Posts in documentary photography
A week in Cuba: Part 1- Havana Vieja and Vedado

In February I had the opportunity to fulfill a long-time dream of visiting Cuba and getting to know more about the people and the culture. A lot of you probably don't know this but in my former life I was a Spanish teacher for 12 years and have a Master's in Latin American Studies. Travel and photography have always been my two passions outside of my family life. Before kids I used to travel internationally regularly, but that's pretty much stopped since we've grown our family. We did take a trip to Costa Rica when we just had 2 little ones, but it has been over 5 years since our last trip abroad! This opportunity came up to travel with the amazing globetrotter Allison Irby and I'm beyond grateful to my husband who supports me, takes on life alone with the kids, homeschool and a full-time job so I can dedicate some time to my passions. This was an incredible week of spending time with locals to learn about the economic and political situation as well as strengthening my street photography skills. I thought I'd share more about my experience and answer some questions I know I stressed over as I prepared for my trip.

Are Americans still allowed to visit Cuba legally?

While the travel rules have changed under the Trump administration, it is still legal to travel to Cuba under 12 different categories. I travelled in support of the Cuban people, which was a really interesting way to travel. It means that we are conscious in our spending to be putting money directly into the hands of Cuban people and you’re not spending your days on a state-owned beach resort. When traveling under this category you need to stay at private Airbnb homes and keep track of your spending while you are there for your records.

Do you need a visa to get into Cuba?

Yes, you will need to purchase a tourist vida card for entrance into Cuba. I was able to purchase mine right at the United ticket counter in Newark. Not all airports offer this service so you may have to order in advance online from a third party. I paid $75 from United.

Is the Cuban airport scary going through customs and immigration?

Not at all! They took a picture of each traveller, and then collected the forms we filled out on the airplane. Grabbed my luggage and continued outside to find the money exchange (la cadeca).

About money: The first thing to know is you need to bring more than enough cash with you than you might possibly need since once you are in Cuba you cannot withdraw money from an ATM. Worst case scenario you could have funds sent through Western Union but just be prepared and bring enough $$$.

What about exchanging currency?

The CUC is the currency used for tourists and it is pegged to the US dollar. I read various blogs that suggested changing your USD to CAN or EUR before leaving the states since you will be hit with a 13% fee to change US dollars at the Cuban cadecas. But, I wasn't convinced it would be worth the effort to save a couple dollars dong a double exchange. I am glad I followed my gut. I exchanged a few hundred dollars at the airport into CUC (the Cuban denomination for tourists) at the 87 to 100 exchange rate that is the standard. Beware of the ladies in the airport office next to the cadeca trying to call you over for a private exchange claiming to save you some money. I didn’t trust that so stuck with the official counter. Later on in my trip as we met AirBnB hosts and got more comfortable, I saved money by doing private exchanges at a much better rate usually around 92: 100)

I will address a few more common questions in Part II but for now, some images of our first days in Havana.


Day 1:

I arrived in Havana in the afternoon on a direct flight from Newark and it took a while to get through immigration and exchange money at the cadeca in the airport. Next I found the taxi driver I had pre-arranged to pick me up and it took us about a half an hour to get to Havana Vieja to the Airbnb. Expect to pay around $25 CUC for a taxi into town.

Our Airbnb in Plaza Vieja was so beautiful and we loved this location most to be really in the center of everything you need in Havana. Yummy fresh breakfast included in our unit. I checked in to our place and then was picked up for a vintage car tour of Havana. I chose the 1955 Chevy BelAir and was not disappointed! I had an amazing guide who taught me so much about the history and the current situation. It was a great start to my week!

Later that night I wandered the narrow streets surrounding la Plaza Vieja and followed the sounds of the traditional salsa and sol that was being played outside many restaurants. I ended up sitting down next to these brothers who were all listening to one of their other brother'‘s playing in a band outside of Cafe Paris. I asked to share the bench and we sat and ended up chatting about life, revolution, culture for THREE HOURS. They all had fascinating stories to tell of being music historians and their brother’s (pictured below) tour with Buena Vista Social Club. I loved how they all shared a bottle of rum out of their backpack and when that ran out someone ran to a market for a juice-box of rum to share. I politely declined the offer to take a few swigs and they bought me a mojito instead despite my insistence on paying. People are good and kind, and I felt very safe at all times as a female traveller.

