Here’s hoping that you have a cup of tea to hand and five minutes to spare, because this blog post is supersized. But that is what happens when I return to visit the family, after they are 1 bump down and 1 baby boy up and they have moved into a fantastic new home filled with colour and texture and fabulous toys. And a gorgeous, hand made driftwood mirror which I shamefully covet.
See that beautiful girl peeking at me in the reflection? That is the very lovely, very proud big sister. And, I think, an absolute natural in front of the camera. Photographing families like this is such an absolute treat – where you find them in the comfort of their own home, relaxed and happy to meet you, ready to help you create portraits that mum and dad really love and treasure.
I do love black and white images, but when you are gifted with such beautiful colours and textures to work with, well you just have to dive in and soak it all up.
I could have photographed her all day – such a quite, soulful expression. She is the sort of big sister every family should have in it – so patient and kind and caring to her two little brothers. And, may I add, sporting eyelashes to absolutely die for.
Speaking of little brothers, here is the spark and energy in the house. A running, rocking-horse riding bundle of fun and giggles. I quite like a challenge (of the running away, hiding kind) because it means when they slow down just enough to let you capture them, you know that all of their character will be distilled into the image.
And then, a brief window of opportunity opened up. I managed to convince him of the existence of a little mouse, living in my camera, who was very shy and timid. It’s an old trick, but it always seems to work for me. Especially since these two absolutely love the Clangers – so perhaps they are always on the lookout for mice in unusual places. Whilst he sits patiently, waiting for Bob the Mouse to make an appearance, his big sister is happy to wait and gaze into the lens with a quiet intensity that I adore in child portraiture. You see, I’m not after the “say cheese” smile from children. Since most parents have digital cameras and use them regularly, the kids know that if you flash a fake smile quickly, you’ll be free to play somewhere else. So although I love a natural giggle or grin, I love and look for those quieter moments where something much more is revealed about them.
Before I know where all the time has gone, I get to meet the little one. Until now I’ve only ever met him in bump form and he’s been sleeping, covered with a blanket, catching some quiet whilst his brother races around the house – so I’m very happy when his mum decides it is about time he made an appearance.
And he is gorgeous and chunky and just the right shape to cuddle. Which I do. And could have done for far too long. Do you know that delicious weight of babies? How they fit just right into the crook of your arm and drape over your shoulder.
But he’s not going to sit out of the action long. Soon he is awake, and pouting and making eyes at me. And those eyes are such an expressive, bright bright blue in the window light. Mum tells me that she remembers how his older brother started out with blue eyes, which then changed and deepened into a rich hazel.
Visiting their home was just like wandering into a wonderful nostalgic playroom for me. Their mum and dad had collected and kept lots of toys from their own childhood, so it meant I got to meet some of my old favourites. Like the pull-along old-school red telephone, the wooden toy dog with flapping leather ears, a big yellow teapot that opens up into so much more and the town centre play mat I remember really well. Our family had this exact same play mat – where you could drive around cars, build things up with blocks only to knock them down again moments later. It was the perfect backdrop for a beautiful baby boy and all his cuteness.
That is, of course, until big brother makes a return and advances towards you with playful intent. But he surprises us all with such a delicate cuddle and a smooch on the cheek.
Isn’t it always the way with little boys, that they look like perfect angels but then run outside and eat mud? Maybe that is just toddlers. I’m sure I sampled my fair share of mud pies when I was younger. Maybe it was a mineral deficiency. Anyway, with his halo of curls he can so easily get away with that sweet, innocent angelic look. Especially when I am trying to teach him how to make a pop sound. Which he doesn’t quite get the hang of. But what can I say, replicating the sound of fat sausages sizzling in the pan, going either pop or bang, is one of my many skills.
Yes, yes he definitely is going to be a cheeky little heartbreaker. Not just a twinkle in his eye, but a glimmer of cheekiness in his baby grin.
But being so gorgeous can be tiring. So we gather them all up and coax them into a shot all together. Which was only possible when 33% of the people involved were sleeping.
Sleeping is good. But crying is always fun when big sister is just trying to give you a cuddle. Remember how much they like the Clangers? Well as a treat for being so good, throughout the entire session, big sister got to have her picture taken in her very favourite dressing up outfit. Isn’t she the finest soup dragon you ever did see?
And since the session started with her, it was lovely to finish with her too.
When I’m packing up, I can hear little big brother calling out for me. He, very cutely, leaves the first letter off words so I aptly become “Ate! Ate!” when he calls me to come and play. In the kitchen, big sister introduces me to Goldie, the creatively named goldfish, of which she is very proud. And there I find little big brother, waiting to give me a round of high fives and smiles. By now, the littlest of the three is tucked up and dreaming.
It was so lovely to spend time with this family, in their warm home and their welcoming company. So I hope that when they look back on these images, where they are surrounded by each other and the toys of their childhood, they are able to remember how it was and smile.