I’ve been in America since May, which means that I haven’t been to an orphanage since April, which means that it’s been many months since I last took pictures of orphans. Because of this I’ve had some extra time (ha! Is there any such thing?) to go through old pictures. Y’all, I’ve taken a lot of pictures within the last few years.
I’m still doing a lot of writing about orphan care, and so I’ll dip back into my archives for images to accompany posts, and I’ve noticed something really interesting.
Orphan care is hard and sad, but there is hope. When I look through pictures to go with some of the sadder thoughts I end up either turning pictures black and white…
or I find that I use pictures from earlier in my photography “career.” And if I’m writing about hope and joy or something exciting? I pick the more recent pictures and keep the color, sometimes even brightening it up a bit.
Why? Well, it has taken me a while but I think that I just figured it out. Every photographer has his or her own style, and mine can be quite, errr…. bright. I like to overexpose my pictures. And that’s okay! Everybody takes pictures differently, and it really depends on what kind of story you want to tell.
So, what does overexposing pictures tell about my stories?
It says that I’m looking for the brightness… for light in dark places.
I’ve taken multiple pictures of the same place, but the pictures have totally different looks depending on the lighting.
When we first started working with a local orphanage it was a sad, sad place. It wasn’t just sad because their old cribs looked like little prisons, they were cloth diapering (a fantastic practice for washing-machine owning, schedule-keeping, baby-cuddling mamas, but not so much for the busy and distracted nannies) and the staff didn’t really know what to do to give the children hope and joy in their lives.
I look at the pictures I took those first few visits and boy are they SAD!
But a few weeks later the pictures are totally different. The change is partly because of colorful clothes that we brought… partly because I brought hats and headbands to cover the bald heads… partly because the orphanage walls were being painted and the toys were being brought out again and the nannies were inspired to actually focus on the children.
… but I think that the biggest change was that I had hope. And I had hope because I was watching these caregivers begin to show interest in helping the children develop, watching the directors become inspired to give the children a chance not just to survive, but to be adopted. Something about watching those stories of hope begin changed the way I took the pictures.
Seeking bright hope I found it. It was overexposed, but it was there.
Orphan care and adoption are not really comparable with photography, but the way we see them is. You can spend hours learning about the hard; the challenges and the losses that your children have faced and will continue to face. You can try again and again, harder and harder to understand why. The answers are never right there. You can seek the beauty and be overwhelmed with the rough edges.
But you can also chose to overexpose. Open your eyes and your aperture wide to welcome more light. Increase your shutter-speed – seek to capture the beauty in the quickly-fleeting moments – and not only will there be more light, but you’ll also see more of the blur. Blur can be beautiful, yes? It shows life in motion and that’s where we all are.
That’s what I want to encourage all of you brave mamas (and not-yet-mamas) to do today. Overexpose. What can you do to let more light in? It really does change everything…