Christmas Together- The Story of a Home

April 17, 2019

Olympia Documentary Photographer

How do you tell the story of a home? Your family story is more than just the people in it, but the very home you create together. I am so thankful that the K. family invited me to capture their last family gathering on their home. It may be one of the most important shoots I’ve had the privilege of doing.

After 46 years, raising three children, hosting countless meals and conversations with friends, teaching at the local college, this couple decided to move house, move states, and downsize as they enter into this next phase of life.

They welcomed their three grown children with their own families home from all over the world to spend one last Christmas together in their childhood home. A house filled to the brim with books, old letters from relatives in England, a basement full of treasures, visitors who’d come to say hello and goodbye, decades worth of belongings waiting to be sorted, sifted, boxed up or divided.

Honestly, one of my favorite things about family documentary photography is getting to see and capture a family’s life as expressed through their home. Certainly the people are the central core of a family, but imagine the life that is expressed and contained in these walls after 46 years- the stairs that were hand-stenciled by one of the sons when he was in high school, the artwork and books, the epic wall of photographs capturing a family legacy and history. How much weight does the light, the linens, the plants in the yard, the THINGS take on knowing none of it will be there much longer?

I’m sharing pictures without the children’s faces per a privacy request from my clients. What you can’t see in these pictures is the house full of people. But what’s interesting to me is that there is still so much life in these images, so much story in the history waiting to be sorted, in the lights of the candles on the Christmas tree, the tousled bedsheets and open suitcases mattresses on the floor to accommodate the guests. I’ve always loved the details. Still life. Still, life.

And there is even more to the story- the huge garden lovingly tended, the napping babies and their chubby cheeks, the special baking together, playing, cuddling, cookie decorating and slow-cooked meals. But the home itself was a main character in this story.

Take a look around your home. Imagine you are moving in a month. What are the life rhythms, the pieces of your home you’d want to document and take with you? I can imagine someday welcoming my own adult children back home with their spouses and babies, wanting to soak up every detail and bask in the legacy of a life well-lived. A home is made, not bought. Year upon year. Layer upon layer. It’s where our story begins and where we come back to, if we’re lucky.