A Day in the Life of the Kolts Family, Atlanta Family Photographer

Practical Magic


I know that It’s mini session season. I know families everywhere are getting all dressed up, going to a park of the photographer’s choosing, and signing up for a short slot to get that perfect Christmas card portrait. I know that is an affordable way to get a family picture, and I know those images are great. But, those are not the images of your family that I want to show you.

I don’t want to do a mini session with you, I want to do a maxi session (lol, that’s a terrible name, but you get my point). Maximum time spent with you, maximum attention to only your family, maximum moments that are yours, not elicited with prompts or conjured with bribes. I want to have the time and space with you to show you, as Caroline says, the “ordinary magic that happens when the minutes are sluggish and haphazard in their marching out.” I want to get bored with you, frustrated with you, overwhelmed with you, and show you what it felt like so you can remember it all.

I know it requires some guts to let someone into your private spaces to really see you for a whole day. Inevitably, it will be messy at times, and there will most likely be tears and tantrums. I understand that, and I hold space for that. I acknowledge the difficult moments along with the joyful moments and believe they are all worthy of being seen and remembered as evidence of the humanity within the home.

So here’s the full day of the Kolts family. Zella the brave is a precocious three year old, the kind of kid whose genuine curiosity is contagious. Foster the kindhearted draws you in with those big blue eyes and flashes a smile that makes you feel seen and loved. These two are two forces that I am excited will be living in the same world my children grow up in. Aunt Christina offers an extra set of arms for holding and playing and gardening and teaching. Patrick is a photographer, and although his family has no shortage of gorgeous images that he has taken, I hope he is able to see himself as part of his family in a way that is impossible to do when you are in that moment living life. Caroline has an incredible way of stringing words together, so I asked her if she would write something that I could post with these images because I knew that whatever she came up with would more eloquently articulate what is so special about recording the moments that exist within the regular rhythm of life, and she nailed it.

“We wrote a marriage manifesto and a mission statement and none of it was intended for regular moments. Very little of my heart preparation for marriage felt practical and ordinary. Four years has been a string of days and every day a string of moments and all of it is regular. Practical. Ordinary.

I knew enough about marriage and babies and real life to know there were no unicorn fairies for bad days. What I didn’t expect, about being an adult, is that there is an ordinary magic that happens when the minutes are sluggish and haphazard in their marching out. The rhythm of dinners and diapers and tantrums and talent shows - the mess and order of it all is important and mysterious. In between proper presentations and before the hair brushing struggle is over, we are alive and this is magic. The magic and beauty of all the ordinary glory both grounds us inside and transports us outside these moments in our everyday - the good, bad, and impossible.

And we are in the magic of it - the practical magic of a manifesto that is [actually] ordinary, a mission statement that is as much about the dirt under our nails as the stars in our eyes, as much about spilled milk as sacred delight. It is a wandering path toward holiness in the everyday, as Christ holds us together.

Ordinary and regular and slow and small. There was a time I might use those words with really dreadful sounding ones like banal and mundane. They were all knotted up like the tangled hair clumps I’ve been pulling out post-partum. Messy. But, I have felt the freedom of vernacular redemption. Or something like that.

The small things. The slow moments. The ordinary and regular marching out of minutes. These are sacred not because they are curated for social media distribution, but because this is our actual life. The laundry and the cluttered countertop and the list of things to do that is leftover from last month. We are living this story and it is magic.

Kaleen captured the ordinary magic - the moments we try to forget or struggle through. These photos are a reminder that every minute is good, every moment is treasure.”
— Caroline Kolts

I am so excited to finally be able to offer full Day in the Life sessions. When the photo session is one or two hours, it is too easily a separate thing from the rest of the day. With a Day in the Life session, the photo session IS the day, and there’s no escaping the reality and rawness of life as it is lived. I have space for one more Day in the Life session in December. Let me know if you are interested.

