Category Archives: Children

Arrrr, Me Hearty, Avast Ye!

“No patterns, no stripes.” These are my basic guidelines before a photo session. Mind you, after imparting these few words of wisdom to parents, I have seen a kid show up in a striped outfit with a huge pumpkin pattern on the front… but I was definitely not prepared for the one who showed up with the pirate outfit.

I had forgotten about red head Zane. Yesterday, PlanetRoss (who seems in dire need of a vacation to get over his vacation if I may say) left a comment about how much of a sucker he was for the “I was born on a pirate ship pose” and Zane came to mind.

A cute kid, that Zane. Red hair, tons of freckles, huge hazel eyes. A bit tentative. A bit shy.

I thought that the pattern on the tee-shirt would be a little distracting, but the kid was so photogenic that in the end, it worked out. Still, despite emptying my usual bag of tricks, it remained difficult to get him to act natural.

Then, shiver me timbers! Zane’s father dug out a pirate outfit from a bag. I think my eyes narrowed into wee Belgian slits and I probably contorted my mouth in an expression of “you have to be kidding me” but one look at the kid, and I promptly snapped back to my usual adorable self (I assure you I am quite sweet.)

Suddenly, someone acted like a kid again.

By the Powers! He could not be stopped.

The’e is no nay ne’er a way to replicate that kind of joy without a great grand swashbuckling outfit. In the end, I managed to sit him down two minutes for a portrait with his father and lass Lindsey, but even then, he stayed in character.

I have never believed in gimmicks. I feel that if you are going to display a family portrait next to the Ugly Yellow Plastic Cat on your mantle, the photograph will travel through time much better if faces are the only things that draw attention. It pains me greatly to say this but I was wrong. My hearties will tell you that even when I’m wrong, I’m usually still quite right… But in this case, I’m eatin’ a whole bag of crow.

Mobbed by Children

We all have moments in time we dream we could relive differently. Experimenting with digital photographic equipment in Brazil pretty much rates at the top of my own list.

Mind you, I’m all about experimenting in Brazil. If there is one place on earth where you can let loose, that’s the one, hands down. It embraces you and incessantly whispers to your ear its maddening mantra: “Whatever feels good, just do it.”

I arrived in Rio with a brand new digital camera. We are talking stone age of the digital era: 2.1 megapixels. Floppy discs. You read correctly. Floppy discs. 4 photographs a disc. My suitcase: half bikinis, half floppies.

After a week spent samba dancing at night (Pagode woohoo!) and sleeping on the beach during the day, I decided to enjoy a day of relaxation on ilha Grande, a small island off the coast.

There was a village, a white church, an old jail, but I never made it that far. I disembarked on a beach full of chickens.

The houses appeared run-down but they were full of colors.

The fishermen’s boats were pulled in front of their habitations. I walked up and down the beach taking it all in and discovered a small elementary school, tucked away in foliage. The children were playing in the courtyard. Temptation mounting, I armed the camera with a brand new floppy, and clicked. Then I got mobbed.

I found myself surrounded by a bunch of kids asking questions AND demanding answers. Need I mention my Portuguese at the time was not exactly up to snuff? I tried to tame the riot by showing them the image on the LCD screen. They had never seen such magic. They were wowed. In awe. I suddenly stood in the middle of 40 grabbing hands reaching for the camera. Not exactly the kind of development I had in mind.

A teacher finally intervened. His English seemed a bit tentative, but to me, he was a knight in shining armor (like most Brazilian men, I should add.) He gave his approval for more photographs and rounded up the troops.

At first, the children’s discomfort was almost palpable.

Another teacher emerged, and the kids started to get a little nuts.

I was not about to go anywhere. They shared their modest lunch with me: nut bread and water.

They all wanted their portraits taken. As soon as I clicked, they would run to me and demand to see themselves on the screen. Then we had to go through five minutes of comments I could not even begin to comprehend and they would go back to posing, waiting impatiently for the click and fighting for the spotlight.

They brought me to the pier.

They would not let me go so I began to shoot individual portraits and small groups.

This little girl was gorgeous and a personality and a half. She just grabbed little Mattheus and made him pose kissing her.

She must have been no more then 10 year old. I wonder what she looks like today.

I have never desired children. Not even for a minute… except for that kid. Mattheus with the crazy ears. Hilarious little guy.

M and Y. Best Friends. Camera hoggers.

Four hours into my visit, these little girls were certainly not more educated (apparently lessons are purely optional when the photographer shows up), but they got to experience with posing.

It came naturally to them. No self-consciousness. Complete trust.

This was no highfalutin island with modern amenities. These kids came from very modest conditions and were probably not promised shiny futures. Some, like this little one, seemed to bear the weight of the world on their skinny shoulders.

