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Three52 -a personal project | blairsville, pa photographer

By January 3, 2012 7 Comments

This post is probably going to be ALL over the place, but I’ve said it before: It’s just how my brain works! 🙂

This past week I have seen so many of my photography friends and colleagues write their “end of the year”, “best of 2011”, “news year’s resolution” blog posts.  I’ve been wanting to post a “Happy New Year’s” type of  blog post just like everyone else, but I struggled on what to write, I know I didn’t want to post something just to have a new post on the blog, I wanted it to really MEAN something. Some of you posted hilarious behind the scenes photos, some of you listed very detail oriented goals-which I loved, and some of you posted awesome images from some of your best shoots from this past year. THEN I came across an article today that gave me a HUGE moment of clarity. As a photographer, I’ve always struggled with figuring out my style and who I am as a photographer. I know some of you are rolling your eyes thinking, “oh god, Jen, all you do is click a button-what do you mean “who you are as a photographer?”.  I don’t want to be known as the photographer that just takes “pretty pictures”, who photographed girls with the hottest trends and fashions, who’s locations were “hip”, what it boils down to is that I want my photographs to have substance……..and this article gave me the moment of clarity that we all sometimes need.

Below is an excerpt from the article I mentioned above–you know the one with the moment of clarify. The photographer writes:

“There will be no portrait photos in this post.  This letter wasn’t mailed – it was at my doorstep when I got home a couple months ago.  I read it, I cried, and read it again – probably a hundred times by now.  It wasn’t easy to read – and honestly, as much as it validates what I do for a living – I wasn’t sure I was going to share it either – Until today, when a past client said that my print prices were too expensive.  If you choose to read through the letter, you will know why I’ve finally chosen to share it……

(Just to clarify, this letter wasn’t wrote to me, it was delivered to Jeanine of Fototails Photography’s doorstep. To read the article in it’s entirety, click here.)

July 2nd, 2011

Jeanine – 

Today I am writing for a couple of reasons.  I have some quiet time at the moment and need to get a couple of things off my mind.  I will leave this for my husband to deliver to you when he is ready.

You photographed my wedding, you photographed my first pregnancy and my first baby.  I contacted you awhile back to photograph my 2nd child and family.  After getting prices and realizing I would want all of the pictures as we love your work – I decided against spending $500+ – which is what I normally spend for portraits and prints with you..  Please know it is not because I don’t value your amazing eye, or how much we love the experience.

That week that I decided to NOT do a session with you, this is how I spent some money.

On Sunday I called and cancelled our session.  Monday I went out and got my hair cut ($39+tip), and colored ($65), Thursday I had my nails done ($24), my family went out to dinner at a somewhat expensive restaurant for no particular reason costing us $79 + tip.  This was just 4 days since canceling our session, already totaling over $200 for un necessary things.  My nails only lasted about 2 weeks, my hair is gone, and seven weeks passed when I got the phone call from our doctor.  It was not something I expected and the cancer has spread very quickly.  I will be leaving my husband, my 6 year old girl and my now 2 year old – not by choice.  It is very hard for me to talk about it which is why I need to write you.

I watch your Facebook page and your posts about the value of a photo and if I could give back all of those things that I purchased this few weeks after I cancelled my session with you, knowing what I know now, and have that session, well… I would do it in a heartbeat. 

Now my time is done and there are no more chances for me.  The next time someone cancels a session – my wish is that you forward this letter to them.  Time is fragile, it is gone before you know you had it.  If you charged $200 for one print it wouldn’t be enough for what it is actually worth.  I cringe to think that my priorities were a manicure over a memory to pass onto my babies and husband.

My love and thanks for what you have given us from past photos.  I am so sorry that I did not see it as more than paper until now.

Karen L.


