Thursday, 21 February 2019

Documenting Maternity Leave: A Family Film

I remember how difficult maternity leave could feel and how long some days were but mostly I remember feeling how lucky I was to have the chance to be with my girls. I didn't want it to end. Returning to work and placing them in daycare was tough and emotional and I missed the routine of being with them. The freedom of doing whatever we felt like. The joy of seeing them learn new things, make new sounds and explore new places. The little things, the milestones and everything in between. Our days often looked the same and they blended into each other. Before I knew it, a year had passed. I took tons of photos of my babies. It was my way to be creative but also to document how they were changing. Because it was just me and them at home, I have very few of me WITH them. And so, I had the idea of capturing this time for other mothers.

Earlier this month I met up with a past client for a special documentary session to create a keepsake film of some of the everyday, routine moments. A big thanks to this mama and her adorable girls for letting me share the morning with them. I hope that this film will take them back to their time together.


Monday, 14 January 2019

My New Love

I've been working hard behind the scenes to figure out a way to incorporate video into my photography business. Video can really complement still photos by adding depth to a story. The power of a photograph is how it allows us to savour tiny moments frozen in time, appreciating the details of that moment. I love staring at a photo and seeing details I didn't notice during the moment or taking photos to show clients the beauty of a simple interaction. Video brings the preservation of moments to another level by using movement and sound - little voices, the sound of laughter, mannerisms. It's like stepping back into a memory and reliving it. 

I documented a few everyday routines over the holidays with my kids and I'm slowly finding my voice and a new workflow using both photos and video....and I'm loving it!! My goal this year is to use video more and more - both professionally and personally. I don't want to forget how their voices sound at these ages, their favourite games, how my youngest always pools copious amounts of maple syrup over her crêpes and has to start each meal by announcing "bon appetito". These are moments that videos brings to life. 

One thing that struck me while watching the mini films I put together of our holidays, I'm not in any of them. I'm still working on how to incorporate myself into the story more. This is why I love shooting families. So often, it's the moms who document (not always of course, but often), and so I like being able to give something to families where everyone is in the picture. I hope to do the same with video soon!

For now, click on the link below to see a little taste of what we've been up to - our real, everyday life in all its beautiful imperfectness. 

Thursday, 25 October 2018

6 and 7 out of 100 - Photos as Family History

6 and 7 - those are my numbers. Years ago my parents separated our family photos and created albums for my sister, my brother and I. They are photos of our childhood. I did a little experiment this morning and looked through to see how many photos I had of myself with my parents. Out of the entire album of around 100 photos, I found 6 photos of me and my mom and 7 with my dad and I. There were none (in my album at least) of all 5 of us and only one of both my parents and I. My dad took a good amount of photos - we are lucky that we have our family history in photos at all. But like most parents when photographing our families, the kids are the focus. Especially now, we take so many photos of our kids as babies, toddlers, and then slowly as they age it becomes less and less and with it goes the opportunity to be part of that documented history with our kids.

I remember one year when I was around 8 or 9 we had a Sears portrait done as a family. That was the only time we had a professional photo taken of the 5 of us. It was a big deal at the time. It currently hangs in my parents basement and it's the source of much laughter and teasing as my siblings and I point the finger at who had the worst 80s hair and outfit. While I like that photo for that reason alone, it doesn't feel like how I remember our childhood.

It makes me think about what it would have been like if at the time we had someone come into our home and our lives to capture the 5 of us with a photo session. The details of our day, the interactions, our little home, what that place and time felt like.

I think my own kids would have loved to see that. To see with their own eyes how my life was, how their grandparents were and what it felt like to grow up in my family's home. That green shag carpet in our basement or the little garden of lily of the valley we had in our little yard.

I think about this idea of photos as family history when I take photos for clients because the photos we take aren't just for us right now but for our kids and for their kids later in life.

Don't wait to preserve your family's history and don't forget to be a part of it. My mom reminds me of this every time she sees me taking photos of my kids - she wrestles me for my camera so that I can be in the frame too. I resist at first but then realize she's right, I want my kids to see me too. Sometimes I remember this on my own and attempt to get a photo of me with the kids. Often this is the result but I love it cause this is who they are - funny, silly, and hamming it up so that I get frustrated and stop taking photos and play with them instead.

Interested in booking a session with me? I'd love to hear from you, get in touch by clicking below.
Ottawa photographer - Melanie Mathieu

Friday, 15 June 2018

Father's Day

I came across these two favourite photos of me with my dad. I don't have that many with him when I was younger - maybe because he often had the camera or maybe it's the third child syndrome where photos become more and more scarce as you move down the line in rank. It was also the time of film as opposed to having a camera at your fingertips. I love these photos because they feature two of his iconic outfits. That winter jacket was still in the rotation as of 6 years ago maybe (that photo on the Rideau Canal circa 1984). That tuque can still be found tucked away in my parents' front hall closet. Saving his clothes is something we all kid him about. That plaid shirt didn't last quite as long but it had a really good run and who knows maybe he's hidden it at the back of the closet where I can't find it. When I think of my dad and my childhood moments with him, he is wearing that shirt. These photos bring me back to these two days and without these photos, I likely would have forgotten the stories behind them. 

If you are searching for ideas for Father's Day that are meaningful, look no further than those photos that tell your stories - print them, frame them, get them off those devices and create something more tangible. 