girl with arms around her mother's neck on a tiled floor
mother tickles daughter's stomach who is sitting on the kitchen counter
a woman puts her pinkie finger in a baby's mouth to feel for a tooth
A baby presses his hand on his mother's shoulder
A father lifts his child up into the air and kisses the top of his head
A man pushes a stroller while wearing a baby as two women with striped shirts walk on his sides
a baby sits in a stroller and rests his chin on the arm rest
a portrait of a girl in a pink dress with a watermelon seed stuck to her face
a baby sits in a jumpy chair
a little girl feeds a baby a carrot who is sitting on his mother's lap
a man works on a computer while a woman at the other end of the table balances two children on her lap
A mother holds and presses her face against the daughter she is holding
a father smiles as he holds his baby son
A little girl sniffs a tree with mulberries on it
A man takes a picture of mulberries in his wife's hands while holding a baby as their daughter points at the mulberries
a mother nurses her baby and her baby holds her finger
A man holds a baby and looks into a room with a mom and a daughter
a man embraces his daughter on the couch next to his wife and daughter
A woman walks through a doorway while embracing her son as a man helps his daughter put on her shorts in the bathroom next door
a baby chews on his mother's hair as she buttons his onsie
a mother smiles at her baby son
A man and woman embrace
a child runs towards her mother who has her arms open ready to embrace her
a mother smiles while embracing her daughter
a child stands by a crayon post on a path as her aunt and mother look at her
a child lies on her mother while walking through a tunnel
A child runs to embrace her father who is sitting with his arms open
A mother kisses her son's cheek at the table with her daughter and husband watching
a family sits together in their living room
a girl claps her hand in excitement while playing a game
a woman dances on the couch as her family watches
a man takes a video of his baby child

An afternoon with Mollie, a session through The Gold Hope Project

“It’s so beautiful. It’s just so beautiful!”

Feet walking through gold confetti hearts on the ground

Those were the words that Mollie said over and over as we made our way through the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Her joy was contagious and inspiring as she looked at every flower and tree with wonder. Mollie was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2016.

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, so I thought it was an appropriate time to share this session I did with The Gold Hope Project, an organization that aims to aid research for rare pediatric brain cancer while raising awareness through photography.

Before I started volunteering with The Gold Hope Project, I did not realize that childhood cancer affects 40,000 kids in the US every year and that less than 4% of the National Cancer Institutes’ annual budget is accounted for childhood cancer research. Non profit organizations work to provide more funding, but more has got to be done for these children who have their entire lives ahead of them.

I really can not imagine what these children and their families experience as they fight through treatment and fight for a cure. Please go gold for the month of September and consider what you can do to help. Spread the word about The Gold Hope Project, donate a session, become a volunteer photographer, send a note of encouragement to a family affected by cancer. There are many ways to raise awareness. It matters.

A girl looks up at her mother while her mother tucks her hair behind her ear
a girl touches her forehead onto some flowers and smiles
a girl climbs over rocks under a tree
a girl climbs through a tree
a big brother helps his lister sister down from a rock
two girls climb around rocks in a garden
a girl hugs her dad who rests his chin on her head
a girl smiles and holds a stuffed animal dog
a portrait of a stuffed animal
three children sitting down, a girl hugs her brother
a girl sits in a shower of gold confetti hearts

Hello 2017

Goodbye 2016

Girl squatting and taking out spices from a cabinet with her butt crack showing

I always love the clarity and inspiration that a new year offers, and I tend to spend a lot of this time of the year making flow charts and lists and plans and goals. I'm trying to be realistic about my aspirations for this year as I will be adding a new baby to my workflow in April. That being said, I love personal projects, and while I'm not going to be starting any new projects, I will be continuing old projects with new goals. This is my third year doing my Portrait of Play project. Every week I observe my children playing and document the experience through photographs. I have learned so much about my children and photography through this weekly discipline. There is always more to learn though, and I still feel like every week is exciting as I take time to really see my kids and push myself to learn new photography skills. As I look back through all of my 2016 pictures and words from the project, I'm realizing that there is so much I would have already forgotten had I not written it down or intentionally documented it. There's no doubt that life is not slowing down any time soon, and I feel so fortunate to have all these little moments suspended in these frames to remember forever as my brain continues to deteriorate from sleep deprivation. Here are some random moments from this past year's Portrait of Play project. You can follow along with our 2017 play on my personal blog at All Mountains and Molehills.

Because this project has meant so much to me as a mother, I offer Portrait of Play sessions for parents who want to remember this time in their child's life and development. The memories and details of their child's room, their toys, and their ever changing bodies is something that the whole family will love looking back on with increasing gratitude as time passes. You can find out more about these sessions here and get in touch to book a session here.

I'm also participating in a blog circle this month with some fabulous photographers from around the country. Check out the work of Tori Cox from Little Bird Photography here: Family and Lifestyle Photographer in Amarillo, Texas, and circle around to the other photographers in the loop.

Here's to 2017.

Girl throwing grass over a fence to a horse who is in the foreground
two girls doing a flip on a swing at the time
baby smiling while getting water dumped on her head
baby landing on arms on a trampoline with feet in the air
black and white image of a girl climbing on a jungle gym taken from underneath
Girl in her pajamas jumping on a bed in the window light with dust floating
Girl standing in front of a mirror with a princess dress and hat on while flexing her muscles
girl standing in a pasture holding a baby doll with trees behind her.