Bee Chalmers x Mootsh

When we first came across Bee’s photos last summer, we felt an instant connection. Following her work is like following the adventures of an old friend — a friend who also happens to be an incredibly talented photographer! Bee captures genuine, real life moments of her family, and turns them into extraordinary beautiful scenes.

We were lucky enough to have Bee share some insights on her approach to photography with us. Enjoy!

You take amazing photos of your kids. With their friends, during their favorite activities, in their everyday normal life. How do they react when you take the photos and then later, when they look at them?

If I’m honest, now that my kids are older, they don’t really appreciate their mom pointing a camera at them all the time, and I honestly don’t blame them.  I think the thing they struggle with most is maybe their lack of privacy. I have always been a very public person, and post a lot of our day to day life on social media.  That being said, I have always tried to be as non-intrusive as possible. I try to give them a choice if I can share or not and very rarely do I make them stand at a location and pose because that’s just painful for anyone.

As you might expect, their reactions are different when they look back at the photos, and I’m pretty certain that they see value in having this visual record of their lives.  For them, my archive of photos tells a pretty honest and authentic story of their childhood, and looking through them triggers memories and feelings which they may have otherwise forgotten about.

What makes you grab your camera to capture a moment in time?

I don’t think it is necessarily one thing, but probably the most important element for me when I take a photo is emotion…laughter, joy, love, sadness, melancholy, anger, boredom…I love it all!  I want to take photos that are authentic and true and that genuinely reflect my family and each of my children, so that when I look at the photos, I can remember what it really felt like to be in that moment, and they can too.

Do you have photos of your own childhood and how do you relate to them? How has your experience growing up influenced the way you document your own family life?

Both my parents took a lot of photos and videos growing up, and our childhood was definitely well-documented.  Interestingly, when I look back at the snapshots, the ones I pause on are always the unplanned and unposed ones, the cast asides, with cluttered backgrounds and blurred figures. To me, those tell a more honest and impactful story then the ‘everyone look at the camera and say cheese’ photos. So even though my parents have taught me the value of a well documented life, their focus was probably more on celebrations and holidays and everyone smiling and making eye contact, where as I learned to love the raw and real and imperfect moments equally as much.

How do you capture such genuine moments? Is there a secret you could share?  Is it ‘wearing’ your camera at all times? Is it solid observation skills?

Probably one of the best things I ever did that impacted and changed my style of photography, was a 365 photo project. Taking a photo a day really challenged me to find inspiration from my surroundings  in often less than ideal situations and locations…and to still find beauty in it all. So definitely having a camera nearby and really observing what’s going on around you (light, connections, colours, emotions, perspective, etc.) and letting go of preconceived ideas of what a great photograph should look like, have all helped me to capture genuine and more carefree moments.

My other piece of advice (not really a secret) is to keep pressing the shutter after you have taken the first photo.  These ‘in-between’ moments are almost always the most authentic and meaningful ones.

“Probably the most important element for me when I take a photo is emotion…laughter, joy, love, sadness, melancholy, anger, boredom…I love it all!  I want to take photos that are authentic and true and that genuinely reflect my family and each of my children. . .”

Storytelling through photos is clearly what you do (so damn well!). If your photographs were a literature genre, what would they be?

For this question I turned to my book loving daughter who said my photography can be likened to “Magical Realism.” Like the literary term, my photos paint a realistic view of our life or the world, while also adding magical elements to it. Or in other words, finding the extraordinary in a mundane setting. 

Do you print your photos? What do you do once your photos are captured to enjoy them? 

I do print a lot of my photos but definitely would love, and need, to print more! I made a photo album once, but the perfectionist part of me (and the sheer quantity of photos I have) has sadly hindered me from creating any further albums. But we do have a giant cork board on our wall, where I can display (and change) 100s of photos at a time….this is probably my favourite way to display my photography and can be enjoyed every time we walk down the hall.

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”
— L.R Knost

We love the quote that you picked for your website! Do you think photography helps you navigate through these different moments of life?

Life really is amazing and awful and mundane and breathtakingly beautiful, and photography for me, as a careful observer behind a lens, has really helped me see (and really feel) the beauty in the everyday. Also, as we know, time is fleeting and photography has gifted me with the ability to freeze time and enable a moment to last forever.

Connect with Bee:

Photo by Kyla Ewert

Instagram: @beechalmers