THIS IS WHY YOU SEE SO MUCH OF MY FAMILY





Once in a while someone will send me a message to tell me that if I want to be a successful photographer then I need to share more of my work that isn't about my family.


Thank you very much for that. I know that's how most other photographers do things.


I respond to that with a photograph of me and Rhys on his sofa the week before he died.





The only stories I am at liberty to share are mine. I don't own the others. I may own the copyright and the legal rights to use the work for promotion, but telling the stories of other families without their enthusiastic endorsement feels gross. When families ask me to, I gladly share their stories. Only then, though.


The rest of the time you get me and my family. And we are blazingly imperfect.


The other key reason I don't share about other families is because the things I observe and want to write about - the stories I see - are intimate and often messy. I'm not photographing families standing in a meadow. I'm photographing families learning about how hospice works. I'm photographing transitions that are crushing. I'm photographing what it's like to welcome a new family member while finding a place for the one who has died.


I see a lot of shame and guilt. Grief, of course. I wouldn't describe any of that as beautiful, really, but it's important. Until we can start having conversations about it and treating it as something that is normal, we're all going to continue to struggle with it. We aren't the only ones who feel the way we feel. We aren't the only ones who question our choices and wonder if we should have done something differently. We aren't the only ones who burst into tears for seemingly no reason years after the death of someone we love when others tell us we should definitely be over it.


So I don't out someone else's story. No way. I tell you mine instead and you'll see what we have in common. I write about the hard things (things I am reluctant to talk about with my friends, even) because it helps me to process them and you keep sending me messages that you feel less alone. That it is a relief knowing that someone else out there feels something similar.


The photographs and the stories you have, whether they are from me or someone else, are important because they connect you to all of this. Yes, precious memories, la dee da. But really the value is in having tangible evidence that your love was, and is, very real, very powerful, and very worthy. A lot of people would tell you that's not true. And you can use these photographs to begin poking at the other stuff, like shame and guilt, to see if you can stir it enough to move it out.


When you are ready, of course.