Teacher Stories: On the road with Molly Flanagan

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DEFINE teacher, Molly Flanagan, took a break from teaching Visual Storytelling this summer to adventure with her family on a cross-country road trip, exploring the country together as she also shot family sessions, spoke at conferences and connected with DEFINE students.

Leaving her camera in her bag for client sessions only, she documented their explorations across the way via her cell phone and a special Instagram account she created just to share photos of her trip with friends and family. We loved following her journey and hearing her perspective on juggling motherhood, family time, and photography so we asked her to share some of her experience here on our blog.


A cross-country road trip has been something my husband and I have dreamed about for a while.  This year our circumstances lined up where it seemed like a possibility.  We felt like we should jump at the chance. You know how circumstances go; next year life could look very different and we may regret not taking the opportunity.  While it was technically a bucket list item, all of the planning came together in a matter of a few weeks.  We had a loose outline for the trip but a good portion of it was more like, “Um, where are we going to sleep tonight?”





“I had a some photography sessions in family homes as well as a few speaking engagements so we planned our trip around those locations and then tried to pack in as many visits with friends as possible, as well as stops at National Parks in between jobs.  I was the Keynote speaker at a Birth Photography Conference in Dallas and also spoke to the Dallas/Fort-Worth Clickin’ Moms group.  Then I helped with a retreat hosted by a group of my Visual Storytelling alumni in Sonoma, California.


Above photo by Monica McNeil Photography

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Visual Storytelling alumni breaking bread in Sonoma


“Our route was not ideal. For instance we got snowed-in in Yellowstone and then found ourselves in Dallas for a week in the middle of a hot July. But then my mom lives in Washington State, north of Seattle, so we stayed with her for a while and were able to be with my grandmother on her 81st birthday. Along the way we also went to the Redwoods, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, and Carlsbad Caverns, and also Hoover Dam. We also spent a week at a State Park on the Oregon Coast and that was definitely our favorite spot. It was quite magical.”

I decided not to take out my DSLR when I was with my family on this trip because  I find it difficult to be an attentive mom and attentive photographer at the same time.

I remember when my oldest two were 3 and 1 and we went to the zoo.  I was trying to get “the shot” and my husband was waiting patiently keeping the kids from doing something dangerous while I played photographer.  My husband has always been so encouraging but I could see in his eyes that he really wanted me to get “the shot” so we could move on.  I kind of had this out-of-body experience in that moment realizing how unhealthy this hobby could be for our family if I didn’t keep it in check.  I could easily turn our existence into one big photo shoot and make preserving memories more important than making them.  I know there are lots of moms that can do this seamlessly but I am not one of them.

I really wanted this trip to be about my family so we decided that the big camera would just be for work and that I would document with my iPhone and a newly acquired Leica film camera (which I am still fumbling with and have yet to develop).”


On the road with Molly Flanagan



On the road with Molly Flanagan




“What’s interesting is that, for the last several years, I have been exploring the “Heart of the Home” in my photography.  This began when my kids were very little and I felt so housebound.  I wanted to be content with where I was in life — but it was so hard!  My camera became a way for me to process through that tough season and that’s partly how my Visual Storytelling class for DEFINE was born. But if you told me six years ago that I would be photographing the “Heart of the Home” around the world – gathering stories and sharing with other photographers – I would have said you were crazy.  And for our family trip — there were times when our car, the camper, a hotel, our friends’ couches felt like home.  The situations changed but the HEART of our home remained constant. And that was pretty cool.”

You can continue to follow Molly’s family and client work on her website, Facebook page or Instagram feed.


Molly’s hugely popular Visual Storytelling class will be offered again this November and whether you’re an iPhoneographer, a DSLR die-hard, or live your life split between the two, Molly can teach you how to tell a more complete and honest story in both your personal and client work . Mark your calendars for October 5th when registration opens.



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