{Family Portraits after a Divorce} Guest Post from a Single Father

See full session HERE.

The last time I sat for a formal session with a photographer, I was barely in high school. My parents’ home still holds several framed photos of various sizes with me and my two sisters. My shoes were scuffed and wet from the recent spring rain. Those framed photos were big enough that you could see the photographer’s best pre-Photoshop efforts to color out the darkened wet leather on my shoes next to grass and mud.

I barely thought about that last photo session from the 1980s as I stood with my 12-year-old daughter on a street in Long Beach, smiling into Charla’s lens. With my arms wrapped around her light jacket I felt her shivering in the cold. She came to the shoot reluctantly, sure that it would be boring. And yet back in the warm car she was pumped and energized with the rush of confidence. She knew that the camera had captured something in her – and me – worth holding on to.

It seems odd that a single parent fresh off a divorce would want to sit for a portrait session. Just me and her. Is that even a family? Part of our family – her mother, my ex – was literally “out of the picture”. It is a vulnerable moment, leaving the divorced parent to wonder: Will I be judged by others? Left behind? Gently patronized with their tight smiles, knowing glances and polite silences. Or not? The divorced parent can too easily turn the tiniest creak in a silent house into a fresh new set of anxieties.

Those questions came and went away harmlessly during our photo shoot. My confidence that I did the right thing was bolstered when I saw the finished photos, and boosted further when I saw my mother’s tears as she was presented with an album for Christmas.

The photos were a symbol of the hard, emotional work I had done as a part of my family’s transition. At the same time, my “ex” is now “my daughter’s mother” and well on the way to becoming my “friend”. Out of the picture literally, but not symbolically. My little family of two is very lucky, and meanwhile is blending anew. Over time all families change, grow, shrink, blend. They are all moments worth capturing, even if all you have on is a light jacket.

- David Kissinger


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