Family Photojournalism

Documentary Family Photos I Love by Jenna Christina Photography


This isn’t a typical blog post. You see, the images below aren’t mine. They belong to another documentary family photographer in the Bay Area: Jenna Christina. Before you grab your plagiarism pitchforks and come to storm my barn, let me assure you they are posted with permission.

Jenna and I connected after I summoned the courage to reach out to another San Jose documentary family photographer to talk about serving the families of the Bay Area and opportunities to support one another.

We landed on this idea: share the love. We decided to each pick a few images from the other to talk about – her blog post about my pictures can be found here!

Now, come along with me as I rave about 5 of Jenna’s stunning images and what makes them so incredible.

An unconventional exit

Take a moment to look through this picture in its entirety. I’ll wait.

The technical aspects of this image are spot on, but that’s not what I’m going to focus on. The best pictures stir our emotions and make us curious. This documentary family photo really highlights the essence of childhood. Have you ever watched a child do anything? They don’t travel from point a to point b in a straight line and they certainly don’t open the door if there’s a perfectly good doggy door available.

I love how the eyes are drawn to the hands coming out of the doggy door, how you can just make out the hint of the knees trying to come through behind, and the way you are left to wonder at how someone could actually fit through that small of an opening. It brings up feelings of summers spent in a bare bones cabin by a river where the days are spent exploring every nook and cranny. This is a stunning picture by Jenna Christina.


Oh my, this picture. Again, I don’t want to bog you down in the technical, but this image is beautifully balanced, and the chair rail provides some beautiful leading lines that draw you right to the heart of the image.

One of the most important things that documentary family photography does is show parents the impact they have on their children. This little guy is completely at peace. He’s warm and safe in his mom’s arms. This is a haven for him.

Not only is this little one completely secure, but mom is having a moment as well. There’s always a tendency to impose our own experiences into scenarios, and I’m not immune from it. As a mom, I imagine this face is one I wear when my willful middle child and I embrace after a day of struggle. The demure look of someone who understands that the bond they share transcends the struggles they had with each other during the day.

This is such an important picture. Every parent and child should have one.

Hang Twenty

Jenna created a beautiful picture here. One that feels just so fun. These two kids, bare feet and all, taking a ride on a hammock together, pulls my heart back to when anything was a means of making fun. Documentary family photos bring you back to specific places and times. When they’re of your family, they spark your own dear memories. When they’re of another family, it’s feelings they inspire. Feel the rush of the breeze in your hair, the ebb and flow of gravity as you swing back and forth, and the warmth of another person beside you, sharing in those same feelings.

Free To Be

I want to draw your attention to a couple things in this picture. The first and most obvious is just how wonderful childhood is. There are few things in life that are more childlike than jumping on the bed, especially when in a matching pajama set. The motion of this picture sweeps you up in the beautiful innocence of childhood.

The second thing is this is a tale of two silhouettes. If you look at her incredible picture collection on the wall (seriously, I really want some of those hanging in my house) you see a beautiful silhouette of a toddler with a darling little pony tail and cute button nose. This contrasts sharply with the wild haired, whirling dervish with her feet in the air hovering over her bed. Documentary family photography explores all the multi-faceted personalities of each member of your family, and creates artful images that show them off for all to see.

Core memory

It truly was difficult to narrow down my top five favorite pictures from Jenna Christina, but I had to include this one. When I look at this picture, it instantly takes me back to when I was small and my dad was Superman. He could easily pick me up in a towel like this, or just throw me over his shoulders like a “sack of potatoes”, and he would carry me down the hall or up the stairs. This picture unlocks a core memory, as it depicts the creation of a core memory.

Ultimately, that’s the goal of documentary family photography. Like no other form of family photography, family photojournalism celebrates the every day moments that make up a person’s life experiences. It reminds us of where we came from, helps us see the impact we’re having, and will show those that see these images just how connected we really are.

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