Kaleen Enke: Family Photography

Less is More

Storyteller: Kaleen Enke, USA

"The small things. The slow moments. The ordinary and regular marching out of minutes. These are sacred not because they are curated for social media distribution, but because this is our actual life. The laundry and the cluttered countertop and the list of things to do that is leftover from last month. We are living this story and it is magic.”

- Caroline Kolts

Father and his two children playing outside.

What inspires you to take photos?

There's a lot that inspires me to take photos. For one, I love the challenge of taking a scene of everything I'm experiencing and figuring out how to put that experience into a frame that communicates what I am feeling about it. It's a process that is always challenging and ever changing, and I don't see myself ever getting sick of trying to get better at it. I often find myself drawn to pressing the shutter to capture moments of childhood play, human connection, and the experience of motherhood.

I also have a really terrible memory, and I am inspired to take photos to remember. I am a mom of young kids, and I know it goes so fast, and you think you will never forget this part of your life that feels so big and all encompassing, but I know from experience that just after the phase passes, you forget so much of it.

Young child wrapped in a towel.

What inspires you creatively?

Children's book illustrations are one of my favorite sources of creative inspiration. I learn a lot about how to compose images to tell a story from children's books.

I am also always inspired by music. I'm not sure always sure how that inspires my photographs, but I suppose it reminds me that good art needs to make you feel something.

Black and white image of child swimming.

What is your favorite image from your book and why?

My favorite image from the book is a black and white image of a boy in a lake with his arms above his head in shark fin formation (above). This was a photo I took during a session of a family vacationing at a lake. I linked the photo in my mind to the lyrics from a song by Middle Kids, "I used to kill it, but now those days are gone." This picture (and lyrics) became a story in my mind of a shark who had grown to be a little more apprehensive, a little slower, a little gentler. I think the boy in the picture embodies that version of a shark. I think this picture was also me coming to terms with my own struggle of productivity as a mother. I've had to shift my expectations for what I can do and accomplish, and I am trying to accept this reality and see the benefits of it rather than feeling disappointed.

Mother and daughter on the floor of the kitchen.

What is your favorite story behind a single shot in the book?

There is a photo of a mother holding her daughter on the floor of their kitchen in the first light of the morning (above). I love this moment as a beautiful depiction of motherhood, and the importance of human connection. The mother in the image wrote a piece (top) for me to share with her images that I used in the front of the book and encapsulate what I am trying to capture as a family photographer.

Mother and son smiling in a hammock outside.

What do photos mean to you?

As a documentary family photographer, photos are the way I can hold space for a moment of time in a family's life. They can honor the struggles as well as the joys that make up our real everyday moments. Photos can tell a story, they can teach a lesson, and they can connect us to the universal truths of the human existence. Photos can be art and they can be a mirror. Photos mean all of these things to me.

Blonde child in swimming goggles.

What bit of advice would you offer to someone creating their own MILK book?

My advice is that less is more. I love having a single image on each page. By being selective and intentional about the photos you include, each photo will have more impact.


Feeling inspired? Create your very own book.