Sponsored Post

Retelling Stories

November 25, 2019

By Fujifilm (Sponsored)

Photos @ Rowena Meadows

Rowena Meadows, strengthened by her background in psychology, uses photography to not only understand people, but also as a way to help them understand themselves.

Rowena Meadows has always had a strong urge to understand people. As a little girl, if one of her peers was mean to her, she would search for an explanation. Maybe her classmate that teased her had had a tough morning or was unhappy for reasons outside of her control. Rowena grew up to pursue a career in psychology in order to understand the struggles of other people more fully.

While she was in school for psychology, she learned about the growing genre of documentary family photography. Her instructor held “Day in the Life” sessions where she spent 12 hours with a family, photographing them as they went about their day.

This was a lightbulb moment for Rowena, who now holds 8- to 10-hour versions of these sessions with her clients. Her background in psychology has equipped her with the skills of observing, listening and learning. She uses photography as a way of understanding people and helping them understand themselves. Holding a mirror up to other people’s lives, making sense of their struggles, helping people appreciate the full spectrum of family life. These are the ingredients for a good composition.

Only posting happy photos does not offer a full picture of family life. When she spends an entire day with a family, she is almost always exposed to the challenges of their life. A successful shoot includes capturing the difficult moments of her subject’s lives.

“I remember seeing kids having tantrums at malls and thinking how beautiful it looked,” Rowena says. In that moment, kids become lost in their emotions. They don’t care about what their face looks like or what other people think about them. She is also interested in the way that parents choose to cope with moments like these.

“If it was my kid having a tantrum, I would only feel anger and resentment,” she admits. However, photographing these moments for other families has shifted something for Rowena.

Even though she doesn’t take photographs of herself when she is dealing with one of her kids in the midst of a tantrum, she can visualize what those photos would look like. This creates a pause; she moves from a reactive state to one in which she exists in the moment. She wants her clients to appreciate the full spectrum of emotions that you move through in a given day.

“It’s very validating to put that photo in front of a parent who’s had a hard day,” Rowena explains. “It helps you be less resentful because someone has said ‘I see you’, which helps you let go a little bit,” she says.

It’s important to her that her photographs honor the truth, but also provide her subjects with an opportunity to look at their lives from an outsider’s perspective. The most moving thing, she said, is when parents—who are not often in the photos—realize how hard they work, and how much they have to give. “Many mothers have said that looking through their images is the first time they have felt truly seen and validated as a parent and as a person,” she commented.

Rowena is influenced by her research in psychology. Humans tend to remember events based on the narratives that we have created about ourselves and others.

When clients talk about their kids, they might describe one child as very social and the other as shy. These are roles that they have assigned to their children. “It’s my responsibility to hear these stories and then look for exceptions to them so that people can have more accurate memories, since those stories are not necessarily true most of the time,” she says.

Rowena’s father often talks about how he wasn’t a good father when she was a kid. But Rowena remembers her childhood differently.

“He doesn’t have any photos of the many times he stayed up until midnight helping me with assignments or played games he probably hated playing with us in the backyard,” she says.

Those moments were never documented with a camera. His memories support the narrative he has created about what kind of father he believes he was, and Rowena has no tangible evidence to demonstrate a different view of the past.

Through her photography, Rowena wants to give people more accurate memories of their lives by depicting both their joys and their struggles. In just one day, Rowena can witness the full spectrum of human emotions in another person’s life and every moment is one that she believes should be celebrated.

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