Perfectly Real – Molly Flanagan

This month’s Perfectly Real Artist is a little different.  We wanted to take a month and feature Molly Flanagan whose Visual Storytelling course (through The Define School) is where we all met.  You can check out Molly’s work on her website, Facebook, or Instagram.  Here is what she has to say about documenting families.

child sulks on couch

What’s your favorite lens for shooting this type of work?  And do you have any accessories you just love (filter, bag, camera strap, etc.)?

My favorite lenses are Canon 24L and 35L.  One accessory that I love when photographing a family in their home is a small cross-chest purse I found on clearance that is big enough for a lens and my memory cards.  

mom licks baby food off finger

What is your favorite type of light to shoot in?

I don’t have a favorite type of light.  However, I love the challenge of trying to make the best of what I am given in any lighting situation!  

bathroom sink and accessories

What is the most valuable tip you have learned in pursuit of shooting in a more documentary style?

“Stop talking theory.. and do not over-think the image. Lose the ego and let the photograph find you. Observe the life moving like a river around you and realize that the images you make may become part of the collective history of the time that you are living in.” – Eli Reed

mom does laundry as baby watches

Let’s talk clutter.  Embrace it as is?  Try avoid getting it in frame?  Does it depend on the frame?

As a mother of 3 I am fully aware of the all-consuming nature of clutter!  However, the endless lego pieces, leaky sippy cups, and bread crumbs under the table are all a part of my story.  When my children are grown I want to remember all of those details.  And if I am constantly moving things out of the frame or composing to exclude them, I will be recording a false reality.  Depending on what story I am trying to tell, there maybe times when certain areas are excluded from frame in order to draw attention to my subject.  For instance, the sun may be hitting the milk jug in a way that makes it a bright white ball of light on the kitchen counter, competing for attention as I look through the viewfinder.  So I may compose to exclude the milk jug or change my vantage point to draw more attention to my subject.  There are two Fine Art photographers that include home-life clutter in their images:  Jessica Todd Harper (Home Stage) and Julie Blackmon (Domestic Vacation).  I like how they embrace the chaos of life with small children in such an intentional way.

baby takes bath in sink

Why are you so awesome? 😉

Ha!  I have a strong passion to document real life, and real life is often boring — not really all that “awesome”.  So, I often wonder if the pictures I produce will be perceived as uninteresting.  And I worry the families I photograph will get their pictures and say, “Is that all?”.  As more photographers embrace a documentary approach to family photography, I see a trend towards tweaking moments so they are a easier sell.  Setting up candid moments then moving dad to the left or asking mom to smile bigger — maybe moving the entire activity into a prettier pocket of light.  These things are definitely ways to make more awesome pictures — but I don’t want to be awesome.  I just want to be genuine and be content with life the way it is, even the boring parts.

bird flies over home