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it isn’t pretty but it is beautiful | maternity photographer | greenville, sc

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This has been a difficult pregnancy for my friend Melinda.  It’s summertime in South Carolina//with 4 young children//in the midst of renovating a small country home//and she has been experiencing debilitating back pain for the past several weeks.  The supernatural urge to nest has been replaced with bed rest.  Elaborate nursery decorations are replaced with closet renovations to carve out a spot for another crib.  All the things that a pregnant lady normally finds comfort in have been stripped away, exposing the raw honest truth of the cost we count when becoming a parent.  No matter what the baby magazines tell you, the truth is —  it isn’t pretty. Becoming a parent (and being one … and, well, being a human in general) is messy, painful, humbling, laden with risk, and it smells nothing like baby powder.

It isn’t pretty, but it is beautiful.

Russell Moore, in his book Tempted and Tried, said:  Risk is inherent in every kind of other-directed life. Marriage could result in infidelity. Having children means you may well experience the anguish of seeing one of those children killed in a car accident or shipped home in a casket from a foreign war or sentenced to life without parole in a federal penitentiary. Courage isn’t protecting yourself in a cocoon from these possibilities. Courage is walking forward and embracing others in love even though you may suffer greatly in ways you could never imagine now. Jesus walked that way before you, and he walks that way now with you. That’s the way of the cross.

Risk.  It doesn’t make sense.  It isn’t safe.  And it certainly isn’t pretty.  I so often settle for pretty, manufacturing an organized and predictable life that makes sense.  But, I am learning (so slowly) that life isn’t designed to be safe.  It is made to be given away.  A life of self-preservation only leads to a stagnant existence.  We are created to take chances, be vulnerable, and put others before ourselves.  We are called to break free from the stale cocoon of self-preservation and give all we have freely.  It is messy, humbling, and laden with risk.

When we love with abandon, it isn’t pretty or safe.  But what it births is a fierce and wild beauty that cannot be contained.  My friend Melinda is walking out this kind of deep love –

It isn’t pretty, but it is beautiful.

I do not need safety As much as I need You You’re dangerous But Lord You’re beautiful - Rend Collective


by Molly Flanagan

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my favorites from 2013 | storytelling photographer

Well, I’m more than half a year overdue, but I managed to put together some of my favorite pictures from 2013.  Last year was a whirlwind, so taking some time to look back and enjoying all these memories was really wonderful!  On one of my flights last fall an older gentleman sitting next to me said that I should have a book printed from each of my sessions because when I am an old lady I will love looking back at these stories and reliving them.  I think he is right.  I can totally see a wrinkly version of myself forcing my grandkids to thumb through books as I tell them about all of these cool families I had an honor to meet.

If you aren’t familiar with my approach to family photography, I document real life in an artistic manner.  Spending a couple of hours with a family in their home as they live life together.  It is very low stress and enjoyable for the families to set aside time to celebrate the moments that are often overlooked as we get busy with life’s responsibilities outside the home.

To each of the families that entrusted me with your homes and hearts last year.  Thank you Thank you Thank you!  Getting in front of the camera can be nerve-wracking… let alone opening up your home and having intimate family moments recorded.  I am thankful you trusted me really *see* your family and show you the complex beauty that takes place in your home. I truly LOVE each one of you and am so happy to know you!

To those of you that I have not had the honor of welcoming to my photographic-family… if you have considered thinking outside the box for your family photos and not restricting your memories to smile-at-the-camera portraits, then I invite you to be a part of this collective story of “The Heart of the Home”.

Thank you 2013… you were pretty amazing…

Click here to read an interview with a past client about her experience with an in-home storytelling session.

Storytelling Sessions take place in your home – Last around 2 hours – Pricing begins at $350 – I am based out of Anderson, South Carolina but am available to travel to your home no matter where you live (cool houses and well behaved children are not required). Email me at hello (at) mollyflanagan (dot) com if you would like more information!

by Molly Flanagan

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cogan’s 8th birthday | personal | anderson, sc

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Well if there is one thing I learned last week it is how to spell diarreah diharrea, er diarrhea.  No need to go into all the details, but on Cogan’s birthday a pipe burst somewhere in our town and we essentially had no water for an entire day while at the same time my daughter kicked off a horrible stomach virus that made it’s way through our home.  I had so many great plans to make Cogan’s birthday amazing, and my heart broke for him all day, knowing that there was nothing I could do to make it fun.  Fortunately, by the end of the day he declared it was “the best birthday ever.”  So this is a very disjointed birthday story that consisted mostly of him watching Netflix and playing Minecraft.  Which, I guess when you think about it really is the best birthday ever for an 8 year old boy.

