I spent nearly a decade of my life as a working nanny. I started while I was in college studying to be an educator. After graduating and working elsewhere for a few years, I quit my "real job" to go back to nannying. It was hard work; every one of my employers was different. They each had their own expectations for what my role was in their family. Hard as it was, it was fulfilling getting to care for and help teach children whose families really and truly appreciated my efforts.
As a nanny, I learned very quickly that every child is different in the way they handle situations, how they learn and what they enjoy doing. It's a full time job; just figuring how to make meal times not turn into a disaster is a challenge! Side note: Raising little humans to grow up and be mature, responsible adult humans is a huge task. My hats goes off to all the moms out there who are reading this post. Your job is so hard and important. You all are amazing! Every day at work was a real life example of everything that I learned in human development and educational psychology classes I'd taken in college, giving me endless opportunities for me to learn how to teach and play with little ones. It made perfect sense that nannying provided me ample opportunity to use my background in education, but little did I realize that it gave me some of the best on the job photography training.
Around the same time that I accepted my last nanny position, I was starting to take a serious interest in photography. I was taking photography classes in the evening, and was eager to practice what I was learning while I was nannying. With encouragement from my employers, I started bringing my camera to work. I practiced posing formulas, trying to get amazing shots of the little boys that I was taking care of. Slowly but surely, I realized the images that I was making were terrible. Sure, the posing was okay, and the lighting wasn’t the worst, but something about the images fell flat every single time. My photography had no heart or personality and the boys did not enjoy having their picture taken. That was when I realized, I was forgetting one of the most important things I’d learned as a nanny. Every child is their own special, completely unique person. At work I couldn’t treat every child I ever cared the as if they were the same person. If I had I would have been a failure at my job. Yes, there were commonalities, but each of them was a beautiful one of a kind person. That was when it dawned on me, shouldn’t that be my perspective when it came to photography? With that realization, I determined to change my approach to photography.
If each child is different, why would I take a one-size-fits all approach every time I shot? Instead of staged poses, I created situations where the boys could simply be themselves. I no longer made them sit, instead I encouraged them to play naturally, be curious, and enjoy what they were doing. I wasn't trying to force images, I was waiting patiently for moments to capture; the everyday, beautiful moments that make everyone of us unique. Suddenly my images were no longer bland. They had life, and told the stories of little boys living happy full childhoods. It was exactly what I wanted every time I made photos; full of the heart, personality and love of the people in each frame. Chances are I'll probably never be a nanny again, but I'll always appreciate everything that nannying taught me about photography.