Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Oslo's Tree

Every year, as some of you may know, we end up with a sort of sad excuse for a Dr Seuss Christmas tree. This is not due to the fact that I am the last one to get to the tree selling place, or because I have terrible luck when selecting a tree, but rather because I am so obsessed with doing my small part to save the environment, that I fear if I went out and bought a glorious Christmas tree, which had been cut down in some far off northern land, driven miles to a port, put on a cargo ship and gas guzzled its way all the way down to Bermuda, then surely I am a bit of a hypocrite by not practicing what I preach. Don't get me wrong, I long for a big beautiful real fir tree, with the smell of pine wafting through my home bringing Christmas cheer into my brain with all that aromatherapy. How I would adore it, but I just feel like I would be such a fake if I did that - I mean why do I bang on about so many other things and then not even refrain from getting a cut down tree.

So instead, each year, we opt for an endemic Bermuda cedar tree in a pot to place our presents under. Although it is never quite the same (ok - let's be frank - it is nothing even close!), it still is a decorated tree, it still feels festive, and we still enjoy it, even if it is more from a humourous point of view. And the best bit is that we then get to plant it in our garden like all the cold country folk do, and enjoy it for years to come. I know we have moved house twice in less than a year, so there are now no trees from past Christmases anywhere in our current garden, but we have every intention of leaving our mark of happy holidays all over this garden too, until one day we stay in one house for the rest of our lives and clutter up those grounds with even more Christmas trees from years to come. That day is not here yet, but one day it will happen, and in the meantime, we will keep planting wherever we happen to be.

I remember one year, my mother decided she wanted to be artistic and creative and make a Christmas tree out of Casurina branches. I imagine it was utterly beautiful, with those rich blue-green wispy needles softly hanging in a tight bunch and somehow decorated in a way that only my mother could do. But sadly, and embarrassingly, instead of thinking (and now remembering) how special it was, or how creative she was, all I thought at the time was that my parents were too cheap to get a proper tree. This was of course not true at all but when you are a child, it is not the reality that shapes you, but your perception of reality. I wanted what everyone else had and it was not a tree like that one. So my mother was kind and listened and that was the last year she did something so wonderfully creative and instead buying a regular shipped in tree like everyone else.

So this year, I started to worry that Oslo in particular might start being a bit sad about not having a real Christmas tree. I didn't want him to feel like I did all those years ago, even though now I feel it is such a lesson. So I asked him what sort of tree he wanted, and of course he said a big real one like everyone else. My heart sank a little, but in a way, I was secretly grateful that I didn't have to agonise over what to do on the ethical level. He had given me the excuse to go big, real and fabulously smelly. But then something strange happened. He started asking why we couldn't plant the real Christmas tree in our garden. I tried to explain that fir trees don't grow in Bermuda and so they have to be cut down and that we would need to buy a stand for it wasn't in a pot so it wouldn't stay up on its own. And then my dear little angel boy did something so lovely . He said he wanted a cedar after all. But this time, could it be a big cedar and one of his own - one that looked a bit more like a real tree, and then we could still plant it in our garden in the new year. I was so proud of him, and I kept asking if he was sure, terrified I had projected my own baggage onto him, but he had genuinely thought about how sad it would be for our Christmas tree to end up dead, so this was the best option for him.

We went to the S.O.S (Save Open Spaces) nursery and Oslo chose a tree. Indigo chose one too, but hers is really a bit sad as she was more obsessed with being able to carry it than what it looked like. It is so scary looking that I think I will have to sneak back tomorrow to swap it for something we can actually decorate and pray she doesn't notice.

Last night the children decorated Oslo's tree together. It was such a lovely evening with the two of them cluttering this still tiny weird shaped tree with too many balls, while Ben taught himself piano (long story - will save for another post) and I took some photos. I am so happy we will plant this tree with all these memories in our garden one day. I can't wait to decorate Indigo's in the next night or two so stay tuned. And most of all, I am so happy that Oslo is so sure of who he is that he doesn't mind that his tree is different from everyone else's for he knows it is still his tree, and it will be for a long time to come, as will this beautiful planet of his that he is helping to keep healthy.

Below, Oslo is giving his tree a hug - so proud of all that decorating!

Happy holidays sweet, thoughtful, visionary Oslo. I love your tree, and so much more, I love love love you. xxx

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dreaming in the Unfinished Church

I Heart Faces is having a Scenic Black and White challenge this week. A fun idea and having a prominent face in the image is not a must so thought this photo has sufficiently dreamy background, while still being about the story of the subjects. I went to the Unfinished Church last weekend to do a shoot and was gutted to discover it was all locked up - the Bermuda National Trust does not have sufficient funds to restore this beautiful historic site to make it safe enough to remain open - such a tragedy and I am devastated so please enjoy these now rare images.

Head on over to the I Heart Faces blog to see all the other lovely entries. A great spot to get inspired! And if you have a scenic one of your own, do share.

