Babies

The stories behind the print competition finalists

Print Competition Finalists 2020
After sorting through years worth of photographs and ideas from many friends, families and strangers the final four images are prepared for print competition! This is my first year applying. With my style being so different than a studio portrait with controlled lighting and carefully selected attire, I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in so I just never tried. Lame, I know. But this year I’m ready to put myself out there. Unfortunately Districts has been cancelled this year but PPA plans on creating a virtual platform for the International Photographic Competition.  These are the stories behind the finalists that I will submit in October.


Language Barrier
Carter and Bruce were besties from the start. When we brought my son home from for the first time, Bruce came over and laid his head right on Carter’s little tiny legs while looking up at us for confirmation that this new addition was going to be ok. We knew that Bruce had one major advantage when it comes to babies – he’s completely deaf. Crying doesn’t bother him one bit! We “talk” with Bruce by stomping on the floor, using sign language, and buzzing his vibration collar when we need his attention. Carter had to find other ways of telling his best friend that he loved him, which was primarily accomplished through this open-mouthed growl while Bruce licked inside his mouth. Pretty gross, but such a precious memory. Carter is now almost 6 years old. His favorite way to show love to Bruce now is with snuggles. For dogs and for people, love can be expressed in many unique ways, without the need for words.


Multiple Perspectives
As we drove from a park to their home (pre-COVID) I turned around in my seat to see three teenagers just doing their thing – two of them were on their phones and this young man was just looking out the window the whole ride home. It struck me not only that he sat comfortably with the silence but also that it almost looked as if I was staring at two different people. He was staring out the window at the world and looking “at me” at the same time. This image struck home more during the pandemic. It is so easy to get weighed down by the world and try to escape through a phone, a computer, a TV. It’s in the quiet moments of stillness that we are able to contemplate what truly matters and take on different perspectives to try to help us make sense of what is going on around us. When we take the time to look out the external world from behind the glass of our protective bubbles, we are also able to reflect more on our internal environments and on our relationships with those who mean the most – those who are inside the bubble with us.


Reflecting Love
Laura lost her daughter, Anastasia, during childbirth. A year later she was pregnant with her son, Blake. “It felt like everyone thought that Blake would “cure” my sadness and in so many ways, he does. He brought joy back to my life, purpose back to my days and a smile back to my face. But he did not replace Anastasia. My heart still aches for her and my arms long to hold her. I want to shout to the world, ‘I am the Mother of TWO precious, perfect and beautiful children!’” THAT is what this session was about – creating a picture that also incorporated her angel baby. When Laura and Blake want to remember Anastasia, the go to a local duck pond together, listening to the breeze and feeling a deeper connection with her. This image is a picture of their reflection in that duck pond. The spots in the foreground are the result of bokeh from the lily pads.

For print competition I can’t include the graphics found in this version. In order to really pull Anastasia’s story into the image I commissioned John Langdon, the artist for Angels and Demons, to create a reflective ambigram of her name.


Three Reasons
Being a parent is hard. Being an entrepreneur is constantly challenging. There are times that doing both doesn’t seem possible and I contemplate if I should give up on my dreams to be a better mom. Recently we asked my five year old if Mommy or Daddy should just go get a job to make money or stay the course with our businesses and help people with doing what we truly love. His response made me pause. “You should help people, and you can make money doing it.” From the mouths of babes. To this child’s mind, who has watched Mommy go through all of the ups and downs of running a business, it was very simple. He knows that I do this work to love people and to support our family. These three beautiful human beings depend on me to be mom and business owner. I can show up as both. They do not have to be exclusive of each other. My children are seeing how determination, resilience, and a community of support have given me this opportunity to stay home with them AND chase my dreams. This is my wish for them. This is the reason I get up early and stay up late almost every day.

This image was a recreation of a picture I took when my second child was born. I knew that this was what I wanted to make into a portrait for our walls to remember when our family was made complete with the arrival of our baby girl. I had to work quite a bit of photoshop magic to merge three images together, paint part of an arm, and change the color of the flower in her hair. Life with three kids is simply not this perfect!

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Sometimes the story to be told is one we didn't expect

Song credit: “There For You” by Cherie and Lyndy

Babe & Christina’s Story
When I first met Christina four years ago, we were waiting for a Memorial Day parade to start. We had children around the same age so we naturally started chatting with each other. As we got further along in the conversation I started talking about my photography and she got really excited. Her and her husband had recently purchased a farm and were happy to share the space if I ever needed a location. As I pulled up to their property for the first time I was blown away with the beauty of the gorgeous lake, landscape, and historic buildings.

Since that day they have grown the property into a brewery, a wedding venue, and arguably the best Christmas tree farm in the area. They also own and operate a well established landscaping company. It amazes me to see how they have worked so hard to make their dreams a reality.