I had a very good time in Brazil. The discovery of a new culture. Lots of partying. But if I had one single moment I could go back to, it would be this day spent with twenty children I could not understand. I later sent about 200 prints to one of the teachers. I never heard back from her. I hope she received the pictures and gave them to the kids.

There is nothing I can do with these photographs but post them online. In prints larger than 4″ x 6″, the pixelation is horrendous. Bringing the analog would have been the correct decision… on the other hand, the kids would not have been able to check out their photographs right away, and we all would have missed out on tons of good times and laughters. One of the best days of my life.

Bed Head Colleen

Strolling in Curtis Park, I saw a little girl with crazy hair.

Look: it’s bed head Colleen!

Hair made of straw, eyes made of sky

A dimpled smile

Daddy will need weapons

Charlotte and the Circus Pony, a True Story

There was once a traveling circus with a wee pot-bellied pony named Arthur. He was sweet, well-mannered, and eager to please.

Unfortunately, patrons preferred to see proud tigers flying through hoops of fire, Asian elephants balanced on colorful balls and myriads of whimsical monkeys riding tiny bicycles. No amount of wishful thinking could ever turn Arthur into a wild exotic animal.

Arthur

So Arthur patiently awaited the ringmaster’s decision.

On a cold gray winter morning, Arthur traveled to the slaughterhouse. A dreadful place really…

That same morning, a young Mademoiselle named Charlotte drove by and saw the pot-bellied pony waiting in line for the butcher’s knife.

Arthur sitting

She offered him a carrot and he sat down, so she offered him a new life in her farm.

Arthur qui se cabre

Arthur may not be a wild tiger but his spirit has not been broken.

Arthur qui se couche

He may not be an Asian elephant but I think he enjoys performing much more.

Arthur qui se bat

He doubles up as a very comfortable divan.

The girlfriend

And Arthur the pot-bellied circus pony that almost died on a winter day also has the prettiest girlfriend ever. A girlfriend with the mane of a lion. What more could you ever wish for?

The Ham in the Alley

Wrapping up a session at the Arboretum (meaning walking back to my car, evaluating time from parking lot to bed for well-deserved nap), I stumble upon two exotic-looking wee girls in an alley. An estimated four-year old model and her matching mini-me.

“Aaaah don’t move! Hold that pose! No, no, don’t move!” I say, trying really hard to hypnotize them into stillness while digging my camera out of the bag.

By the time I adjust my exposure, the lovely portrait I had in mind turns into the following:

The fall of the Asian Empire

Since inadvertently precipitating the fall of tiny daughter (but happy to have recorded the event), I figure it would be rather proper at this point to introduce myself to the mom. The least I can do. Really.

Sisters

Joy seems definitely more receptive to my Belgian devilish charm than cohort Ivy. Ivy does not like me much. Coming across as a freakish photographer barging in out of nowhere may have something to do with it.

Joy is a HAM

Joy is a HAM. She gets up, works her angles and gives me… Zoolander’s Blue Steel. I swear!

Haute Couture

Then, prima donna-like, breaks into an aria…

Joy breaks into a song

And bursts out laughing.

Joy laughs

My five minutes are over. I love my life.

Good children. Misbehavin’ adults.

When young children take me more seriously than their parents do, I know I am in for a wild ride.

From the onset, the kids appeared anxious to please me (a first!) and show their best profile.

Les petits

The parents and the grand-mother from California, on the other hand, were not inclined to follow suit.

The progressive granny almost fell in the river.

Falling in the river

The mom kept playing peek-a-boo with the stone structures of the park.

Peek-a-boo

Grand-ma and son expressed a wish for a portrait together and made me wonder what kind of Christmas cards they sent to family and friends.

Grimaces

Still the children kept delivering… shot after shot.

Pensif

Mr. T

The little mermaid

The Little Mermaid

The kiss

Then… the adults’ giddy spirit got to them.

Family portrait

And since the kids were already wet…

Frog

Final shot!

Wet portrait

So glad I did not have to put these little drenched ones in my car.

Homework in Paris

I should have been shopping on the Champs-Elysees (with the exchange rate, a total BARGAIN, I tell you!), musing in the Tuileries, visiting the weedy grave of my favorite Frenchman EVER, Pierre Desproges, at Le Pere Lachaise, or hanging out Aux Deux Magots, but no, instead I was a dutiful photographer, stayed in the hotel and processed Blair and Blake’s session. Yes, Mrs. B., just for you.

As evidenced by the following photos, it had taken a while for the kids to relax. That was okay since I love the look of pensive children, voire slightly offended…

Blaire

Pensive Blaire

Blake

Blake, slightly offended

After a while, the sunny side of their personalities emerges:

Laughing Blake

Forgetting my presence

Blaire se lache!

Laissez-aller general

Mrs.B., oh you so owe me! Just kidding. It was raining anyway. ;-)