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The rest of the story

A picture is worth a thousand words.

I think this popular phrase often limits us, sends us the message that adding a caption or story behind an image somehow lessens its impact.  The picture shouldn’t “need” that.

Maybe there is some truth there; I do see value in pushing ourselves to create images that need absolutely no explanation (or that are so powerful they inspire thousands of interpretations), but I also see value in hearing more of the story.

The more I know about a person, the more I tend to understand and like that person.  Once I experience motivations and trials and reactions, the relationship deepens.  The same can happen with an image.


This month, in The Art of Storytelling group, our theme is The Rest of the Story.

Tell us the back story of the image, the motivation for the shot, the techniques you used, any additional information that tells us the REST of the story.  I can’t wait to read the stories behind your images!


This image was shot at the beginning of October 2013, a week before we drove to KS to adopt a baby girl.   After taking this image, I wondered what he was thinking about the artwork.  Later during our museum visit, I was able to discuss his thoughts about it as he sat in a window sill sketching.  It was a beautiful mommy/son date day.

Immediately after this image was taken, we sat down on a viewing bench and a tired mom sat next to us.  She had a daughter about H’s age and a 1 year old boy.  We small-talked for a couple of minutes and then the 1-year-old started fussing and she said they needed to head home.  The older sister was devastated – “we just got here!”  The mom told me how the girl loved museums and how badly she felt that they had to leave so early, but that she didn’t have a choice.  It was a brief encounter, but it stuck with me as I edited this image later.  I had spent over 5 years dedicating all of my thoughts and actions and love and devotion to one child.  I nurtured his thoughts and creativity and had time to spend with just the two of us daily, exploring and talking and sharing.  What would life with two children look like?  Would I be distracted, too busy to notice it all, too torn between two to ever fully focus on one?  I knew my fear was shared by many moms with growing families, but this image of him, standing there as the main focus, taking in the world while I got to observe every second of it, represented that fear in a way I never planned when I clicked the shutter.  This image is a favorite, but it’s not just the colors and composition.  It serves as a reminder to me to slow down and notice my kiddos, to notice what they are noticing, and to spend individual time with both of them.





Oftentimes, my images are a results of a journaling session.  A few weeks before this image was taken, I journaled my daughter’s walk – it’s so energetic and bouncy; she moves with intense spunk and excitement.  As I was writing about her feet, I remembers how they turn in a little as she walks, a trait I know will not be here forever.  I started trying to find opportunities to photograph those little toes.   It was hard to photograph because it’s most obvious when she’s walking, but it was difficult to capture the angle in a walking photo. When I saw her reflection in this puddle, I loved the symmetry and lighting, but then I saw her feet – those little turned in toes that I had been trying to capture!  This is a trait I know will disappear over time, a trait that defines this time in her life that I don’t want to forget.





My son is a creative, social soul.   He loves spending time in his own imagination, creating his own worlds and stories, but he also always wants to be the last kid at the park because he loves interacting and playing with others.  Last Halloween, he was determined to have a costume party in our apartment complex.  He said he would make all of the invitations and plan the entire thing if I would just give him the okay to move forward.  The next thing I know, flyers are hanging all over the complex, complete with potluck assignments for each block.  The night of the party, complete in his rainbow-mohawk-Flash costume, he decided at the last minute that part-goers needed a map of the events.  The party was a success, with H’s enthusiasm even encouraging the tired adults to participate in full character in his “costume contest runway walk.”   This event combined the things he loves – imagination and social interaction (and appetizers 😉 ) into one beautiful evening.

creating the Halloween map





My daughter is very energetic. Part of what I love so much about her is how that energy is contagious. Anytime we are out in public, it affects people, smiles spreading as we walk, like a wave of happy crashing through the crowd. I have photos of her moving and smiling, but I wanted something that felt how it feels when you are in the moment with her. I had been playing around with how to express her contagious happiness, but I was always taking the photo of her, not WITH her. I had seen this technique done with the photographer holding both of the child’s hands and spinning, but I really wanted a photo where it was obvious that she was including someone else in the happy, where my hand was visible.  I thought, “what would happen if I held on for the ride and just started shooting?”  I have never felt more dizzy in my life, but this photo and the memories from it were worth it.





The most painful experience of my life was when we went through a birthfather-contested adoption. We had our baby girl in our home for three months. The pain of losing her was almost unbearable, but my faith is what kept me sane. When we were matched with our daughter a few months later, everything fell into place and I felt that I understood the plan.   During this trial, I listened to the song Oceans every day.  The message kept me strong in my faith even on the most impossible days.   I wanted to express the fear I had at that time and how it was calmed by my faith and my belief that I would be carried through this time if I just trusted.  When I found out we were planning a Costa Rican family Thanksgiving, I knew I had to find a way to photograph the ocean in a way that would symbolize this time in my life.  I grabbed my coffee hours before the rest of the family even thought about rolling out of bed and headed to the ocean before sunrise.  I had planned on a self portrait with me in the ocean, but as the moonbeam hit the sand, I thought of that Footprints poem I had heard so many times in my life, and this scene started unfolding.  I ended up with an image that truly defined my journey.

August 6, 2016 - 2:31 pm

Renee Gravelle Bonuccelli - Mel. Your stories are beautiful. Thank you for sharing them. Such an emotional post accompanied by amazing stories❤️

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