ein Auslöser, Bildern ihre „Freiheit“ zu geben und Geschichten so zu erzählen, wie sie sind.

Zu diesem Bild gehören noch weitere Bilder. Es erzählt zwar eine eigene Geschichte, ist aber auch Teil einer Geschichte. Die Geschichte eines Opas, der sich der Leidenschaft für Murmeln seiner Enkelin widmet und die beiden darüber ein „Fachgespräch“ führen. Mal kritisch, mal wissend, mal mit Insider-Lacher.

Dieses Bild spricht eigene Bände: Vom Groß werden und Groß sein, von der Verbundenheit zweier Menschen aus verschiedenen Generationen, von der Kostbarkeit der Zeit, von dem Alltags-Zauber. Und der Kostbarkeit genau solcher Erinnerungen.
Ich weiß, dass dieses Bild, diese Erinnerung, mit jedem Jahr ein größerer Schatz für diese Familie wird. Mit jedem Jahr, mit dem das Mädchen größer und der Opa älter wird und sie sich von diesem Moment entfernen, mit jedem Jahr und mit jedem Tag wird dieses Bild kostbarer – als Tor zur einer Reise in die Vergangenheit. Als die Kinder noch klein und bei uns waren.

Seit mir diese Kraft von Erinnerungen bewusst ist, die ich durch meine Bilder schaffe, seitdem begegne ich jeder Familienreportage mit Gelassenheit und Dankbarkeit. Denn ich weiß um den Reichtum von Glück und Liebe und besonderen Momenten im scheinbar immergleichen Alltag. Ich weiß, dass man gerade im Alltag den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht sieht. Und ich weiß, dass es heilend und versöhnend sein kann, sich auch später ein Bild der eigenen Kindheit machen zu können. Wieder einmal die vertrauten Gesichter zu sehen, die einen vielleicht nicht mehr begleiten. Zu spüren, wie der bekannte Duft von Opa einem wieder in die Nase steigt, wenn man sich die Bilder anschaut.

Und all dies möchte ich nicht verfälschen. Ich möchte, dass die Bilder das zeigen dürfen, was war. Die Geschichte so sein lassen, wie es war. Denn ich weiß um die Kostbarkeit der Vergangenheit für die Zukunft.” – Miriam

Pedro Vilela (Portugal) – Website / TiR:F

“With this challenge it is impossible not to think of this image immediately. It was a big privilege for me to have taken this photograph. I never thought that one day I would be in a delivery room photographing a birth. It was one of the most beautiful and most wonderful moments that I have watched as a photographer. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend my daughters birth, because being twins it was a delicate operation and I had to be outside the operating room, so this image brings to my mind the wonderful feeling of what it is to be a father and see a life begin.” – Pedro

Samantha Freinbichler-Kallabis (Germany) – Website / TiR:F

“It wasn’t easy to pick one particular photo that had an impact on me. I think every single picture we take has an impact on us. But one series of pictures, one incident I photographed is very memorable to me. Last year the mother of a close friend died and I offered to take pictures of the funeral. It wasn´t easy because I was personally involved. But I am so glad I did offer this because I know how much these pictures means to my friend.

And it influenced my photography. I really love documentary photography because it shows real moments, real people, the real life. But I realised that day, that I have not taken all real moments of life until this day. Even though such moments are really sad and difficult to deal with, these belong to our life too. These pictures can be precious and important to us in the same amount as photos of happy moments.

This day made me realise I want to take more photos of moments like the funeral, of all moments in our life.” – Samantha

Allexandra Torres (United States) – Website / TiR:F

“As a documentary photographer working with senior living communities, one image that has had a lasting impact is Hairdryer Lady. This was the first image that was a finalist in any sort of competition, the first print that I sold, and really, it just makes me smile with nostalgia whenever I see it; Nostalgia for that hairdryer that I watched my grandmother sit under so many times, that I sat under as a kid, and for Hairdryer Lady herself and the time I was able to spend with her and the other residents in the community.” – Allexandra

Simona Dietiker (Switzerland) – Website / TiR:F

“I took this photo at the first birth I documented.

It was the very first time for me looking at a mother holding her newborn baby for the first time, and it was such a powerful and incredible moment that I would never forget. Entering a birth space for the first time was like stepping into a separated world, a sacred space full of emotions, and I was literally overwhelmed to be invited to that space.

