52 Weeks of Portraits | A Letter to My Children Following the 2016 Election

My 52 Week Project is a portrait project that documents the growth of my children. For each of their first years, I did a photo a day project of each of them... this is a simpler continuation of that. One portrait a week for the year - not your typical "sit and smile at the camera" portraits, but "environmental portraits" - photographs of my children, taken in their element, documenting this moment in their lives.

I try to write a few short words about each child under their portrait to record any details or milestones of the week.

This project was inspired by a gorgeous blog called You Are My Wild

At the end of each year, I make a memory book of the year's portraits.

This week, I decided that instead of a sentence or two about each child's development, I would instead write them a letter.

* * *


Dear Lila and Logan,

You are too young to know what is going on. Yesterday I was driving Lila to speech class with a grim face, tears in my eyes. You asked me why I was sad, and tried to cheer me up with that silly "interrupting cow" knock knock joke. I smiled for your sakes, but I couldn’t articulate the magnitude of what is going on. You don’t even know what a president is yet. I hate that the first president you will know in your lifetime will be someone who stands for everything so opposite to the people I want you to become.

So as soon as I move out of this foggy haze of sadness and disbelief over what has happened during this election, I will be teaching you about what a REAL president is. 

A president takes care of America, the country that we live in.

A president makes decisions in all of our best interests. All of us.

A president believes and teaches that all people are created equal, and all deserve the same opportunities.

A president protects us.

A president opens his arms to people in need, to people who live in other places, and welcomes them with open arms to our safe country, where anyone can live their own “American Dream”.

A president educates.

A president inspires.

A president is fair.

A president is kind.

A president is respectful.

A president is honorable.

A president encourages peace.

A president helps the less fortunate.

A president thinks to the future.

A president makes America a better place.

A president is a role model. 

I want you to grow up with this kind of president.

But whether you do or not - these are the kind of people I will encourage each of you to become: kind, caring, inquisitive, peaceful, compassionate, respectful, fair, inspirational, thirsty for knowledge, open, loving and passionate.

I will teach you to be accepting of all people, no matter what color, religion, sexual preference or gender. That all people are PEOPLE and worthy of love. That you should love your neighbor as yourself.

That hate will not be tolerated in this house.

That you should not fear.

That you should be proud to be yourselves, your best selves.

That your mama will fight for you.

That you should always try to do the right thing.

That you should speak up for others.

That you should work hard.

That you can do anything you set your mind and heart to. 

I love you both so much. Now let’s go out and start making this world a better place, starting with our own little community. One step at a time. 

Be the change you wish to see in the world.
— Mahatma Ghandi

Love, Mommy.

Lila - Age 4, Week 52

Logan - Age 2, Week 22

Toddler boy on a swing.

Francesca Russell is a documentary-style family photographer and filmmaker located in Garden City South, NY. If you'd like to see more of her recent documentary family photography, head over to her Facebook page or follow her everyday adventures on Instagram. If you are looking for a family photographer on Long Island or in the New York City area to document your family's story in photos or a film, please contact her for a session!