WHY DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHY? | bergen county photographer, nj

Erika Kao Photography  |  Bergen County Photographer  |  Wyckoff, New Jersey

I have two young children. As you can imagine, my house is almost always in a state of mess. I'm constantly picking up toys, vacuuming up crumbs, wiping up spilled milk, sorting and folding and putting away laundry, all the while trying to feed and clean and stimulate and teach my children to be kind and compassionate and strong humans.

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I'm tired. Pretty much all the time.

It's a trying time, having two young children. I know I don't get enough sleep. I know I don't get enough exercise. I know I could stand to eat healthier. Each day I have what feels like a thousand things I want to accomplish. But every few minutes, a small human comes along to tell me that she just saw a bird outside, or that this happened or that that happened. Or that she built something with Legos or that her sister so thoughtlessly knocked it over. Or that she wants me to see a note she just wrote or a task she just mastered. Or that she has to go to the bathroom, or that she just went to the bathroom.

With all of this, it's no wonder how one begins to feel very fragmented and unaccomplished. Most days, at the end of the day, I don't feel like I got much accomplished. Not for my home and not for my photography business. It is a rare treat indeed that I have an opportunity to sit for any length of time and edit photos, or to do something productive around the house from start to finish without being interrupted.

But that's life with little children, I tell myself, and I hope that I'm not the only person feeling this way.

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However challenging, I know that this time with them — this moment with them — is not going to last forever.

There's a bittersweet feeling to all of this. In my heart, I know that one day, my children aren't going to tell me everything. One day, she isn't going to point out every single bird she sees outside. She isn't going to tell me when this happened or when that happened. She isn't going to show me what she built with Legos or that her sister so thoughtlessly knocked it over. She isn't going to tell me about me every note she writes or task she masters. And they certainly aren't going to announce their bathroom visits for much longer.

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And that's why I have chosen documentary photography for my family.

Documentary photography happens when a photographer comes in and, quite simply, documents your life as it occurs. There's no posing, there's no directing. It's just lovely and amazing captures of your lovely and amazing life.

That impermanence is why I have chosen to share documentary photography with you and your family. Because while many of these moments may appear to be disorganized and messy, they are actually quite perfect, quite beautiful, quite meaningful, and they tell the story of our parenthood and their childhood.

These photos exude love and emotion. They are real and raw. They are beautiful in their ordinariness. They capture moments that otherwise would have slipped right by, completely unnoticed. And as their mother, these photos are special to me in ways that probably won't be apparent until these creatures are much older.

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Sharing, not sharing. A favorite dress. A kind word or an unkind word. The cups they insisted on drinking from for two years straight. Helping, not helping. A quiet moment here, a boisterous one there. Dancing to their favorite songs but imploring me not to watch. The breakfast routine. The bedtime routine. Those socks of mine she liked to borrow. That she sometimes liked to play alone.

When I first started working as a photographer, everyone wanted to dress up nicely and be posed, and I was happy to give them the photos they were looking for. But following each session, I had this nagging feeling that I was missing something, that things were about to get really interesting as soon as the family got home and changed into comfortable clothes and got back into their routine. Those were the moments I wanted to be photographing. I wanted to see their truth.

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Documentary photography captures real life. Documentary photography doesn't put on airs or pretend to be something it isn't. It may be a bumpy road right now, this life with littles, but every day holds the promise of some new bit of beauty, some new moment of kindness, some sweet thing that isn't going to last too much longer.

Have a look around your home and your life and try to find your story. You're probably going to find it where you least expect it, and I think you might be surprised with what you discover.

Erika Kao

Erika Kao Photography, Wyckoff Avenue and Franklin Avenue, Wyckoff, NJ 07481, Wyckoff, NJ 07481, USA

Erika Kao is a natural light photographer, offering lifestyle and documentary photography for families, children, and newborns in Bergen County and Northern New Jersey. Her photography style is organic, natural, unposed, unscripted, and timeless.