It was a long night and this mama was having contractions since the day before. She was exhausted but still willing to rock her VBAC home birth. Suddenly, after leaving the birth pool, all happened very fast and I remember exactly how I felt as I realized that I was going to witness the baby coming into the world in just few moments. I was so fascinated and excited (and terribly anxious about missing some moments!) I think I held my breath as the baby was born, while my eyes filled up with tears… for a moment, I thought my camera has stopped focusing until I realized that my eyes couldn’t focus and not my camera!

From that point, I knew I wanted to document births. For the families themselves, but also for others; in order to normalize birth, to show how powerful and strong birthing persons are, how magical their body works together with the baby to give birth, how important the support of loving people is.” – Simona

Manu Rigoni (Brazil) – Website / TiR:F

“I took this photo at the end of 2018. It was a long way from my house, for days on the road. This work would be one of the last of the year, a year that I worked a lot. I was really tired.

My clients wanted pictures on the horse, but the weather was closing, the rain was approaching. I asked them to go a few meters away from me, where the sun was leaving. I had drawn the photo in my head: I would use the rest of the sun to make a silhouette.

When they looked at each other, I sat on the dirt floor and pressed the camera button.
It was very fast, and it was just a click.

I saw the lightning in the middle of the two. At the right time, I was there.
I looked at the sky and said: “thanks, God. I understood!”
It was the most unexpected photo of my life.
I was in the right place, the second right.

Manu Rigoni, December 2018, Brazil.” – Manu

Janina Brocklesby (UK) – Website / TiR:F

“This is so hard…. but I’ve found something which is very much super important to me for personal reasons.
This image just perfectly represents my autistic little boy living in a beautiful world of his own with his head in the clouds. Nothing perfect about the image bit he is just perfect.” – Janina

Eilidh Robertson (UK) – Website / TiR:F

“I’ve always said I have the best job in the world. And, having spent the last eight years shooting weddings for a living I love that I get to experience the joy, excitement and fun of a couple having the best day of their lives, every time I go to work.

But capturing the birth of baby Ottilie was a whole new level, quite literally a life-changing experience.

Sarah, her mum, called me at 3.30am one December morning to tell me the baby was on its way and I leapt into the car and drove the 90 minutes to their house.

Sarah was so relaxed despite being in the throws of labour, Ottilie is her fourth baby so she’s something of an expert in the field and her husband Robin, a calm and well practised birthing partner.

They had chosen to have a water birth in the family home so that their other daughters could be there too. Sarah is passionate about childbirth being portrayed as a positive experience not being something her daughters should fear later in life.

Everyone got to play their part and it was the most incredible privilege for me to watch a family grow right in front of my eyes.

When the moment finally came (two and a half minutes after her waters breaking!) Sarah reached down and caught baby Ottilie herself and it was the most amazing thing to see her cradled in her mum’s arms for the very first time seconds after she came into the world, with her dad and sisters all watching on from the edge of the pool.

Birth photography is still quite a taboo in Scotland and lots of people wouldn’t dream of having a photographer documenting something so unpredictable and raw (and messy!) But for me the adrenaline and emotion of these events are what make them so wonderful to photograph – just like with weddings, you are capturing moments for people that you know will be on their highlights reel for the rest of their lives.

Sarah has since told me that the photos I took are some of her most prized possessions and that they’d be the first things she’d save in a house fire and that for me is the greatest compliments I could ask for ( – I reassured her I have backups of course!) I love that my pictures mean so much to them and are proudly displayed on the wall in their family home.

Shooting these photos gave me the confidence to devote more time and energy to pure documentary photography – especially focussing on candid family moments.

Without realising it I had reached a pivotal point in my career – and one that would ultimately save my business.

When Covid hit the UK in spring 2020 almost all of my wedding bookings for the year were cancelled or postponed but I was able to continue to make a living as a photographer thanks to the family photo shoots I had begun offering clients in the months after Ottilie’s birth.” – Eilidh

Nienke Koedijk (Netherlands) – Website / TiR:F

“When I think of a photo that has made a long-lasting impact on me, this one immediately comes to mind. I have shot it on the most emotional photo shoot I’ve ever done. This is the story.