Thursday, 3 May 2018

3 Misconceptions about In-Home Documentary Photography

1) You just show up and shoot

Although it may seem that way or sound that way when I talk about what I do, there's a lot more to it than that. There is a lot of planning even if I am there to capture spontaneous interactions. I like to know who I'll be meeting to get a sense of what is important to the family which helps me to know what I should be trying to capture. I send clients a short questionnaire before we meet so that I can learn more about their family, little details, favourite activities, what their everyday routine looks like. All of this information helps me to prepare and can also be used to help guide a session. For example, this family mentioned their son's love of trucks and cars. I used it as an ice breaker when meeting them to get them to interact together. The fact that it is something the child loves at the moment, makes it important and worth capturing.

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I also need to anticipate what type of gear I will need to bring along. Depending on the type of session and location, I have to decide whether I need a macro lens to capture tiny newborn details or my flash if the lighting may not be ideal.

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2) You just take pictures as they happen

This is partly true. I don't like to manipulate the situation too much. I like to gently give some direction if needed but for the most part, I let things play out and follow along. However, this doesn't mean that I snap away without intent. I move around to figure out the best composition or sometimes I compose the image in my mind first based on light, lines, reflections or whatever I have to work with and I patiently wait until the subject enters the frame where I wanted them to be. I see interactions happening and I move in to capture a detail or I move back to add context to the scene. The goal is to make the strongest image possible while playing off of the surroundings and subjects. In my work, I like to create images that make you feel something and this means watching and waiting for everything to come together in just the right way.

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3) Documentary Photography is so much easier than studio photography 

Just as lighting setups and posing in a studio are not as easy as the pros make it look, documentary photography is challenging in so many ways. It requires a very specific skill set: you have to be flexible, be able to think quick on your feet, be a good observer. You walk into people's personal spaces as a stranger and have to be able to make people feel comfortable within minutes so that they will look natural on camera and enjoy the experience. Walking into people's personal spaces, their homes, can be a very vulnerable thing and you have to approach it as such. Each family is different which is what makes this type of photography so interesting. Each family has its own dynamic that you have to quickly gauge and adjust to. Lighting is never the same from one place to another and it can vary so much even within the same house. You have to be able to figure out how to use it and other elements to your advantage. As most people can attest to, taking photos of your own kids can be a challenge because they move so quickly. Imagine trying to get those moments together with trying to familiarize yourself with the family, the space, the light.

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I love what I do. Working as a photographer challenges me every time. It's different every time. I love meeting new families and also shooting the same families year after year and seeing how they have grown and changed.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

DEAR YOU: Your Childhood Documented - A Journal for Parents

Last summer it struck me that I needed to start a journal for my kids. I have tons of photos which help to bring me back to moments but I also wanted words to go along with that visual record of life. I went searching for a really simple journal, one for each of my kids. What I settled on was a day planner that I thought I could use to write a line or two about them each day. Those first two weeks were documented in great detail but after that, it was sparse and then, I just stopped. Life gets busy right? For me the pressure of daily journaling just doesn’t work. I felt guilty about missing a day or two and then just ignored the task completely to avoid the guilt. Or I struggled to write something, anything, just to say I did which meant those real moments got lost amongst words I wrote just because. 

I realized that I didn't want to document every single moment of life with my children because that has a way of pulling me away from being fully present with them now. I wanted to pick and choose the things that speak to me the most. 

I wanted a journal that gave me the freedom to pick it up when something happened that I needed to write down instead of feeling disappointed in myself for forgetting to write down the date of a given milestone. I wanted a journal based on moments. 

I wanted a quick way to jot down a line or two, or even a word that my children said that made me laugh. I didn’t want to feel bad about an empty page where I couldn’t remember what happened that particular day or what her favourite song was when she was 2 years old.

I wanted a space to write as much for me as for them to revisit moments again like our memories tend to be – maybe a bit disjointed but full of meaning and emotion. I didn’t want a big bulky book that felt childish in shades of bright pink or blue. I wanted a book that was easy to carry around and that would be timeless. One I could leave on my night table or put in my purse so that I could write whenever inspiration would strike.

The outcome of this process is 'Dear You: Your Childhood Documented', a journal for parents with 5 sections to separate your thoughts but still flexible enough to make it your own. Something you can fill up with everything from little details from specific moments to your own thoughts on parenthood, providing a record of childhood for you and your children. 

To find out more about the journal and to purchase your copy, visit:

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

6 Activities to Document over the Winter Months

There is always a mad rush for Fall photos - and I get it, Fall is probably my favourite season too. The beauty of the leaves changing never gets old. But as Fall goes on and Winter settles in, there are still tons of opportunities for great photo sessions. 

I put together some ideas of activities in and around the home to help inspire you on what to capture this season right in your own backyard;  whether with your own camera or by hiring a professional photographer to document them for you. 

Build a snow fort, snowman, or make snow angels: a classic family activity that you have to do at least once each winter. 

Snowball fight: action shots and flying snow always makes for interesting shots and lots of laughter.

Sliding or skating: if your kids are lucky enough to have a rink or sliding hill in their backyard, how can you not want to capture that? 

Bring the fun inside: I love that in-home sessions can be done year round. Think about those rosy cheeks as the kids come in from the cold, hot chocolate and spending time relaxing together.  

Family game night: Does your family have a competitive streak? Winter is often when the board games come out in our family and is such a great tradition to capture.

Baking/Cooking: With the change in seasons, often comes new favourite dishes. Document the making of a winter meal or dessert. Especially around the holidays - this is one you won't want to miss capturing. Think about taking photos of hand written recipes, key ingredients and ask family to help prepare.

I hope you will take the time to document some of your family's moments this winter. One of the great things about in-home sessions is that there is no timeframe - you don't have to wait until the leaves are at their best or reschedule because it's raining. There is such beauty in the simplicity of everyday moments and these happen year round.