My son was 13 months old when I realized I wanted to do documentary photography. I realized I had never looked much at his studio portraits. I was more moved by the every day candid photos of him.

Think about it.

When you scroll through your FB photos or your photo albums, are you stopping to look at the Lifetouch image of your brother or are you telling the story behind the photo where you and your brother are gorging yourselves on Halloween candy, or you and your sister are drawing on the wall as kids?

When stories are attached to an image they have SO MUCH MEANING.

They bring us back to who we were and what our lives were like. These images awaken our memories and ignite a nostalgic side of us that wants to remember how small our babies were after they were born, or how crazy our children were as toddlers. One of my favorite photos is my husband and daughter wrestling after breakfast one day. She is so spunky and I see so much of that in this photo.

Yes, my house is a mess. Their clothes are not coordinated. And she has crap ALL over her face. But this photo means the world to me.

toddler and dad roughhousing


I wanted to tell you about two movies that really strike to the core of this message about documentary images. Once the weather starts to crisp, I start to yearn for my favorite winter time movies. I have a few – Beautiful Girls, Elf, Harry Potter. But my two favorite movies that also resonate with my photographer heart are Stepmom (featuring Susan Sarandon) and The Family Stone (with Sarah Jessica Parker). Both of their characters in these movies value documentary photography. There are moments in these movies that make me want to shout from the rooftops: “THIS! THIS IS WHY I DO WHAT I DO!” So I’m going to share these moments with you (spoiler alerts coming).


The Family Stone

The Family Stone is about family dynamic and the incorporation of a girlfriend during the holidays. Meredith (played by Sarah Jessica Parker – aka SJP) plays a somewhat aloof, type A, socially awkward girlfriend to Everett (Dermot Mulroney). Pretty much everyone in the family dislikes her to some degree, with the exception of the brother Ben (Luke Wilson). The sister Amy (played by Rachel McAdams) especially dislikes her.

But towards the end of the film, Meredith passes each one of them a gift. Inside is a framed enlargement of the mother figure Sybil (Diane Keaton) pregnant with Amy. In the photo you can see Sybil smiling naturally, hand on her little growing belly. Her hair and clothing are reminiscent of the 70s and 80s. As Amy takes in the photo and sees this moment of her mom smiling happily while pregnant with her, she is overwhelmed with love and nostalgia.

The reaction from Any would be different if Sybil were wearing nothing but a flowing gown on a beautiful vista point. The reaction would still be beautiful and the image would still be amazing, but it would be missing the nostalgia and I find documentary photography really brings you to that moment in time. You can sense Sybil’s excitement and love for her growing baby. The emotion in this moment is so beautiful and visceral. It is this reaction, this overwhelming sense of love, gratitude, and reminiscence that I love to give my clients, my family and my friends.

diane keaton pregnant from The Family Stone


The movie Stepmom is about the growth and evolution of a family as they learn to deal with the changing dynamic of their family through re-marriage and the introduction of a stepmom. Yeah. Heavy.

Anyways, Isobel (stepmother player by Julia Roberts) is a freelance photographer working mostly for advertisers. Towards the end of the film Jackie (biological mother played by Susan Sarandon) asks her to take documentary pictures of her family. She knows these moments are fleeting and she knows life is short.

So Isobel spends a few hours every few days documenting the moments that matter to the family – horseback riding around the property, ice skating, playing at home. Each moment is authentic and natural and holds a story.

Towards the end of the movie, Jackie gives each of her children a gift. Each gift incorporates pictures taken throughout their lives. Jackie is able to give each child different stories and ways of remembering her and her relationship with them and it is SO BEAUTIFUL. Her daughter Anna pulls out a quilt covered in images of her and her mother. Some of the patches include a piece of dress she used to wear and a copy of her newborn footprint. As I am tearing up thinking of it.


Anna's quilt from the movie stepmom

Documentary Photography Means Something to Us

So it’s not exactly Susan Sarandon or Sarah Jessica Parker but their characters who value documentary photography and the stories they carry. I think this is the gift inherent of documentary family photography. Past clients have told me how they’ve cried upon viewing their galleries. They consider these moments precious and to have them documented creates a raw emotion for them that they can’t put a price on. That is why I do what I do. This is why I think every family deserves to gift themselves with documentary photography.

Whether it’s a birth, newborn session, celebration or just a day in the life, there are so many moments that have the capacity for telling our stories. And those moments happen ALL THE TIME.

All the time.

You might not notice them though because as parents, we are so focused on moving the day forward, getting the next task done, getting the next meal prepared or getting through the day. You hear people saying, “Savor it, it goes so fast.” “Enjoy every moment”. “It’s gone in a blink.” And while I totally understand the sentiments, it is so hard to savor every drop of the day when there is chocolate milk soaking into the carpet and your youngest child is about to draw blood from your oldest.

But whether it’s our toddler doing a naked rain dance, a pouty face, a pat on the head, nerf gun fights at the dinner table or baking with grandma, each of these little moments tell a story about our life as it is right now. And that story is beautiful and deserves to be preserved for the you that exists now and for the you twenty years from now. Those stories deserve to be preserved for your children twenty years from now.

Ready to do it? Email me and let’s talk about your family, what your life is like now and what this phase of life means to you. What pictures would you want added to your quilt? Let’s document it.

Margaret Albaugh | Spokane Birth Photographer mother brushing babys hair spokane photographer

mother brushing babys hair spokane photographer

boy and dad looking at bellies in the mirror | Spokane family photographer

grandma and mommy with baby spokane wa

daddy blowing raspberries on girl

mom laughing during storytime

quiet moment in stairs with mom and sister

little girl rubbing blankie

boy poking mom in the eye

brother bugging sister

kids hugging

family dance party

mommy and baby playing while breastfeeding

uncle stuck in back seat with neice and nephew

girl raiding cabinet for cookies

grandma tickling boygirl jumping off couch

boy on swing

grandma changing baby

boy in pool

boy hanging upside down

daddy helping girl over tide pools

boy splashing in pond

bathroom fun

girl snuggling in crib