I am honored to introduce our newest member of Childhood Unplugged, Leslie Kershaw from @lesliekershaw and to have her on our blog this morning. I have been a fan of Leslie’s work for quite some time now, her ability to portray real life as art is so beautiful and raw to me. Please welcome Leslie…
- It’s so good to have you here at Childhood Unplugged, please take some time to introduce yourself. Where are you from? Tell us a little bit about your family.
I’m Leslie and I live in Washington DC with my husband Aaron and our three boys Zollie, Kingston and Kit. I work full-time, have a part-time photography business and my husband is a full-time student and stay at home dad. Our boys are 5, 3 and 1. We most certainly have our hands full with this trio; I know it sounds so cliché, but time is flying by so fast, so I try to stay present and live in the moment and I do this my documenting our everyday.
- What do you want your children to take away most from their childhood?
Honest expression. So many children let their feelings fester within and I want my boys to understand that honest expression makes you happy with who you are. I don’t want them to miss out what’s for them by trying to imitate someone else. My husband and I encourage them to explain the why behind how they are feeling. At times this can be overwhelming and take me on an emotional rollercoaster. They are kids so they spend a lot of time telling me why they are upset because they didn’t get an extra snack or about having to go to bed early. But, other times it’s something substantive like, “I don’t like when you yell at me.” I was never able to say things like that to my mom and instances like this make me proud to know I am raising children who will stand up for their beliefs, thoughts and feelings.
- Can you speak to the importance of unplugging and how your children spend their time out?
Unplugging has almost become the opposite of the norm for kids these days which I hate, but it’s a reality of the time. We make sure to carve out time for the children to unplug every day. The good thing about having siblings is they can always play with one another. And I’ve been so happy to see how my older boys have bonded over the past year.
Living with three small kids in the city, going out can still be a huge ordeal, so as you can see from my gallery we spend a lot time at home. My boys love to draw; they spend hours drawing pictures of their favorite characters. My husband is fitness and martial arts enthusiast, so there is a fair amount of time punching and kicking. They create obstacle courses around the house and jump of furniture and build train tracks and Legos. We love music and they will ask Alexa to “turn on Beyoncé” so we can have a dance party. When we do get out of the house, we will head to one of the many museums or playgrounds in the city or to an outdoor cultural festival. The two places that are always a top request are Barnes and Noble and Target.
- Are you a full time photographer? Describe your work and your ideal client.
I photograph families part-time and my work is focused on storytelling and trying to capture unique spirit of a family. I have a strong sense of individuality and I seek that out in each client. Every one client has that thing that sets them apart and I try to dig deep to uncover what that might be. My client has a creative soul and appreciates photography and all forms of artistic expression. By the end of the session we are friends and have a relationship that goes beyond me just being photographer.
- How does your family (husband included) feel about being your subjects? Do they understand your artistic vision?
My husband is extremely supportive and is often a better advocate for my work than I am. He has been open to learn how to use the camera, so that I have an opportunity to get in the frame. Occasionally, he will give me the “are you really taking a photo right now” look when I am shooting something delicate like our boys being disciplined.
My boys don’t even pay attention to the camera. Sometimes they ask me to take photos of the pictures that they have drawn or when they are trying out a new Batman move which I get excited about b/c photography is a give and take. If I want to be able to document them authentically I must be immersed in what they are doing with and without the camera. It builds trust lets them know that I’m not just interested in getting the shot and moving on.
- Do you have a favorite image? If so, please share and tell us why.
This is recent image but has quickly become my favorites because my husband stays at home with our boys and I love documenting this dynamic. The boys call on him much more than they call on me and I think this image perfectly illustrates the tender way he cares for them. It’s my hope that images like this will remind them of the time Daddy took care of them. They won’t have as much time with them when he returns to work, so I want them to cherish it.
- I’ve noticed that there aren’t many women of color in the field of lifestyle family photography. Can you speak on what it’s like to be you, changing the way this particular demographic see’s your art? Has it been difficult getting other women of color to see your vision and appreciate it?
I’ve noticed this as well and it sure does feel lonely sometimes. I love seeing all the beautifully captured children and families that show up in my feed. However, representation matters and I do wish more of the families looked like mine. It has been difficult getting families of color to appreciate documentary photography. It is still very new and people don’t understand it. Custom photography is an investment as it is and has long been associated with showing the best version of yourself, even though it might not be the most accurate depiction of what your life is like. So, when I talk about capturing you in your home and we don’t discuss outfits, makeup and poses…people look at me like I’m crazy. I think the best way to get people to appreciate it is to have a strong personal portfolio and continue to put your work out there. I allow myself to be vulnerable and talk about the struggles that I have with parenting and balancing busy life plus how I document it along the way. I’ve also trying to write more on my website to educate potential clients on how I capture everyday moments and the importance of the genre. It’s something I’m passionate b/c I believe it’s important to portray the unique perspective of family life across all races.
- Are you working on any projects right now?
I’m teaching and an amazing conference for family photography in March called The Family Narrative.
I’ll be working on some personal projects for the upcoming year that involve both video and street photography.