Monday, October 5, 2009

Mimi Porter on Capturing the Everyday

It's going to be a fun week here at Bloom! And I'm pretty tickled about how we're starting it all off - with a guest interview from one of the neatest women I know. One of my favorite things to do as a young mother is pick a mom who's a few steps ahead of me in the mothering game, one that I admire, one whose children I would like mine to be like, and learn from her. When we moved to Texas, I was lucky enough to meet Mimi Porter who is just that kind of mom. I've been not-so-secretly watching her ever since :)

In addition to her mother heart, she has a photographer's eye, and a dedication to preserving the everyday details of life in the her home. Today she's going to tell us about the 12 Photos project she's been doing this year.

Tell us a little about this project.

In a nut-shell, it’s 12 random photos on the 12th of each month for 12 months. It’s just a way to document snippets of daily life over the course of one year. It’s like an appointment that I have once a month to freeze everyday-ness. It’s circled on my calendar each month and I keep my camera out and ready. I generally end up taking WAY more than 12 photos.

Where did the inspiration come from?

The idea came to me from Stacy Julian of and the former Simple Scrapbook Magazine. But I contacted her recently and she told me the idea originally came from a gal named Susan Keuter and that she has an entire blog dedicated to it. Wow! I didn’t know. Susan has been doing this since 2005!
From Susan's blog there was a link to this tutorial at Ali Edwards' blog about creating a 12-photo grid in Photoshop Elements. It’s really great – go check it out.

What are the principles you keep in mind when you're shooting for this project? Tell us about some of the creative/unusual scenes you've taken pictures of to capture the essence of life at the Porter home.

I just try to document things I wouldn’t otherwise. And I don’t worry about the pictures being great or artistic or even technically correct. I just take pictures that I normally wouldn’t take. I think the frame of mind I have with this project comes from something I have heard over and over from more “grown-up” women. They say that some day I’m going to look back at this time (the busy-ness of so many young children) and long for it. That I’m going to miss the messes they make, how noisy they are, how crazy and busy life is, etc. So…that’s what I try to remember when I take these pictures. What everyday things am I actually going to miss? What will I wish I had preserved in pictures?

One of my pet-peeves is when my children leave the milk out. And I used to let it bother me quite a bit. But one morning as I looked at the milk on the counter (and wanted to threaten my children that they wouldn’t be able to have any milk for the next several days) I heard the voices of these older, wiser women in my head telling me that some day I would miss the milk being left on the counter. So, that day I took a picture of the milk.

I take pictures of things like our garage, our pantry and our fridge. Someday they will look very different. One day I went around the house and took a picture of all the book shelves. Another day we had a house full of sick people and a counter full of cough medicines to show for it, so I gook a picture of it. I love the fact that the 12th falls on different days of the week. This helps me record things that are day specific. Like, what we do on Wed. as opposed to what we do on Sundays or on Tuesdays (laundry day). I had never thought to take a picture of my children’s scriptures and church shoes before, but when I had my camera out to take random pictures on a Sunday, I got that shot. I also took a picture of my church bag, which has sentimental meaning for me since it used to belong to my Mom.

The top left picture in the collage above is of my 3-year-old trying to pull off his dad’s shoes. This used to be a regular tradition when my husband would come home from work. Now he works from home and this doesn’t happen so much. I’m glad I have it recorded. I also have a picture of this same boy watching his dad leave for work. (first collage, bottom left picture.) He would stay and watch until the garage door shut completely.

Is this project changing the way you look at your life? If so, how? Are you seeing more beauty or symbolism in the daily-ness of life in your home? Are you more inclined to notice little details?

I don’t know if this project is creating any direct changes, but it’s definitely an outward way of showing how my outlook has changed over the past years. I’ve come a long way in my perspective about life being “ideal.” Or wishing and waiting for things to be more “ideal.” This life is just way too complex for everything or even more than a few things to be ideal. And happiness or fulfillment can’t be based on what seems ideal.

Here’s an example: Eight years ago I had my 4th baby, Sarah. We lived in Houston at the time and we had the perfect room for this new baby. We also had money to buy a new crib and dresser for the first time. (We had used hand-me-downs for the first three.) It was also the first time I had money to spend on a store-bought crib set and I was thrilled to find the perfect one. It was decorated with bears and rocking horses and the set even had a wallpaper boarder to match. I was in heaven preparing this darling nursery. It was perfect! Then, when Sarah was 4 ½ months old, we moved to a different city and we left that perfect nursery. The situation in our new house wasn’t nearly as “ideal” for Sarah as she and her crib got to take up a corner in a room mostly filled with food storage. So sad! I remember thinking at the time that I should take a picture of her in that sorry circumstance. But I didn’t. It wasn’t ideal and I didn’t want to record it. Now I wish I had. Though it wasn’t ideal, for sure, it was real.

And it’s something I want my children to know well – that life isn’t always ideal. But we make the best of it.
So, now I go about taking random pictures of details of daily life – many of which are not ideal. And I trust that some day I’ll miss these times and be thankful they are recorded.

Any secrets for getting natural/candid shots of your children?

One trick is to use a long lens so I don’t have to get close to them and they don’t even notice that I’m taking pictures. Another is just to have the camera out more regularly so they get more comfortable with having their picture taken. Read your manual and learn to use your camera without a flash. Kids don’t mind the camera nearly as much if it’s not flashing in their face all the time. I don’t very often ask them to stop and pose. I just take pictures of what they are doing. When they do stop and look at me, I say, “Don’t mind me, just do what you were doing.”

What do you plan to do with these pictures at the end of the project?

I plan to make some sort of book to document the year. I envision a two-page spread for each month with my 12 favorite pictures from each month.

Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and perspective with us, Mimi! To see more of Mimi's more polished photography, visit her website at And if you're in the Dallas area and need holiday portraits done, call her to set up a shoot!


Sally said...

What a wonderful Idea. I am always thinking about how someday our situation will be different, but I never thought about how important it is for my kids to remember this simple time in our lives.

Bloom said...

Thanks, Mimi, for your great perspective. I am such an idealist and sometimes get obsessed with life looking/being perfect. So silly! I appreciate your wisdom so much. I think I'm going to go circle all the 12ths on my calendar now...

Linds said...

What a wonderful idea! I think my six year-old already had this idea. He takes random pictures of the tv, fridge, toilet, etc...all the time.

Joan said...

Thanks, Mimi! Such a lovely way to capture life and all it's imperfections :)

lori said...

Thats a fabulous idea!! Love the idea of capturing what is REAL. It's those things we'll miss for sure!

Katrina said...

what a fun project! I think I may have to do this for 2010.

Megan said...

What a fun thought. TO take pictures of and document those things that are so everyday and commonplace that it doesn't seem natural to photograph. NOrmally, you want to take pictures of the big events or the funny things or whatever, but the everday gets neglected because you are s9o imvolved in it. I am definitely going to try this.

Olivia Justine said...

you picked a great person to hightlight bloom ladies! as my sister-in-law, mimi has been my go-to example for so many things including mothering for many years. thanks for another incredible idea mimi! and thanks for being consistently you no matter where i find you.