Last month, a package arrived upon my doorstep that I was expecting. However, I wasn't expecting my reaction to the package. The return address on the box contained my own initials, J Niven, but traveled all the way from Washington state. I recognized my aunt's handwriting immediately and my heart quickened when I remembered what the box contained. I wasn't ready to open the package immediately as I wanted to take my time with it. The contents were special, important and not to be ripped into just yet. The package contained my grandfather's Canon SLR camera and photography equipment. As a photographer, this meant a lot more to me than I had thought.
As I unwrapped each carefully packaged lenses, manuals, a flash and camera body, I was taken aback with emotion. The emotion didn't come from realizing that he had the same exact type of lenses that I have purchased and same flash (He loved macro too!). I don't think I even knew that my grandpa used a Canon as well. The emotion came from realizing how much he must have truly loved photography too. Of course, I remember him with a camera in hand often, but I had no idea then that I would become a photographer myself. I find it fascinating and a bit sad to realize that I could have learned so much from him. How much of his passion for photography actually inspired me without really knowing it? Holding his equipment, I realized how serious he was in his study of photography. It's all there in the equipment! It's not that I paid great attention to his camera during my childhood, but I certainly paid close attention to his photographs. My family's history, my childhood, life on the farm, travels and adventures far and near were documented and framed in my grandparents home. I LOVED those photos!
My Grandpa and Grandma Niven lived just a short walk away from the farm where I lived as a child. A dirt path, with fields on one with and the northwoods on the other side, lead me to my grandparents house. I walked this trail barefoot countless times, rode my horse a few times and had even taken the trail with cross-country skis in the winter to visit. My grandparents were a wonderfully, loving constant in my life. To this day, my grandparents' little, white house remains one of my favorite places to visit. Sadly, the bountiful flower gardens are but a memory, along with the scent of freshly baked bread and grandma's hand lotion. The cookie tin is long empty and classical music no longer can be heard filling the kitchen, but the little white house still holds framed photographs of my childhood.
Some visits were to pick raspberries in the summer sun, soft, warm earth covering my bare feet in the garden. Other visits were to swing on the wooden swing under the apple tree overlooking the garden or to play cards with my grandma. Yet, my favorite moments of all were spent upstairs sitting in the hallway wading through all of the family photo albums. I poured over those photos! I learned how precious family photographs are while at my grandparents home and I fell in love with the art of photography. Paging through the years, seeing my father's own childhood, young adulthood, weddings, vacations, my own childhood into adulthood captured by my grandparents, is so valuable to me. I learned about my family through those photo albums. I cannot even imagine not having so many special and ordinary moments documented. I close my eyes and can see so many of his portraits of my loved ones. Precious!
Looking back, you could definitely say that I was influenced by my grandpa to become a photographer. I loved gazing at each landscape photograph in the living room in his handmade frames. I still marvel at the beauty that he captured with his camera. My grandpa took me to places that my own eyes had not yet seen, gardens, mountains, waters, historical points through his photographs. However, what I hold dearest are the photos that document the little moments, the sweet spots as I call them, that he took. The photos of my childhood laughter and play with cousins, my 8th grade graduation photo under the weeping willow tree, my family on Easter Sunday before dinner, my horses in the pasture, my father or brothers working the fields, family reunions, the list is endless-my grandpa captured so much of it all. I learned not to wait for the perfect moment but rather recognize the beauty in the little moments, regardless of bad haircuts, horrible outfits, or awkward "years". In the end, looking back it is ALL beautiful!
Now here I am, a photographer in Lake Mills, Wisconsin with a studio focused on maternity, newborn and family portraits. I became a photographer to photograph the beauty in your life! Without a doubt, I know that your family deserves beautiful family portraits. I would love for each family to not only have portraits worthy of being displayed as artwork in their home, but also to have the sweet spots of their family moments documented. The months of pregnancy may feel long some days, but that remarkable time is so fleeting. Let me capture your maternal beauty! Those brand new babies deserve the newborn days to be captured in a beautiful way.
I was by my grandpa Niven's beside when he took his last breath, an honor to have held his hand in those last moments. It's now a great honor to hold his camera in my hands and continue to document the beauty in this world. I hope that he would be proud and smile.
Life IS beautiful...Capture it!