Sham of the Perfect: 25 Honest, Beautiful Photos of Family Life

Children can be both a source of inspiration and a challenge for photographers. Especially when they’re your own kids, you may find yourself too busy to take pictures or experiment with other subjects and ideas.

For Erika Roa, Lacey Monroe and Natasha Kelly, the main problem with parenting was that it made their lives too chaotic for ‘perfect’, minimalist pictures. During a group project for an online photography course called Visual Storytelling, they shared their frustration at this standard of clean composition, which was difficult to achieve with a family. They’d all received criticism for having ‘messy’ photos, yet anything else would be inauthentic.

As Erika explains: “If our images had to be tidy, we’d never be able to shoot in our own homes, and if our homes were ever tidy enough to shoot in, then the images would seem completely dishonest years from now.”

Elisa Elliot
Elisa Elliot family breakfast

And so, the three mothers decided to reject the criticism and embrace the chaos. They created a photography project that not only accepted imperfection, but highlighted it as a window into real family life. They called it the “Sham of the Perfect.”

“We were tired of seeing photos that only show happy, smiling, clean children in immaculate interiors or sun-drenched fields during golden hour,” Lacey says. “We knew that was not what our lives looked like, and we thought there would be others out there who also yearned for more honest depictions of family life.”

Now, the project has 15 steady contributors, as well as a vibrant community of photographers who regularly submit photos to their website. If their project resonates with you and you’d like to share your own honest, everyday moments, you can submit photos via their submissions page. Be sure to check out their blog, too, and be inspired by the peace and chaos of family life.

Lacey Monroe
Lacey Monroe playtime

Natasha Kelly
Natasha Kelly grocery shopping

Celina Bailey
Celina Bailey hand in sunlight

Jodie Byrne
Jodie Byrne sick boy

Jenny Rusby
Jenny Rusby children eating breakfast

Chrystal Cienfuegos
Chrystal Cienfuegos playtime

Vicki Hull
vicki hull girl on smartphone

Jessica Uhler
Jessica Uhler looking out window

Kym Vitar
Kym Vitar kids running in house

Jodie Byrne
Jodie Byrne homework

Celina Bailey
Celina Bailey riding in car

Jenny Rusby
Jenny Rusby little girl big shoes

Celina Bailey
Celina Bailey swimming pool basketball

Michelle McDaid
Michelle Mcdaid snack time

Robin Stephenson
Robin Stephenson boredom

Chrystal Cienfuegos
Chrystal Cienfuegos playing with hose

Elisa Elliot
Elisa Elliot spinning

Jessica Uhler
Jessica Uhler summertime

Natasha Kelly
Natasha Kelly breakfast

Elisa Elliot
Elisa Elliot drawing dog

Gemma Robillard
Gemma Robillard playing on beach

Heather Bowser
Heather Bowser side nursing

Kym Vitar
Kym Vitar sink bath

Vicki Hull
Vicki Hull crepe raspberries