A Last Light Session in Maine // Philadelphia Family Photographer


We stood by the lake to momentarily wrap up in towels and let all of our shivers out. Luke, twelve years old and a whirlwind of growth and heartache, asked why I do what I do.

"Because I think every stage of our stories are worth remembering. Even the dark chapters.”

The stories I tell are stories of truth. Life is a mess of light and shadow, and among my most treasured possessions there sits a box of 4x6 prints that tells the story of it all. It’s a reminder, it’s a memoir, it’s a piece of my history. I want to give that to others too, even when what we’re documenting is shadow, even when it’s the darkest thing you can imagine, it’s part of the story, it’s a chapter you might not want to skip in forty years when you’re shuffling through that stack of printed photographs.

I shoot for my subjects, not for me, not for anyone else. I'm not always shooting to document something from my perspective, I’m trying to capture it's from theirs. For this family, this is a time of uncertainty, it's messy and it’s devastating and the past can feel more in focus than the future. Some moments are filled with laughter and others are blurred and unclear, that's something I tried to portray in these photographs.  

There are these "rules" photographers learn, and they are so worth learning, but even more than that they are worth breaking. This collection of photographs includes some broken rules, you might notice a piece of the subject missing from the frame, you might even see some blur. It wouldn't have felt right for every frame to portray a sense of  wholeness and clarity, that’s not how it feels to have a piece of yourself missing. It is my hope that when Danielle and her boys look back on these photographs they remember how they felt in this moment, that they see in Michael’s smile a reminder of the purest joys that life has to offer, that they see the incredible strength of a mother’s unwavering heart.

There is an unspoken space that comes when people are grieving, it’s like a line drawn in the sand that you would prefer others not cross, a method of protecting the shattered and aching heart.

Morgan in her graceful and calm presence captured our family at the most difficult time in our lives. When she broached the concept of a mid-coast photo session I have to be honest I was completely torn. Through lovely sessions I've documented so much of my families growth and as the baby changes so rapidly I wanted to capture this stage too. What I didn't realize at the time was that I also wanted to capture the heartache that we were experiencing. This is a chapter of our lives, a chapter we undoubtedly will wish never existed, but it does, and we must read it over and over again in order to begin the process of healing. These images that Morgan has so eloquently produced speak our truth. Our truth and the depth of our soul can be difficult and frightening to share with others, it is perhaps not our best selves, but our real selves. 

Three short months ago, we lost our greatest love, my husband, their father, Richard. Our world, our sense of innocence, is blanketed in shadows. Our vision of the future blurred by the tears that flow from our eyes when the painful reality strikes that he will not be in it. Morgan captured our loss and pain in shadowed and blurred frames. She respected our unspoken line in the sand, our caged and broken hearts, often settling her lens where we all choose to, in the innocence and joy of our three-year-old, Michael; our light on the gloomiest of days, we find in him the greatest blessing and hope. 

We feel honored to have met such a talented and kind photographer and human being. Morgan Ellis, thank you, for your talent is in truth, and the truth can hold beauty despite the pain.

- Danielle