Living with intention: family photojournalism in Austin's Holly neighborhood

There is something about this family, living with intention and purpose in the Holly neighborhood near downtown. These sweet mamas invited me into their warm, cozy nest for a "morning-in-the-life" documentary photo session with their two young boys a few months ago.

Entering this home, I was immediately struck by the carefully curated aesthetic of the place. A wooden Montessori play station here, the weekly bouquet of cheerful flowers there, and a collection of global artwork -- much of it reflecting the family's commitment to social justice - decorating the walls.

When I arrived, Amma and the youngest were having a quiet breakfast and tea as the sun rose on another hot day in Austin. Mama and the elder boy were snoozing, having been out late at the Wizard of Oz at the Zilker theater the evening prior.

After a tour of the garden to water the tomatoes and herbs in the front yard, Nayan (the eldest) took to his latest ritual / passion: building fires from scratch -- a skill he learned at his weekly outdoor school program.

The dynamic between these two brothers is the stuff dreams are made of.  Akshay carefully watches and imitates big brother Nayan, proud to be learning from the best. The standard sibling jockeying popped up here and there, sure -- Akshay pouting when Nayan wasn't ready to relinquish his turn at an activity; Nayan frustrated because baby brother was being too watchful and attentive.

But watching these two barefoot brothers build a fire together on a quiet summer morning was really something special.

Back indoors, boys and mamas got straight to reading books, imaginative play, and -- of course -- parcour on the parents' bed.

Maybe my favorite moment of the day was Akshay spontaneously running into a back room for a handmade protest sign, and marching around the living room holding it, emphatically chanting "ho ho, hey hey!"

A young activist in training, and a living example of how even young children internalize their parents' beliefs and actions.

One of the interesting side effects of Day-in-the-Life sessions is that parents tend to set aside the normal daily tasks so that they may be fully present for the photo day, which often leads to some beautiful, intimate interactions between parents and children -- the kinds of tiny connections that (at least in my life) tend to get swallowed by the hustle of everyday multi-tasking.  

A late-morning popsicle break and some outdoor playtime led to one of those delightful late-morning lulls where time seems to slow, and rolled right into a Facetime call between Akshay and the grandparents, and a silly one-on-one game of Uno for Mama and Nayan.

Next up, the daily family ritual of lighting an incense offering at the family alter, intricately carved and beautifully decorated. A hush enveloped the scene as the boys fell into deep focus to perform this treasured ritual.

Naptime descended. The morning was over for today,  but memorialized forever. Thanks for your warmth and hospitality, Paige & Surabhi. 

Related blog: On the go / finding balance