2022 was a devastating year for our family: my husband and I lost our two goofy black labs. Losing Porter, our first ever dog, was deeply sad – he was there from the beginning of our marriage, and we’d had 15 amazing years with him – but he was really old, with declining health, and his death was not unexpected.
Five months later we lost sweet Lily. She was just 10 years old, and we had only two weeks from discovering that she had cancer until we had to make the decision to put her down (in that short span she went from running through the woods like a pup half her age, to complete paralysis of both rear legs). It was utterly devastating, and I am still grieving her.
It took me a long time to start looking through the thousands of photos of our sweet pups and choose a handful to share in a memorial post on Instagram. During the earliest stages of grief, looking at photos was too painful. I would sit at my computer bawling my eyes out, wishing I could reach down and pet those lovely dogs and feel their comfort. Their loss was a huge gaping hole in our lives.
When I was finally ready to choose some photos, I realized that the photos I loved most weren’t the ones where they – or I – looked perfect. I didn’t choose the perfectly composed photos with stunning backgrounds, or the cute dog selfies where the wide angle iPhone camera slimmed me down and softened my skin.
Instead it was the photos that showed me their true personalities and my most favorite memories of the two of them and of us together: Porter’s goofy delight and huge grin as he played in deep snow, his fur completely covered in ice crystals; a video of Lily and my husband Josh on our sailboat during breakfast. Josh says, “your nose is kinda close to my bacon” and Lily glances up at him, then quickly ducks under the table like the good girl she was; a recent favorite of Lily intimately sniffing my face – her equivalent of a kiss (this photo shows my sunspots and messy post-sailing hair – it’s not at all flattering and yet it’s one of the most cherished photos I’ve ever taken); Lily riding the bow of the dinghy, whining with delight – she loved a dinghy ride more than any other creature I’ve met, human or dog.
I’ve always hoped and believed that how I photograph weddings – looking past the superficial beauty of the day to show personality and true emotion – is important; now I know it to be true.
Through loss and grief I have found confidence in my passion for showing my couples who they truly are, and documenting the small, intimate moments of this important day without obsessing over perfection. Because while beautiful photos are lovely to have (and I will of course provide many of those), an intimate and soulful portrait of a human relationship with all of its unique and deeply personal wonders and flaws is priceless.