Eleanor and Katy and Bebefoto

Before I started working on Fotoamour I was photographing children – pre-schoolers in the main.  And just recently I’ve had a lot of referrals for this kind of work.  I have a company called Bebefoto too – just another in the stable! 

I love photographing children, but I’m not really into just standard stuff.  Although the cheesy grin at the camera is inevitably the ‘money shot’ with parents, it is not the sort of image that ‘does it’ for me.   Because of the way that Bebefoto works I can indulge myself to a certain extent.

So I get to shoot the stuff I love about children – the curve of a toddler’s cheek, the tilt of a nose, the back of their necks (they aren’t even front on to the camera for goodness sake!).  These are the things that get forgotten but that make your child so special and unique to you.  It is like the smell that babies have … and lose once they get just a bit older.  And something that you can never recreate, because it is only about your own child.

They are the images that make my heart lift and take me back to the days when Myles and Barnaby were little.  Before they got more angular and their features lost the softness of babyhood.  Characteristics that are now lost and can only be recovered by some serious dredging of the memory bank.   Even the stuff that you perhaps wouldn’t have liked so much at the time – like the little bit of scaly ecezema behind the knees, or a birthmark that has now faded. 

So here are some pictures from some children’s shoots that I have done recently.  I hope you like them as much as I do.  Oh, and I’ve put some ‘money’ shots in too for those that want a little reassurance that I’m not a complete nutter!

So just to reinforce the ‘Jo is a nutter’ theory here are two shots of noses – well, not quite.  One is of a nose, a sweet upturned tilt of a thing and dusted with freckles, the other – the first – is of a little girl’s profile with a sweep of lashes (yes and horrors, slightly out of focus, but I like it purely for that reason – its slightly misty looking).  Sweet and innocent and lovely.

And this next set of three images should be seen as a sequence.  A moment of excitement and some giggling from a little girl.  Most people would settle for the final shot but I like the set of three – its a story of childhood, isn’t it?

Thanks to Eleanor and Katy’s parents who didn’t hesitate to allow me permission to put pictures of their lovely daughters on my blog to promote my business.  It was a generous act – thankyou.

Jo

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Article in The Times #2

Another cracking article in The Times On Saturday ‘Vicars to treat wedding guests as their dearly beloved’  (page 24).  The basic message of the piece is that The Church of England are telling its ministers to have a more welcoming and friendly attitude to wedding guests. 

Does this also extend to wedding photographers?

I have recently been at two ceremonies where the ministers, albeit very pleasant, made it abundantly clear that photography was not on their agenda.  The reason given was that it would distract the couple and their guests from the purpose of the occasion.  But the couples involved had booked a photographer, me, specifically to record the occasion.  Photography may not have been on their minister’s agenda – but it was very much on their’s.  After all, they had paid a professional to be there. 

Now I am a church-goer myself – not quite so much recently – but certainly in the past few years when the children were small I have attended church ……er…. religiously.  I did this because I believe in a great many of the values that go hand in hand with religion and I wanted those values to be reinforced, by someone other than me, in my children.   Alongside that, the fact is that there is a good grounding in geography, politics and history to be had too.  Not bothered about which particular brand – I was more interested in how welcoming a particular church was. In these times, when a large percentage of the population don’t see any point in making it legal, it occurs to me that a little positive marketing might be the thing required to promote marriage as A Good Thing.  And crucial in most marketing campaigns is good imagery. 

So why are the clergy, particularly CofE, so ANTI wedding photographers?  And photographing from the front of the church?  I know that you might have had some idiot photographers using flash at inappropriate moments, or moving around during the ceremony instead of staying put (we don’t do that!) but surely, with a few ground rules in place, this can be sorted out?  One of my favourite churches is All Hallows in Bispham where they issue the bride and groom with paperwork to be passed on to the photographer, stating the church’s wishes.   In return, provided you are a professional photographer, you can more or less photograph anything.  Catholic churches seem to be pretty easy-going whereas Scientology churches are particularly twitchy when it comes to photography.  Asian ceremonies are chaotic, with the official photographer being only one of a multitude of people clicking away!  I don’t really understand why some ceremonies are different to others – presumably they all believe in promoting marriage?

