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Every Day Photos Interview–Chris Jones

{If you missed the post about taking better Every Day photos, go check that out so you understand why I’m posting these interviews}

 

For those of you landing here for the first time, I’ll be posting interviews from some amazing people talking about why every day photos are important to them as well as sharing some of the photos of their “every day”.  All of these people live intentional and deliberate lives and they make an effort to document their days and tell the story of their family through photos.  They’re all the real deal and I’m excited and truly humbled they agreed to do this (they’re busy.  Like, really busy).

You can see the earlier interviews by clicking on their names:

Courtney Slazinik from Click it Up a Notch, Chari Pack from Persnickety prints, Natalie Norton and Becky Higgins.

 

I’m so excited for our last interview.

Chris Jones from Mitchell’s Journey.

I’ve been following Chris for a while on Facebook and Instagram.  His family story is incredible and his love for his family is tangible.  He takes incredible photos and tells amazing stories with the photos he takes.  His photos make you feel something.  Not just see something.  It’s a gift.  His perspective on the importance of photos is incredible and heartbreaking.  If you don’t know about Mitchell or his story, I highly recommend following Chris on his journey to tell his son’s story.  I’m inspired every time he posts!

 

Here’s what Chris has to say about every day photos.

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1.  Give me a quick synopsis of your “story”

I am the father of a young boy who, at the age of 3, was diagnosed with Duchene Muscular Dystrophy, a catastrophic muscle wasting disease that is fatal.  He passed away on March 2, 2013 at the age of 10.

I began taking photos long before we discovered Mitchell’s diagnosis, but upon learning his life would be cut short, I began to see moments differently.  I stopped taking photos of what things looked like and focused more on capturing what life felt like.

I live in Salt Lake City, Utah.  I have a wife and 4 children and am blessed beyond measure because of them.

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2.  Why are every day photos important to you?

Everyday photos are important to me because they capture the substance of life as it truly is.

Looking back, the everyday photos I was once tempted to think were nothing special are really quite special.  Such photos are reminders not only that we lived, but HOW we lived.

 

3.  What is one of your favorite every day photos and why?

This is an impossibly difficult task because every single “everyday photo” is my favorite.  Each of them leave breadcrumbs of the life I lived and the people I loved with all of my heart.  I take over 200,000 everyday photos a year and there are so many to choose from.

 

Here are just a few:

*Nat and Wyatt walking.  I love this photo on so many levels.  It was Mother’s day and after celebrating we went on a family walk.  My youngest son, Wyatt, was in his monkey pajamas holding in his arm the oversized card that was given to his mommy.  The way Natalie looks upon our son with a soft smile and the look of love and admiration on his face brings me to tears every time.  An ordinary moment that is more than ordinary.

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*Mitchell was on his Make-a-Wish trip when his legs gave out and he fell on the concrete.  His sister quickly ran to him and began to lift him from the ground.  While this photo reminds me of the tragedy of my son’s condition, it also reminds me of the beauty of spontaneous acts of love and service.  That is what life is all about.

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*I took a photo of Natalie pushing Mitch on the swing one summer afternoon in our back yard.  This was our life back then.  Simple.  Peaceful.  Though I was tempted to ignore this moment, in my heart, I am so glad I captured it.  It’s an imperfect photo of a perfect moment.

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*This was Christmas morning when Wyatt decided to make a fort in a toy box.  This was an every day moment that is every bit awesome.

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*When I look at this slightly 0ut-of-focus image of my oldest son, Ethan, I am brought to tears because I am reminded of the sweet soul that he is.  As a young boy he worked so hard to make great crayon drawings.  His tiny hands gripping the crayon and the look of intensity on his face…this was our life.  And I love every image of it.

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*My mother and her sister who is struggling with cancer walking down my driveway.  They are fiercely loyal and loving sisters to the end.  An ordinary moment that is not so ordinary.  The way they hold each other makes my heart sing.

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*This is how little Mitch used to stand as a little boy.  He would reach behind him and clasp his hands or fidget with his shirt.  A treasured breadcrumb of a little boy we adored.  Without this photo, we would have all but forgotten the tenderness of our child.

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*This photo ranks among my favorite because of the sheer serendipity of it.  Mitch itching his nose, grandpa helping Ethan climb the fence so he could pee in the background and Natalie giggling in the background.

