Kate Griffin Photography // London Family Documentary Photographer » Celebrating family life in London and across the UK

There’s a different sort of atmosphere when you can just sit with your portrait subject.

No chasing, no bribery involved (most of the time). Just a sense of quiet, apart from the chatting, dispelling the worry, dealing with the nerves, relaxing. It’s all about deep breaths, in and out (must remember both of these stages in order to remain upright), and letting the muscles relax, settle, allowing the character to come to the surface.

Finding the true character of someone’s face is especially important when creating headshots for an actor. I like to take my time, to get to know the person I’m photographing, to allow them to open up. They are always a portrait session for me, that unfold over time, that take place over a few locations, that use what I find on the day – whether that’s the incredible window light that pours onto the stairs inside, the atmospheric touch of mist that settles in an underpass, the bruised pink sky of a sunset.

And if my subject has an incredible mane of jet black curls, well, you won’t hear me argue with that either.

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She was so lovely, so little, the recently arrived Lucy. Sleeping soundly (that didn’t last long), looking like butter wouldn’t melt (it absolutely does), I could only sit and stare at her for a while. There is something about a newborn’s newness that doesn’t last long – the curl, the unfurling stretch, the tiny “o” of a yawn.

The perfect wonder of a newborn baby will hold you spellbound. Time passes. You barely look up, because you’re busy watching her breathe, the gentle swell and fall, the flickering fingers, the repertoire of expressions, already so many although so few days have passed.

You watch. Slightly hushed. Not wanting to wake her. Wanting desperately to wake her to look in her eyes and meet her properly.

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I’ve looked in her eyes and said hello so many times since then. But not nearly enough.

I’ve held her when she giggled and cuddled her when she cried. But not nearly enough.

I want that time back again. But I can’t have it.

So I look at the photographs I have and settle very happily for that. And make a date to see my old friend and her two daughters again. Not before time.

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There was a moment, down by the water at Frencham Ponds, where we both felt faintly ridiculous. Laura had produced another bump to be proud of, I’d arranged time for a maternity session because we’d missed the boat with child #1 and now here we were.

I’ve photographed the kids plenty of times. I’ve captured them all as a family. (Although not the 4 of them…scribbles that in a notebook). But it being just me, Laura and the lens – well, we suddenly discovered that that was different somehow. The two of us together should really just be eating Mexican food, going to the cinema, bunking off a lecture at university. But here she was, married, mother of 1, another on the way. There I was, working as a portrait photographer, pretending to be a grown up.

So the giggles began. The wildly inappropriate laughter followed. I tried my best to be Kate Griffin with a camera. Laura just laughed at Griff trying to be her most polite self, but making her stand in the reeds whilst heavily pregnant. She’d come with a change of outfits, I had a bag of lenses. We both felt a little like we were playing at being different people.

I tried to put my professional face on. However, the Griff in me suddenly found the fact of a pregnant Laura hilarious. The session did not progress as usual. But the portraits were made despite that. Maybe because of it.

And I love them. Because they are of the Laura I know now, they remind me of the Laura I’ve known always, and they promised the Lucy that was to arrive very shortly after.

Two old friends in the woods, with the light lingering just long enough, and our laughter rolling about on the air.

I like to take photographs of everyone like they are old friends of mine. There should be plenty of laughter, a feeling of ease, an atmosphere of fun. I’ll chat to you, find out about who you are, then capture that in a photograph.

The pictures I take of you, of your family, mean something to me. You are not a number, or a slot in my day. You are important to me. We make these photographs together, you and I.

So old friend, when are you next free?

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  • November 21, 2012 - 6:07 pm

    Katharine Peachey - These are lovely! and that one in the woods with a flick of the cardi…..amazing!ReplyCancel

  • November 21, 2012 - 7:03 pm

    Paula O'Hara - Love these Kate. Gorgeous light and wonderful connection as always.xReplyCancel