One of the best friends of my son (a little dude of 5 years old) had already lost three grandparents in two years. And then we found out that his last grandparent was terminally ill as well. The idea that a 5-year-old kid would grow up without any grandparents in his life was just devastating to me. So I proposed an ‘End of Life’ session and they agreed.

Mary was already seriously ill and in pain when we did this session. She loved boats and the sea all her life so we decided to do the session on the beach. We all knew it would be the last time she would see the sea. The session had a documentary approach with a short portrait moment at the sea. At that moment Mary asked me if I also had photographed the glimmering on the sea’s surface and I had to confess I hadn’t. It would have meant I would have had to shoot the portraits against the light.

Her question lingered in my head, so at the end of the session, when the sun came out again, I left Mary and her family and ran to the sea to photograph the glimmering. As a gift from above a boat arrived and I waited until it was in the middle of the sun beam. When I pressed the shutter out of nowhere the bird flew into my frame, making the photo even more symbolic than it already was. I don’t believe in god, but at that moment I felt I had the universe at my side to create the perfect goodbye gift for Mary. This photo meant the world to her and to me. 10 days later she passed.” – Nienke

Johanna King (Ireland) – Website / TiR:F

“I took this photograph in July 2016, early on in my photography career.

I had embraced the documentary approach of photography and offered some portfolio-building photo sessions to breastfeeding mothers in Ireland. I was breastfeeding my 15-months-old at the time and this relationship inspired me to capture it for others, whether the mother was breastfeeding a baby, a toddler or an older child. Mothers who applied for those sessions sent me an email explaining why such photographs would be important to them, and it turned into a very beautiful project as every mother’s reasons were different, precious and inspiring.

Back to this photograph. The two mothers in the photos, Cliona and Sue, didn’t email me. They were way too busy for that. The triplets were 6-months-old and they also had a 2-year-old daughter.

We just happened to be in the same local parenting and support group called Cuidiú, a wonderful organisation that I’m still a part of today.
I think they posted a photo in our members Facebook Group and when I realised they lived nearby, I knew I HAD to photograph them. You know, when you get that physical reaction to wanting to photograph an other family?

So I got in touch with them online, and went to photograph them soon afterwards. Cliona had said that she’d love to get one photo of them breastfeeding all of the children at once if it happened naturally, and it did. You can read more of their stories on my blog, but Sue was the one breastfeeding the triplets, with Cliona helping out from time to time.

The reason why this photograph had such an impact on my business only came 6 months later, when I finally blogged the photos on my blog. By then, I had met with the family a few times as part of our support group, and it’s like their situation wasn’t that ‘extraordinary’ to me anymore – do you know what I mean?

But when I blogged the session, well, I rediscovered it through the outside world’s point of view. It went viral 😀 I think my blog post was seen 9000 times over 3 days, and it even broke my website. Then I got contacted by HuffPost to publish the story with a bit of an interview, and it got reposted by 5-10 more websites (with or without my permission).

I can definitely point a clear improvement in my website’s SEO in 2017 and I believe those backlinks were the reason for it. It ranked really well in the States and I got a lot of inquiries from couples and families travelling to Ireland, which means that 2018 was a very good & busy year.

But outside of the business, this session also started a long-term friendship with this family. I’ve been taking photos of them regularly, met for chats and coffee and gone for swims in the cold sea. Would you believe the triplets turned 5?!” – Johanna

Laura Beth Davidson (United States) – Website / TiR:F

“In March of 2019, I took my middle daughter, Anne, on an overnight trip for her 5th birthday. Anne has always been my weird kid, in the best way possible. She is self-aware, confident, and absolutely hilarious. On this particular trip, the windy weather had altered our plans to explore a mountaintop park, but Anne rolled with the changes with her typical cheerfulness and nonchalance.

Walking back to the hotel after dinner, we stopped for ice cream to take back to our room. Anne asked me to hold her ice cream while she put her jacket on–backward, to keep the wind out of her face. When I handed back her ice cream, she pulled the hood over her face and I suddenly felt my world shift. I was looking at the very essence of Anne. I took a few steps back and clicked the shutter. I knew immediately that I had made one of my favorite photos–not because it’s compositionally fascinating or because it perfectly demonstrated a clever understanding of color theory, but because it shows exactly who Anne is.

