Everytime I mention that I’m a Family Documentary Photographer, I’m met with a lot of questions, the most prominent one being “How did you get into Family Documentary Photography?” So, when Durga asked me what I would like to write about, addressing this question seemed apt!
Before I get into it, let me introduce myself. I’m Mahjabeen Reyaz, a Family Documentary Photographer based out of Chennai and also a mother of two kids.
Sitting in a foreign country, wondering what am I doing with my life, for I always imagined having a career for myself and here I was, doing nothing. After a hiatus of 8 years, that I had taken to be there with my kids, we moved back to India in the hope of restarting my career as an Architect, as the second one was ready for school and I would get the space to focus on work.
Architecture creeped in, I was so low on confidence. I also was filled with questions and mental blocks, wondering what should I do next, with no clue about when life will get back to normal.
Photography was always a hobby, I was considering taking it up a profession and thats when I got to connect with a lot of photographers on Instagram, watch hundreds of live conversations, attend a number of online workshops and I knew this is what I wanted to do. It was not an overnight decision though, I took my time to process it and discuss with my spouse, who had been very supportive from the beginning, before arriving at the decision.
At this point, the most important question came up. Which niche in photography do I want to get into? Architecture? Baby Photography? Something else? After months of contemplating, I decided to get on with baby photography first and the only kind I knew was the one with beautiful props and cute sleeping babies, with the cutest expressions. I would stare at those pictures for hours, dreaming to capture such ones myself and I attended various workshops for the same, as the first lockdown eased out.
At the end of my first ever photoshoot, I realised that this is not my “cup of tea” and an innumerable number of questions popped in my mind again. What next? Did I make the wrong decision? And there we were in the beginning of a second lockdown. With my camera in hand and no where to go, I decided to capture my kids at home through the lockdown and started posting them on my Instagram. I received appreciation on how people liked it and could relate to the pictures!
I was just continuing to do it, without an ounce of idea that this is a niche in itself. That’s when a dear friend of mine introduced me to the term “Family Documentary Photography” and told me to check more about it. I was curious, I started digging online and it was so exciting to see the work of Family Documentary Photographers around the globe, it was amazing! I wanted to do the same kind of work! I wanted to capture moments! I wanted to tell stories through my photographs! I wanted people to preserve their moments forever as pictures!
Yet I had my inhibitions on how will I be able to create a market for a niche that is not so widespread in India and thats when I had a conversation with one of my photographer friends, who encouraged me to do what I wanted to, reassuring me that there is a market out there for everything and it is upon me to create it. This was such a huge push for me and I keep going back to these words whenever I’m met with self doubts.
I still remember, at the end of my first Family Documentary session, when I left their home and got into the lift, I had tears and I was feeling so content! That is exactly the moment I knew I wanted to do this! I wanted to do Family Documentary Photography! This is what I’m meant to do!
It’s been over a year, there has been no looking back since and I feel the same contentment every time I step out after a Family Documentary session. The start, the journey so far has been filled with a lot of self-doubts constantly, especially while working in a niche like Family Documentary Photography, but it has also been one amazing experience connecting with like-minded creators along the way.
One huge lesson I have learnt along the way is that the most difficult thing to do is take the first step, yet take it no matter that, inspite of all that is pulling you down. We need not know the entire journey ahead, we need not know the destination. Take that first step, then the next one and keep walking, we need not have it all sorted. We will learn everything that we need to and we will get all the help we need, along the way. Just START!