Help Me See

The Deeper Responsibility of Photographing a Family with Childhood Photographer Carly Mitchell

March 22, 2023 Bianca Morra / Carly Mitchell Season 3 Episode 76
Help Me See
The Deeper Responsibility of Photographing a Family with Childhood Photographer Carly Mitchell
Show Notes Transcript

For whatever reason, the distinction of nice vs kind has stuck with me ever since I was made aware of it. As someone that loves to comfort and make people happy, it's something I purposely check in with myself on.  Being nice is so much easier than being kind. Being nice satisfies this moment. Being kind is doing something that may feel uncomfortable or scary in order to act in what you believe to be the highest good for another. That's what I feel when I think about saying "yes" to an initial ask/client inquiry & pushing back, giving context, and helping someone see a more enduring possibility they may not have considered.

When Childhood Photographer Carly Mitchell wrote a blog entitled "We were together, I forget the rest: On Family Photo Session Locations" on the importance of really considering  family photo session locations, I knew I wanted to chat more. In this conversation, Carly & I chat about true responsibility in photographing a family, making intentional choices in the work/offerings you create, and what is behind the heart/human of it all.

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Show Notes:
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Meditations for Photographic Artists:

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Monthly Membership: Nostalgia, Now.


we really need to be thinking about them 10 20 30 years from now and like what they're really going to you know like what people on their Death Beds say what that they tell us all like you know people interview people who are dying all the time and they tell us what ultimately matters looking back and it's not what we're wearing it's not you know where we are it's just who we are and how we're showing up for the people that we love in our lives the responsibility of being a photographer is I think oftentimes the emphasis is put on like the preparedness and the oh I always carry two bodies and I got all these you know it's like all the stuff and it's like I know how to shoot and any lighting and I can make it work and that's wonderful and that's great but I think the real responsibility is is the ability to show up for a person in the depth of what you're talking about help me see as a podcast that redefines the word Vision through vulnerable and real conversations my own private introspective ramblings about the things that I think about in the wee hours of the morning and my deep core belief that your nothingness is your everything and all you have to do is see I'm Bianca more I'm your host [Music] your daily photo habit can be the key to unlocking the ability to be more present in your everyday life and live deeper into your intention and purpose we're not about the small talk here grab your coffee get cozy and let's talk

hello hello and welcome to another episode of help me see guess what today we have a guest on the show it's not just me are you so excited to hear a different voice than my own um I'm excited because uh today we have Carly Mitchell on the show um she calls herself a childhood photographer and I so I don't even remember when or how I came across Carly's work but I just remember from the second I saw it it was just used a level of sincerity and Purity and authenticity that drew me in she had written a blog post and it was a it was about why to have family photo sessions in your home versus anywhere else any like scenic areas blah blah but the way she did it was just so full of love and a deep uh kindness a reverence for her intention for what she wanted to create for the person for what would serve them highest and best for longer in their life really um and that type of bravery and dedication and


really gets my blood flowing really inspires me and immediately wrote her a message after I shared

was immediately like hi you would talk about stuff like this basically

um so yeah and she graciously accepted yeah and we spoke and I asked her all sorts of a weird question then I had to know a little bit about her and just love her heart and and her work so I hope that

this episode gives you a little bit

heart and mind

I hope to do more of these because I mentioned it in the podcast but I really feel like

it's so easy to quickly glance over a body of work and decipher if the style is relevant to you or not um and yes it's important we want to aesthetically enjoy uh whoever the style of work of whoever welcoming into our homes or you know choosing for any sort of photo documentation is really just one aspect getting to know the heart and the brain of the human being that you're welcoming into your life trusting to see your family or yourself or whatever it is so tenderly um [Music] it's important to understand

where that person's coming from and their values and their intent and Carly is someone who I would excitedly welcome into my home to do just that my children in my life so I hope you enjoy

