”Picture perfect photos give a distorted view of reality”

With her unfiltered depictions of everyday life, photographer Karolina Horner wants to give both parents and children real portrayal of what family life is actually like. Dirty clothes, sibling squabbles, toy chaos and tired parents are recurring features in her photos as well as lots of laughter, tears, bonding and all kinds of interaction.

"Many parents feel inadequate when scrolling through all the perfect pictures on social media. But when the children grow up and look back at those kinds of photos, there's a risk that they'll get a distorted view of reality", she says.

Karolina herself had a father who captured their family's everyday life through the camera lens. When he quickly passed away, only 38 years old, he left behind a great photographic treasure – everyday pictures filled with emotional moments, which Karolina and her sisters could gather around and reminisce about. It was those photos that made her focus on documentary family photography.

- I want the photos I take to contain real emotions and show the feelings in that specific moment. What it was like to brush your teeth, fight with your siblings or interact with your parents, says Karolina.  

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Today, she follows families for a few hours, a day or even a whole year to portray what their everyday life looks like. Both what it's like to be a parent and what it's like to be a kid.

- I want to show the real moments and I think it helps parents when they see these types of honest pictures. No perfect lighting, big smiles or matching clothes, because we humans are so much more than that. A lot of parents struggle to give their children a “perfect upbringing”, even if it means that things aren't perfect for themselves. They’re tired, taking care of sad children, house and home. When the children grow up and look back at pictures of their tired parents, they understand the sacrifices they made and that it is completely normal. That others experience the exact same challenges as them. There is so much beauty in the imperfect and that is the reality I want to show, says Karolina. 

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She notes that it really takes so little for children to be happy.

- As parents we should relax a little, open our eyes and realize that there is no need for loads of activities, presents and things. Children can do so much with so little and when they find something that’s fun, they do it again and again. We forget that it can be magical to build castles out of sofa cushions, draw on each other's faces, and do other crazy things that come so naturally to kids. I want to capture these family moments and show that everyday life is perfect just the way it is.

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Karolina has also discovered that there are certain routines that are the same in all homes, but that everyone has their own unique ways of going through the motions.

- It can be how the parents put their children to bed or take them to school, for example. Brushing the teeth is also a routine that looks different in every single family. There are those who have the child in their lap, others stand opposite each other and then we have those who almost have to have a wrestling match to ensure the teeth are cleaned. These moments contain so much emotion and interaction and it is a gift to get close and capture it.

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Karolina holds courses in the art of portraying everyday life and she particularly remembers one course participant who showed her a picture of her son lying on the bathroom floor.

- She told me that she had put away the laundry that was around him because she didn't like the way it looked. I told her to leave the laundry next time because it shows what their reality really looked like. She later took the exact picture and agreed that it was so much better because it was them and their life. I love teaching this and seeing people become passionate photographers, concludes Karolina.

Pictures by Karolina Horner. All rights reserved.