As a lifestyle photographer, Danielle Guenther loves to take beautiful, posed portraits of her subjects. But when it comes to shooting families, the Hoboken, New Jersey, artist has discovered a unique way to show the beauty of family life by recreating “real life” moments.
Real life, says Guenther, includes brothers hitting one another with an umbrella, or a toddler laying on the floor mid-tantrum. And that’s what she depicts in her photo series, Parenting: Best Case Scenario, where she stages elaborate photo shoots that capture the true chaos of parenting — from meltdowns in the cereal aisle to the challenges of dining out with little ones.
According to Guenther, the series began after an exhausted mom laid down on the set of a family photo shoot, causing the photographer to realize that these types of scenarios are way more realistic than perfectly posed family photos taken in matching sweaters.
“This (parenting chaos) is something that’s been going on for thousands of years — there’s no surprise. I’ve just been able to turn it into something really unique to the family I’m shooting. When I get asked to do one of these shoots, I want to get to know them. I want to know what their struggles are as parents. I want to know what sets them off, what they fight with their spouse about, what their kids do that really just drive them crazy,” said Guenther. “It’s been fun because it really speaks to the individual family and their situation.”
The “situations” Guenther has encountered have varied. In the photo “Day at the Spa,” Guenther shows a mom trying to take a shower, while her baby cries in her seat and her son draws on the glass door with crayons.
“It’s hard to take a shower with kids around. You try to get in there and the kids are screaming outside the door and you’re like, ‘Let me at least wash the shampoo out of my hair!’ I love exaggerating a moment like this because you know it could happen — you turn your back for two seconds and it’s chaos,” said Guenther.
In “Keep Your Head in the Game,” a sports-obsessed dad—who is supposed to be cooking—feeds a turkey a bottle, while his infant is in a pot on the counter.
“The dad loves sports, the mom is always running errands, and they all just have this great sense of humor. It was really neat to create an image that reflected them because that’s them — they’re funny,” said Guenther.
With a 5-year-old, a husband and a puppy in her home, Guenther says she is no stranger to the chaos her clients tell her about. And, she says her goal for the photo essay is to let other parents know they’re not alone.
“The moms I work with start telling stories about parenting moments and they’re kind of embarrassed. They’re like, ‘Oh, I can’t believe I did this or that,” but I’m always like, ‘No — you think it’s ugly, but it’s beautiful, let’s capture that moment,’” said Guenther.
“People think nobody wants to see this stuff, that everyone is going to judge them. I want them to know that no, they’re not. It’s OK. This stuff is totally normal, and it’s beautiful and inspiring just to get to know them and their situations and unique stories. That’s how we all survive this parenting thing — by being open with each other.”