oh before I head into the show I am so bad about my letting everyone know what's going on with my offerings boyfriend was like oh did you share it to Instagram about the workshop I just did I was like oh I think I did once so anyway here I am talking about photo yoga photo yoga is a new thing I'm doing it is just launched uh if you're listening to the podcast on the day it comes out then it's just launched today um for the first time and it's every week one hour a week uh and it's basically a co-working space for photo editing or any photo related-ish-esque kind of tasks um I know for me I love a good multitask and I love being able to work with background noise sometimes um really depends on what the work is but so this format is very open relaxed and flexible unintended meant to loosen up your photo practice I want to talk about editing tips and tricks but I also don't want to be beholden to talking about that if we don't want to talk about that I want people to feel very comfortable asking questions and and sharing things it really is meant to be an open forum for uh photo Community to just come together uh I've been thinking about this for some time because every time I'm in a yoga class I have so like everything the teacher says I have parallels running in my brain about about photo and I'm like oh my gosh there's just so much that I see that is directly related to everything in this so I've had this idea of photo yoga mine for a long time now and really have sat on it for a while which is my MO I do that with everything um and it's either I sit on it for a while or I just make a decision and then I cut my cut like eight inches off my hair at like 11 30 at night um

I so I had the thought that you know what I think now is the time to do this and then my phone had went off and I was like no Bianca focused do not look at your phone so I finished what I was doing and then when I went to go pee I went to check my phone why did I have to mention that part I don't know really stream of Consciousness today um and a a friend she's a stylist that I worked with in uh in a studio recently a friend and colleague and the whole thing that I love I had gone over to her home and documented her at work she's an a textile artist um this beautiful work and um I documented her and her daughter um and her work in her home and I hadn't even I just the day before had a chance to open the shoe because I've been traveling a lot and super busy so it was weird that weeks later that was when she's decided to text me and she like it was a beautiful thank you but what blew me away and the reason why I'm telling you this she had compared The Experience she said that something around like um it really did something about presence I'm gonna butcher it but she said the words it felt transformative like kind of like a yoga session or something like a yoga class and I was like oh my God

this month in my membership synchronicity is the intention and the theme of the month and so obviously I was like

um so anyway if you are showing up or if you want the link clay uh I'll put it in the show notes and you can join me and I don't know what I'm going to talk about um in the space today I might just share my screen and edit and talk about my editing philosophy or if you give a damn about it or just talk photo Theory who knows but you want to hang out in that space kind of like a cafe where you intermittently ask questions or talk to someone and then ignore and just focus on work then you might want to check it out I have just recently started dialing into a writing a co-working thing it happened like every day uh for an hour and you dial in and it's writing so there's really not multitasking with that so you dial in they welcome you and then within five minutes it's just everyone's silent and then at the end you come together and kind of share a little bit if anyone wants to and I'm really shocked at how I went into that with no expectation and no intention and I don't even know like why am I even here what am I what am I doing and valuable stuff started spewing out of me like what is this magic what is this black magic that's happening just because I'm dialed into a call with like a bunch of strangers so anyway wow that was a a really long spiel um long story long and um I will now let you hear of the words of wisdom from Carly

hello hello and welcome to another episode of help me see today I have a very special guest we have Carly Mitchell on the call today Carly how are you Hi how are you good morning I'm so happy to have you here um I wanted to talk about your work and your practice but before I dive in do you want to share a little bit about you and your your spiel oh God I don't have a Spiel um so hi my name is Carly Mitchell I am um a I call myself a childhood photography photographer um I photograph children and their people and um I uh and they're animals I love to include their animals um I am currently living in Silicon Valley bit of a fish out of water here um but I for most of my life and most of my photographic practice has um happened in my home state of Colorado so um I've been shooting for uh gosh more than 15 years I don't know I feel like I hit 15 years and I just stopped counting me my life 15-ish years so uh like I seem legit but also not too old I'm just gonna hang out here in this ambiguous Cloud now yeah

um I uh I photographed weddings for you know more than half of my career um and you know started to feel some physical effects of that with some like you know hand arthritis and um kind of like seeped into brain burnout so I um I switched over um to you know the other side of photographing humans which is my passion and um and yeah so now I I focus on on kiddos I love that you call them you know and they're humans and their um their pets because you usually hear it the other way around what is it about