Those moments when the vows are being said, when the emotion of the moment results in a little tear shed, when there is humour as it gets to the bit about  ‘if anyone here present….’  well, those are the bits that really sell the idea of getting married!   If you don’t allow photography, and I’m talking about from the front of the church rather than from the back, you won’t get any of those special moments recorded.

So why haven’t some ministers/vicars/reverends caught onto this yet?   If you use fabulous imagery you’ll sell the idea of marriage in a church to someone who might have gone down a different path!  Then they are on your database for life!  And you can encourage them to stay within the church for christenings, Mums and Toddlers, funerals …. and blimey, they might even start attending your Sunday services too!

I’d also like to put in a particular mention for two local churches who have ‘letting’ ministers (and who also do a very good sermon too!)  – St. Cuthbert’s in Lytham with Andrew Clitherow and The White Church in Fairhaven with David Phillips.  Two lovely vicars – two very popular churches.  With good reason.

PS. ‘Letting’ ministers?  When our youngest was little (or more little than he is now) he used to call us ‘unletting’ parents.  It’s stuck!

Article in The Times #1

Great article in Friday’s Times by Joanna Pitman regarding the photography of children.  One of my most favourite  children’s photographers, Sally Mann, is shortly to have an exhibition at The Photographer’s Gallery in London and if you have the opportunity please go and have a look.  Her photography is simply wonderful – delicate and imbued with a profound love of children and their wonderful little bodies and faces. 

In these days of awareness of the dangers of paedophiles and internet grooming, it is a sad fact that we have become overly anxious about how our children are portrayed by photography.  At one time the thought of seeing a baby naked would have elicited no more than an indulgent chuckle – now parents are concerned that those images are going to be used for paedophile fodder.  How sad!  

I am just as anxious to keep those dangers away from my own children but I am darned if I am going to let that anxiety stop me from recording some of the most beautiful and poignant moments in their development.  For my own pleasure in years to come.  And for them to look back at and see family resemblances and remember special moments in their childhood.

And an unpleasant by-product of that anxiety is that some read meanings in the most exquisitely portrayed images of children where there is none.  It is a sad indictment of our society that a nasty sexual connotation can be seen in the most innocent of children’s portraiture.  Some excellent photographers have had to change the way that they work and, in extreme cases, have been chased out of the country.  Throughout history artists have portrayed the naked human form, children included, and through this have pushed the boundaries of art.  Is that wrong and did it lead to an increase in child abuse? I don’t know.  I’m pretty sure that Sally Mann’s photography is not the sort of imagery that would appeal to the more depraved in our society.  It is far too subtle.

At Bebefoto I am very conscious of the implications of photographing young children and their images being available for inappropriate use.  I love children.  I love their little chubby Bhudda bodies.  This is why I love to photograph their lashes, the curve of a cheek, a mop of unruly, tufty ‘first’ hair, a thumb being sucked or a lock of hair being chewed.  Its so easy to forget how your children were when they were so very young.  It doesn’t make me a pervert though.  And the whole sense of alarm about people photographing children, their own or anyone else’s, in an innocent setting makes me very sad.   In the pictures above these children were –  good grief – only dressed in nappies!  But the pictures are more beautiful because of it  – babyskin is a wonderful thing.

One of my sets of pictures above, which I did ages ago, but which remains one of my favourites – and guess what?  They’re not wearing tops!

So read the article from Friday’s Times and, either, get out there and photograph the special intimate things about your child that makes him/her the person they are going to be – or get someone to do it for you.  And if you have a chance go and see the Sally Mann exhibition – you’ll love it.