I’ll never forget the day when we were handed the keys to our home. A tiny piece of metal that held so many milestones and future adventures. Responsibility and adulthood. That key signified contentment and commitment.
It was probably one of the greatest acts of the love I had at that point, shared with my partner, now husband. From that day, eleven years ago, I instantly became attached to our modest terrace house.
Our home became a giant memory box that I’m still topping up with our moments and history. It’s the backdrop to my personal photographs, and the reason they often burn so deep.
My first year working as a documentary photographer has been an exciting and, at times, a super challenging experience. Living in a small city along the south coast of England, my work seemed to be intriguing to the locals, but slightly too scary compared to the studio or the outdoor lifestyle portraits they’ve had taken in the past.
I’ve never set out to compete with other photographers in my area, but found that I had to do something to almost prove myself and show others that relaxed, real family photographs are as beautiful as lavender fields or white studios.
Digging deeper into the minds of my future clients, the main thing I kept coming back to was the barrier at their front door.
With countless conversations on messy floors and modest homes, I knew I’d have to be creative with turning my warm leads into paying clients. They liked the idea of capturing the real, and they had told me that they loved my images, but when it came for them to be within the frame – choosing different can at times be scary.
Especially when this different didn’t come with a posing or style guide.
“Doorstep Documentaries” seemed like the perfect way to start building up my client base, getting known with the locals and most importantly growing TRUST with the people at the end of my lens.
I understood that stepping into their home with a camera was a huge thing. So, I worked hard to show them what I could offer, all on their doorstep…
never taking a single foot inside the door…
and the response has been amazing!
I marketed the 30-minute session as a taster to my regular shoots, and within the first week I had 4 bookings (everything from a flat to a caravan).
Amazingly, I had new clients!
Showing them that I could create images which held strong belonging and sentimental value – on their doorstep – while building trust was key.
The children would climb the outdoor wall or swing on the gate, and the parents would talk about how long they had lived within their home. The story would build, and I got the chance to photograph it.
They dropped their guard and forgot about how they looked, for when they talked about their memories within their house or watched their children play outside the front door, real smiles shone through.
It seemed like the halfway point, they got to see how a session would work, I got to romance them with the ease of documentary photography, and they didn’t need to worry about the state of the kitchen.
I built relationships and paved the way to two full shoots. It worked!
The front door is where we say our fondest goodbyes, the spot where we often have the strongest embraces. Our doorstep is always where we start our current adventure and often close (the not so metaphoric) door on the old ones.
If there were a location in your home that was hot-spotted in emotion, it would be the entrance to your house.
Doorstep Documentaries started as a way to connect with others, but it’s lead on to much bigger and exciting work. It’s been a lot more than photographs – or even new clients. It’s been a way for me to connect with the people who live here, right around me.
It’s developed into a project on social histories and local grounding. It’s about preserving the city’s heritage and recording the stories of the residents who live in the most densely populated city in Europe. It’s about locking down the now in a fast pace world and making pictures that would remain priceless, not only to the people in them but the city.
What started as a limited time-taster, has blossomed into a city-wide, art project and I just cannot wait to meet the next family hanging out on their doorstep.
Writing and photographs contributed by Karah Mew.
About Karah Mew: Karah Mew is the photographer at The Glass Narrator as well as mother, writer and serious snoozer from England, UK. With a background in Fine Art, oral storytelling and a love of illustration, Karah’s photographic work is a mixture of real life and artistic highlights. From the very start of her photography career she’s been an avid memory collector and preserver of what we all fear losing. She never leaves the house without her camera – ever. Website // Instagram // Facebook