focusing like with the child as the nucleus of sorts like you know calling yourself the childhood photographer what is it about that that really speaks to you and draws you in um you know I I didn't know for a long time why I was drawn um to kids I just was but you know in over the past you know six seven years I've really started to kind of dial into uh this notion of photographs of our childhood become like Windows into our true selves and I just think that's so important for everyone to have imagery of a time in life when they were uninhibited and just completely themselves and I think that that can be really healing and really empowering as we grow into adulthood and you know photographs are or are for no one but our future selves so yes oh my gosh I love that I mean so much here but like the fact that you said photographs are for no one but yourself I think that so often we just get so confused about that and we think for at first it's photographs are for others for the documentation even if it's for our loved ones just doing it is for others to see but really it's first and foremost it's it's a visual Journal it is your it's a very personal personal thing it's like it's funny when you said you think everyone should have that window into their childhood and from a place where they were uninhibited I mean I really feel that because I have really shitty memory like I I feel like I don't remember a lot and it freaks me out makes me feel claustrophobic so whenever I'm doing like a wonderful Retreat or or you know a guided meditation they're like remember as a child I'm like I [ __ ] don't remember as a child I don't and I'm really um thankful that my father took so many home videos and um I remember like during my senior thesis in college I had gone back and I watched the home videos and I was taking Stills like of my of the VHS videos yeah and um that was really healing for me because that was at a time where they were my parents were going through really bad divorce but like I was in a world where everyone was like happy and it was really sweet and I was like wow this existed once so there was such an element of healing but like I think about if I didn't have that I don't know how I would be feeling now about what had happened would have transpired do you did you grow up having a lot of um old home videos or photographs or is this something that you're kind of doing for yourself um certain not a lot of not a lot of videos um you know there's there's a joke in my family that I don't like I'm the third the baby of the family I I don't have any photos of myself until I'm like three months old like who knows what newborn Carly looked like you know um and you know it's not something that even as a photographer like I will admit that I I don't go back that often and and look at photos of myself we recently had uh uh a death in the family and when that happens you know that's when the photos come out and so um looking at some some things from the past like you do you you look and you're like oh like that's not how I remembered that or or I don't remember that at all you know um and you you know it's interesting what you said about having you know proof of a joyful existence despite in spite of life and the hard stuff that seeps in I read something very recently that talked about memory and how bad stuff sticks to our brains like velcro and joy just slips off like like Teflon um and so I think that yeah having having photographic proof of of the of the whole scale of our existence like not just the joy can can help us see like a whole our whole picture of of our whole selves oh yeah I I really truly feel like uh our photographic practice is like the secret like key tip hack code whatever it is to like bringing your your future wise hindsight closer into your now truly if you were engaging in it in a way that is what you're talking about this like well-rounded holistic just way of being and not thinking well who would want to see this picture as you're taking it if you feel that impulse respect the in like the [ __ ] picture I mean I mean unless you're shooting film it's free just take the picture [Laughter] um yeah so

okay where should where shall I go here because there's so many places to go I was like sleuthing around your your website before we dive into I have just a few things I wanted to touch on but why why do you think that this is the manifestation of your obsession like why do you think that you have landed here in in this very specific Niche because everything about like the words you put out what you post the photographs you take is just like steeped in this intentionality and it all feels so I guess just there's just a pureness in your intent oh that's very I mean it's it there it's just like dripping from it like where did that come from do you think and and more importantly

how do you hold on to that throughout your work because I feel like to be an intentional photographer requires um it's like a I'm gonna say like an extra bravery and an extra it's it's about being kind over being nice like it's about like that blog entry you said like if someone wants to shoot in a field and you're like sure I'll shoot wherever I don't care but why why not home like to be the the person that's looking out for like the deeper possibilities and meaning and to serve in the highest way possible rather than to satisfy just the current urge yeah um well I I hope I can answer your question I I don't know if I have the full answer to your question as to why but um a couple things I mean I very much view my photographic practice um I think I approach it differently because I'm not a mother um and I and I don't have this sort of uh window into family life from that angle that that most of my peers do and so I see a lot of focus on that relationship on that person on that relationship and I and I kind of sometimes I'm kind of like wait what about that because

