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There's More to Portraits Than Paper

More often than not, some of the best and most effective photographers are those who capture emotions and immortalize people, places, and events through their cameras. Read about this touching real story of a photographer who received an eye-opening letter from a client.

Whatever the level, medium, or chosen genre, the best and most effective photographers are are not those who merely take snapshots. They are the ones who can tell stories with their photos, able to immortalize the memories and emotions of the people in front of their cameras.

Here’s where the story of Jeanine Thurston comes in. A professional photographer for around 24 years, she received a handwritten letter from a former client a few months ago, telling her (and eventually, her clients and blog readers as well) how portraits are not merely overpriced pieces of paper.

In the letter, her client, wrote:

Photo by and via Jeanine Thurston

"Today I am writing for a couple of reasons. I have some quiet time at the moment and need to get a couple of things off my mind. I will leave this for my husband to deliver to you when he is ready.

You photographed my wedding, you photographed my first pregnancy and my first baby. I contacted you awhile back to photograph my 2nd child and family. After getting prices and realizing I would want all of the pictures as we love your work – I decided against spending $500+ – which is what I normally spend for portraits and prints with you.. Please know it is not because I don’t value your amazing eye, or how much we love the experience.

That week that I decided to NOT do a session with you, this is how I spent some money.

On Sunday I called and cancelled our session. Monday I went out and got my hair cut ($39+tip), and colored ($65), Thursday I had my nails done ($24), my family went out to dinner at a somewhat expensive restaurant for no particular reason costing us $79 + tip. This was just 4 days since canceling our session, already totaling over $200 for un necessary things. My nails only lasted about 2 weeks, my hair is gone, and seven weeks passed when I got the phone call from our doctor. It was not something I expected and the cancer has spread very quickly. I will be leaving my husband, my 6 year old girl and my now 2 year old – not by choice. It is very hard for me to talk about it which is why I need to write you.

I watch your Facebook page and your posts about the value of a photo and if I could give back all of those things that I purchased this few weeks after I cancelled my session with you, knowing what I know now, and have that session, well…I would do it in a heartbeat.

Now my time is done and there are no more chances for me. The next time someone cancels a session – my wish is that you forward this letter to them. Time is fragile, it is gone before you know you had it. If you charged $200 for one print it wouldn’t be enough for what it is actually worth. I cringe to think that my priorities were a manicure over a memory to pass onto my babies and husband.

My love and thanks for what you have given us from past photos. I am so sorry that I did not see it as more than paper until now."

Shortly after Thurston shared the letter on her blog, people began sending her comments and messages through her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail—most of them deeply touched by the letter, some calling her gesture of sharing the letter as a marketing ploy. She has, since then, answered the questions and comments on a follow-up blog post.

But what about you, dear reader and photographer? What do you have to say about the letter on this photographer’s doorstep? Why don’t you share us your thoughts with a comment below?

written by plasticpopsicle

2 comments

  1. peeciella

    peeciella

    sad :')

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  2. charissa

    charissa

    My boyfriend doesn't understand my passion for photography and very recently Lomo. I couldn't explain him why pictures are that important to me. But I don't think it is because I want my loved ones to have something to remember me...

    over 2 years ago · report as spam