I head back to the Airbnb before my friend starts to worry about me and snap one last picture for the night. I love the mural of the people peeping in on the barbershop. It's been a great first day in Havana and I need to catch some sleep.

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Day 2: Havana Vieja and Vedado Neighborhoods

The next morning I got up and walked around the Plaza Vieja neighborhood before we had breakfast at our Airbnb. Bread is included in the cuban’s rations every day so you’ll notice the busy bakery in the early morning. What I love most about Havana is just how many people are in the street, walking about, hanging out, socializing. You just see so much movement where as here a quick drive through our neighborhood and you’ll find only an occasional dog walker or kids at the playground. We are just so used to being in our own cars and homes that we don’t get the same kind of human interaction that you will find in Cuba.

School children have gym class right in the Plaza Vieja which made mornings perfect for people watching and learning about everyday life.

Vedado Neighborhood

Next we moved Airbnbs to another neighborhood in Havana for a few nights to have a different experience. While this Airbnb was beautiful with lots of light and space, we felt pretty isolated in Vedado from the bustle of Havana Vieja. If we go back we’d spend more time in Havana Vieja and maybe just a few hours wandering Vedado. The architecture is a bit different- you see beautiful larger mansions that are decaying and many divided up into apartments as well as some Soviet-period inspired buildings. It is not a touristy neighborhood so we definitely got some strange looks as we explored this new area. We walked around to see some vintage theaters, the famous Coppelia ice cream shop with it’s huge line wrapping around the building of locals waiting for their spot at the counter, checked out the arts and crafts market at La Rampa, and finished the day walking El Malecon at sunset. While we still preferred Havana Vieja for the ease of restaurants and activities, we still soaked up the authenticity of this quiet city neighborhood.


An early autumn evening at home together | Bucks County Family Photographer

This storytelling session has long been on my heart. I first met Diana a few years ago when we visited her Bucks county in-home Waldorf school one September day. I fell in love with their lovely land, their quaint, cozy home, and the beautiful simplicity and intentionality of their family life. I was delighted to return earlier this October to capture a small snippet of their life at home together. We spent from afternoon into evening together and I observed as they went about their activities: watercolor painting, kneading dough together for the pizza, gathering goldenrod to make homemade fabric dye, feeding their fluffy bunny, playing in their forest, picnicking pizza by a campfire and dying fabric, and playing guitar together before heading in for bedtime rituals. What a joy to tell their story of family life.

A short storytelling session in Bethel, PA

Family photojournalism is so incredibly important to me as an artist. I long to create meaningful portraits of the family in motion, in their own space- the place the children will grow up remembering as their childhood home. They will look back on summer evenings in their yard, playing music with dad, creating art together as a family in their studio space, setting the dinner table and sharing the family meal together every night. Here's what they won't remember and won't care about: what you feel are imperfections in your decor, clutter organization, or renovations that you hope to get to but haven't yet.   

Jenel being a phenomenal artist herself was interested in a family storytelling session to have an unique portrait of their family life. She also wanted to have a few more posed images of their family in their yard for the wall. So we did both! If you are interested in family photojournalism but don't want to sacrifice a more traditional family portrait I am happy to make time for that during our time together. 

Some clients are sure if everyone in the family would be on board with this different type of photography. Thoughts might hold them back from a storytelling session like, Will our life be boring? Will our house be nice enough? Will my kids "last" for 2+ hours? Will it be awkward?

The truth of the matter is that these sessions are so so easy on the whole family because the kids love just getting to show me around their home and doing all the fun activities they would normally be doing on an afternoon. Grown-ups enjoy these sessions because the kids are relaxed and they don't have to "do" anything special. Just hang out as a family, go about your routine, and relax! I find beauty in every family I meet. I want to create timeless images of you as a mother, father, sibling that will become family heirlooms. 