um and and I think focusing on kids and and and you know encouraging them to be their uninhibited selves through my work is is very healing to me and my inner child like witnessing others practice that like regardless of their age is is very inspiring to me um and I think I also I I don't know where it comes from but I just like I have like a very sensitive [ __ ] radar and I just like I don't I don't I don't like doing things because they're trendy I don't like I really in fact I probably like swing the pendulum me perhaps too far the other way in like oh everybody's doing that I'm not going to do that um and and yeah I just I see a lot of over emphasis on the wrong things and or my what my opinion of the wrong things is in family photography and you know like I think that people spend money on photography and I think that the goal of Photography shouldn't be to make make the people our clients feel great and fabulous like in the moment we really need to be thinking about them 10 20 30 years from now and like what they're really going to you know like what people on their Death Beds say what that they tell us all like you know people interview people who are dying all the time and they tell us what you know what ultimately matters looking back and um and it's not what we're wearing it's not you know where we are it's it's just like who who we are and how we're showing up for the people that we love in our lives and I think that that is the most worth documentation um for the money because you're spending money on it

the the responsibility of of being a photographer is I think um oftentimes the emphasis is put on like the preparedness and the oh I always carry two buddies and I got all these you know it's like all the stuff and it's like I know how to shoot and any lighting and I can make it work and that's wonderful and that's great but I think the real responsibility is is the ability to show up for a person in the depth of what you're talking about in a like you know it's a conversation it's not just here I'm going to show you how to pose and it's like to me of course there's always gray areas like FM in a session and someone wants extra guidance and they're not feeling comfortable like you know depending on who you are like you can really feel an ebb and flow with the person you're with but there's something to be said about um being a stand being like an anchor for for wanting to make sure this person whether it's like literally or just subliminally subconsciously feels like no you are enough to me you are enough you do not need to be you know let me show you how how this is because it's really hard to see like you can't you can't see the tip of your nose on your face so so I think that there's so much power in like being a stand for someone and being brave enough to be like not a yes person and just be like I'm gonna push up against like what your initial ask is because I feel in my gut like you're coming to me for my Artistry and part of that in my soul is I believe that this would serve you further in the future um has has that been well received for you for the most part I mean no

I mean I would say that even even you know some of my dearest long time clients like hear what I have to say read what I have to say and

and sort of Nod along but then like well yeah yeah but you're gonna do it this way for us right

yeah I get ghosted a lot oh God yeah no no I it's lonely out here yeah

I mean when I get the email of like well how many poses will we do and how many outfit changes and I'm like and I don't like even Scott at it I'm like of course like there's a reason why people have like this expectation but when I you know write back what I write back about what it is I'm here to do and they're probably like whoa never mind

I mean really it's funny because um I find that I can my obsessions are usually around two hours and I leave those sessions like I mean I'm like I feel like I'm high on something but if I'm ever which I mean never now but like if I was ever in a situation where it wasn't didn't feel like exactly true to me it could be 30 minutes and I would be like clawing my way like I can't like it drains in a way that I can't even describe yeah yeah I I'm almost I'm almost physically unable to do it yeah

I don't have a poker face yeah yeah so it's funny because and I'm gonna ask you this question and uh hopefully it's not too weird but this is something like this is I will say the Paramount struggle for me in my life so I'm curious if you relate so I have this thing where when I'm in a session it feels like and this might sound like so like stupid and ignorant or whatever but I really do feel like I almost have like the answers to the universe I feel like I am just like everything I see is like like I just see so many things happening in like 47 layers and it's just like bionic vision and I feel like everything's perfect and it doesn't matter if everything goes wrong because it's all perfect and I really believe it like Brady Bunch believe it yeah and then I put my camera down and I'm in my life and I'm like where'd all that go where did all that go yeah oh yeah um yeah I mean I say that I am the best version of myself with my camera in hands um is that I don't I don't know it's a that's a really good question I don't know um I definitely like I have just so much um just this swell of of love and compassion for the people in front of my camera whereas I am normal and like if somebody cuts me off in a parking lot I'm like [ __ ] you

