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Danielle Guenther Keeps it Real – Photographing Family Chaos

Author: Libby - Printique by Adorama

When you think of a traditional family photograph, you think of a happy, smiling family in a field of flowers with mountains gracing the backdrop and the sun shining on this beautiful moment. Hold on a minute though, this as most families know is not the real day to day life with littles.  Most of the time it’s chaotic, messy, funny and rarely documented by professionals. This is where lifestyle photographer Danielle Guenther steps in. She embraces it all. She’s a New York City area mom and in a golden moment, that most photographers would have ignored, she found her calling. Grab a cup of coffee and pull up a chair, this is something you’ll want to read and share.

Tell us a little about yourself, Danielle Guenther!

I grew up in Ohio, staring at cornfields most of my life and always dreamed of living in(or near) the big apple.  I came from an average size family, and I’m the only one who every really left!  They all thought I was crazy.  When I moved into the area almost 15 years ago, I never thought I’d still be here 14 years later.  But here I am!   I’m totally addicted to the city life.  I’m now a mom of a very active 9-year-old and a little 4.5 lb Yorkie.  When I’m not working, I’m spending most of my time with my son, chasing him around on his skateboard, riding bikes with him, or getting hit in the face by nerf balls.   Btw, if you’re a mom of boys, get goggles!  It HURTS when you get hit!  ; )   And if I have some time off, I’m usually brainstorming some crazy ideas over a cocktail in the west village!

 Young family in street mom with hands full

Hold on a sec….

How did you get your start in photography? 

 When I moved to NYC 14 years ago, I was an aspiring singer/songwriter and was working with a family as a part-time nanny.   The family had an amazing SLR camera, so when I was with the kids, I would always hijack her camera and photograph them.  I LOVED it!   So….when I had my own son, I got one for myself and decided to start a business after photographing him and other friend’s kids constantly.    One of my very first sessions, the family plopped down on the couch exhausted after the session and the scene that unfolded was hysterical.  I saw something in front of my lens that looked so “imperfect” and “honest” that it inspired me to go beyond the “normal family session” and created a different type of image speaking the truth of parenting.  When I shared that first image, people loved it!  They related to it!  Finally, something that’s imperfect.  I got so much response from it, I decided to shoot more.  From there, a series was born!   And voila, my “niche” was created!
 mom and children in grocery aisle

Clean Up in Aisle 5!

How do you prepare for these types of sessions?  

 I always say these “best case scenario” sessions are a lot like therapy.  It’s so fun to meet a new family and talk with them about their story.  What makes them tick, or  what inspires them to be parents or what is their worst day they’ve ever had?  Their best?   After getting to know them, a story is born that is unique to them, and only them.   After weeks of preparing the concept, we then go through locations and decide on props, clothing, and everything else.  When it’s time to shoot, that’s when the real magic happens!   None of my work is photoshopped, it’s all real.  It’s a lot of acting, directing, a lot of shots, and a ton of fun!  After these sessions, I typically have the kids asking for one more shoot.  They love the idea they can be naughty for something, and just plain silly!  
 Tired Young Family in Bed

Just Another Mouth to Feed

 What does it mean to you as a photographer and a mom to do this kind of photography?

  As a parent, I feel there is such a polarity in the everyday life of raising children.  One second, you’re dealing with your 2-year-old throwing a tantrum in public while they scream “NO!!!” at you, and the next second you’re hugging them with your eyes watering telling them how sweet they are.  It’s as if you can’t have the sweet without the sour.   Which goes with everything in life.  Nothing is perfect, especially parenting.  We’re all trying to do the best we can, even on our worse days!   In our heads, you may feel like your world looks very similar to the images I portray…but really, it’s the beauty of imperfection.   It’s the moments as parents, we’ll miss someday.  Someday they’ll be grown and out of the house, and we’ll beg for these moments back.    I love celebrating the chaos of parenting and finding the link between the beauty.  

What does it bring/mean to your clients? 

These images speak to each individual family in their own way since they’re tailored to them.  But what they tell me is that it’s “art of their own life”.  Which I love to hear!   It reminds them to not take parenting so seriously,  look back and laugh, and to embrace the chaos.   It’s a moment in life that’s captured forever and will always be a conversation piece on their wall.
Young Parents Trying to Escape kids' room

Escape Plan

How important is printing these photographs to your members or yourself?

I love being reminded of everyday moments that celebrate the truth.   There is nothing more special than feeling authentic in what you put on your wall, and what you represent in your family life. 

What’s in your camera bag?  

500 lollipops for bragging children?  jk!   I’m very simple.  I have two camera bodies(one back up), and 3 lenses.  3 batteries, 5 memory cards, and a couple crystals for good luck! 

Advice for others trying to find their own voice in an oversaturated photography market?

BE YOU.  Don’t be someone else.  It’s amazing looking at other photographers and their work for inspiration when you’re trying to find your voice and your style…but at the end of the day, It’s only YOU.  You know what makes your heart smile and your soul light on fire.   Follow the fire!!  
Thank you, Danielle, for sharing with us. Danielle refers her clients to print with Printique for accurate color and vibrancy.
Make sure to follow Danielle for more inspiration!
Website: Danielle Guenther Photography
Twitter: @guentherphotos