Thank you S family for allowing me into your space and filling up my artistic cup. Your family life truly is inspiring. 

Now Booking Cape Cod Beach Sessions
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I have limited dates available for family photography in Cape Cod, MA this summer. I love beach family sessions. Everyone is relaxed, playful, the light is beautiful. We capture a few posed images of your family, and then you get to enjoy a relaxed session with plenty of time to just connect as a family. Beach sessions capture childhood wonder, discovery, mommy snuggles, racing daddy to the waves on the shore. Your gallery will be full of gorgeous, artful images of your family life. Session pricing is a straightforward and easy all-inclusive rate for a family of up to 5 at $650. Your session images will be presented in a beautiful online gallery from which you may download your images and purchase any additional wall art or albums you may want for your home. 

Want to have a look at some of my other beach sessions? Have a look at this recent beach session with older children and a favorite Cape May NJ session

Are you interested in booking a session with me while you vacation in Cape Cod this June29-July 5th? Please get in touch! I'd love to hear more about your family and your session goals!

AnneMarie Hamant is an award-winning family and child photographer who travels for sessions across the East Coast. You can learn more about her here!

Party of 5 | Lehigh Valley Newborn Photographer

This documentary newborn session with one of my favorite Hellertown PA families was all about capturing life at home with three children 4 and under. Parenting at this stage is busy, tiring, silly, colorful and full of laughter. I love how this family embraced a truly documentary approach and dressed as they usually would for a Sunday morning at home. We did do a few simple newborn portraits as well like we did with their second child, and a few family bed snuggles because it's nice to be all be in the frame together. It's been such a joy watching the E family grow since their oldest was about a year old! I'm grateful they've trusted me with yet another milestone in their family life. 

Did you miss their birth photography session? Go back and have a look at this incredible mama's birth story. 

Are you expecting and considering newborn photography? I'd love to talk with you about a relaxed in-home session to capture your family's story! 

Final Hours | Lehigh Valley Family Photographer

I am honored to have been published in two major media hubs for my story on my sister's last few hours with us before she passed from cancer back in November. 

This story is a reminder of why simple moments are worth documenting, and the true power of a photograph. 

If you or a family member is going through a battle with cancer, and would like to be photographed as a legacy to your family, please reach out to me. I have a big heart for family documentary work and would like to offer this gift to select local families. 

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sunday morning extended family session | Lehigh Valley PA family photographer

When most people think of extended family sessions, they think of white shirts and denim and lots of stress to organize rows of family members and attempts to get all 12 people to say cheese. Maybe that's why families only do these like once in their lives ever?! 

Documentary family photography means everyone can just BE themselves, come as they are, hang out, wear whatever they usually wear, and you come away with a collection of images that tell the story of your family in this season of life. Part crazy, chaotic, part quiet and connected. We have time to capture the children in their rooms, surrounded by their beloved stuffies or pile of Legos, along with the meaningful relationships between extended family members. 

The Garcia family is a fabulous bunch that starts with 5 brothers who all are grown and have their own families and mostly live local. About monthly they get together for family brunch. They mix up some pancakes and eggs, brew some coffee, and hangout. They share a meal, light saber fight, tickles, play music and games together, draw or color with the kids. I was so touched by the loving way this family connected. The kids are so lucky to have all these aunts and uncles in their lives. I hope you love this story of a Sunday morning with the Garcia crew as much as I do!

a birth story | Lehigh Valley Birth Photographer

Birth is the beginning of a powerful love story. I truly believe there is nothing more incredibly authentic than the emotion of a birth story. The process of birthing, the sacrifice and effort to bring forth this new little person. The adrenaline rush that overpowers you during pushing and after birth. The emotional high after delivery. The love at first sight. That first connection to mother's breast.

