This winter I took some pictures of a carseat safety class at the Anderson Care Pregnancy Clinic here in Anderson, South Carolina. Every month they offer free classes on a wide range of topics like budgeting, parenting, and even fun crafting classes. They also have a little boutique where women participating in their counseling program are able to earn credits to "purchase" beautiful baby items. If you live locally and ever have left over baby things (clothes, cribs, diapers, baby food, etc.) please consider donating your items to Anderson Care Pregnancy Clinic. This is a great organization and I am so proud to be working with them!
Although I was only there to take pictures during the carseat safety class, I found myself raising my hand to ask questions when they discussed when kids are old enough to ride without a booster seat. I learned that the lap belt should rest against the child's pelvic bones... not across their belly. This seems like a no-brainer now that I think about it, but if the seatbelt is going across the soft part of a child's belly, even a small fender bender could cause damage to their organs. Anyway, just a free parenting tip to go along with these pictures. You're welcome!
Click here to see another local event
Other things -- I am booking Family Sessions or in-person mentorships on Long Island, NY in July. And also in July, stay tuned for a special class I will be offering at DEFINE.
Even though the teenage years are right around the corner for my own family, that season still seems mysterious and scary and I have no idea what to expect. I cannot imagine my kids having armpit hair and taking Driver's Ed and doing math problems beyond my comprehension (although, lets be real, that last ship has already sailed).
So when I photographed Leilani Rogers (whom I met when we were both speakers at a Birth Photography Conference called Off-Call) in Austin, Texas I was excited/nervous to photograph her family. Would they think I was a crazy old lady? What would we even DO?
Little kids play with blocks and make messes.
Teenagers text and roll their eyes at their parents -- At least that is what they do on television.
Leilani's baby is 10, the same age as my oldest child. So I felt like I was kind of peering into a crystal ball foreseeing what my future holds. After a few hours with the Rogers Family I can now say that maybe life with teenagers won't be so scary. It turns out that while they DO like their phones, they also have their own passions about music and art (and which is better Harry Potter or Star Wars). They still love legos, and hugs, and cookies with sprinkles. They sleep in bunkbeds and run around in the backyard. They ask mom for help when they need it but can clean and cook and read big books. Sometimes they seem like little kids in big bodies. And other times they seem like full fledged adults.
I'm still nervous about my kids becoming teenagers. And many days I wring my hands in worry, wondering if I am screwing them up. But I am reminded of a quote by Elyse Fitzpatrick:
There are times when I miss having a squishy baby that blows kisses and waves backwards. But it feels like every day my kids are alive they become more and more of themselves. More of the people God created them to be. And I am excited to see who my little people become. I cannot control the outcome, but I don't have to worry. I don't have to do it all right. I can rest in God's promise that He is bigger and smarter and stronger than me. That his plan for their lives is perfect.
And now I seem to have gone down a rabbit hole that has nothing to do with photography. But really it has everything to do with it!
Families are complex and beautiful and it is hard to capture all of that in a traditional portrait taken at the park in matching white shirts. I love that I have permission to go into families homes and photograph their mundane moments. I love that I am able to see beautiful things in other people and apply them to my own life and heart. I love that I can fear the future for my own family, and then be comforted by photographing another. I love that I don't have to be the best photographer and control everything. I don't have to worry. I don't have to do it all right. I can trust that the story I am photographing is more beautiful than my technical skill and just be present to appreciate whatever happens.
I will be traveling to Long Island, NY in July. Email me at hello (at) mollyflanagan (dot) com if you are in the area and are interested in a Storytelling Session for your family or a one-on-one mentorship. Other Possible Stops: Virginia Beach, OBX, Annapolis/Eastern Shore, Maryland, Richmond, Lancaster, PA, New Jersey, Shenandoah, VA.
My class Real Life Still Life is being offered at The Define School in May. Registration is open until April 24th. As photographers we can get so focused on the PEOPLE in our lives that we leave out many details which contribute to the stories we are telling. This class focuses on photographing everything but the people. It is a refreshing class where we go through the history of Still Life in art and learn how to apply it to our photography today. I love this class SO much and am super excited to be teaching it again!
I'm sitting in a Starbucks in Palmdale, California catching up on some work and emailing my Visual Storytelling class while my husband does some much needed laundry back at our campsite. We've been on the road in our 20' camper for 20 days and every day I simultaneously want this trip to end and keep going on and on forever and ever! My daughter said today that she and her big brother play together much better when we are traveling. She thinks it is because they have no one else to play with. I think she is right.
