As well as showcasing my latest photography sessions, new products and thoughts on things photographic, I want my blog to be first and foremost useful: both to my existing clients, recent ones and those that find me and are thinking about some commissioned photography.
So this year, to try to explain what is at the heart of my love for photographing people, and what I strive to produce with every commission I undertake, I am starting a monthly themed blog post for each type of photography I offer: family and children’s portraiture, weddings, events, portraits of adults etc.
In each post, I will showcase a particular image has either become a cherished emblem in my client’s personal or professional photographic archive, or that as the photographer I have been especially proud of and why.
So first up today, Family and Children’s portrait photography. And where better than to start with an image of my own child, Lydia, that I will always treasure and can never imagine wanting to remove from the wall in my home.
This image perfectly illustrates the power that an image can have in capturing the essence of a child’s character at that particular juncture in their childhood. For me it is also a trigger for so many other memories of her in that year when she was six: things she said, things she did, her evolving opinions and how she was reacting to and viewing the broadening world around her.
At this time, Lydia would only dress in boys clothes, wore her hair short and emulated in her posture, movement, dress and activities what she saw as only boy territory. It was fascinating, at times puzzling and complex, but of course we were delighted and proud that our little girl was just being herself – happily, confidently and unselfconsciously. What more does any parent want for their offspring?
On this day, she decided she wanted to dress for a wedding we were attending ‘just like Daddy’. So she wore her best boy’s trousers – smart shiny grey – a boy’s checked shirt and one of Daddy’s ties. She delighted that day when folk who didn’t know her at the wedding referred to her as our son - and she delighted too when I took her photograph.
When I photograph children, for most of the session I like to capture them when they are unaware of me, quietly observing them or positively joining in and integrating in their games and activities over a session so that they see me as one of them, a friend who has come to play. However, there are always moments when a child positively wants to pose for me, to take control of the session and present themselves as they want to be seen and I embrace these collaborative moments too as they can be every bit as revealing as those candid shots. Yes, I took this photograph, but in that moment, Lydia, not I, was in control of the outcome – a real and true moment of striking out for independence. She had not just chosen what she wanted to wear, but she knew her rights as a subject and took possession of them.
We call this image ‘the Paul Weller image’ in our family archive of imagery – and we joke that if Lydia ever becomes a rock star, this should appear on the cover of her first album. It shows the strength of her personality, her attitude and determination to be herself, her sensitivity and sense of humour, and that wonderful resolute and uninhibited way that a child will spontaneously strike a pose for a photograph when they feel they trust you.
There is also for me a bundle of emotions going on in that expression that is personally special to me as her mother and representative of the dynamic between us as mother/photographer and daughter.
We all want images that celebrate the physical beauty of our children, and often my clients will select an image of their child simply because they are bowled over by their beauty, or it might be an image with colour harmonies that celebrate a child’s hair or eyes for example or in beautiful light that perfectly illuminates their physiognomy. Equally they select for other reasons: their child engaging with a favourite toy or activity, running free in a well loved place, interacting with mum or dad or a sibling, doing something funny, or a characteristic look or typical mannerism or expression that is so emblematic of this moment in their childhood.
So in the coming months I will showcase some of the favourite images that have made it onto the walls and into the family albums of my clients. Images that resonate with them as parents and that we want to return to again and again as our children grow and change.
What this pictures gives to me, I try to give to every parent who allows me the privilege to spend time photographing their child. Golden moments of them ‘just as they were’.
And finally, children are constantly changing – which makes these photographs even more precious and cherished. These days Lydia doesn’t want to wear boys clothes. She doesn’t refer to herself as a tomboy. She wears skirts and dresses and sometimes even pink tights and is growing her hair long to be like Rapunzel…
If you would like me to capture some images of your family on-location and in your own home, please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.