Sadly, birth photography is often undervalued in our area. Many people don't understand why someone would want that raw, messy, unpredictable story told through photos. I was thrilled when my fellow photographer friend wanted her third birth story remembered through photos. Her labor and baby boy's birth was truly amazing to witness, and is such a beautiful story to share as the children grow older. The story of where it all began... As a mother, I know that the details of my own birth experiences have become blurry; foggier with time. So focused on labor, many details get lost in the rush. 

I have reserved the most intimate of images for this family to enjoy privately,  but I am so happy this mother has those photographs to remember her baby as he emerged from the womb. 

This mama labored in near total silence, even through transition, and her labor was only about two hours from the point of arriving at the hospital to holding her baby.  I was amazed at her grounded sense of calm as she brought a 10 pound, 2 ounce baby boy into the world that night. 

If you'd be interested in talking with me about capturing your birth story, please contact me so we can talk about your vision!

 

 

A Sunday morning Life Story session | Lehigh Valley Photographer
 

What do you want to remember about your weekend mornings while the kids are still little?  

I walk into this family's Sunday morning to find their oldest son making pour-over coffee, dad busy in the kitchen cooking up homemade waffles, the kids wrestling on the family room floor and reading stories with mommy. After this family of five gathers together to enjoy breakfast, they spend time doing "Family Church." Listening to worship music together, learning about Scripture, and praying together. After Family Church time, they play board games and daddy puts the youngest up for his nap. What a beautiful winter Sunday morning, cozied up at home sharing a meal, prayer and activity time focused on each other.

I adored every minute of this documentary session and long to tell more of your family routines. These days pass too quickly, and as wonderful as beautiful formal portraits are, there is something so meaningful in preserving the everyday. 

I went back to reveal the gallery slideshow with the family a week later when it was ready. It was SO much fun to see the expressions on the children's faces as they recalled real moments from their day. "Look at S making the coffee all on his own!" "Remember how high M jumped off the couch?" "That was my best game of Yahtzee ever!"

Documentary sessions connect with us because they are memories of childhood, parenting, and celebrate the beauty in your everyday. Sometimes it's really hard to find joy in the daily grind of parenting. But I promise you, these sessions reveal a love and connection in your home that you may not be able to see yourself on those difficult days of "just getting through it."

A documentary family session | Lehigh Valley PA Family Photographer

When this family first contacted me a few weeks ago about doing a Lehigh Valley documentary session with their three-year old and 4 month-old boys, I was beyond excited. They are moving this week to the midwest for work and wanted a candid way to remember their Coopersburg home where their boys have grown up. 

I think documentary sessions are the perfect way to keep that story of early childhood alive. A keepsake album of pictures from your home, their toys and favorite books tell such a rich story that traditional portraits leave out. My boys moved from Maryland to Lehigh Valley Pa when they were just 4 and 2, and their memories are already fading from that house where they grew up and the surrounding neighborhood. But they still talk about their favorite park and remember certain features of it. I wish I had though to make an album of our daily life there before we moved. 

If you are interested in a documentary photography session in Lehigh Valley PA or surrounding areas, please reach out! This is a fabulous way to bring to life childhood milestones and all the upcoming holiday traditions. 

Are you interested in my pricing for a documentary session? Please have a look at what I offer and let me know if you have any questions!

What's the difference between Lifestyle Photography and Documentary Photography? | |Montgomery County PA Documentary Photographer

You might see me posting a lot about these "Life Story" sessions lately. I'm going to explain a bit about how a Life Story documentary session is different than my traditional lifestyle sessions as we prepare to enter into the fall busy season and people are choosing what kind of portrait experience is best for them. If you are interested in booking a fall family portrait session, either lifestyle or documentary in Montgomery County, PA or the surrounding area, please reach out soon as my calendar is almost booked! There are only so many fall sunsets available so grab a spot now!

What is a "Lifestyle" session?

