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

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

From wake to sleep

Girl sleeps peacefully in a bed

I always like to start my year with an inspiring course that will challenge my growth as a photographer. For the final assignment of this year's course, The Documentary Approach, I had to do A Day in the Life of my own family. While I document my children every week as part of my Portrait of Play project, I had never photographed a day of our family life in its entirety. I went to bed with my camera beside me ready to wake up and capture the day as it happened all the way until bedtime. There was nothing special about the day. Nothing was scheduled, and we never even left the house. I took pictures like I would if I were photographing another family and also while nursing and vacuuming. It's safe to say that this is something I will continue to do every year as a way to record the things that stay the same and the things that change in our family life from year to year. The photos remind me of these things that I don't want to forget that define this time in our life:

-Winnie coming up to bed with us in the middle of the night every night. Waking up with her next to me.

-The furniture that James made for us that will be part of our life throughout the years.

-The exhaustion. Serious. Lack. Of. Sleep. Such is life when you have young children and you like to work until 2 am most nights.

-How much Roland loves James.

-The way my kids entertain themselves and me. My mom once said I should just record everything that happens here or stream it as a reality tv show. Their imaginations delight me.

-How Chuck sometimes wants to take showers by herself instead of baths with her sister.

-The little details that may go unnoticed to everyone else but are visually a part of our every day life: James' resistance band, the chalkboard wall, the rug, the coffee cups, the toys, the boxes from the car seats they will be in for the next several years, and the painting that is hanging in the girls' room. These are all things that make our house a home.

-The work that never ends, dishes, laundry, meals, pottying, nursing, changing, repeat, repeat, repeat.

-Atlas, the dog we had before we had kids, the dog who is not getting any younger.

This year has been rough. I mean, having three kids is crazy. In the same breath that I am already aching for the days I know I'll miss (that have not even passed yet), I am dreaming about 3 years from now when I will hopefully have more personal space, time to myself, and sleep. Because I know this day in our life will look different next year, I went ahead and printed these in a photo book so I could look at them without having to search through an old external hard drive to find them. My future self thanks me. 

While I was able to include my presence in these photographs, I am very glad my dear friend Anda Marie will be taking photos of our family this month. My family through my lens is different than my family through the lens of another. Plus, I want to be able to see myself with my children, and I want them to see me with them. My future self thanks me for that too.

Man yawns in a kitchen and a girl eats breakfast
still life of coffee and phone with a sleep chart on a table
Child puts hand into a plastic bowl of Grapenuts
Girl with a milk moustache laughs in a kitchen
Girl makes face at sister while opening the dishwasher
Child in red pajamas with head in the box while lying on the ground
Baby boy stands up in crib and looks in the camera
Girl sits in bath tup and puts her hands and feet together
baby slumps over in a jumper flanked by full laundry baskets
A girl sits on the toilet while another girl jumps on a bed
Baby holds bowl of yogurt close to his face
Girl in shower with tongue out of her mouth
Child stands on a stool and leans over into the washing machine
Man lies on a couch and looks at his phone
baby smiles and looks at his dad
Reflection of woman holding camera with a child on her back
Baby looks at mother while nursing as seen from mother's perspective
Dog looks at boy in a highchair in a kitchen while a girl reaches into a cabinet behind it
3 children play with pretend food in an oven
baby holds  on to child's shopping cart with a pretend kitchen
Mother vacuums while baby holds onto it taken from the mother's perspective
A child sits on a couch as a baby stands under a table and a girl sits in a laundry basket and talks on a phone
Girl writes on cardboard house with marker while sticking her tongue out
A girl gets ready to squeeze oranges as another girl looks over
A toddler sits on a potty chair in a bathroom with her arm stretched out toward the person taking the picture
A girl opens a door to go outside while a girl carries the top of a pineapple behind her
The top of a pineapple planted in a pot with dirt around it
A man and two children cut carrots with knives
A man lies on a couch looking at his phone while a child climbs on him and another child lies on the floor in front of him
A father puts pajamas on a baby who is holding onto his leg and another child leans on a couch beside him
A girl yawns as a father dumps pee in a toilet and another girl looks at the camera while brushing her teeth
A baby smiles at one sister while his dad sets him on another child lying in a bed
two children sleep in a bed

I'd love to spend some time in your home with your family. It doesn't have to be for a full day. You don't have to be at your prepregnancy weight. Your house doesn't have to be clean. Your kids don't have to behave. You just have to be you. 

three photo albums on a piano