Parties always offer great opportunities to catch displays of genuine emotion. While I photograph events for a living, I rarely resist the temptation to bring a camera along when invited as a guest as well.
My friends would argue that my social time would be spent more wisely concentrating on finding that forever elusive oxymoronic “decent guy” than hiding behind a Canon but history, mine anyway, has demonstrated time and time again that photography is much more emotionally rewarding, not to mention longer lasting… I digress.
Going back to Brussels for Christmas allows me to occasionally run into people whose paths I have not crossed in decades. This year, the “pony bunch” gathered to celebrate one of their own’s birthday. This tight-knit group of friends grew up dedicating their youth to competing one another on high-priced ponies. All were show-jumping at an international level, traveling together, and causing many headaches to hotel managers and chaperons across Europe. Today most have married, procreated, and passed along the passion to their children.
When photographing an event, I avoid using a flash as much as possible. One, it kills the mood, and second, it annihilates any chance of remaining discrete. A wide aperture lens generally solves the problem. It’s a choice. Capturing movement remains iffy as evidenced by the next photograph of Chloe and husband demonstrating acrobatic rock in the kitchen in the morning’s wee hours.
The cutest moment of the party happened when Diego, Steph’s 12 year old son, surprised her with a gift. He had gotten into major trouble during the afternoon for disappearing on his bike for a whole hour and refusing to provide any explanations as to his whereabouts. He had actually pedaled for miles to get to the nearest Godiva and purchase a little box of his mom’s favorite chocolates with his saved up allowance.
As a woman sans child, I was touched by the gesture and suddenly felt quite cheated. Luckily all the mothers around the table were quick to point out that mommies around the world have to put up with years of sacrifice and suffering in order to blessed with such a charming attention once every blue moon. All righty then! The pang of parental deprivation had lasted exactly a minute and thirty seconds.
It takes me hours after a party to process the gazillion photographs, but I do not mind. The reward is in the party goers’ smiles when they receive their prints. And in this particular case, I also get to bring back to Texas a little piece of Belgium with me, a little piece of my past.