Here are small a handful of iPhone pictures from our adventures so far. Taken in Big Bend, Death Valley, and Marfa Texas.
We will hopefully be home in South Carolina in about a week. I can't believe it's almost over...
I realized these pictures have been sitting in the backend of my website since August, waiting to be posted. My poor blog is sorely neglected and posting is continually put to the bottom of my to-do list!
These pictures were taken at the end of the summer, shortly before Ruby turned 8. Every night before bed I tell her she is my, "Beautiful ray of sunshine and sky full of stars." It is cheesy but it is true. Ruby is nearly always happy, positive and kind. When she was little I would tell people that her mind was made of cotton candy because she saw everything in the best light. I am so thankful to be her mom.
This February and March I am booking in-home Storytelling Photography Sessions in:
Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville, TN | Austin and Houston, TX | Los Angeles Area
email hello (at) mollyflanagan (dot) com to learn more!
This fall I photographed the Greek Festival here in Anderson, SC at the Civic Center. It was a hot afternoon in early September and the air was filled with the smell of Souvlaki and ribs and the sound of traditional Greek music. There is something so satisfying about photographing people have a good time!
Heeeeeeyyyyyyy!!!! This February and March we are hoping to hit the road for a few weeks in our camper! This time traveling through the southern states from South Carolina to Southern California. I will be available for Family Storytelling Sessions as well as individual mentoring, small group portfolio reviews, or speaking.
Want to know some of the cities we are hoping to pass through?
Well I just so happen to have a list of such cities!
Knoxville . Chattanooga . Nashville . Memphis . Birmingham . New Orleans . Houston . Dallas . Austin . Waco . San Antonio . El Paso . Albuquerque . Santa Fe . Tucson . Phoenix . Las Vegas . Los Angeles . San Diego . And all parts in-between
Here are some general details about pricing...
Family Storytelling Sessions: $1450
Sessions take place in and around your home or other location special to your family. You will receive approximately 75 digital files plus an 8.5x8.5 soft cover book of artist select images. $500 deposit is due at the time of booking.
Family Storytelling Session + Mentoring: $1800
Includes all of the above plus a 2-hour one-on-one coffee shop mentoring session with 1-hour follow up Skype call.
Group Portfolio Review/Speaking: I am available to speak to your photography club, church ladies group, or lead a portfolio review with a small group of photographers in your area. Contact me directly for more details about pricing and logistics.
Alright then, if you would like to talk further about working together while I am in your area send me a note through the contact form or email hello (at) mollyflanagan (dot) com.
Here are a few pictures from our campsite near Acadia National Park earlier this summer:
Aaaannnnnd .... Here is a post with some pictures from 2015 Family Storytelling sessions with some words about our experience . :-)
I know people usually write this sort of post to ring in the New Year, but I need to find some way to close out last year, even if 2015 is technically over and covered with cobwebs in the back of the closet.
It was an exciting year -- in the way a rollercoaster is exciting. Where you know it is supposed to be fun but you are so terrified that you think your heart will explode and you may lose control of all bodily functions. And even after you survive the ride your knees are weak and your hair looks like a rat's nest. Well that is how I felt for most of 2015. White knuckled and wide-eyed.
I really like security. Think cozy blankets, hot mugs of coffee, and Netflix. Bank accounts with lots of padding, heated car seats, and good health insurance policies with dental and vision. When I was a toddler I didn't like being thrown in the air or to be put on my dad's shoulders. I once had a job at a bank as a "Risk Reduction Specialist". Then a couple of years ago I felt the Lord was speaking to me about stagnation. Like, the picture of a stagnant pond. It may be beautiful from a distance, reflecting the trees and sky in it's stillness. But up close it is covered in algae and mosquitos and bordered with unruly ragweed. It is a picture of the fruit of worldly security: a humid, mucky, stifling, self-centered life. And that picture scared me, because it described me: Afraid to take risks; settling for whatever course met the least resistance; wallowing in my comfort zone. And not just in my daily life but in my relationship with the Lord. I believed, but when it came time to trust in places I couldn't control, my faith crumbled like the buttery cinnamon topping on a Pioneer Woman coffee cake (except not insanely delicious).
In my heart I knew God was calling me to more than "safe", yet I was unwilling to take risks for the One that risked everything for me.
My husband and I made a decision two years ago to invest in my photography business full time. For this former Risk Reduction Specialist it was not a safe idea to trade the security of my husband's traditional 9-5 schedule and twice a month paycheck for a unpredictable and unnecessary career as a Family Storytelling Photographer. Every "what if" scenario went through my mind. But we did it! And I naively thought that once we jumped in the deep end I would find myself splashing in a luxurious claw footed bathtub filled with bubbles and surrounded by candlelight. In reality, we plummeted into a raging river. Roaring, cold, and filled to the brim with risk, making me regret leaving the comfort of that stagnant pond.
