When my children were little, my husband and I lulled them to sleep with a rocking chair and our favorite lullabies.
“Hush, little baby, don’t say a word. Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.”
Those memories are precious.
But I don’t think I have ever SEEN a mockingbird until recently on an early morning bird tour in Naples, Florida. This mockingbird stayed on the pine branch long enough for me to capture this photograph. Now I can SHOW my children (and my grandchildren!) a live mockingbird.
I might have the best job in the world. Every year I spend a day shooting portraits at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for a special non-profit program that supports pediatric cancer called Flashes of Hope. Yesterday I photographed nine children and their families, for a total of 340 images. These families share their positive spirit with me, and I come home inspired by their strength and courage.
Today I began the lengthy task of processing the photos, which includes converting the images to black and white, the signature style of Flashes of Hope. So, I spent the day looking into the eyes of seven-year-old Joey. He was an animated talker, especially when he described his best friends and his “girlfriend” Kayla.
My photography friend and mentor Marc Soracco took these touching photos of my portrait shoot at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for Flashes of Hope when he assisted me last month. I thought you might enjoy a peak behind the scenes.
Portraits for Flashes of Hope, a volunteer program at Children’s Hospitals across the country, are all produced in Black and White. I have been shooting these portraits for many years, and I love the black and white, improving my work over time. There are many good reasons for this stylistic choice: The portraits stand apart from family snapshots. They look classic, timeless. They can often make an ill subject appear more healthy and vibrant. The monochrome style puts less emphasis on clothing and more emphasis on the face.
But every so often, one of my images begs to be seen with selective color treatment. Let me show you what I mean. This child came to me crying and refusing to look at the camera even with the comforting words of both parents, toys on hand and a little brother who was happy to help. The only trick that worked that day was a stream of bubbles. Lots of bubbles that you could reach out and pop. The bubbles just kept coming, thanks to the quick actions of my assistant, and nobody cared about the camera anymore. Even when one bubble got in his eye.
I see an echo between the bubbles, the boys’ eyes and the eyes not the minions on his shirt. I guess he should have worn goggles, too.
Many children I photograph act a little shy at first. A few cry or refuse to look at the camera. (As long as I can get the parents to stop pleading, scolding and threatening them, I can usually distract them enough to get some good shots.) Other kids, in an effort to do the right thing, give me the same uneasy smile, as they listen to a parent call out to them, “Be good for your picture!”
But my favorite subjects have so much personality, that they just can’t keep it inside. Every thought seems to bring a new expression, and every minute a fresh willingness to play and pretend. This little dynamo (call him Dennis) brought me great joy with his every move.
My assisting photographer called Dennis “the art director,” because he kept running over to me and asking to see his photo on the camera’s LCD.
Posing on Dad’s shoulders, he reached for convenient handles…
After I asked Dennis to “Be a banana,” he obliged. Then he said he wanted to be a Chicken McNuggett.
(“Dennis” is not the child’s real name. We protect his privacy by withholding his name.)