I’m going to be honest. I was straight-up nervous about this tour. Nervous because it would be the first time I was going in knowing I’d have to do a shoot with a family and children. Nervous because, well, I work myself up a little too much for these things – putting a lot of pressure on myself to get it right for folks who are welcoming me into their home.
When I walked up to the home, both kids (Audrie and Finn) were sitting outside on the porch keeping an eye out for the stranger who’d be coming to take photographs. I was immediately calmed by daughter Audrie who floored me with how adult-like and formal she was. “Well, hello there, I’m Audrie” she’d say in a manner so cool and collected beyond her years. They called to their mother and father “He’s here!” and the rest of the Roeder’s greeted me and welcomed me inside. Finn sat in a chair in the corner, nervous and seemingly un-enthused about all the ruckus that had come about. I think I sensed a bit of anxiousness from Vanessa too, but as the Roeder’s showed me around we both collectively relaxed and became comfortable. I then began taking photos, all the while talking with the family about all the projects they’ve been doing and the work they did to get the home ready for the feature Vanessa was clearly excited about.
The longer I stayed, the longer I didn’t want to leave. There was just an overwhelming sense of love and family in the space and it truly touched me. The children were genuine friends, laughing together while playing with their Lego’s and collaborating together to pass a level in Mario Land 3D. Audrie also impressed me with how creative and inspired she was at such a young age. She shuffled through drawings of dragons and owls she made, even deciding to draw me a combination of the two while I snapped photos of her by her bedroom window. “That’s a Drowlgan,” she’d say as she showed me a penciled image drawn with a truly talented hand. Those moments took me back a bit to my childhood days as well. Days when I would sit in my room and draw dinosaurs and other creatures for hours on end. It gave me some re-assurance that this photography thing I stumbled into is a good thing, as I’m actually tuning into that creative side seriously for the first time in probably 15 years.
I had recently been inspired by some marvelous photos my colleague Marcia Prentice had done for one of her tours. So I wanted to create some inspiring family scenes for this shoot as well. I wanted to make it feel like you were there with the family, enjoying life how they do, laughing with them, and maybe even feeling that spark of creative energy Vanessa has so well imbued unto her children. Because I was so nervous about this, I rushed home after the shoot to flip through the photos. To my surprise they turned out better than I would have expected. Some of the pictures I liked most seemed to have just appeared on the memory card, as I didn’t remember taking them. I guess perhaps I got caught up in the moment, got lost in the art, and out-of-touch with my consciousness for a bit.
When writing the piece I knew I wanted to put “life is beautiful” in the title. Partly because it’s one of my favorite movies because it evokes so much emotion and spirit, and also because as I was taking the pictures I’m pretty sure I said those words to myself a time or two.
Some of my favorite outtakes are below, but be sure to click here for the full feature on Apartment Therapy.