I want to peruse the pictures below and have that feel you get when you mow the grass and sweat stings your eyes and you breathe in gas fumes and run over rocks and grunt as you push the mower up hill. Then just as you finish, the engine sputters it's last breath. Wiping the sweat from your brow, you smile and survey the fruit of your hard work. What a sense of accomplishment! Yet, when I look at these pictures I cannot seem to muster that feeling.
Even after two years, my heart is wired for security.
I don't see the cozy blankets and Netflix my heart longs for. I see my son's hand being mangled in an escalator, wrong turns up steep mountain twists where there is no turning back, fishtailing in snow storms, worry that no one would hire me, long straight roads through hot deserts with no gas stations, a little one struggling with potty training at the most inconvenient moments, unexpected expenses, fear my hard drive would crash or my camera would be stolen, car accidents, tarantulas, frightening bumps in the night, grimy campground showers, more lost phone chargers than I can count. There was rarely a moment of stillness.
But wait. Stillness? Is that what I am seeking? Didn't I want to leave the stagnant waters and take risks for the One that risked everything for me? Yes, that is what I wanted, but... I guess maybe I didn't realize how much it would hurt.
2015. We survived. Taxes paid, digital files received, limbs intact.
But, no. We did more than survive. We saw grizzly bear cubs. Felt the warmth of the sun as it rose over the Grand Canyon. Threw snow balls in May under a canopy of pine trees in air so fresh it took our breath away. We stopped at every Dairy Queen, watched 400,000 bats fly out of a cave at dusk, and hugged the Redwoods. I had afternoon tea with a sweet grandmother in her drawing room in Scotland. And I held a microphone and shared stories that led some women to tears. Our kids made friends with kids that wear cowboy hats, shoot gophers, walk to the city Farmer's Market, ride their bikes over the Mississippi River, share their mom with a dozen other siblings, collect sea glass along the Atlantic Ocean, minister to the needy in their community, live on a thousand acres, have special needs, and chop their own firewood. We stumbled and fell and spent so much money on Bandaids and antibiotic ointment. And we laughed and worried and slept and drove and ate bacon and eggs nearly every morning.
So I guess what I am trying to say is, life is scary and filled with risk and there are no guarantees that things will go your way, but that doesn't mean life it isn't worth living. I mean really living. I certainly haven't got it figured out-- there are so many facets of my heart that are still longing for stagnation, avoiding confrontation, and wanting nothing more than to please myself. But I know that the risk is worth the cost. The creator of the universe loved me so much that he sacrificed his own perfect son to save me. Yes, a full bank account and heated car seats may bring a sense of security for a moment, but it does not last. Life in Jesus does not promise all of those amenities-- but it does promise something better-- an unshakable, secure, never failing love which there is no risk in life so great to disturb.
Available for a session in your home in the following cities June/July 2016:
Blacksburg, Lancaster, Philly, NYC, NJ, Long Island, New Haven, Boston, Buffalo, Portland ME, Eastern Shore MD
email me at hello at mollyflanagan dot com for more information!
It is so hard to believe it has been almost a year since we visited Courtney Zimmerman at her home in Southern Oregon. One afternoon we let Ava and Ruby throw a few packets of Holi powder -- they were in giggly little girl heaven!
Want to hear me run my mouth about photography? Listen to my interview on Jenny Stein's amazing podcast This Week in Photo.
See more of Courtney Zimmerman's family and their beautiful straw bale home.
We are headed North in June and July. Contact me for more information about a Storytelling Session in your home if you live in one of the following cities: Blacksburg, Lancaster, Philly, NYC, New Jersey, Long Island, New Haven+Madison, Boston, Buffalo, Portland ME, Eastern Shore MD, Raleigh.
This is the second time I have gotten to take pictures for Camille. The first was a couple of years ago at her Pop pop's home in Raleigh - one of my favorite photographic experiences! Camille also came to a photography retreat I helped put on in Sonoma this past summer for a group of alumni from my Visual Storytelling class. When I think back to when Camille took my class a few years ago, I had no idea I would see her again. I certainly never thought I would one day call her "friend"!