put in that same if I was photographing that same person like they would be the best person in the world oh my God it's so funny that you see it like that because I was just texting with a friend and she was telling me about how um she was having a conversation with someone and about how um they can't create unless they feel love or or presence or something like that and I'm like oh that's funny because for me I feel like when I'm creating like when I'm having a photo session like that is my way to like love and two presents like it really becomes like my portal for that yeah and I just don't I really just don't understand like I can channel that like I can see that I still see moments in my life but it doesn't feel like that and I don't know I can just call it I don't know if that's just like the definition of flow or um yeah I don't know what it is but but it's it's magic and it is absolutely what returns me to Photography in spite of the rest of the hardships and there's a lot there's there's a lot um it's hard to be a photographer do you feel like though like tell me if you disagree I do feel like even though I it truly does feel like unsustainable and unattainable really to be in that state all the time yeah yeah but I feel like that's the real thing though like I feel like that's getting it right like I feel like that's not like oh my La La Land getting carried away and then here's real life I feel like that's really real life like that's that's you know yeah yeah well I don't know I I I I think it's all I think it's all of it yeah actually yeah I actually think it would kind of be annoying to be in that state all of the time I mean yeah and it would be and it would be exhausting you know that that level of uh it's it's an emotional it's like this emotional uh it's an emotional Intel intelligence and it's emotion like in action yes um and it's uh it can that that's exhausting and that's sort of why I structure my uh business as I do like I I can't do I can't do many sessions I can't I can't you know price myself to where I am booked seven sessions in a weekend because it's it's just it's so much like I I feel like I'm giving so much of myself to those people that it just like it it chips it ships away at me and um I've just I've just learned that I I have to take care of myself or you know I have to take care of myself for myself and I also have to take care of myself for my clients because if I like if if I'm not doing well like I'm not gonna give them what they are expecting of me so yeah it's it's really it's beautiful because it's like this like full circle thing it's like very holistic from like from every vantage point it's like in my life like I need to be doing the things to ensure that I can show up fully for you and when I'm showing up fully for you I'm really showing up fully from you like from like questioning like where you want this and like how you want this to be in the whole thing so it's like very very aligned yeah yeah I try I'm concerned like I try and fail all like all of the time um and and it's been a lot of trial and error uh and I'm still I'm still in a position of of trial and error um it's it's it's it's a constantly I'm changing my client base is changing the industry changes you know it's just it's it's never settling into one thing I feel like for me the even though it's like a struggle and it can be exhausting and painful uh the contrast I need it like I need the contrast of like because especially when I'm in that like phenomenon where like everything's perfect and it's all fine even if the worst thing happens like I'm I'm here um when when I bump up against something that I realize like oh I don't agree like oh like hard no like that is the most clarifying thing that can happen because so often it's always like oh everyone live their life and like it's all good um but it's in those moments where like oh wait a minute like this does not feel good for me those are the moments where I'm able to like okay calibrate and like reorient my myself and like my principles that I'm you know internally registering um have you had any any moments like that that have informed the way that you shoot or is it just kind of like a Case by case um I mean yeah I mean I often I'm I'm often trying to evaluate if I am rejecting a certain thing because that's just my nature of you know contrarianism or or if there is actually something there um so yeah I am constantly examining my own opinions and and hard lines and I you know and for first for so much of of my career like I've done every single thing that I'm sitting here yeah oh yeah against you know um yeah yeah for sure and that's still and that's just you know Evolution as a human being as an artist um taking what you've learned and applying it in in different ways it's just growth like I don't I'm not sorry for how I've done things uh in the past I just am constantly trying to think about how to do it better totally yeah I mean and how would you even be able to formulate an opinion if you hadn't engaged yes like yeah you know is it something it's funny you bring that up or that you mention it in that way because that's something that I've like in recent years like oh my gosh I just feel like I've there's so much Evolution and like more recently I feel like so quickly that it made me hesitate to like I don't even know if I want to say anything because I'm like I'm changing so quickly right now outdate myself tomorrow yeah yeah I know and and the Bianca and Carly five years from now might look back on this conversation and be like oh my God