As if that isn’t powerful enough, when I shared the article on my Facebook page, Amanda Crist Millern(Hi Amanda!!!) left a comment on facebook that drove the point home. She says “….I don’t share this with everyone but it is so very important to have these memories – I only have a very few of my mother. I did not grow up with her and wish so much I had more moments to try to know her just a little. I wonder how much I look like her in different lights, how did she hold me, how her smile looked when she looked at me, at a flower, at a beautiful sunrise….to my photographer friends – what you do is not fluff, it is capturing treasure.”

Before my parents got divorce (which was when I had barely turned 11) , I don’t remember one family photo of all four us in existence (mom, dad, nicole + I). If there is one, I am unaware of it. The first photo I have of my mom and my dad together WITH ME  was from what my high school called “Senior Night” for cheerleading. Each Senior girl’s parents walked them down the center of the football field while they read what your future plans were and people handed you balloons and flowers. At the end of  the long walk, the yearbook photographer snapped a photo of each cheerleader with their parents. It was THEN that I had a photo with both of my parents in the same picture. Now that my sister is no longer with us, I regret not having them. I vow that will not happen to us when it literally takes 2 seconds to snap a quick photo.

Last year I set out as a project to photograph my family once a week for the next year. I was going to call it the Three52 project. Three people, 52 two times. I did really well my first several weeks-so full of enthusiasm, but then it quickly became a burden to round everyone up. I would complain about my hair or that I needed to change or my makeup wasn’t done or my double chin was showing up again…..but then when I read articles like this that I vow, my vanity takes a backseat when making memories for Mallory. I want her to see and have proof of how ever-present I am in her life. The next time someone wants to take my picture at a family event I won’t complain about how much weight I’ve gained and how horrible I may look in the photo. I’m just going to smile…..We don’t have to be in fancy clothing, the lighting doesn’t have to be perfect, and maybe we won’t even be smiling………. I want them to be us just being “us”, the way I want to remember.

As Karen’s letter says, I vow never to trade a manicure over a memory. Thank you Karen L. who ever you are, for reminding us all how important memories truly are and that pictures are worth so much more than the paper they are printed on!

Here are a few photos of last years Three52 project…… so get out YOUR cameras (cell phones, point and shoots or your fancy shmancy ones) and photograph YOUR family and start your own 2012 project!!! 🙂



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  • Tara says:

    a tear-jerker, for sure.

    I only wish she had asked for one last family portrait…it could mean a lot to her loved ones.

    My best wishes to you and your family for the New Year!

  • Gretchen says:

    Such a profound thought…I always make sure to take pictures of my son, so he can look back on his childhood, but as a family I think we only have 3 pictures together total. Really makes you think…thank you. God bless you and your family.

  • lorrin says:

    jen, i laughed my butt off at the pic with mallory’s “head” hahaha!! love that you included her even though she wasn’t there! btw…this post reminds me…we NEED to set something up for YOU ASAP!!

  • Nicole Pope says:

    Mallory is such a little ham… I love her!

  • Tammy says:

    I have read the article in full and now your blog….really hits home for me. My father was killed in a work accident when I was only 3…so now pictures with him. My mom dies suddenly at 52. She always hated having her picture taken so not picture with her or really even of her.

    My daughter does not like having her picture taken, even went on a trip to Sapin and the only picture I have of her is the back of her head.

    I say all of this because I understand….I never think I look good enough to have my picture taken but I learned a long time ago to smile and pose for the camera (at least I don’t look bad AND silly)

    My children are a little older now and understand how important this is to me…we are never promised tomorrow, so capture today! Hey at least when the look at all of the horrible pictures of me they can laugh at them!!!

    Thank you for always sharing you beliefs!!!

  • Amanda Geyer says:

    Thank you for the inspiration!! I was looking for a personal project for this year and this hit home. Our only daughter will head off to college in a couple of years and I love the thought of having these images in the years to come. Thank you! (my gallery is posted on my site under photography then 2012 life actually)

  • […] ….and because every post is better with an image, here is one (that has absolutely nothing to do with weddings)-our most recently THREE 52 Project picture brought to you by my favorite app, Instagram. We went sled riding on this particular day. Want to know more about the THREE 52 project, click here. […]

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