Top photo: Sarah, Ayla, Nekky, Hannah and Noah Jamal and Catherine Skinner live under one roof in Niagara on the Lake, Sunday, March 2, 2014. Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail
Last Sunday I was sent to Niagara on the Lake to shoot an assignment about a polyamorous family. I was told where to go and when to be there and the general gist of the subject matter but apart from that I had very little information. I had no idea what to expect and, undoubtedly, this family had no idea what to expect of me.
I was scheduled to be there from 10 a.m. to noon. I ended up leaving around four.
This isn’t my story but I will say that it’s been a long winter. Both literally and figuratively. The last months of 2013 and onward have been cold, dark and often emotionally taxing. My work, which I find solace and relief in when the inside of my head gets too busy, slowed almost to a standstill. I felt low too often and struggled to find a way to emerge from under the ice. Then I started doing yoga again and work picked up. I spent more time with people that made me feel like myself. And then I met this family.
As I walked up their long, rural driveway, I could hear sheep yelling away from the next property over and something about being in such a different environment was immediately uplifting.
It was probably a combination of things: The brightness of the home; the enchanting, gregarious children who sang songs for me (since when do 8-year-olds know how to harmonize?) as I ate pizza made from scratch that the family had all prepared together; the time I spent watching them play outdoors in the snow; the family’s incredible openness and willingness to go along with my ideas; the general feeling of love that pervaded their household.
I left that house feeling happy and lighter than I had in quite some time. It’s a gift - being given the chance to walk into the lives of people you would never otherwise meet. I’m not sure there’s any other job quite like it.
The formal portrait that I shot and that ended up running in the Globe was my favourite frame. My editor had suggested maybe doing a modern American Gothic and so I managed to capture this serious, quite dignified photo in between Ayla’s little fits of laughter. But I think those might have been the only serious moments of the day.
But as I said, this isn’t my story.
The Globe story here:
Catherine’s blog (and her thoughts on the story) here: