Last month, I spent a gorgeous evening with Laura and her daughter Kaia and while her husband and pug trailed after us, we enjoyed a sprawling walk around Winnipeg's picturesque King's Park at the height of its late spring glory - lilacs, irises and all. The evening sunset cast an absolutely enchanting pink hue on everything, and it provided a beautiful magical glow in which to capture their connection and interactions.
It wasn't an easy session for this gorgeous mama. Kaia is 3 1/2 years old and wants to do things her way. Go where she wants to. She didn't feel like touching mama's belly, or hugging mama or doing anything really... not when asked or probed. She wanted to do things on her own terms - which is a pretty common thing among children her age. So we went with her flow. We walked at her pace. I ran when she ran. Or trailed after, as she ran away, and eventually came back or slowed down. We chatted and strolled and exchanged stories. Half an hour turned into an hour. Time crept on, and there was no pressure. We explored the park... the forests, treelines, ponds, bridges, hidden pathways behind the lilacs, a gorgeous plant labyrinth, a patch of irises, and the most fun part of all - the off-leash dog park, which was the treat at the end of the voyage. It was the one thing we had on our side, to entice Kaia with. And she stayed focused and keen to see the dogs. Along the way, she marveled with animation at her universe, and gave us permission to observe and, once in a while, participate.
Parenting young ones is fraught with compromise, making deals, and a lot of giving up control. It is a delicate ballet of the pulling, grinding and tugging of souls, as they mingle, bump up against one another, and meld into a cozy stew of love and togetherness. Being on the outskirts looking in, watching this fragile dance take place with my camera in hand, is also a delicate art. I must earn peoples trust - children and grown-ups alike. I must make people understand that I am not there to judge. I am there to honour them, in THEIR reality. Whatever that reality looks like. I will find the beauty in it, no matter how seemingly challenging it might be. It can be easier at times, than at others. But one thing is certain... I thrive on this challenge, and regardless of the obstacles, I enjoy my work; in discovering what families are like, behind the veil. It is a mystery I revel in 'cracking' into. I strive to find the authentic facets of the jewels within a family, hidden beneath layers and layers of material, emotional, psychological and societal barriers. Each family is a universe unto itself. Chaotic... unpredictable... unstable.... enduring.... resilient.... hauntingly deep and laden with a multitude of emotional complexity.
This session was light and ethereal, driven almost entirely by little 3 1/2 year old Kaia, who has a mighty will, and a brilliant little mind, and eyes that roar. This session was magical. Please stop by enjoy these snippets.
I remember what it felt like, to be pregnant and chasing after a toddler. My girls are 2 years apart so my first-born was younger and probably even less reasonable than Kaia was on this day. It was NOT easy. And I did not hire a photographer to follow us around and capture our moments. The thought of it gave me anxiety. I didn't know anyone whom I could trust to honour our reality in a caring, sensitive, artistic way. I regret this. I wish I had known someone to do this for me. For us. I nursed and wore my toddler throughout my pregnancy, and felt very much like I had a baby to look after for most of those months. I was constantly heaving and shlepping, sweating and covered in spit up and breastmilk. The last thing I felt was attractive. But I was filled with love and full of emotion and my connection to my toddler was so so so strong.
After seeing these photos, Laura told me, "I see those photos and feel beautiful. You have no idea how much that means to me."
I do have an idea. I imagine what it would have felt like if I had had photos like these taken, and I can feel what she felt. Except my photos live only in my imagination, and in my regrets.
Please go ahead and be brave and trust someone to capture your moments. Big, small, good, bad, the booboos, the sobs, the snotty noses and the mama snuggles. Everything. It's gone before you know it. And you end up standing at the foot of a path, like this one, dreaming of your early motherhood days, wishing you had an album to flip through. Friends and peers and mentorees often ask me why my work tends to feel so emotional. Well... now you know a big part of it. My own regrets, longings, sorrows serve as inspiration in the work that I do with women and families every day. That's my silver lining.
"This is our third session with Elliana, and every time she manages to capture us in a way that evokes fairy tales and magic. This shoot is particularly special to me, not only because it's a celebration of the years I've carried my oldest in woven wraps, but because it is a welcoming of the newest member of our family. This pregnancy has been difficult, but I look at these photos and see such light and happiness, and despite feeling really unattractive for the last several months, these photos make me feel beautiful. I will treasure them for a long time to come."
Contact me to book your own motherhood | parenthood session.
We will spend an hour or two where I just quietly, gently, lovingly capture the subtle and often unseen details of your biggest love stories... those between you and your children.