the stratfords


I photographed Dani, Tim, Theo and Vika in their Alexandria home early this summer. Dani reached out to me because they haven't had an official portrait session since her and Tim's wedding (7 years ago). She wanted memorialize this time as a family of three. They have moved four times in the last few years and are really excited to begin setting into a routine. Taking the time to have this session was an opportunity to preserve a few memories that they can look back on with their kids some day.

Can you tell they are a dream client? I mean I was reading her questionnaire answers thinking, "these people are my soul mates", ha!

The day of the session, I was welcomed loving by Vika...their Vizsla and Theo treated me like I was one of the family. He would often look back to make sure I was " Lisa was coming", which was the sweetest thing ever. I ate dinner with Dani and Tim and got to taste some of the family cornbread recipe along with a fresh pot of chilli. It was such a treat to be in their home!

Here is my storytelling session with the Stratford family. 


Going into this photo session, I was a bit nervous. Mostly because I’m usually the one behind the camera of my phone, snapping pictures of other people but rarely remembering to ask for pictures of myself. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to relax and just “be myself”. The first few minutes took some adjusting to, but after that it got easier and easier to just be myself. It really helped that Leslie was able to spend so much time with us—she got to see a lot of beautiful moments that would have been difficult if not impossible to get in a hour-long portrait session. 

The biggest thing I cherish is being able to tell a story and being able to remember that story from the images.  I know that in 5 years, when I wistfully look back at the time I had when it was just me, my husband, and our little toddler, I know I will be able to look at these pictures and remember how wonderful (and how wonderfully hard) these years of our lives were. Yes, I have 2983562394 iPhone photos and videos, and those are absolutely wonderful and have their place. But to be able to *be* in photos with my son and husband—that is the pure joy. I can look back on these not just as beautiful pictures, but of beautiful pictures with our entire family in it.

 What I loved about doing this storytelling session was that I felt that it would help me remember how my life was in that moment: the early mornings, the temper tantrums, the sweet little 2 word sentences, the “I wuf you, mama”, the way he loves his dad so much, the splashing baths and wrestling and nighttime books. It helped me immortalize those memories beyond just writing them down, and made them tangible in a way that only photography can. If you’re on the fence, just do it. You will never regret being able to look back on those memories and having that record of your family. - Danielle Stratford

the killians


I photographed Cari, Brett, Cora and Daisy in NOLA for the The Family Narrative. I was teaching a live session and there were 10 other photographers in their beautiful home (don't even get me started on NOLA homes, they are absolutely amazing and this one was no exception). Cari inquired about the session because she didn't have many photos that captured her family all together. She and Brett enjoy taking photos of both their girls, but they usually aren't in any of the photos. She was even more excited to get photos of their family's everyday activities.

When I asked her how her and Bret ended up in NOLA, she said they she moved there in 2005 right before Hurricane Katrina, and  Brett moved in 2007 for work. She credits New Orleans for being a major part of who they are and I can understand that completely. That city just has a way of making you feel at home. 

The day of the session happened to be Cora's birthday which made it really special. I was a bit concerned that she and her sister would be intimidated by so many photographers and not be herself, but they were both were perfectly fine and were very much themselves during the shoot. All the photographers in the group kept remarking on how perfect they were, especially with so many eyes staring at them. 

Here is my storytelling session with the Killian family. 


Going in the photo session Brett and I were excited and curious. We had researched documentary/storytelling style photography so we had an idea of what to expect, but weren’t sure how we would fill the time or if it would get awkward having photographers follow us around. We also wondered how our girls would act having guests in the house taking pictures of them.

The session flew bye and our worries about filling the time were a nonissue. We all actually had a great time talking with the photographers and doing our normal day to day “stuff”. The girls surprised us and acted completely normal, even with lots of guests in the house. Cora especially loved showing off and hamming it up for the photographers. 

The images are amazing, and I will never go back to having traditional portraits- seriously- ever. While the traditional portraits we had taken in the past captured what we looked like, they did not capture who we were at that time, or what is important to us. Storytelling images do exactly that, they capture a story so that it can be retold over and over, each time sparking memories that might have been forgotten. 

The images represent a specific time in our lives, and looking at them reminds me to appreciate the little things that are often taken for granted- playing with bubbles in the backyard, watching Daisy dump the sand out of the sandbox (even though I told her 100 times to keep it inside), Cora eating her favorite snack- a bagel with cream cheese, and all of us sitting on the front porch in our rocking chairs. Years from now, I know I will look back at these images and remember these moments passed too fast.

If you are on the fence, please jump over, and just do it. You will not regret having storytelling photos, you will only smile and cry at the beauty that is your everyday life.  -- Cari Killian

P.S. I know it's May and this is my first time blogging a client session. I promise to do better. :)

childhood unplugged

This year we want to do more exploring at home. I always feel so silly when I have friends and relatives who visit and they do all of the touristy things. Meanwhile, I live here, but never take advantage of all the great things home has to offer. I often complain about not being able to travel or have amazing weather like FL or CA, but I am living in a city rich in culture and history and don’t take advantage of it.

It doesn't help that we've been in a rut. Staying in has been our thing lately. Between Aaron’s back injury and surgery, cold weather and a lack of sheer energy to logistically plan an outing with three kids, our excursions have been non-existent.

When an unseasonably warm winter day hit our radar, we decided to head down to the National Mall and play tourist. 

We a great time and best of all we were only there for about 30 minutes and in a way it was better than vacation because we can come back and visit again whenever we like. 

Please join me in supporting the other artists by checking out Childhood Unplugged to see all our submissions. Also remember to follow us on instagram (@childhoodunplugged) and be sure to use #childhoodunplugged for a chance to be featured.