When I started trying to tell stories with pictures for families, it was out of a desire for real relationships. I was not satisfied with the matching white shirts and fake smiles found in traditional family portraits and wanted a deeper interaction with families. Documenting real life without posing or manipulating is hard. There are no guarantees. No control. But when I let go of my expectations and just let life unfold-- the results are always more beautiful and powerful than anything I could have constructed on my own.
I see our ability to have meaningful, deep, human relationships as a wonderful reflection of our restored relationship to our Creator. That is why Jesus came-- to make a way for us to have a relationship with God. No longer do I call you servants for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15). Real relationships are not easy. Just like Jesus - they require denying yourself, risk, sacrifice, and long suffering but the rewards are always worth the cost.
I am so thankful for the relationships I have formed through photography. And for families that, like me, are not satisfied with family photos which only convey the shallow surface of their lives. I know my method is not perfect and my desire is to continue to figure out ways to tell genuine stories for others. But it sure has been fun trying!
P.S. If you are on your phone scroll down to the end of the page to see some of my East Coast travel locations in June. If you are on your desktop just look at the right sidebar.
Try as I might, I cannot beat these words Jennifer Tonetti Spellman wrote this fall after I photographed her family.
Thank you, Jenn, for allowing me into your home during such a private and important time in your life! I am completely honored to have photographed your family and thankful to call you friend!
See more from this session here on Jennifer's Blog
I have met so many wonderful people around the world through photography and Elizabeth Ferguson is one of my favorites. Elizabeth did a mentorship with me not long after she was out of college. Then she took my Visual Storytelling class. Then I had the honor of photographing her wedding a couple of years ago. And this fall I photographed her and Pat with their first baby!
Elizabeth and Pat rent an apartment above the "carriage house" at her mom's house. Their apartment is completely adorable and Elizabeth's mom's house is one of the most beautiful homes I have seen. It has cool old latch door knob-things and a secret room at the top of a secret staircase and huge fire places and if I lived there I would never ever leave the house. She was gracious enough to put up my whole family for a couple of nights while we were in Philadelphia. The whole time we were there the weather was terrible. It poured and poured and poured rain. And they poured and poured and poured hospitality upon our family. So much food and coffee and card games and Labradoodle snuggles and wonderful conversations and friendship. We felt overwhelmed with affection and care and I am not lying when I say that I shed a couple tears waving good-bye from our car when it was time to leave.
You can see some pictures from Elizabeth and Pat's backyard wedding here.
I sometimes worry that my pictures appear boring to those that find their way to this space. And I wonder if I should try to photograph something more exciting than babies having their diapers changed or parents pushing little ones on the swing. But the truth is, babies grow out of diapers and children learn to pump their legs on the swings. Normal, boring days turn into complicated ones with algebra and puberty and scars and gray hair and retirement savings. And (I am assuming) we will look back longingly for the simple boring days when our kids were small.
During the current run of my Visual Storytelling course student Andrea Wolfe shared the following quote, by Mary Jean Irion (who, as it turns out is from Pennsylvania just like the family in the pictures below.)
Let us not forget in the sea of legos and barbie shoes that normal is a treasure.
Learn more about a Storytelling Session in your home
A few years ago I made a photographic bucket list. One item on the list was photographing a "large family". And after meeting Heather Bowser's family of 15 in Clinton, Mississippi, I finally got to check that off my list!
The kids' ages range from 9 months to 22 years and at the moment all the kids are living at home. So, Heather wanted to document this season as it will soon change. I was expecting their home to be out of control with kids running around like wild animals, but it was quite the opposite. It felt sort of like 3 mini families living under one roof. Kids sticking with those whose ages were closest to their own but also mingling with others from time to time through out the day. The older kids went to work, the middle ones did school, the little ones played and napped and Heather gracefully wove through the little groups of children. Then everyone came together in the evening for dinner and swimming. In many ways, It wasn't much different than any other family.
Heather asked if my husband and I planned to have more children. I blathered something like, "Oh we are DONE. I had varicose veins with Oliver. And the kids are so crazy and I am tired. We are SO done." Then I realized I was talking to a lady with 13 children and all of my reasons felt trivial. Heather did not mind so much about the veins or the crazy or the tired. I still think we are done, but watching Heather and Lance with their children made me very aware of all of the things that I selfishly cling to: my time, my body, my money, my space. In my life, those things are meant to be hoarded. For the Bowsers, they are meant to be spent. C.S. Lewis said,
Lance and Heather Bowser are a tremendous example of the fruit of sacrificial love. Their hearts are laid open -- trampled, stretched and covered in smudgy fingerprints. Yet their hearts are beating strong.
Molly Flanagan Photography: Family Storytelling Photographer based out of Anderson, South Carolina
Click here to learn more about my Visual Storytelling course offered in January.