It’s the only photo I’ve ever printed that I don’t constantly scrutinize for imperfections (and it’s a huge 20″x30″ engineer print that hangs over our dining room table). Basically, making this portrait of Anne taught me that I am capable of creating something honest and insightful that I believe is perfect, even if it doesn’t mean much to anyone else. And that doing it for myself–and for Anne–is enough.” – Laura

Sharron Gibson (UK) – Website / TiR:F

“This image means everything to me. It changed my whole mindset and my photography journey.

Hannah, a fellow photographer and an awesome one at that, asked me to photograph the birth of her third child. Out of all her photographer friends she’s asked me. I was shocked, I massively struggle with believing in myself, I think all my work is rubbish and not good enough and of course that becomes the story that you continue to tell yourself – unless you have a moment like this – a cheerleader to change the narrative! Having someone who believed in me to photograph something as important as the birth of their child was incredible and honouring.

And while photographing I knew and realised that moment driven photography was what I wanted to focus my work on more than anything else. Using the light you have in the room, to make the best photo you can in that moment, became everything to me.

It was a total game changer and I can’t thank Hannah enough for her belief in me.” – Sharron

Raz Moss (United States) – Website / TiR:F

“On my daily subway rides into the city, parents commuting with kids always catch my eye. So when this family reached out to me to document their commute, I was more excited than I have been for any other session.

This father and son had been commuting from their home in NJ into NYC together every day for 2 years. He would drop his son off at daycare and then head into work. I was hired to photograph their last commute together, as the family was moving.

I loved this entire session, the ferry ride, stopping for the son’s breakfast at the food truck, the ease with which dad maneuvered a stroller through sidewalk crowds; but this photo, was my absolute favorite, for it’s universality. The sheer exhaustion/frustration of being stuck at a cross-walk, when you are late for work, and you still have to take your child to school.

I aim to make photos that will resonate with all families, regardless of their backgrounds. The common thread of parenthood, the struggles and wins, that bind us all together.” – Raz

Diana Hagues (UK) – Website / TiR:F

“I took this picture of my boy at the park when I was going through a little wobble of confidence with my photography. I always knew that I wanted my pictures to evoke feelings and I love making artistic images more than the straightforward, literal ones of what I saw in front of me. However, I was concerned that this went against what I learnt about documentary photography and this made me question whether I could call myself a documentary family photographer.

It wasn’t until I continued to gravitate towards experimenting with making pictures in a photojournalistic manner, that I realised I could embrace both the artistic and journalistic qualities in my pictures. And it was a moment I never forget — a sense of relief to allow myself to believe that my pictures didn’t have to fit a certain look or expectation of how a documentary family photograph should look like. Instead, there is merit of making pictures unique; capturing a moment that shows how it feels as well as how it looks.” – Diana

Nicola Milletti (Italy) – Website / TiR:F

“Sono un fotografo professionista da 20 anni, sono specializzato in beni-culturali e lavoro in tutta Italia, dal 2007 faccio matrimoni in stile reportagistico, in Umbria sono stato il primo ad introdurre questo genere che poi è letteralmente scoppiato in tutto il mondo.
Fotografo la mia famiglia fin da quando esiste in stile documentario, dal concepimento dei miei figli ad oggi ho sempre aggionato la storia della Famiglia con Immagini… Il covid mi ha illuminato in un certo senso, mi ha permesso di stare con la mia famiglia per mesi e mesi senza pensare quasi ad altro… ho realizzato delle immagini straordinarie ed ho capito che il mio futuro fotografico doveva essere in quella direzione…
La foto che ho scelto è la prima che è stata premiata di un Award da This Is Reportage Family ed è quella che mi ha dato la certezza che la strada che ho intrapreso è quella giusta, quest’immagine mi ha dato la fiducia di credere nella fotografia Documentaria e di credere fino in fondo alla mia Idea.
Sarà sicuramente un progetto duro da lanciare, ma ogni giorno ogni volta che guardo una mia foto dal mio archivio comprendo la GRANDEZZA della fotografia documentaria, comprendo che la fotografia documentaria ci circonda ed è la nostra stessa vita!!!
Sono certo che prima o poi in molti lo capiranno e allora ci sarà da divertirsi ;-)))) ENJOY” – Nicola

The following is Google Translate’s translation of Nicola’s words, so it may not be entirely accurate:

“I have been a professional photographer for 20 years, I specialize in cultural heritage and work throughout Italy, since 2007 I have been doing reportage style weddings, in Umbria I was the first to introduce this genre which then literally exploded all over the world.

