Why portrait photography matters

I’ve not really mentioned before why I started The Lens Lounge and I’d like to share it with you as it’s actually quite important to me, and the reason why all the hours of hard work are so worth it.

I was 4 and I was standing on a stool at the kitchen counter next to my most favorite woman, my mother, learning how to crack eggs. I’d already dropped one on the floor and was trying another. It was so big in my little hand and I was struggling with the fineries of just cracking the shell without whacking it in half. The second egg exploded onto the floor. My mother patiently reached for another egg to demonstrate the technique again. But something went wrong. Her egg slipped from her hand and smashed to the floor in the middle of my mess. We started to laugh. Out of control, tears streaming and the stool wobbling beneath me. My mom swooped me up in her arms and we laughed until our bellies ached. 

This is my first memory. I don’t know why it was so funny, especially as I know now that money was tight back then. But that was my mother, my best friend. I call her Mogs. After a character in a book she gave me when I was 14.

Why photography matters

I can’t count how many times we laughed like nothing ever mattered over the next 41 years. Over the smallest, probably not funny, things. I can’t count the number of long heart wrenching discussions at the kitchen table over best friend break ups, then boyfriend break ups, then later my marriage break up. Daily dog walks after school discussing life, dreams, fashion, upcoming school discos and all the other really important stuff. Then regular coffee meet ups where we talked work, life, philosophy, politics, more dreams and swapped really bad jokes. Like her favourite – Where did Napoleon keep his armies? Up his sleevies!

On 25 August 2015 I lost my Mogs to cancer. I won’t go into detail about how awful it was as I think these days we all know somebody who has it or who has lost somebody to it. We know what an horrific experience it is.

By the end Mogs didn’t look like Mogs anymore. She’d lost so much weight. After she passed, the image of her in the last month was the only one I could see in my mind. I couldn’t see all the wonderful healthy years. Her laugh, her unique expressions, the way she looked at me. All I could remember was how she looked at the end.

That’s when I realised how lucky I am. I have so many photos of my Mogs, because I’ve been mad keen on photography from the age of 7. But also, my dad’s interest in photography started when he was young. My parents met when they were children and started dating when they were teens, so we have loads of photos of her whole life.

I put her photo on my computer desktop. Every time I opened Lightroom, a photo I took of her in my studio was the image that greeted me. It was in the folder that Lightroom automatically opened on startup.

Gradually, the version of Mogs that she wouldn’t want me to remember faded. Now, when I think of her, which is several times a day, I see all the good stuff. I remember everything, and the shared secrets and giggles she took with her come back to me.

When you look at a photo you’ve taken you remember what was happening, maybe even the conversation and why you were there. Briefly, you’re transferred back to that moment.

This is why I started The Lens Lounge.

My wish is that The Lens Lounge helps you to create a treasure trove of images of the people you love, the places you’ve been and the moments you’ll never let go.

Many of these images are scanned from slides, so the quality is not reflected here, but I still love them.

9 thoughts on “Why portrait photography matters”

  1. I have read this post several times now, and each time I am struck by the love you felt for your mum, the loss you feel daily and the joy you feel from the memories captured in the photos.

    This is a beautiful post – thank you so much Jane for sharing your ‘why’ – and know that every time I pick up my camera, I will give more thought to the memory I am capturing.

    Thank you.

  2. This is so moving – what a noble reason to share your passion and knowledge with others with the encouragement for others to do the same.
    Lens Lounge is the best site I’ve found for photography tips for so many reasons, thank you for selflessly sharing your knowledge ?

    • Hi Helen
      Oh wow. Thank you for your lovely comment! It really does mean a lot to me. The relevance of this didn’t occur to me before so I didn’t mention it in the article – my mother was a teacher. Jx

  3. Dear Jane
    I have recently come across the Lens Lounge and this is absolutely the best, clearest and most relevant information despite trawling the internet for I don’t know how long!
    I too have been talking photos most of my life although I am just an amateur photographer who takes photos of the people I know and love with the occasional good shot in a mass of mediocre/poor ones.
    My mum died last January in the middle of lockdown so we weren’t able to be with her and I have not yet managed to rid myself of all those images but I know I will. My favourite picture of her is up in the kitchen paddling in the sea when she was in her 80s.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge so generously. I would happily pay for a course but I couldn’t quite find the right one. I hope you keep producing courses. My ideal would either be an advanced camera one
    (settings etc) or an intermediate on about using light.

    • Hi Sue

      Thank you for your lovely words.

      I’m so sorry to hear about your mum – it must have been especially hard for you during lockdown. I couldn’t possibly imagine how difficult it must have been.

      Anyone that goes paddling in the sea in their 80s must be a fun person to know. What a great photo to have up in your kitchen. If you keep looking at photos of the good times, the horror images will fade. It may take some time, but I promise you the good times will win.

      Thanks for the feedback on courses. Over winter I’ll be working on adding more courses to the site and will definitely bear your suggestions in mind. Lighting is my obsession, so this is absolutely on the list.

      Take care and remember to be kind to yourself as you recover.


  4. Dear Jane
    So sorry to hear about your dad’s stroke. This must be a difficult and worrying time for your family. I hope he makes a good recovery.
    Thank you again for your wonderful website and words of wisdom.


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