As you may have noticed, I have an unusual name by English standards. However, it’s fairly common as far as Norwegian names go. If you do a Google search for “Tove Hansen,” you’ll find Facebook profiles for a number of Norwegian grandmothers as well as a Danish drag queen (go on, you know you’re curious now). So why the Scandinavian connection? My grandparents were born in Norway and after World War II, packed up their lives and sailed to Ellis Island. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting a Norwegian, you’ll know that they have a deep pride in their country. As such, my immigrant grandparents were diligent to pass on the strong Scandinavian heritage and traditions to their children and grandchildren. Thanks to their enthusiasm for the motherland, I am fluent in English and Norwegian, hold a degree in Norwegian Language and Literature and kept tradition alive by giving my own kids Norwegian names and dressing them up in strange outfits. So what’s up with the fancy dress? On special occasions, such as weddings and holidays, Norwegians will wear a national costume called a “bunad.” My mom was a minimalist when it came to pictures of my childhood and only brought out the point-and-click for special occasions. This means that in nearly every picture of me as a young girl, I’m wearing a bunad. It’s one of the reasons it’s so important to me to capture the everyday life of my friends (if I’m lucky enough to take your photo, I consider you a friend). For the love of your children, do not only document them in national costumes or they may someday write about you on the internet! And yes, I realize I just shared a photo of me and my family in said-costumes but I promise I have plenty of normal photos of us as well.
The only exception to the bunad photo rule was when I was performing some sort of violin recital. I started playing violin at six years old. I know you’re probably wondering how one person can be so cool, right? Well feast your eyes on that rocker pic. I desperately wanted to play guitar as it seemed a much cooler instrument but as it didn’t lend itself to Norwegian fiddle music, my requests were denied. That didn’t stop me from rocking out in the living room with my brother and cousin, though. We were the original Hanson but spelled with an “e” and without the MmmBop. This photo is legendary in our family and is one of my inspirations for the type of memories I hope to provide from my sessions.
One of the things I DON’T hope to provide in my sessions is more stress and frustration. After being subjected to a formal posed portrait session at the age of 12, along with my six cousins, I realized this type of thing just wasn’t for me. Can’t you just feel the family love in that group photo? Granted, this is an outtake yet it’s the most memorable image from the entire session. I’m the handsome little sailor in red with the pretty perm; exuding joy and happiness. My brother is the one picking his nose. Even more bizarre is that this wasn’t our house! So we documented a group photo of us wearing clothes we’d never wear, interacting in a way we’d never interact and sitting on a front porch that had no significant meaning to any of us.
Let’s not repeat this scenario for your Storytelling session. Instead, let’s meet at your home or a location that holds sentimental value for you. Wear what you want – even if that’s pajamas! And do what you would normally do whether that is cooking up a big Sunday roast or cuddling on the couch sharing a bowl of popcorn. This is the real you and the activities your kids will cherish and pass on as they have families of their own. And if we’re being honest, someday, these photos will be all they have left of you. Why not give them the gift of authenticity?
As a photographer, I obviously take a lot of photos; particularly of my kids. But I’m usually behind the camera. So the candid photos of me interacting with my son and daughter are my favourites. As mums, we have a tendency to be a ghost from family photos; always taking pictures but rarely posing in them for one reason or another. On his first birthday, my baby boy decided to take his first steps and my husband caught me in a total proud-mama-squeal. In true little brother fashion, he’s looking at his sister for confirmation of his cleverness. This is real life! These are the moments I want to remember and hold onto when I’m old and my house is void of tiny toys and little voices. These are the photos that evoke strong memories and feelings and I’m so thankful I have them.
So hopefully now you feel like you know me a bit better and we can be friends! Anybody else out there gift their kids with unusual names? Or only have childhood photos in strange outfits? Let’s break the cycle and create authentic memories for your future grandkids to look at. I can promise we’ll have fun, get some beautiful and emotional shots all while laughing a LOT! I can’t wait to hear from you and maybe share some more embarrassing stories. You can reach me on my Connect page, by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 075 757 2427.