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Memories In The Making

The older my children get, the less they are at home, which means I’m left to my own devices when it comes to shooting photographic stories. I’ve had to begin to turn my lens toward the representative objects around me that tell stories of our life. Although I’d never miss a shot of one of my daughters enjoying birthday cake, this plate is a part of our annual tradition, so a photo like this tells part of our story that revolves around birthdays and other special occasions.

Looking through the hundreds of images I captured from that time on, I can see the progression of my children’s lives, of course, but I also see the progression of my own creative vision. My work began to take on a different quality.

A gesture like offering up freshly picked flowers from our backyard, will never be lost on me. These are the exact moments I want to carry with me forever. When framing this shot I wanted to get more than just the flowers: I included my daughter’s chin just enough to capture her new short haircut, and a little bare skin to remind me of the warm spring days we enjoy in California.

Besides the countless shots of my daughters’ shining faces, I began capturing stories of fleeting moments in the details of our routines, activities, connections, affections, locations, milestones: Everything became a part of the narrative. This pe
rspective allowed me to be more present in my own life and the life of my family, because I was noticing—and appreciating—what I may have overlooked before. And slowly but surely, everything around me became photo-worthy.

In changing what I captured with my camera, a spectrum of subject matter ranging from my kids to a coffee mug, I also changed how I captured it. My photography began to improve. Without only facial expression to tell the story, I needed other ways to evoke emotion.

I started paying closer attention to everything around me. Light became my most important creative ally, which then brought with it shadow. And there was intuition and timing, shape and color, and how it all could play together in a single shot composed within a small rectangle frame. I rarely put my camera away as my viewfinder became my canvas and everything was art. My way of seeing the world became a way of being in the world and photography became an extension of who I was, and now still, who I am.

Quite often it’s the most routine moments of our daily life that get overlooked in our photographs. When piano practice happens on a daily basis, you think you’ll never forget it. And yet, all too soon, you do. With the tiniest of subtle detail of her nail polish and the way her delicate hand rest gently on the keys, this shot captures the sweet symphony that is my daughter during these fleeting years.

Photography itself is now a constant companion, a trusted creative tool, and a way for me to elevate the everyday into something transcendent. This is how I imagine photography becoming our own: when we not only use it, but when we need it to tell our stories, and when we cannot imagine our life without it.

Tracey Clark is the founder of Shutter Sisters (, whose work is featured in our monthly column, Point of Focus. Her book, Elevate The Everyday: A Photographic Guide to Picturing Motherhood, is available from Focal Press. Visit her website at

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