Most families have had some sort of "lifestyle" photography session done over the years. A "lifestyle" session is more modern than traditional posed portraits with props, and more traditional than a documentary session. It's kind of a comfortable middle ground. In a lifestyle session, I will gently pose your family and lead you into opportunities to connect with each other through touch or movement, in the most beautiful light available to us at an outdoor location- usually a park or a field. You can see a beautiful lifestyle motherhood session on the blog. I help coordinate your clothing and choose a beautiful location. We will do a few poses of everyone looking at me, and then use the rest of our time to connect with your family. These sessions are really beautiful and show connection, emotion and light without the use of any props. 

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How is a Life Story Documentary Session different from a lifestyle session?

A Life Story session is different than a lifestyle session because it is photojournalistic in nature. Your story, my lens. The session will take place at your home usually, or another location that is essential to the family story. We spend a few hours together and your family goes about the normal routine while I document your family life via my artistic voice. The kids are going to go about their regular play, potty training, bathtime, snacks, etc. Our goal is to give you an artistic representation of your daily life.  We are shooting for an album, to create a picture-story of this little slice of your daily world. 

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What kind of session is right for you?

When this sweet Montgomery County PA family contacted me about booking an end-of-summer session, at first mom had planned on doing a traditional lifestyle session at home. But as we talked more about what she wanted on her walls, and about the family dynamics and children's personalities, she decided that a Life Story documentary session would be more fun for the kids and would capture the authentic, beautiful chaos of life with 3 small children. I was super excited to tell their story.

We spent a little over 2 hours together than evening as the family wrapped up dinner and moved outside to spend quality time together playing water balloons, picking tomatoes, weeding the garden, and eating ice cream. When it was time for bath, I followed everyone in and concluded our story with that bedtime routine. 

Thank you so much, D Family, for inviting me into your beautiful family life. It's been such a joy to capture these moments for you. 

When I asked mom why they wanted to tell their story with a Life Story session, she responded, "The kids are growing up and Tessa is likely the last baby. I'd like to capture what it is really like having such a young family and how much fun and chaos it can be so I have fond memories to look back on and remember."

What story do you want to tell this fall? 

If you are interested in a Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Bucks County or Lehigh Valley Lifestyle or Life Story Documentary family session this fall, please book now. My October calendar is 99% full. September and November have limited availability. 

The sun rises and sets with you | Washington, DC Documentary Photographer
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Together we rise. 

This is a visual love story between a mother and child, of their bond that is as certain as the sun rising and setting day after day.

This truly was the kind of Life Story session that I dream about. It was authentic, full of raw emotions and universal expressions of motherhood. This storytelling session candidly portrays the daily rituals of a mother and babe at the end of the busy workday, running home from daycare to spend some quality time together before bedtime.

When Allison contacted me about doing a documentary session, she had a really special request: that it didn't end with bedtime so that we could capture the special time she shares with Enzo as they wake together each morning. We agreed for me to stay over so that I could be there come dawn to capture their waking moments, snuggled in bed, nursing and playing before beginning another hectic workday. 

If you would be interested in having a part of your daily life captured through my lens, please contact me to book. I am available for limited travel sessions. I am offering a discount on Life Story documentary sessions that are booked and shot during the month of August. 

Fair warning: If you get squeamish about the feminine figure, and mothers nursing their babes, then you might want to close right out of this post. This is a very intimate portrayal of motherhood- the daily rituals of caring for a baby, nursing to sleep, and nursing upon waking.   


What kind of life story would you like us to tell during our session?

These images are mainly for me. I want real snapshots of our life together.

AnneMarie Hamant Portraits + Stories Washington DC Documentary Photographer

We start with getting home, checking the mail together, changing into play clothes to go outside. 

AnneMarie Hamant Portraits + Stories Philadelphia PA Documentary Photographer
AnneMarie Hamant Portraits + Stories Philadelphia PA Documentary Photographer

We go sit at the pool, on the lawn, or sit on our porch and read a book. 

We take a bath, sing/dance, brush mommy's teeth and read before breast feeding and bed.

Why is it important to you to document this particular life story? What do these images of your everyday family life mean to you?

