I was enjoying my day off, staining my deck 10 feet up in the air on a ladder when my phone rang. On the other end a familiar voice responded to my hello. It was one of my favorite clients, whose family I've closely worked with for more than four years. In a very calm and collected tone she said: "We just had the baby. Can you come up to the hospital right away? We'd like to get some photos of Stella seeing her for the first time."
After getting over my initial shock of just how nonchalant Cari was about the whole scenario (after all, she had just given birth), I excitedly said I'd be there as soon as I could and proceeded to get down on the ground and get my paint brushes in water. I don't think I had time to change clothes before I jumped in the car and rushed up to beat two-year-old Stella who was en route to meet her baby sister.
As a former news photographer, I was eager to start photographing. Opportunities such as the one I then just been presented with don't happen often. In my newspaper days I'd do what so many photographers do and compare my work to others in the industry. I'd see stunning work from other shooters and think to myself: "I could do something like that if I only had the time." Some of my most favorite work comes from long-term projects and when working in a small market, enterprising projects you'd like to do for yourself often get trumped by annual used book sales and the prized russet potato someone harvested that bore a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln (OK, in fairness, there really were some well-done, hard news stories, too).
One of my biggest takeaways from newspapers was what I deemed the three Ps of photojournalism: prepare, prepare and prepare. When you ethically cannot recreate a moment, the only thing you can do is do as much homework as you can to ensure you're in the right place at the right time so you can capture the essence of a story as it actually happens. So, with being invited to a birth, this means developing a trusting relationship with the family well in advance of when you're needed to actually to photograph the life-changing event.
All of this actually only added to my anxiety as I approached the hospital. I've photographed the events surrounding births before (I'm not much interested in photographing the live birth itself), but when you're given such an opportunity you don't want to screw it up. I also had a brand new camera in tow that I hadn't yet had a chance to put through its paces, so that had me sweating, too.
I barely arrived in time to congratulate Cari and her husband, Eric, before Stella hurriedly walked into the room with a gift. I put the camera up to my eye and ...
... was able to get this photo of Stella as she turned to see the newest member of her family.
... 2.5 seconds later ...
... and finally, as she got to see her then-unnamed sister up close.
The rest of the afternoon was a blur as I worked to capture these moments while being respectful of how significant this time was for the family — and figure out the technical aspects of my new camera in the process.
I was, and am, so grateful to Cari, Eric and Stella for allowing me to be on hand for such personal moments.
There are so many more pictures I am proud of from this day, but I want to save many of these moments for the family to enjoy by themselves.
After a day in the hospital, Cari and Eric called to let me know they had decided on a name for their little girl: Maeva. More of her pictures and story will be coming soon.
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Related: Click here to view photos of the cake party when Cari and Eric learned they would be welcoming their second daughter to the world.