Every year I ask my kids the same questions on their birthday (plus a couple he wanted to add):

Favorite TV Show:  Phineas and Ferb
Favorite Movie:  Star Wars
Favorite Food:  Steak
Favorite Fruit:  Blueberries
Favorite Vegetable: Broccoli
Favorite Color:  Hot pink and neon green
Favorite Restaurant:  Texas Roadhouse
Favorite Dessert:  Mint ice cream with a cherry on top
Favorite Drink:  ”Soda.  Every soda, I can’t choose!”
Favorite Time of Day:  ”Washington Thursday!  Just kidding!  That’s not even a time!  Maybe afternoon because that is when I play the most.”
Favorite Sport:  Football
Favorite Character:  Anakin Solo
Favorite Toy:  Ipod or Legos
Favorite Song:  ”What Does the Fox Say” and Abide
Favorite Minecraft Song:  ”What Does the Squid Say” and “Lets Have Some Fun in Minecraft”
Favorite Game:  Minecraft, Fancy Pants, and Turbo Fast
Favorite Book:  ”That’s hard because I don’t like any books.  ’A-Z Mysteries’ and ‘Magic Treehouse’.”
Favorite Read-Aloud Book:  Narnia Series

Cogan’s 4th Birthday.  Cogan’s 5th Birthday.  Cogan’s 7th Birthday.

by Molly Flanagan

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Oliver’s Third Birthday | Personal | Anderson, SC

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Despite the lingering pacifier and parti-time diapers, my sweet baby Oliver isn’t a baby anymore.  He is stretching out, speaking in sentences, and trying hard to keep up with the big kids.  Every year I try to take some pictures of my kids on their birthday, but, like most moms that like to take pictures, it is not easy to find a healthy balance between being present in life while also trying to record some of it.  I don’t want to annoy my kids with the camera and I don’t want to be so consumed with getting “the shot” that I miss being engaged in moments with them.  Therefore, I don’t pull it out very often.  However, when I look back at times when I have photographed them I am SO thankful for those pictures.  It is unreal how much I FORGET, and seeing pictures allows the good memories to flood back in to my life.

Anyway, I decided to bite the bullet and take pictures of Oliver throughout his birthday (minus a couple of hours at the YMCA pool).  My absolute favorite part of my day lately is putting Oliver down for his afternoon nap.  My older two were not very snuggly sleepers but Oliver and I have gotten into this lovely habit of reading two little books, and then snuggling until he falls asleep.  He always puts his pudgy little hand on my cheek and falls asleep just like that.  It is the best.

I ask my older kids the following questions every year on their birthday.  This was Oliver’s first go at it:

Favorite TV Show – At Marlee & Gretta’s, the guy with the pancake.
Favorite Movie – Watching “I like to move it move it.”
Favorite Food – Eating pancakes
Favorite Fruit – Popsicle
Favorite Vegetable – Water
Favorite Color – “Godzilla”. I say, “No color.”  He replies, “Oh, brown”
Favorite Restaurant – I like to go to The Bubble Store (I have no clue what that means)
Best Friend – Cogan and Ruby
Favorite Dessert – Snails.  I don’t eat snails, they can bite me.
Favorite Drink – Sprite!
Favorite time of Day – Birthday!
Favorite Sport – Basketball and Spaceball
Favorite Train – To go in the tunnel
Favorite Mommy – Runs over, pokes my side and says, “You!”
Favorite Song – He says, “No, you say ‘what is your favorite burp?’”  I say, “Oh, what is your favorite burp?”  He replies, “My mouth.  I already burped.”  Upon asking a second time, he sings the Barney Song
Favorite Book – Reading for the nap.

Being a parent is just heart wrenching and my kids aren’t even crazy yet.  Here is a blog post from Ruby’s third birthday.


by Molly Flanagan

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when she’s all dressed she’ll ask for some music | lifestyle photographer | jacksonville, florida

Making pictures is a big deal to me.  Something that I enjoy on a borderline obsessive level.  But the longer I have this hobby, the pickier I become when choosing to click the shutter.  For me, documenting life isn’t about haphazardly recording events that transpire, but looking beneath the surface for glimmers of truth… trying to take hold of something that can’t be held.  The longer I strive for this goal the more exciting it becomes to chase those glimmers, but also quite discouraging.  There is beauty that I feel in my bones but I can never actually communicate it the way I feel it.  Like a child grasping for water diamonds flashing on the surface of a lake, in all my striving I fall short.  Jonathan Edwards said…

To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here.  Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives or children or the company of earthly friends are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance.  These are but the scattered beams, but God is the sun.  These are but streams; but God is the fountain.  These are but drops; but God is the ocean.

What I am chasing is grander than streams, greater than drops of water.  There is an ache inside us all for something… more.  And that more is there.  In this world that is mostly broken and frightening, there are glimmers of Hope.  Priceless water diamonds, momentarily reflecting the glory of the Son.  On this side of heaven we will never be able to fully grasp them, but it is still fun to try.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17

… Enough of my rambling.  It was a pleasure to meet Jen Harkleroad (whom I first met through my class on Chasing Water Diamonds through The Define School), her husband Carl and two funny girls while I was in Florida last month.  As we did all the normal family things like blow bubbles and read board books, I hope that I was able to reflect some of those glimmers of truth hidden in their lives.

by Molly Flanagan

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