This is the hardest most amazing chapter of my life so far. When I'm not busy working, folding laundry and contemplating our life together, I'm trying to be incredibly present to him. I'm so in awe of this motherhood journey, but haven't documented it as well as I'd like to. I have very few images of us together, and sadly, most of them are selfies. Although I'm busying myself trying to build a life for us, I don't want to lose sight of the value of savoring the quiet, intimate moments of our life, too. I'm trying to capture this chapter before he's all grown up. 

I feel these images deep in my core. Allison and I chatted about where we're at in life, and she asked me a really good question: What does living the fullest life look like for me? I had no answer for that question at the moment but it's one to really sit with for a while. After spending the past few days working with this story, I realized I am already living it. I need to remember that :) Creating art out of the beauty of motherhood, childhood, and family life feels very much like living this life to the fullest. 

Would you like an authentic, documentary photography session with me?  Please contact me for details. I am available for travel for Life Story sessions. 

Life Stories Documentary Session: Summer Living | Lehigh Valley Family Photographer

Introducing Life Stories Sessions. 

Lehigh Valley Photographer

your life.

my lens. 

Often times my clients comment that they love they way I capture my family's everyday chaos, the tiny moments throughout our day. How do I make such simple things look so magical? 

I want to create more client work that mirrors my personal work.

My heart is truly devoted to capturing your authentic life stories. As much as I love lifestyle sessions that take are gently posed in parks and in the most beautiful sunset light, I love at-home storytelling sessions because children are in their element and the stories feel most authentic. 

What are Life Stories Sessions? 

Think of them as photo-journalistic short stories of your daily life. A snippet of your family together at home.

Unposed. Real. Candid. 

I spent the most amazing summer evening with this sweet family the other night. I love their reflections about our session to complete their photo story. I can't wait to see these images in a coffee-table album for the kids to look back on!


What kind of life story would you like us to tell during our session?

AnneMarie Hamant Portraits and Stories Lehigh Valley Family Photographer

Daily life after daddy gets home. Trying to squeeze in those extra daylight hours and soak up summer. Dinner, dessert, playtime and garden chores. 

AnneMarie Hamant Portraits and Stories Lehigh Valley Photographer

Why is it important to you to document this particular life story? What do these images of your everyday family life mean to you?

AnneMarie Hamant Portraits and Stories Lehigh Valley Photographer

Documenting the real life "raw-ness" is important because we live it every day. It is really never reflected in picture format because we are almost always behind the lens.

AnneMarie Hamant Portraits and Stories Lehigh Valley Photographer

Imagine you are looking at a picture album of your Life Story Session years from now. What types of moments do you hope to see in it? What do you hope to remember about this time in your family's life when you look back in 10 years?

AnneMarie Hamant Portraits and Stories Lehigh Valley Photographer

LOVE! And chaos of course. Chaos is par for the course at this stage in our lives. Life with small children is magical for them and often for us as well, but in between those moments, moments of chaos exist. Those moments, although hard at times while in the thick of it, are the moments I know I will yearn for as they grow older. Most importantly I want to know that my children felt loved and a genuine connection between us as a family.

AnneMarie Hamant Portraits and Stories Lehigh Valley Photographer
AnneMarie Hamant Portraits and Stories Lehigh Valley Photographer
AnneMarie Hamant Portraits and Stories Lehigh Valley Photographer

Where does this story take place? Why is that place important to you?

AnneMarie Hamant Portraits and Stories Lehigh Valley Photographer

Home... because as cliche as it sounds ... that is where the heart is and always has been in our family. We love our home and spend a lot of time here. 

AnneMarie Hamant Portraits and Stories Lehigh Valley Photographer

In this home a baby was born, a first breath into the new world.

AnneMarie Hamant Portraits and Stories Lehigh Valley Photographer

Our dog also took his last breaths here.

AnneMarie Hamant Portraits and Stories Lehigh Valley Photographer
AnneMarie Hamant Portraits and Stories Lehigh Valley Photographer

Really, our home is a sanctuary for us. A safe place to just be who we are.

AnneMarie Hamant Portraits and Stories Lehigh Valley Photographer

Most importantly I want to know that my children felt loved and a genuine connection between us as a family.