There are many days that I feel lucky to have the job I have. To be gifted the privilege of commemorating moments of joy and life for individuals and their families, is the greatest privilege I have ever known. I like to think I’m even pretty darn good at it.
One of the most important components of that work is acknowledging the responsibility that I hold. Not only do I hold the means and method of recording a moment in time, but I hold the ability to showcase, display, and celebrate those moments. This is important and meaningful for every family, but as I know personally, not every family is celebrated by a wider audience in the same way.
A few weeks ago a call came out on a local Queer Family board that I belong to on Facebook. Someone was on the hunt for a photographer that was comfortable shooting families who were queer, trans, and visibly non-monogamous. I then proceeded to receive a SLEW of recommendations on the post. This is literally the culmination of my life’s work, I kid you not.
I was put in contact with Anika, and one of her partners Jamie. They are a family of 4, three adults and one gorgeous young human. We laughed and talked, and shared stories about our families. We found that we have quite a bit in common and booked our shoot together for a few weeks in the future.
We decided to set this shoot at Larabee State Park in Bellingham. This is a beach and park absolutely chock full of natural beauty, places for the rambunctious Elly to climb on and display her truest form, rock monster. We laughed, they smiled pretty, everyone had a wonderful time and we were left with some fantastic images.
After the shoot, as I was going through the photos, I meditated a bit on the power and affirmation of doing this shoot, not only for this family, but for myself. As a queer woman, partner, and parent, I am often faced with the reality that the world does not want me, and they certainly do not want me to be joyful. There are debates about my right to exist at all, whether I am doing active harm to my child by affirming him and making space for him to discover who he is, and whether the existence of families like mine should even be acknowledged.
In short, our lives are viewed as less.
The revolutionary act of being joyful in these circumstances, not only should be commemorated, but MUST be. We are a varied rainbow of humanity, and our joy is essential to our health and wellbeing, to our ability to fight against the systems and individuals that want us to go away.
Anika, Jamie, Colleen and Elly are an example of this joy in the flesh. They revel in each other. They climb the rocks, they smile on lovingly. This family takes the photo, displays the photo, and demands to be seen as they are. There is no diffusion for the comfort of others, no room for debate. The photos that this family graciously allowed me to create with them say simply; “We own our joy, and that joy is queer”.