Category Archives: Children

I’m the photographer who says poop

Bathroom humor? Not exactly my cup of tea. My mother would have never allowed it. In my family, bodily functions either were frowned upon or simply did not exist. The mere utterance of the word “caca” would have provoked desert deprivation for days… and if you know anything about my mom’s baking abilities, this is not a risk you would ever be willing to take. So caca became the much more poetic lala. For cake sake.

Zap to 40 years later and you have one pretty screwed-up adult. Moi. Laid back and uptight at the same time, all wrapped up in a small neurotic package.

The day started early. I packed cameras, lenses, and all the other good stuff, grabbed a latte with a few extra espresso shots, and met Julie, Barbara, and the two terrors for a photo shoot at the Arboretum. I had photographed the kids on many occasions but when they are so young, a few months elapse, and you find yourself in front of very different little peeps… And there always comes a time, ALWAYS, when the dreaded “cheese” comes into play.

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One day the kids give you the most natural smile in the world, then, perhaps victims of school photographers (note the perhaps if you happen to be a school photographer), the kids start grimacing painfully every time you point the camera in their direction. It takes a whole lot of patience and coaxing to get them back to being themselves. And sometimes, the habit appears so ingrained that nothing works. If you ask them not to smile and just relax, this is what you get:

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But sometimes a miracle happens and you see the light!

abb_032Look, the statue is NAKED!!!

Naked. That’s all it took!

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After this, piece of cake. When you find a cow, you must milk it for all it’s worth.

abb_043POOP!

abb_090Shake your BOOTIES

abb_101The frog is PEE-PEEING!

So here is the sad truth. I have become the photographer who says poop. I feel quite certain my mother would disapprove greatly of this pathetic turn of event, but I discovered I would really do anything to get that shot. Sigh. Julie recommended the book “Everybody Poops” to get over myself. It really seems like a good idea.

Nevertheless, I still much prefer the images of pensive children, the ones where, if they smile, it’s subtle, and if they don’t, they are simply caught being themselves.

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I wish I had a more serious photograph of the little dude, but after the first time I said poop, there was no going back. Point of no return was reached. The kid had a smile plastered on his face for the remainder of the session. Perhaps I would have been a happier kid too had I been allowed to say caca. Just writing this word is enough to make me feel guilty and ashamed.

Some say you never recover from your childhood. Isn’t that the truth?! But today, after this session, I definitely feel one step closer to my deep-down buried inner scatological self. I’m just not sure it’s such a good thing… I need to go call my mom.

A pony club sans vodka just ain’t the same

Zbigniev Wierbitszki owned a pony club in the outskirt of Brussels. Zbigniev liked his vodka and many gymkhanas turned into small dramas when he poured with a light hand (at every gymkhanas.) A pat on the back became a shove accompanied with a big hearty laugh (and many Polish words no one could understand) and if his whip caught you by surprise, it was not tender… but all in good fun.

From these formative years spent on tiny Shetlands, I have kept the best memories, which is why, when I got contacted by an area pony club to provide images for its website, I was very happy at the prospect.

btrinity_007b-copyIt was a pony club with sheep, goats, and chickens too

btrinity_036b-copyCaring for a horse teaches kids responsibilities… and problem solving

btrinity_050b-copyPhotoshop allows you to take the person holding the horse out of the photograph

trinity_102In my time, kids wore stylish black helmets but nowadays they dress up like shadow stormtroopers

btrinity_053b-copyPonies get stuck in weird places sometimes

btri2_021b-copyKids generally enjoy a little ride but the little boy was terrorized

tri2_096That little girl was stylin’. I even asked her where she got her boots.

ctri2_119cShe was the perfect model too, smiling as she jumped the fences!

btrinity_123b-copyAfter all the riding, the girls threw a wild tea party

btrinity_143b-copyIn my pony club, we never wore white gloves. We were much too busy ducking the whip to indulge in such civilities.

I danced my first tango in public at the end of a pony club summer camp. I was 8 and leading the poor boy across the arena, dipping him deeply at each end. This earned me 100 points and a ribbon. At the time, I had a HUGE crush on my dance partner, Eric Bockstal, but nothing ever materialized from it. I think I may have somewhat emasculated him.

Leo, seven years later

“So how much am I going to get paid?” Leo asks. A good question indeed… but coming from a seven year old, slightly unexpected.

“How much do I get for being a model?” he insists.

“Well, Leo, you get the glory that comes with appearing on my site.” He eyes me suspiciously as if my sole purpose in life consisted of ripping off little children. “I want money”, he says in a tone reminiscent of Addie Loggins in Papermoon.

I have known his mother, Isa, since the mid-eighties, when we attended school together in Brussels, formed a student union, fomented a revolution, and went our separate ways. My path led to Texas, hers to Thailand but always with a foot in Belgium.

Christmas 2001: I found her with child. I had not expected it. I knew nothing about it. I rang the doorbell and she opened the door with the tiniest wee baby in her arms. The baby wore a strange hat. That was the future negotiator in chief, Leo.

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Luckily, I had my camera with me! It’s not as if I would not have come back to photograph him but you have no idea how difficult it is to park in Brussels when you have completely lost the habit to parallel park in spots as big as pocket handkerchiefs.