I photograph my family since it has existed in documentary style, from the conception of my children to today I have always updated the history of the Family with Images … The covid has enlightened me in a certain sense, it has allowed me to be with my family for months and months without thinking about anything else … I made extraordinary images and I realized that my photographic future had to be in that direction …

The photo I chose is the first one that has been awarded an Award by This Is Reportage Family and it is the one that gave me the certainty that the path I took is the right one, this image gave me the confidence to believe in Documentary photography and to fully believe in my Idea.

It will certainly be a tough project to launch, but every day every time I look at one of my photos from my archive I understand the GREATNESS of documentary photography, I understand that documentary photography surrounds us and is our very life !!!

I am sure that sooner or later many will understand and then it will be fun ;-)))) ENJOY”

Holger Bouffier (Germany) – Facebook / TiR:F

“This photo was shot in a beginning of a big friendship with Sven Berger and Peggy Laurich, both photographers. Both have inspired me to start with photography in manual mode. On the photo are all our kids.

I think it was a start in family documentary photography. I learned at this day a lot of about techniques and so on. We met every year during a workshop of my job in Dresden and every time I learned a lot more from both photographers.

This photo was shot in 2015 and I was at this time 45 years old. So I must say, it’s never too late to start with something. ” – Holger

Sarah Marsden (UK) – Website / TiR:F

“My dog, Kaia, was with us before our children were even born. She was there through the highs and the lows of life, a stressful first year of marriage, hyperemesis gravidarum with two babies, whatever it was, she was there.

She gave us just over 10 years of her absolute love and devotion. Quite suddenly and out of the blue she became very unwell and it was discovered that her heart had doubled in size and her abdominal cavity was full of blood due to a cardiac hemangiosarcoma.

The vets drained the blood and she came home and gave us another 36 hours. She passed away the minute I left her.

While waiting for the private pet cremation service to come and collect her we laid her in the lounge.

We were all grief stricken, and somewhere in that grief I was compelled to lift the camera and document the raw beauty in front of me. We had had to put our other dog to sleep just 8 months prior due to kidney cancer and I hadn’t even thought of picking up my camera after she died.

But here I found myself capturing this moment in time like some force within was pushing me forward to do so. I usually photograph birth and the newness of life not death.

It’s been nearly two years since that incident, and my kids still talk about those photos and tell everyone about them. They became very cathartic in their grieving process.

This dog. She was more than a dog. She taught us what is what like to come at every day with enthusiasm, to be fully present all the moments that you are blessed to live and her final lesson to sit with the raw grief of bad situations that are thrown at us and to sift it for its beauty because even there we will find it, whether it be an act of kindness in a moment of need or the tenderness in the farewell.” – Sarah

Raluca Chase (UK) – Website / TiR:F

“When I started my photography journey over 16 years ago, I started by working for an amazing photographer. It was great because I was able to learn things a lot faster. The downside was that most of the things I learned from her became very engrained and very hard to break away from.

I started as a lifestyle wedding photographer and I was rightly taught that I should always expose for the face, because that is the most important thing during a wedding day. So I learned tricks and ways to avoid the light I didn’t like and to create the light I wanted.

When I first started shooting with a documentary approach the biggest challenge was working only with available light. All of a sudden I wasn’t able to move my subjects into more flattering lighting. No more hiding under a beautiful tree during the harsh midday sunlight, no more moving your subjects so that the afternoon sun hits their hair at the right angle and creates those gorgeous backlit photos, no more light modifiers… No more control, just light, all sorts of light at all times of day and no control over it. It was very frustrating, but at the same time it was one of the most amazing experiences. It stretched my comfort level so far that it became paper thin with lots of holes in it. Actually, it was mostly holes…

In retrospect, it was great! The biggest problem was harsh light and its deep shadows. I couldn’t avoid it, I had to come up with ways of using it to my advantage, using it to tell the story that was unraveling in front of my eyes. It was hard and it took me a while before I felt comfortable with it. I slowly learned to not only tolerate it, but to utilise it to create storytelling images.

