Sometimes children show you that what you thought you wanted wasn't really what you wanted at all.
I had this shoot with my 22-month-old son all planned out. The timing was perfect, since my Te Awamutu photography studio would already be set up with a crisp white backdrop from a session the day before, and we had a full day at home with no other pressing commitments. I had even scheduled it into my calendar to make sure it happened. I pictured lots of energy and cheeky grins, chasing after bubbles, bouncing, dancing and having fun.
Then the day rocked around. We just weren't feeling it. I was exhausted and cranky and hormonal (I was 7 months pregnant). Zachary was feeling a bit disconnected. We went through the motions for a while - bubbles, games, singing and dancing. We got some OK photos, but the usual glint in his eye just wasn't showing itself.
Then he picked up my little stuffed lamb - just a random photo prop that was sitting on the sidelines. My sweet, caring little boy gave him the most tender cuddle, gazed at him adoringly, kissed him gently on the nose, and snuggled in like they were best buddies. For a heavily pregnant mummy, this was completely priceless. Yes, I love his sense of humour and his cheeky grin, but nothing melts my heart quite like seeing his caring, loving side. Watching him be so gentle and affectionate, and picturing him doing the same to his little brother when he arrived (which he did - they both adored each other from day 1!) was the most precious gift I could have had that day.
There is no way I could have created that moment, or at least not its heartfelt sincerity. This was all him.
I have a gallery of these photos in a huge metal print on my living room wall, and they are some of my all-time favourite photos of my wonderful little boy. Barely a day goes by without me spending a few minutes gazing at them. If I had tried to force my vision instead of following his lead, this gentle, caring part of his personality at such a young age would have quickly been lost in time.
Sometimes when you work with children, they show you that what you thought you wanted wasn't really what you wanted at all. Create an environment where they can be themselves, and they might just remind you of what you love the most.
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