The camera is an invitation to experience intimacy.
I didn’t understand that powerful principle until I was given an unforgettable assignment for my college newspaper, The Columbia Missourian.
A writer and I were working on a story about midwives. It seemed simple on the surface: visit a few homes where mothers-to-be were meeting midwives.
With my camera over my shoulder, I tentatively stepped inside a family’s quiet house. What happened then simply changed the course of my career.
The mother and midwife graciously invited me to photograph a pregnancy progress exam in the home’s small sunroom. I crouched in a corner, hoping to minimize my footprint within an incredibly intimate scene.
As the midwife began the exam, the mother’s toddler tiptoed into the room, climbed onto the window seat, and tenderly placed his ear on his mother’s belly. His blue eyes closed, his tiny mouth opened, in a moment of pure wonder. I felt surprising streams of tears dripping down my cheeks; I don’t even remember clicking the shutter.
Dashing back to the darkroom, I knew I needed to see this image of intimate family connection. Processing the film and watching the image emerge from the emulsion was an epiphany. My dreams of becoming a globe-trotting conflict photographer changed. Photojournalism isn’t just an invitation to sit on the front row of global history, it’s also an invitation to sit on the front row of family history.
Soon after this photograph was published, I chose to pursue wedding photography full-time. I never looked back. Hundreds of weddings later, I’m still humbled by the families who invite me into their lives to document an important milestone.
For me, the magic of photography is that life offers us amazing, beautiful things that cannot be anticipated, expected, or even imagined. I mean, nobody would ever have thought certain things could happen. And then, suddenly, right out of the fabric of life, there it is – something unexpectedly wonderful.
We just have to be ready to accept the invitation.
Written by Rachel LaCour Niesen
After graduating from the University of Missouri, where she studied Photojournalism and Art History, Rachel pursued projects focusing on rural communities in Latin America and the Southeastern United States, amassing accolades as a passionate documentary photographer with a keen eye for the human condition. Her work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times Magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle. In 2002, Rachel’s captivating photographs of migrant farmworkers were chosen for a book entitled The Human Cost of Food; Farmworker’s Lives, Labor and Advocacy, published by the University of Texas Press.
Rachel’s love for storytelling photography took an intimate turn when she stumbled upon wedding photography by trading her photographic skills in exchange for a custom-designed wedding gown. Quickly trading her front row seat to world history for a front row seat to family history, Rachel started a wedding photography company, LaCour, with husband Andrew Niesen and friend Mark Adams. In a few short years, LaCour became one of the premiere wedding photography studios in the U.S. and soon families the world over caught on to LaCour’s signature style of authentic storytelling through photographs. In 2008, American Photo magazine recognized LaCour’s contributions to the industry by naming them among the “Top Ten Wedding Photographers in the World.”
In 2007 Rachel co-founded ShootQ and now manages the commingled communities of Pictage and ShootQ.