The mood each type of light creates also became very important because when you can’t change any aspect of the light you work with, you need to learn what kind of images each type of light can produce and what you can and cannot attempt to do with it.

The image below is the first photograph that I took in very harsh light that made me think: “hmmm … I think I am finally loving this type of light.” It’s not a magnificent photo, but it is the photo that I can pinpoint as the first image that made me feel comfortable working with harsh light and dark shadows. Now it’s a very big part of my photography style.” – Raluca

Sandra Stokmans (Netherlands) – Website / TiR:F

“This is one of my images from my personal project #ProjectHartekind. For this project I captured over the course of three years different facets of the lives of more than 30 families with a Heart Warrior. The children are often asked “Hey, what do you have there?”. I wanted to answer this question through photographs and visually show how the Heart Warrior and the family are impacted by the heart defect.

One of these facets is sometimes (open heart) surgery/ies. I was allowed to photograph one of an 11th month old. The surgeon prepared me beforehand and talked me through the surgery. I knew then that I wanted to be present for all of it, and not just the part of the heart laying open and being worked on. Because it is a story and I needed to see it through, all of it.

So the reason why I chose this image is because it is rare there is a window in an operating room. I made this photograph with intent. I wanted to show that life goes on while the surgeons and all the other medical staff are working on and in a life. I had done some hospital sessions before but this one … this one is not something you are allowed or let ‘in’ very readily as a photographer. This was the session where I knew I have lost my heart to hospital sessions for both parents and healthcare institutions.

When the surgeon saw this photo he was silent at first and then he said “you know that when I drive home, I always see that window and think of all the operations I have done there.” – Sandra

Mitzy Geluk (Netherlands) – Website / TiR:F

“This is not my best picture I have taken, but I think this is THE picture that made things fall in place for me.

I just started photographing, I think about a year before (yep I only started a few years ago, but that’s a complete different story 😉 ) and I took this pic during a 4 day workshop.
This was the beginning of my documentary family photography and this is when I saw all my favorite components of photography coming together.

I had been with this family (as an assignment) for a few hours, the girl was tired and mom was cooking dinner at the end of the day. Clinging on to her mothers leg the girl stood there in perfect light and I could see her thinking, not aware of my presence. This moment felt like such a perfect and pure moment, combined with perfect light and her pretty blue eyes.

Looking back at the foto I could almost feel her emotion again. It made me see that it is possible to get all the components in a documentary photograph, and it showed me the fun to chase the perfect pic.” – Mitzy

Agata Szymanowicz (UK) – Website / TiR:F

“This is an image of my parents looking on as my cousin and my sister help my daughter to remove her wobbly, hanging-by-the-thread tooth.

When I first became a mum, it really transformed my relationship with my own parents. Motherhood helped me see them in a completely different light. Not just in relation to me, as my mother and father, but in their own right, as completely separate people, with their own stories, hopes and conflicts. Seeing them love my children has soften a few hard spots in me. I could understand them better, I could empathise, and I could forgive.

When photographing my own family, I tend to concentrate on my children. This is most often where the action is, and where my heart gravitates. But I have also, increasingly, tried to document my parents’ relationship with their grandchildren. And by doing that, I have glimpsed some of my own past. I was able to better understand and contextualise my childhood experiences, and to analyse my own parenting.

Whenever I look at this image I feel more grounded and at peace. It takes me out of myself and places me in the context of a family, where I am simultaneously a child and a parent. It helps me see that there is complexity within each family; grudges, past hurts, misunderstandings. And there is also love, flawed but fierce, a sense of order and belonging. And it is all this that makes us. It reminds me that my perspective is not the only one, that as a child I may have missed a lot of things. Just like in this picture, my daughter, immersed in her own feelings, can’t see the love, anxiety and devotion in her grandparents’ eyes.” – Agata

Meg Curti (Italy) – Website / TiR:F

“I took this shot on the suburbs of Rome, in a neighborhood where the buildings contain hundreds families. I had to photograph Viola and her grandparents, a classic family portrait in short, but, when I entered that house, where the grandparents lived for a very long life, filling every space with memories, trinkets, photographs, I felt the desire to sit at one side of the table and just talk to them.