Happy Monday.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Meredith and Freya

Meredith is a photographer. Her work work is edgy, original and downright stunning. So when she asked me to photograph her with her darling baby, Freya, I felt the pinch of pressure. I was so worried she would not like the results, or catch me out that I am really a fraud (I am not, of course, but when I am with someone in the same industry, someone who is good - sometimes, I suddenly feel like I am one!). And on top of that, she just wanted a mini session at my house so I didn't even have time and lots of wild backdrops to work with to make the magic. But she came, she trusted, I shot, and I have to say, I am thrilled. It is odd how sometimes, when you know someone well, you do not necessarily see them objectively, or possibly at all (physically that is - I generally notice more what is on the inside than on the outside). I have always thought that Mere was attractive, but as I processed these images, I was bowled over by what an utterly beautiful woman she is - how did I miss this all these years? And then I realised she was not just aesthetically lovely, but it is how she is as a mother that has added to her beauty. As I worked on the images, I stared into her eyes on my screen and really saw her in a new light, and she is indeed a beauty-full woman. Of course it helps to have a baby as darling as Freya attached to her at all times!

When I asked Mere why she wanted to do this shoot, her first answer was obvious - because as a photographer herself, there are never any photos taken of her with Freya so she wanted to capture this heavenly time with just the two of them together. But the second part to her answer surprised me. She said she wanted "some images with that Sacha fairy tale touch". It is interesting to hear how others view your work. I do love all things dreamy, but am flattered and thrilled to hear that feeling comes across in my images. I think with hair like Meredith's, and a smile like Freya's, that fairytale feeling is on hyper drive!

See what I mean about just staring into her eyes...

Love this one of her so thought I would include the black and white, and the colour versions. This baby is just too scrumptious!

Meredith - thank you so much for paying me the ultimate compliment by asking me to photography you both - I am so flattered and thankful - for shooting someone I admire was a challenge and I got through it and am thrilled with the results - hopefully they have sufficient fairytale flair for you! Kisses to you both and next time you are all in Bermuda, let's get Papa Bear in one or two as well!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Last Days before School

This family were about to have their world changed, and so wanted to capture those last moments, those last memories, of how it all was, before it all changed. Molly was going away to boarding school, and although she had been wanting this for such a long time, despite her parents preferring she wait, the reality of it coming upon them was suddenly hitting home and a family photo was definitely necessary. The best times for Anna, Simon, Molly and Daisy are spent around the dinner table, all eating together and learning from each other every day. Life would be very different once Molly headed off, so they were so happy to capture some memories of them all together in their home doing what they love best - just being together.

Simon feels outnumbered at times by all the women in his life, but he loves every minute and all the closeness that comes with having a gorgeous wife and two beautiful cuddly daughters.

Molly and Daisy are fiercely protective of each other and the four year gap between them has allowed the closeness to intensify with each depending on the other in so many ways.

Molly is almost twelve and is a very thoughtful, deep and questioning child. She loves her friends and her family, and is deeply loyal, kind and caring. She is also funny, but takes a lot of time to get to know people and only shares that side of her once she feels totally comfortable. She adores her sweet little sister and is wonderful at including Daisy in much of what she does.

Daisy is coming up for eight and is extroverted, vocal with a very kind heart. You know exactly what she is thinking and feeling, for she doesn't try to hide a thing. She wants to save the world and her parents are sure she has been here before. When she grows up, she wants to own and run and orphanage, and is always thinking of ways to earn and send money to Haiti. Her big sister is her best friend.

One of the things I love about doing shoots at people's homes is that it is so simple to include things that are deeply personal. Molly loves her Eyore so much and I doubt if we had done the shoot at a location, that he would have made it into the bag of props, but here, these images outside the bedroom, capture those last moments of childhood, and I hope they will mean the world to both Molly and her parents.

Simon is typically English and not very keen on displaying emotions publicly, so when I asked he have a cuddle with Molly, he was shy at first. I stepped away to give them some privacy as he started to tell Molly how he felt about her going away. I was so moved by what unfolded that I had to stop shooting for a moment to compose myself for I couldn't see through my own tears. So tender were these moments. This is what life is about, and indeed, what being a lifestyle photographer is really for.

These family shots of them all together after the intimate moments seem a bit flat emotionally, but I thought it may be necessary, just in case they want a more traditional shot for the grandparents!

Once all the key shots were out of the way, the girls showed me how they spend their days.

Apparently the second favourite pastime for the family, after eating a meal together, is preparing it - or should I say pre-supper disco cranked in the kitchen and dance moves to boot! Anna brought out her i-pod and the girls showed me some of their moves.

These beautiful aged walls are where the girls have drawn many a picture in chalk. I was touched to see what Daisy wrote for her sister.

This entire exchange was silent and their hug intense - I felt moved to be there and honoured they could be so real in front of me.

Thanks to all of you for inviting me into your home, and into your lives. It felt so personal and so real and I only hope that these images capture a fraction of the beauty and closeness that your family is so lucky to share. So happy Molly is settling in well at school and even happier she will be home again soon for more family dinners and disco in the kitchen. xxx