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A year later, Leo is up, not yet running but close!

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The baby is adorable and not asking for money yet.

Unfortunately, during the next few years, Isa, Leo, and baby daddy Claude spent all their winters in Thailand, on beaches of white sands and turquoise waters. Can’t say I blame them, especially if you live in gray and rainy Brussels, but in the midst of all this whirlwind of international travels, meeting became difficult… until the munchkin began elementary school last year then the nomads got stuck.  The following photographs were taken this Christmas and you will notice that while Isa still looks exactly the same, Leo has morphed into quite a little man.

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Next year, I think I’ll have to show up with a pile of cash and pots of money. That kid drives a hard bargain.

The Many Faces of Circe

“Circe, go wear something fancy and I’ll take your photograph, okay?”

circebellyCirce the Belly Dancer

Circe, the seven year old daughter of my friend Fred, decides that “fancy” means belly dancer outfit (complete with socks.)  Before I take her portrait, she checks herself out in the mirror and sucks in her little belly. After a few pictures, she flies upstairs to change into something else.

circeperruquePreparing to emulate Marilyn Monroe

Circe is not in the mood for classic portraiture. She trades in the oriental costume for the Marilyn look. She then reclines on the settee and looks at me from under her eyelashes appearing slightly underwhelmed.  The portrait is vaguely disturbing, even more than I had anticipated, but the rule is to let her do and wear whatever she wants.

Circe has a new idea for a fancy outfit and tells me it will be a surprise. She will call me when she is ready. Five minutes later, she screams my name from the top of her lungs even though I’m just in the room next door.

circelionne1Circe and the lion

In her happy messy room, Circe, dressed like Tarzan’s Jane, is lying on her bed with her favorite lion… and the little stick to beat him into submission.

I ask her to find something a little more simple and she comes back in a white dress.

bcircefenetreCirce a la fenetre

I hear a bit of commotion outside the room, open the door, and find myself facing Catherine C., my neighbor from 35 years ago. I had not seen her since she had moved from our street in the seventies but I recognize her immediately! Weird! I ask Circe not to move while I go downstairs to meet her husband and children. One thing leads to another and before I know it, I’m having a cup of tea and cookies. More exactly tea and a cookie. The confections had all been made by Circe and taking a bite out of them is a mere impossibility. We all sit around chatting and dutifully sucking on our cookie, trying not to break any teeth.

Half an hour goes by and I suddenly remember poor Circe. I grab the camera and run up the stairs. This is what I find when I open the door:

circequiattendCirce who awaits

She has not moved an inch but looks mildly resentful (and freezing.) I have now created some abandonement issues in that sweet abiding little girl and I’m not feeling very proud of myself.  The mood has soured and the session appears over. I am not used to being obeyed. Who in their right mind would obey me anyway?

This session was photographed with a medium format film camera. I went back to film for the first time in many many many years, only to find out that in Dallas, you cannot find a lab with an old-fashioned dark room!

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This is not over yet. I am well aware that you slackers would much rather curl up in front of the fireplace (for you up north and way east) or go for a jog in a tee-shirt (my homeys and the Southerns down there), but you have far from completed your task.

Your help in helping me select photographs for my children photography brochure has proven incredibly valuable to me. I would have never selected the images you’ve chosen so far! What an eye-opener! It confirms what I’ve always thought: I should NEVER trust my own judgment!

Please select your three favorites from this set:

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All kidding set aside, I really REALLY appreciate your comments. You’ll notice for example that I have not included any photographs of squatting children in this set. I will probably never photograph them in that position anymore either for the reason so well set forth in your previous comments (why did I never think of that?)

Thanks again. I love you guys. Tears. Tears. Big smile.

If you have not cast your vote yet for the previous images, please do so here and there.

S.O.S Bloggers! I need you. I’m pathetic.

For those of you who missed the preceding post (and shame on you for that), I am in the process of designing a promotional children photography brochure for the Dallas area, and I absolutely need your input for the choice of images to include. Please let me know which are your three favorite photographs in the following bunch. Pretty please.

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All your help is incredibly tremendously appreciated!!! Thank you.

If you have not voted for the first set of photographs, please do so by clicking here.

HELP! Pretty Please!

When it comes to making choices, let’s just say I have issues. I am not the type of person who agonizes for hours in front of a black sweater and a brown sweater wondering which one to purchase. No. I buy both. Needless to say, I maintain a healthy distance between myself and stores.

Last January, I decided to design a promotional children photography brochure. Eleven months later, I still have not decided which photographs to include. Not procrastination. Not laziness. Just incapacity to make up my mind. That’s where you come in like glorious knights in shining armors! It’s high time y’all became useful at something anyway!

I post photographs and you, my beloved and cherished readers (am I laying it on too thick?), help me make choices! Voila! Brilliant, no?

The first set is from a session I shot in Belgium. Circe and Calypso were my little models. I would like to possibly use one or two in the lot.

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Please let me know which one or which ones you think would be a good addition to the brochure.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. There are many more you can select so if you do not like any of these, come back later!

note: folks, it would be helpful if you all picked the same one.