At a certain point, the granddaughter climbs into the chair next to her grandfather, the grandmother looks at her, the mother (out of frame) scolds her softly. Behind them, mom appears on a old photo on the dresser.

The moment was perfect: I got the unposed and unexpected family portrait.

From that moment I embraced documentary for real.” – Meg

Agueda Sanfiz (United States) – Website / TiR:F

“About 5 years ago I started photographing a fellow documentary photographer. She then had a little 5-year-old and a toddler. They were 24 hours a day together. As a documentary photographer, she captured countless moments of her kids’ childhood but she was almost nonexistent on the frame.

Looking back at the pictures of our first session, I would not say there was any good picture from a technical point of view, but the moments remained, her presence in the picture remained, and the yearly tradition of photographing each other’s families began.

Looking in retrospect, after five-yearly sessions, I realized the importance of that first session as a starting point of a visual legacy that is being built year after year. She printed and framed this picture. She hung it on the walls of her living room, and every time I go to her house, as I see her kid growing and their family routines changing, I remember how valuable is getting her on the frame every year. ” – Agueda

Sabine Doppelhofer (Austria) – Website / TiR:F

“I have one image that had a lasting impact on my photography. I took it almost 5 years ago when my oldest son went up the slide on a playground. It was one of my first successful photos that didn’t show the typical child portrait. This was the beginning of my love for faceless children’s photos.

With this photo I started my first real photo project called “Hide and Play”, which shows only parts of the children playing and is characterized by simple, clear symmetric structures.

I was also excited to see the photo or the photo series win awards at international photo competitions, as it allowed me to share my love for this type of photography with the world.” – Sabine

Soraya Evans (UK) – Website / TiR:F

“Christmas 2019 wasn’t what I was hoping for, and at the same time it was so much more.

My son got poorly just hours before our flight to Germany and there was no chance for him to travel. We then made the decision to separate for the first Christmas as a family of four. My husband and son stayed in England and I took my little daughter on her first trip to my hometown. I was so, so sad to leave the boys behind, cried most of the time on my 9 hour lonely journey but this photo is the reason why I just had to go.

My grandmother is the closest to my heart and being able to place my little Etta in her lap made my heart jump 3 billion meters high. We weren’t sure whether we would get another Christmas together, it didn’t look good, but she held on. Oma was at the time 93 years young, had dementia and for the first time on Christmas didn’t say my name anymore. But when I left and told her that I love her she said ‘Danke’ and 20 seconds and one smile later ‘I love you too’. And there it was that magic Christmas moment.

Unfortunately this was our last Christmas moment and also our very final moment together, not because there wasn’t another winter for her, but because a pandemic kept us apart for the whole of the following year. Oma passed away in January 2021.” – Soraya

Orsolya Boncser (Hungary) – Website / TiR:F

“Ever since I was a child, I have always dreamed of not spending my life as if it had never happened. So I was really excited when I read in a mail that my photo will be exhibited in space! It was so unbelievable that it will travel as a binary code unimpeded through the solar system at the speed of light. The British Journal of Photography’s Portrait of Humanity invited all photographers, from around the world to take part and my picture made it to the 200 shortlisted images that will be used to broadcast a message of peace and unity from humankind to infinity. So if a little green alien decodes the message, they will see humanity little bit through my eyes. The selected 200 images of course, not only could be viewed by other civilizations, they will be featured in the Portrait of Humanity book, Vol.2. It was an amazing project!

In 2018., at the Press Photo Contest – organized by the Association of Hungarian Journalists – I had won the 3rd prize in the portrait (single image) category with the same image and it was featured in the book of “Hungarian Pictures of the Year”.

About the picture: I’m struggling with a constant dilemma on our family holidays: I would like to take lots of pictures, because this is one of my favorite activities. At the same time I also want to spend lots of time playing with my family. Of course I choose both at the same time. So I took this picture on the beautiful promenade of Lungomare in Opatija where we were on family holiday. This little girl in her red swimming costume came up the steps and stood silently, immersed in what she saw from above. Everything was so peaceful and perfect for a moment so I took the picture.” – Orsolya

Linda Bouritius-Colenbrander (Netherlands) – Website / TiR:F

“I always photographed my family, from the day my kids were born and even before that I captured our personal adventures. I took on requests from other families and did my fair share of posed family shoots, but decided they are not my cup of tea and decided to only focus on weddings.