My husband and I were obsessed with the weather during our cross-country road trip. It seemed that about 90% of our conversations revolved around whatever region's particular climate.
"It's the middle of May, there is no way we can get snowed in... right?"
"Look, this towel was soaking wet last night. Feel it. Completely dry! How about that?!"
"A high of 110 today but tonight it will be 56! Incredible!"
"Whaaaaat? I made this sandwich 5 minutes ago, the bread is as dry as toast!"
Since I have lived in the sticky South nearly all my life, experiencing the intensely dry heat out west was fascinating. At first it was amazing. Everything was covered in dust -- but my hair never looked better. Yet as the temperature rose the novelty of bone dry kitchen sponges every morning began to wear off. Then there was that day outside Las Vegas where the sky felt like 1,000 hairdryers in your face. We learned that tons of people died building the Hoover Dam because of the heat and I totally get it because my hands literally broke out in heat blisters just looking at the dam. And there was that one time we saw a gigantic rainstorm in the distance. Oh, how I longed for it as we drove closer and closer to the ominous clouds. Only to discover it was a Virga rain - a storm that evaporates before it hits the ground. My bones ached for rain! At one point, I searched the web for "places with coolest summers in the US". We rerouted our trip and hightailed it to Flagstaff, Arizona where each afternoon was kissed with a gentle sunshower and peaceful breezes throughout the night.
There is a word that I want to use to describe Flagstaff that sounds way too fancy to be a Molly Flanagan word, but I am going to use it anyway. Respite. Which is a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant. Heat, snow, sickness, injury, car troubles, wrong turns, tarantulas. Our 77 day adventure was filled with difficult and unpleasant things marked with many glorious respites which made the unbearable parts bearable. Respites in the form of Reeces Blizzards at Dairy Queen, listening to Mystery Show, hot showers that did not require flip flops, and Shawn & Courtney Zimmerman.
We were only supposed to stay in Southern Oregon with the Zimmermans for a few nights, but our respite somehow became a maybe-we-should-be-paying-rent type of situation. They took in all five of us. Four of whom arrived with a stomach virus. Let us (repeatedly) eat all their food. Took us to rivers and lakes. Camped with us on the coast. And hijacked their friends swimming pool for us. All while Shawn transitioned to a new job and temperatures soared above 100 degrees every day. We finally said our good-byes, but then after our 4 year old was injured they welcomed us back so he would have time to begin to heal and we could reconfigure our travel plans. We savored the care and hospitality we received from each member of the Zimmerman family. It was the most beautiful example of a respite.
Thank you Zimmermans for opening your home and your hearts to us and for providing us with a respite we will always remember.
I am not sure where to begin, but maybe I will start off by saying photographing the Ravnaas family was an overwhelming honor. It is complicated. So I will let Sara tell you in her own words...
When Sara heard I would be passing through her area she asked if I could photograph her, Elsa and her youngest son (that would be spending the summer with her) at their apartment in Minneapolis and then travel 460 miles to central North Dakota to photograph her husband and two other boys. Sara misses home. She misses seeing her boys off to school in the mornings and hearing their stories when they come home. She has not seen the treehouse they built in the backyard or the improvements her husband has made to the property. She doesn't know what new lego creations are displayed on the boys' dressers or whether they are keeping their sock drawers tidy. Any visits the boys are able to make to Minneapolis are crammed into the occasional long weekend -- and even then, only if everyone is healthy enough for Elsa's weak immune system. It is crazy. But they are making it work.
So, within 24 hours I was able to photograph them all. Two homes. Two stories. One family.
In Sara's words...
Elsa is currently in the hospital in Michigan for a new surgery. She has been experiencing some complications recovering from the surgery. You can visit her CaringBridge page here.
This Spring I was able to photograph a missionary family to Niddrie, a suburb of Edinburgh. When I told people in Scotland I was spending the night in Niddrie. They would twist their faces up a bit and reply, "NIDDRIE? Why?!" Not your typical tourist town, Government Housing was built in Niddrie in the 1920s to house folks arriving in droves to Scotland to mine coal. The town soon became one of the most drug ridden communities in Scotland. In recent years, an effort to regenerate Niddrie has done away with the old government housing structures and many folks have been relocated to other places, leaving those left behind with a shattered sense of community as everything around them is changing. The Dicksons, originally from South Africa and Wales, left their careers to minister to folks in Niddrie, where they lived in a small flat with their three young boys. They have recently moved on to another part of Scotland where they are planting a church.
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