I think that that's even more powerful like talk about like bravery and intent like it's like you know right now this is my truth and this is what I'm here and I'm willing to like talk about it and then like if I change my mind and [ __ ] changed my mind like and and you'll have a reference point

[Music] yeah yeah um anything I don't know is there anything that's like pressing anything that's been recent for you that that you just feel like talking about I just love how um how naturally and how authentically your Instagram and like how you post and how you write is just so true to you and is there something that is on top for you like in these in the season

um gosh I don't know I think I really am very dialed into this notion of authenticity and really like clearly defining what different genres and types of Photography are um I feel like so long now and I don't as long I think as long as I've been doing this there has been this very fuzzy line between like what is portraiture which I sort of Define as like presentation and like what is memory like what what are like what are actual memories versus to like what we're like putting out into the world as to you know our like our best foot forward type of things and there's just been a lot of blurring of those lines and I think that that that blur sort of [Music] um kind of falls into the realm of you know like lifestyle photography um and I think that that has been largely okay for now I don't know but it in in recent years I with like this acceleration of of technologies that that blur the line between what's real and what's fake and you know just just generally as a human being it's very hard to know what is true and what is not true um I just I just I feel more and more passionate about very clearly defining is this real or like was this like staged and like directed and um edited because I think as the the further we get into this world of I don't know like deep fakes and Ai and and all of that I think we're going to be doing ourselves and our children a deep disservice to to not know the difference and I think knowing knowing our actual personal truths is so important for establishing self-confidence and just an accurate

idea of of who we are and where we come from and where we can launch off from so I think that's a responsibility that we as family photographers should should take very seriously so then so it's with the onset of AI and all that's you know on the edge here so are you saying that it makes you want to like plant yourself a little bit more firmly in documentary with like without that blur of like staged and documentary yeah yeah yeah it's funny there's you know I've heard some podcasts recently about like talking about Ai and photo and I just it's freaky and I think as with anything it can go many different ways but I just don't feel I think that the people that are coming to photography for the reason that for the the reason they're coming to photography it's for the experience it's for you know I just don't it's scary it for many reasons but I'm not scared of it for the reason of like you know take like I've heard a lot about like jobs being at stake but I'm like I think that the people that are coming to photographers or like the real documentation of their lives it's not going to impact that you know because there's nothing that can fill a person coming and like see sitting with you and like seeing you and like playing with your kids while they're taking photos and because that's the point what's the point of that not [Laughter] coming in like

teen children playing in the backyard so creepy yeah oh my gosh well Carly thank you so much for coming and sharing your heart and just all about the intention and the look kind of be up behind um just the person taking the pictures because

I feel like normalizing the depth of the conversation that happens like it is important I think oftentimes the style is front and center and the style can be um can kind of just like be reductive right I feel like you can generalize people oh this person shoots dark and Moody I don't know why I hate that term so much I don't know I hate it so much just like or light and Airy or whatever and um really the heart behind any image regard regardless of the treatment is going to heavily it's going to be the reason you get the photos you get so um I hope that I hope that people can hear this and kind of understand that more and and learn more about the photographer that they're choosing to welcome into their home um and their Vision rather than just seeing the colors [Laughter] yeah agreed thank you so much for inviting me um this is uh terrifying but it was really fun it wasn't terrifying I mean what was terrifying is I'll I let Carly know before we I hit record but my two-year-old dumped out my entire drink on my keyboard so for half an hour before our call it was like upside down oh my God please um Carly how can people find you oh sure um so I my website is um uh Carly c-a-r-l-y uh Mitchell two Wells and um Instagram I'm at Carly Mitchell photo um I will put those links in the show notes and once again thank you so much Carly I'm gonna call you thank you so much Bianca this is so fun