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.
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.
She offered him a carrot and he sat down, so she offered him a new life in her farm.
Arthur may not be a wild tiger but his spirit has not been broken.
He may not be an Asian elephant but I think he enjoys performing much more.
He doubles up as a very comfortable divan.
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?
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:
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.
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. She gets up, works her angles and gives me… Zoolander’s Blue Steel. I swear!
Then, prima donna-like, breaks into an aria…
And bursts out laughing.
My five minutes are over. I love my life.
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.
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.
The mom kept playing peek-a-boo with the stone structures of the park.
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.
Still the children kept delivering… shot after shot.
The Little Mermaid
Then… the adults’ giddy spirit got to them.
And since the kids were already wet…
So glad I did not have to put these little drenched ones in my car.
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…
Blake, slightly offended
After a while, the sunny side of their personalities emerges:
Forgetting my presence
Mrs.B., oh you so owe me! Just kidding. It was raining anyway.
Parents, sometimes you make my job so difficult. By the time your little angels look at me through my lens, it’s generally too late for any kind of behavioral change. Irreparable harm has been caused.
My number one pet peeve: the cheese smile. I’ll know it right away. I lift my camera to my eye for the first time and immediately the kid breaks into an uncomfortable smirk while the parent behind me, blissfully proud, goes: “Cheeeese!”
Here is the thing – parents will never be happy with the photograph and it will take me at least 30 minutes to get a natural expression.
Pet peeve numero Duo: refrain from tattooing your child with a big red dragon just before the session. It totally ruins any kind of romantic spin I’m trying to create.
And finally, pet peeve three, OMG what do your kids watch on TV?
Okay. It seems as if I am all indignant but in all honesty, the poses kids come up with crack me up! I just do not want the parents to think that I am in any way responsible for these seductive displays!
As a portrait photographer, my job is to capture the personality of my subject, its essence if you will. I pride myself in being particularly good with children, but sometimes, due to circumstances beyond my control, a kid’s fine subtleties seem more complex to figure out than those of others…
The husband of the amazon showed up, baby in tow for the photo session. I opened the door, took one look, knew I would have to dig up the ladder from the garage, yet again. Not to mention find the wider angle lens.
I would not have expected a six foot tall woman to join in holy matrimony a man over whom she would tower, but did she really have to pick a six foot nine hunk? What do they want from a 5’2″ photographer? Immortalize their nostrils?
With all the giants currently in my portfolio, I’m thinking investing in an OSHA approved ladder and pitching my services to the NBA.
Lil’ Miss J. has a fairly conservative mother and a wild painted toe-nail artist for a father. When mom’s birthday came around, a Hallmark card just wouldn’t do. We gave the child a tat and a beaner and let her express her love in front of the camera.
We saved the nose-piercing for next year.
The day before yesterday, Mrs. Brittney B-B, all six foot of her, came to my home photo studio for her pregnancy session. With one month to go, she felt it was time to bare all. And I was only too happy to oblige.
I extricated the ladder from the garage – considering my 5″2′ petite frame, a step stool would not have sufficed to capture such an amazon. I made her work. Hard. Perhaps it was the humiliation of having to be perched on a ladder… “Turn to the left, turn to the right, move over to the left, uh no, to the right.” After an hour and a half of calisthenics, we called it a day and decided to reconvene for the delivery in one month at the hospital.
The next evening, out and about with friends, I get a call from Brittney. Recognizing her number, I immediately suspect a case of photographic jitters but find myself completely mistaken. Mrs. B-B lies happily on a hospital bed with baby boy Cohen in her arms. How about that?
Cohen Thomas B., 1 day old, 19 inches, 7 lbs 5 oz
Brittney and Cohen bonding
Cohen with Brittney’s parents
You may wonder why the father is conspicuously absent from the photographs. No sordid stories here. Monsieur Todd B. picked the very day his wife delivered to be afflicted with a cold so he kinda got somewhat banished from the room. I’m seeing all of them next week for a family session. I cannot remember a time where I photographed the same person quite so frequently in a one week span, and frankly, I am seriously considering advertising my services as a magic labor inducing photographer.