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*The head hospice doctor listening to my son’s failing heart.  Little Mitch would die a few days later.  The look of seriousness on the doctor’s face scared me and I wanted only to freeze time like I could freeze a moment in a photo.  I could not and that broke my heart.

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*My dear wife sitting at my son’s place of rest wishing only to hold and love him once more.  Those moments we visit in our minds and wish to visit again in our hearts are never portraits but rather every day moments.  The stuff we took for granted.  Often, the stuff we never photographed.

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4.  What type of photos do you wish you had more of from your childhood?

This is such a great question.  Personally, I would trade every single family photo taken in a studio, with hair perfectly primped, necks wrapped in turtlenecks and ugly sweaters and those awful corduroys my mom used to make me wear…..I would trade all of that (every single one) for just one photo of my life as it actually was.

That great American tradition of family portraits is in many ways our greatest American tragedy. We trade the illusion of moments for actual moments.  We stand in front of canopies, under a tree, or in a field next to a vintage chair…color coordinated and dressed in our Sunday best.  Sometimes we mix it up and wear casual clothes–as though we accidentally wore the same matching white t-shirts and jeans.  Those portraits become the storefront of family tradition and they are about as meaningful (at least to me) as a thinly veiled advertisement.

However, the real canopy of life is never staged in a field or in a studio.  The real canopy of life is camouflaged by the ordinary and mundane moments we so often overlook.

When we reminisce on our lives, we don’t say to ourselves or others, “Hey, remember when we stood in that studio or under that tree and took those family photos?”  We don’t say, “Remember that time mom told us to stop and smile in front of the camera?”  We don’t seek those photos out because they are not real and in no way represent our actual lives as we lived them.

I wish I had more photos of me playing in the sand or in mud puddles.  I don’t want to see photos of me smiling into the lens…but rather the look on my face concentrating on the thing I was doing.  I wish I had photos of my mom holding me as a toddler by the window on a summer afternoon…wiping away my tears after scraping my knee.  I wish I had photos of my dad in the garage tinkering with tools or just sitting on the porch reading a magazine.  I wish I had photos of the blanket forts I used to make.  Not just the outside…but the stuff we did inside.  I wish I had photos of the Star Wars bases I made out of shoe boxes and tape.  I wish I had photos of making dinner as a family and those nights we ate scones and had syrup all over our faces.  I wish I had photos of my empty bedroom with toys on the floor and homework on the bed.

I wish I had more photos of my life, unrehearsed.  Ironically, the photos that were taken in the 70s and 80s that may have seemed like accidents back then are more treasured to me than all of the “hey smile for the camera” shots combined.

I want dirt and tears.  Cuddles and cries.  I want to see the life I lived through my childhood eyes.

 

5.  What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to help people take “better” every day photos?

It is precisely the moments you don’t think about capturing that are the most valuable.  If ever you’re tempted to not take a photo because the moment seems ordinary or routine…capture it!

Don’t ask people to stop what they’re doing and smile for your photos.  Take photos like a paparazzi.  And when you’ve taken 100 photos, take 200 more.  Let your knees and stomach be your friend.  Get on the floor and take photos from the angle your children see things.

Whatever you do, don’t capture photos.  Capture moments.  Moments unrehearsed.

 

Thank you SO SO much Chris.  Perfectly put in every way.

You can find Chris and more about his story and the incredible photos he takes here:

Mitchell’s journey on Facebook

Miles for Mitchell on Facebook

Speech by Senator Matheson about Mitchell

Videos on Vimeo

Instagram

 

To learn how to take better every day photos of YOUR family story, check out the EVERY DAY PHOTOS GUIDE.

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  • Ah this was so perfect!!! Loved it all so much. Loss really makes you realize how important people in our lives really are!ReplyCancel

  • Andrea

    This was beautifully written. It really opened my eyes and I kept saying “yes” to what Chris was saying. Moments are what needs to be remembered.ReplyCancel

  • Such an awesome post, and love the story that Chris is tellibg with these photos!ReplyCancel

    • ltross17

      Hi Sandy.
      Chris is amazing. And he’s one of the best I know at telling stories with his photos!ReplyCancel

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