When Christina and I sat down for her Scriptwriting Session (6 feet apart at the lakefront might I add!), the vision that we created did not include any of the grand achievements that I just listed. She wanted to surprise her husband, Babe, with a film for Father’s Day. We were going to film little snippets throughout the day of the things she loves most about him as a father and husband – making pancakes for Sunday breakfast, helping the kids learn the responsibilities that go along with having farm animals, setting up the family for popcorn and a movie before bedtime, and throwing giggling, crazy-haired children on the bed after tubby. That was our plan and we were ready! That is until the day went into an entirely different direction.

One of the kids slept at Oma’s house and wasn’t back in time for breakfast, so the first scene we planned was scratched. Then, I quickly realized that it was going to be challenging to surprise Babe with a film staring himself. It felt intrusive to follow him all day with a camera in his face when he didn’t really know what we were creating, so I stepped back and followed a different story. One that was beautiful, deep, and real.

I saw the story of a couple who have big dreams and support each other in any ways they can to make it happen. Christina takes on a lot of the farm chores, does a ton of outreach and coordination for events at the farm, and probably 1001 other things that she does behind the scenes for their family and business every day. Babe does a lot of work with his hands – cutting, building, digging, trimming. His days are long and physically exhausting. When there is still work to be done and not enough of themselves to go around, they call on Christina’s mom (also in the film) who will swing by in a heartbeat to lend a hand. The song in this film speaks to this family’s dedication to be there for each other through thick and thin, and the visuals focus on what all of their work is really about – the love for their children, each other, and family that supports them. The beautiful moments they spend together make all of the challenges of entrepreneurship worth it. These children will grow up knowing what it means to keep moving forward in life even when there are huge mountains to climb because they see their parents doing it every day.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
~Eleanore Roosevelt


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Your children see when you embrace who you are

Song credit: “Evergreen” by Emorie

Ashley’s Story

I’ve always admired this beautiful woman. When I see her behind the counter at the coffee shop she greets every single person with a vibrant smile. She spreads warmth and light by just being herself everywhere she goes. And as a mom, there aren’t really words to describe how incredible she is. The only way I could show her how much I appreciate her is through the lens of my camera, capturing exactly who she is both as a mother and a beautiful person.

When her oldest son came home from school he immediately ran in to see his baby brother. He gently and lovingly put the binky back in the baby’s mouth. I could see from the first interaction how the strong bonds of brotherhood were forming. The tender care that he showed to his brother was a reflection of the woman that I so looked up to. Just by being true to herself wherever she goes, she showed him exactly what it meant to be a caring and compassionate person.

“Behind all your stories is your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins.”
~Mitch Albom


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This family received more than just photos and films

Linda & Mike’s Story
Guest post written by Linda F.

Photographers play the role of family historians. They dutifully and often beautifully document the births and growth of children, the changing dynamics of a family, the holidays, the important events. These memories are collected, edited, printed, and handed back as pieces of paper filled with the smiling faces of those who are someone’s entire world.

But-Melody is not a historian nor is she a photographer. She is elevated into the same category as the true magicians and miracle workers, those rare few who have incredible gifts and are willing to share them with the world.

In my maternity pictures, my son’s first birthday, and my daughter’s birth, Melody did not just take our pictures, which anyone with a camera can do, but she somehow managed to capture the essence of our family. When we look her photos we don’t see our faces so much as we see the overwhelming love and joy we find in each other. We see the excitement as we navigate parenthood. We see the pride in our son’s face as he holds his sister. Melody doesn’t take pictures. She encapsulates the feeling of the moment, and gives it back to us as a gift of immeasurable value.

There is this undefinable something when you meet the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with- the world shifts, starts spinning a little smoother maybe. And when you and that person are lucky enough to have first one healthy, amazing, little child, and luckier still to have a second fiery, fierce little person, you recognize that blessing and thank your lucky stars for it every day. I may not be able to ever define the depth of the love I have for my family, but I don’t need to. Melody captures it for me.

“The world is full of magic things, waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
-W.B. Yeats


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There is a reason they are called "great" grandparents

Song credit: “Best of All Our Days” by Andrew Simple

David’s Story
Generational sessions are so powerful. There is so much beauty in the varied relationships between little ones and their parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents. Each one holds such a unique bond and energy that is not had anywhere else. Lately in Family Stories sessions I have been really encouraging the inclusion of extended family in sessions and my husband, David, mentioned something one day about how much it hurts him to watch these generations together when his own is incomplete. His mom passed away in 2013. Not a day goes by that the emptiness from her absence is not noticed. He wanted a generational session but he wanted her to be part of it.

When we talked about going to his grandparents’ house to capture their story, we wanted to capture two important perspectives: what Grampa’s normal day-to-day routine was like (he loves his coffee cake muffins with “reduced” sugar) and how David appreciated them for the impact they have had on the lives around them. There was one more piece I knew I had to fit in: his mom needed to be part of it somehow.

