When Anzalee and Kristain Rhodes look back at their daughter’s first year of life, they won’t be examining blurry, red-eyed camera phone photos. They’ll have crisp, finely detailed professional shots of a baby growing up before their eyes.
Each month, a team of professional photographers shoots them as they go about their daily lives at home and around New York City.
“As a baby, she changes every month. There’s something new. Her hair changes, everything changes within a month and we wanted to be able to capture all those things,” said Anzalee Rhodes, a 35-year-old statistician who lives on Long Island.
The Rhodes are part of a trend of folks hiring professional photographers to document not just big events like weddings and bar mitzvahs, but everyday activities.
But is it possible to present a realistic view of ordinary experiences if a photographer is staging and enhancing each shot? Catalina Toma, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor whose research includes examining emotional well-being and social media, says people tend to construct very flattering images of themselves online.
“The importance of self-presentation on social media is really high,” she said. And when people look at the pictures and see their friend’s best self — whether it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Greece, a new job or a flawless family photograph — they get depressed thinking they are missing out.
“They don’t realize that everybody is doing the same thing, engaging in the same strategy as themselves, which is to sort of ignore the negative or the trivial or the banal, and posting only the best stuff, the exciting stuff.” And that’s true whether they are taking selfies or hiring someone to do it for them.
Liz Bowling, a 33-year-old account executive, first hired a professional photographer to shoot her wedding and then her newborn daughter, Ashlyn. Since then, she’s had the same photographer travel from Boulder, Colorado, to her home in Lake Tahoe to capture her family a handful of times. The photographer, Julie Afflerbaugh, has even stayed with the family in order to capture them in a candid way, Bowling said.
“It’s not just a staged photograph. She captures very authentic moments,” Bowling said. “I really want images that are going to show who I was when, and she does that.”