Thursday, August 11, 2011
Angelic. That's the word that kept circulating through my mind as I was photographing Dylan and Tori last month. Nikki and I were on vacation to attend a high school reunion and catch up with some old friends in Colorado. Jen asked me to do a family shoot while we were there so we planned a day to spend with them barbecuing and taking photos.
Jen and Nikki first became friends in elementary school and stayed close through high school and became roommates for a while afterwards. Life moved on, Nikki and I left Colorado for the military, and Jen met and married Will a few years later. About 16 years have passed since we left, but Nikki and Jen have remained close, communicating often on the phone and making the periodic visit to see each other when possible. I'm usually with her on those visits and we have the opportunity to spend a day here and a day there together with Jen and her family. I'd met Dylan twice, once when she was 14 months and once when she was 4, but I had never met Tori. Mostly, though, I've known Jen and her family over the last 16 years via information communicated to me through Nikki. Bits and pieces of anecdotes and stories were how I knew the girls up until the day we made the photographs.
I knew they were beautiful. I had seen the photographs a well respected and established photographer made a couple years back. When that level of photographer is willing to shoot your kids for free because they want them for their portfolio, you know the kids have "it". I had never seen them interact with each other, however, and I had never spoken with them for any extended time, so I didn't know what to expect. There's a chance they could be brats with a gigantic sense of self entitlement, which would spoil all of the physical beauty they clearly had. After Will let us in, the first thing I see is two bundles of energy, in matching clothing, bounding down the stairs screaming Nikiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii............
My heart melted. They knew who Nikki was partly because they had seen her before, but mostly because Jen talks about her and makes her seem fresh and current in their minds despite her absence. That's how it is with old friends, they always feel like family and you feel immediate comfort in their presence. They all ran upstairs to put the finishing touches on the girls' hair for the photoshoot.
I waited downstairs with Will and got caught up on his new life. He recently decided to quit his job as a VP at mega humongous SAP and start his own consulting business. That takes a lot of planning and a lot of brass stones to make it happen, but Will is a planner. I'm hoping it rubs off on me somehow (note to self, spend more time with Will), but I doubt it. I can't plan past this weekend, it's just how I've always been. He's also a bass player in a band called "Fina Dupa" (www.finadupa.com). It's an interesting dynamic to observe the two sides of Will. You've got the type "A" VP of business operations on the one hand, and a goateed bass-slappin' player hanging out at the dive bar polar opposite. It's a nice juxtaposition, I wish I had more of the type "A" personality at times.
A short while later the girls all came down and we were ready to get down to business. I quickly saw that any fleeting concerns I had about brattiness were completely unfounded. The girls were polite, bright, charismatic, listened well, and loved each other a lot. I can't imagine there is a sweeter sound than children laughing, and I heard a lot of it that day. Watching their interaction with their parents and with each other was amazing. Like Will the girls clearly have a juxtaposition in their individual personalities.
Dylan is smart, really smart (it's a bit unsettling to have a conversation with a 7 year old and have it feel like an adult conversation) and she's sweet. Tori is both of those, but in a very different fashion. She thinks about things differently, sees the world in another way. Case in point: the glass water container with the lemon and lime slices.
I walked up to the pitcher where Tori and Dylan were dutifully pouring water for the guests at the barbecue and noticed the lemon slices were floating and the lime slices were at the bottom (or vice versa, like Tori, I'm not into details). I found this to be particularly interesting and I had know idea why this would be the case, so I asked each girl about it.
Dylan (Reminder 7 years old): "Well you see air can get into the little space on the surface of the lemon, and it brings them to the top. The limes don't have that and they stay at the bottom, plus they are heavier".
(She said something along these lines. I don't remember the exact words, but I know I was struck by the fact that she attempted to provide a scientific explanation to the problem. Clearly she was analyzing the situation and articulating a solution as best she could)
Tori: (pointing to the lemons) You see these are magical and they float (then pointing to the limes) These are also magical but they don't float (then she smiled and laughed hysterically).
Then I laughed. Both answers were probably wrong, but the way they approached them came from polar opposite sides of the thinking spectrum.
After we finished up the family photographs, both girls insisted that I take photos of them in their room. Dylan was first and she requested I take something with all of her stuffed animals. She fastidiously picked up each animal and placed it just so on the bed. Then she carefully nestled herself down into the animals so as not to disturb the scene and gave me the sweetest smile.
I then moved over to Tori's room and saw that she had changed into a skirt from one of her halloween costumes and a ski hat (why?). Two completely unrelated items, yet they fit so perfectly together on Tori. Then she began climbing the bed and then jumping up and down like a kook. I got what I needed and headed back downstairs.
I'm glad Jen asked me to shoot the photos. It means a lot when somebody thinks your work is worthy of hanging on the wall (and they have really good stuff on their wall) and every photographic interaction allows you the chance to capture the soul and essence of your subject.
And if you're lucky, you get to work with angels.