“Before 8am” A Documentary Photography Project | Fearless and Framed

“Before 8am” A Documentary Photography Project

Hannah’s photo session was part of my “Before 8am” series, a photography project I started with the goal of documenting what happens — wait for it — before 8am.

I wanted to choose something that happened in everyone’s day, a time or event that every family experiences in some way. Everyone has a morning routine, even if it’s not always so routine, and nearly everyone can relate to at least some part of another family’s morning. My goal is to show the interesting little moments and interactions from this time that make up such a big part of our lives.

I don’t do a lot to prep the family beforehand. They’ve seen other sessions I’ve done, so they already have some idea of what it’s going to look like. I ask a few questions beforehand about what their morning is like, and I find out what time they wake up. That’s when we start.


I photographed Hannah’s morning the exact same way I photograph my own life.

I don’t try to be a “fly on the wall.” I’m kind of the opposite: right there, in your face, all up in your business, and I count on you just getting used to it after a little bit.

(which is, in fact, exactly what happens.)

I shoot with two cameras, and use my 35mm f/1.4 lens the most. I usually have either a 50mm f/1.4 or 85mm f/1.8 on the other body, depending on what space is like. Shooting indoors, especially starting before the sun comes up, I often push my ISO really high, but a little noise doesn’t bother me.

I tell the family to just do whatever they normally do, not to do anything special for the camera. There’s a little bit of weirdness, I guess, in that most people feel at least a little awkward at first when someone’s taking photos of them in bed or doing their hair in the bathroom. But, we laugh about it a little, I acknowledge how weird it is, and we get on with it. Kids especially are often shy in the beginning, but everybody warms up to me and forgets about the camera eventually..

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One thing I love about shooting these is connecting with the families, especially the moms. They open up their lives to me for a morning. I spend a couple hours with them seeing their ordinary, but intimate moments. We get to connect in a way that you don’t usually connect when you’re just chatting with someone you’ve just met for the first time.

I feel like we become friends in those couple of hours.

Story + photography contributed by Karen Jacot.

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