Our daughter was getting crabby at nap time so he bounced her around in the living room until she dozed off in her favorite place to be – in Daddy’s arms. He got comfy on the couch, and if you’ve ever had a sleeping baby on you know that is nearly impossible to stay awake. As their breathing slowed and they melted into each other, I looked above the couch they were resting on and saw the pictures of family members surrounding them on the walls. In the same room, Grammi had a shelf to commemorate David’s mom. And as he laid there embracing his precious baby girl, I saw the tattoo of his mom’s face looking up at him in pride the same exact way she did on our wedding day. I felt all of that love and interconnectedness of loved ones embracing them in that moment.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with the title of the blog. I want to start with a short story. When we announced our first pregnancy, we gave a gift to Grammi at Christmas that was a picture of a bear with the caption “Beary Special Great Grandmother.” She smiled and said thank you and was about to move on without even realizing what it said. Looking back, she said she just thought it was saying she is a phenomenal grandmother. That stuck with me, both as a wonderful memory that makes me smile and a much deeper insight into what it is to be a great grandparent. I cannot do justice to the story that David tells in his own words through this story so I will take a piece from his narration:

“You continue to teach us all so much in the way you look with love at the lives you helped create. Through the love, through the loss, your simple and graceful ways carry the memories of this family. Time passes and pictures fade but your love endures forever.”

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That first haircut makes a momma's heart ache

Caleb’s Story

I didn’t want to trim off his precious baby curls for fear that they might never grow back, but it was getting to the point that his hair was in knots every day and I had to give in. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. This was shortly after taking my first course in filmmaking. I put my camera between me and my baby to keep the tears at bay, giving me a job to focus on (at least until after we were done). This was filmed while I was still pregnant with our youngest. In typical middle-child-fashion I didn’t get around to finishing the film for him. Recently we have been struggling with communicating with him. He gets so frustrated when we can’t understand him. There are times it seems he is expected to grow up faster than he should because his baby sister needs so much from me. One night I sat in the stillness of the house after the kids went to sleep and paused. This was important to finish – for him, for me, for our family. A reminder that life goes by too quickly to put memories on the back-burner. All it took was a few hours to finish, and now we have this treasure for a lifetime.

“This hair that once grew while you were nestled in my belly feels like the last piece of me that is connected to you. With every curl that falls to the floor, I’m reminded how quickly you’ve grown into an independent little human.”

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The first Family Stories film

Song credit: “Stars In June” by Emorie

I got a call from a father who wanted to gift a session to his wife for her birthday…the next day. She had been wanting family pictures since the birth of their first daughter. A couple months quickly slipped away without finding the time for it. He wanted to surprise her with family pictures. I was excited to help give this mom a gift that I knew she would cherish forever, but I was a little nervous to take the session. My daughter was only 6 weeks old and I had to travel 2 hours to get their house, which meant that she had to come with me. I had barely been out of the house at that point while focusing on adjusting to a caring for our now family of five. Family Stories was still a brand new concept that I had only practiced with my family and one friend so I wasn’t even sure how this would go in a client’s home.  I stepped out of my comfort zone with the decision to make it happen even with all the barriers that I saw standing in my way and I am forever thankful that I did.

Because this was a surprise and so last minute, we had to condense the Family Stories process into a single day. First we sat down for the scriptwriting. I asked them a handful of questions to find out what they want to remember about their home, their daughter, and their relationship together. Their warmth, sincerity, and openness brought me so much comfort. Their sister was visiting from across the country. When she wasn’t in the frame, she was holding my daughter for me. Without her, I would have been babywearing, which makes it pretty difficult to move around while filming.

I’m forever grateful that this family welcomed me into their home. This was the first time that I was able to bring to life my concept of putting storytelling first and foremost in the creative process. When I showed them the film for the first time at their Reveal, their tears told me that this is what I was meant to do. Through Family Stories I am able to help people preserve memories in a way that our brains alone cannot process. This stage of caring for a newborn became tangible, visceral, and readily available to relive no matter what is going on in life or how much time passes.

Their love for this beautiful girl is so massive that it can feel nearly impossible to put into words. For these moments, the wise words of Dr. Suess are the perfect fit for the love that this mom and dad pour into this beautiful soul just starting out in life. “Will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)”

From the day they were created, we wonder who our children will become

Even when she is still a tiny little bundle of poop, puke, and pee parents will look into her tiny eyes and imagine what big things this itty bitty human will do in this world. They have hopes and dreams for her future. Their love for this beautiful creature is so massive that it can feel nearly impossible to put into words. For these moments, the wise words of Dr. Suess are the perfect fit for the love that this mom and dad pour into this beautiful soul just starting out in life. “Will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)”

Incorporating your favorite books into a family film

Reading to your children is an important part of everyday life while their brains and perceptions of the world around them are forming. As part of a keepsake for your family, consider incorporating reading in your film. As the years pass by, it serves as a reminder that, no matter the challenges, we wish for a world of wonder and hope for our children.


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