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Photographing young children is so often a lesson in not getting what you want. It’s all about taking things as they come while maintaining a sense of humor. It’s about improvising. Negotiating. Yielding. Creative problem solving. Being painfully patient and profoundly attentive. Sometimes begging, sometimes bribing. It’s looking for things to wholeheartedly adore, and making the best out of any given situation. For sure, it’s writing a love story with pictures.

Other than the begging and bribing, it’s pretty much a good recipe for living life, I‘d say.

I arrived at the location of this shoot very quickly forming ideas of where and how I wanted to photograph. Because it was a family with two young boys, I knew the odds of getting exactly what I wanted were iffy at best, but still, you have to have a vision to know what direction to lean in. The family arrived and were more formally dressed than I’d imagined they’d be for photographing on the sandy lakefront. Trying to keep the boys’ clothing clean and nice while at the same time encouraging them to have fun presented a challenge. Pleasant expressions were sacrificed for the idyllic location.

After it became too hot and bright to work on the lakefront we moved to a nearby park area, where the boys were changed into play clothes and allowed to run. I’m not crazy about playground equipment being included in portraits, but was willing to make that concession over the pained expressions I was getting earlier. In this image there’s much to be distracted by. Too many lines, and too much busy-ness. I might have at least liked the boys to be barefoot and perhaps even shirtless to simplify the scene more, but those choices weren’t mine to make. My choices were all those things listed in the first paragraph, and then finally, deciding when to press the shutter release.

For the most part, I rarely get exactly what I set out to achieve when photographing children. Things almost never happen according to plan. There’s always compromises, let downs, and surprises. But I find the process oddly exhilarating, and always come away with a childlike freshness from having shed the need to control the uncontrollable. Letting all that stuff go allows me to discover the beauty that remains even when I don‘t ultimately get what I want.



~Cynthia





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