Real Life Through the Lens

“Photograph the world as it is. Nothing’s more interesting than reality.” – Mary Ellen Mark

Laura Beth Davidson’s Refreshing Approach to Photography

In theory, photography is the only art form that allows us to capture a moment as it actually exists, but in practice, the staging that often occurs before a photograph is taken can undermine that innate authenticity. Of course, photographs serve a variety of different purposes—educational, promotional, and commemorative, among others—and sometimes staging is needed to
convey certain information, advertise a specific product, or properly honor an occasion or
person. Staged photography also ensures that documentation occurs at all; in our fast-paced, productivity-obsessed society, we can tend to forget that moments become memories unless we schedule a time to remember. That said, how magical would it be if that feeling you get when you think back on what once was—that poignant nostalgia, that kinetic pull toward what was real and true—was encapsulated in your photographs? The work of local photographer Laura Beth Davidson proves that this kind of magic is possible.

Davidson refers to herself as a “visual storyteller,” a title that speaks to her abilities to closely observe, thoughtfully capture, and artfully relay the authentic narrative unfolding around her rather than a desire to control and direct the narrative. After starting her photography journey in 2012, she wasn’t sure if her introverted personality would allow her to turn her talent into a successful business.

“In 2012, I stumbled upon ‘Clickin’ Moms,’ an online community for photographers that offered virtual workshops and a forum for sharing photos and feedback,” Davidson recalled. “After I took the first class, I was hooked, and I knew I had found something that would be part of my life forever.
I’ve always been a bit of an entrepreneur, and once I felt confident in my ability to take good photographs, it seemed like a natural next step to find a way to make my hobby profitable. Unfortunately, I’m an extreme introvert, and the thought of being face-to-face with clients who expected me to pose and direct them made me really uncomfortable. I couldn’t figure out a way to make photography into a business that wouldn’t give me a chronic stomachache.”

©Laura Beth Davidson

Shortly thereafter, however, Davidson learned about documentary-style photoshoots and realized that both her personality and her longstanding love of storytelling parlayed perfectly into that approach to photography.

“I heard a couple of different podcast interviews with photographers who offered in-home documentary photography sessions,” she noted. “As an English major and literature lover, I relished the idea of becoming a visual storyteller who could offer families an alternative to typical photos—and as an introvert, I breathed a sigh of relief that I could work for families while letting them carry on with their everyday lives instead of stepping in and bossing them around.”

Before starting her business, Laura Beth Davidson Photography, in 2017, Davidson took additional classes and honed her craft by taking documentary-style photos of her own growing family. 

“I fell in love with the idea of capturing our real life through little details, gestures, and moments that ran the gamut of emotion,” she said.

©Laura Beth Davidson

In fact, such was Davidson’s passion and commitment to her craft that she took on a year-long photo project entitled “29 & Counting” in 2013.

“The day I turned 29, I decided to take one photo every day until my next birthday: I would mark my 30th year with 365 photos that would document my life that year,” she recalled. “My daughter had just turned two, we were in the process of selling our house and buying another that we would be renovating, and my husband and I were planning to have a second child. All of those big life events unfolded over the course of the year as I steadily honed my skills and my eye. The resulting book of photos is one of my favorite possessions.”

This April, Davidson will have completed her current year-long photo project, “39 & Counting,” and she says the experience has been just as rewarding as her previous year-long venture and has given her even more perspective on the importance of documenting the small moments—which are, in fact, the big moments—of everyday life.

“Some days, I forget to take a picture until very late in the day and have to scramble to find something vaguely worth documenting; some days I take so many photos that it’s hard to choose just one,” she noted.

“My subjects range from members of my family to our new dog, from beautiful light to a random plant that catches my eye.

For this project, I’ve learned to not expect to create something amazing every day, but that the effort of pushing myself to create something daily is never a wasted effort.”

When it comes to taking photos for clients, Davidson is flexible, open-minded, and committed to capturing and conveying the unique narrative of a family’s day together.

©Laura Beth Davidson

“I offer day-in-the-life photo sessions that I have designed to make the process as simple as possible,” she remarked.

“My clients are a lot like me: we’re busy and a little stressed, we’re sleep-deprived and tired of making decisions at every turn. I want my clients to only have to choose which day and how long they want me to come, and then let me do everything else. I emphasize that I don’t expect any kind of coordination of outfits or activities and that I want people to pretend I’m not even there.”

Davidson spends anywhere from three to 12 hours with a family as they do everyday things like go grocery shopping, play outside, cook dinner, and get ready for bed. She then edits the photos down to a collection that “tells a strong story of the day” before laying out and printing a photo book that is included in every package. 

“I want the time I spend with a family to be recorded as it happens and then preserved in a way that will last for generations,” she said.

In the future, Davidson hopes to continue to photograph families across the country—and perhaps even around the world—and has a specific goal to photograph a specific family.

“My big dream is to pursue a job as a White House photographer,” she remarked. “To me, that experience—especially if I could have the opportunity to work for a President with a young family—would be the ultimate opportunity for visual storytelling.”

No matter what comes next for Davidson, her work—and the work of all photographers and artists who strive for authenticity in capturing and expressing the human experience—can help us remember that there is magic in the mundane, perfection in imperfection, and a memory worth holding onto in each moment.  

To learn more about Laura Beth Davidson Photography, visit laurabethdavidson.com.

©Laura Beth Davidson

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