Late 2018, after my own wedding, we went on a 6 week honeymoon in the beautiful New Zealand. 6 weeks of being around my favourite persons, no work, no connection to anything else than just the four of us, nature around us and of course my camera. The only reason to get power once every few days was so we could recharge my camera batteries. The freedom I felt when photographing during that trip was something I started to miss with weddings and the pressure the business sometimes can give you.
Being outside following the path of light during the day. Surrendering to nature, it’s course. How the light colours in the morning and changes throughout the day. The shape of our shadows.

It made me fall in love again with photography. Chasing that beautiful golden light. The warmth, the sun, the rain: shooting how it felt. Our joy, us together. A new kind of creativity got unlocked there which helped my wedding work tremendously, but also made me want to expand my photography. Taking on photographing births and families. In a free, playful way. Using light, shadows and where applicable using my eye for fun and humor. As I love to make memories for other families as if they were my own.” – Linda

Stephanie Richartz (Germany) – Website / TiR:F

“My daughter is a dancer. This picture was taken after she had a terrible accident during a training in February 2017. She broke one of her dorsal vertebras. The first two days we didn’t know how this would be ending. Then the doctors told us that we were very lucky that it didn’t end worse.

This picture means so much to me because it stands for 5 of the hardest months in our life. It stands for tears, for shock, for change, but also for thankfulness. Thankfulness that our child is still able to walk.

It also stands for helplessness, because even though I was there when the accident happened, I couldn’t stop it from happening. This accident showed me that within a second your whole life can change and that as a mother I can’t always protect my child. And that everything we believe we own is breakable in the end.” – Stephanie

Anna Meyer-Kahlen (Germany) – Website / TiR:F

“In 2002, I graduated with this thesis “family” in the field of communication design. I was already totally interested in the topic of family back then, but my approach was different than today. At that time, I was captivated by the idea of staging an extended family, in which characters, as well as the interactions between family members became visible.

Family life is the drama school of society. The stage on which this staging takes place is the home.

The family in the 2002 picture shows the intellectuals in a deliberately totally exaggerated representation. I worked with a make-up artist, stylist and assistant who took the photo for me. Because the mother with the flower jacket in the middle is myself. This work was my prelude to the theme of the family and prepared the path that I have been following for 20 years. At that time, I began to stage the family with artificial light, my mobile flash unit.

Even today I find it exciting to portray characters and relationships of family, but to find them in real life. I photograph with the available light, keep myself in the background while photographing and yet I am in the middle of it all. Certainly, life with my 3 children has influenced me on the path as a family photographer and sharpened my focus on the small events in everyday life.

The first picture (left) is from 2002 and the second (right) from 2021. A long way on my development.” – Anna

Ang Waterton (Canada) – Website / TiR:F

“I was so fortunate to be asked to document several sessions during Sam’s final months, including her last Christmas with her young daughter and husband. This particular photo, taken on Christmas Eve morning when they were celebrating Christmas after Sam had come home on day release from the hospital, has had a lasting impact on me because it made me really reflect on the importance of taking on legacy work for my clients – taking on the job of making pictures for them to leave behind when they’re gone.

I captured another photo of this Mom and daughter in this same position several months earlier, so seeing them do this a second time made me realise that this little gesture is their thing – it’s one of their many acts of connection. They’d play on the floor and she’d spontaneously cuddle in to her mom for a moment of spooning before going back to playing – and, even when she was incredibly sick, her mom still maintained the ability to be present in little moments like this one.

My hope is that her daughter will, as she grows up, have some faint memory of how this was something her mom would do with her because there’s photographic evidence of it. What we do, as photographers, can be so much more meaningful than we realise in the moment. The echoes of the significance of what we do for our families can last decades.” – Ang


Thanks again to our members for being so open, and for sharing such intimate thoughts, stories and imagery; it’s a beautiful, powerful piece.

If you’re looking for a family photographer, do check out the portfolios of the photographers who contributed above, or head over here to search through our entire membership.

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