I was driving around today, eating a chocolate chip cookie and listening to the Beatles as one does when they are in their third trimester and life's a tangled ball of emotions and stresses. I was listening to one of my favorites “In My Life,” and I heard a line about memories and meaning and I thought to myself “ I don't want the memories of this season of my life to lose their meaning, no matter how overwhelming some days seem.”
I suppose this was my motivating factor for documenting this phase of life with my maternity portraits even though at the time I didn't have the words to express what they actually meant to me. This is my last baby, but my first time taking maternity portraits. If I am to speak honestly, I must share that when trying to sort through why a person who loves creativity and capturing and expression and storytelling purposefully skips over a phase of life that is usually regarded as something you want to remember. What it comes down to for me is when I’m pregnant I feel as though I am just trying to hang on, to make it through all the phases your body and emotions cycle through not to mention that three out of four pregnancies my husband and I have decided it was best for our growing family to move to a house with more room, which has lead to three home purchases, remodels, and moves when I have been 8 months pregnant.
The day I found out I was pregnant with this baby I remember thinking “I know what’s coming, and I will try my best for this sweet babe who I know has a special soul and role in our family but this is the last time I will be this version of Krista and I really liked her.” It takes me years to feel like myself again after a pregnancy and along the way I change, not just physically but my priorities, my energy, my habits all change and sometimes that is a gift and in other seasons it is a struggle.
This time, before I could talk myself out of it I texted my friend Kendyl who I love working with on my photoshoots and told her that I had a wild idea, which she always approves of. I told her I felt like I was craving authenticity and real life. I wanted to do a portrait session with her at our new house, a house that is under construction and very much in the rough stages of a remodel. I wanted to be able to have these memories to share with our baby boy, that mom and dad and his brothers and sister were all working so hard to make this home a place we could settle into as a family of 6, a home that we suspect we willed to us and came knocking in a most unusual fashion and at a most inopportune time. I wanted there to be a contrast between the old decrepit life this house had thus far endured with the new life coming, we were trying our best to listen to this house and bring her back to her glory. There is also a new life in me, my baby that would not let us forget that he was waiting for his family, this home is where I see him growing up and these walls we are building will be the keeper of small moments between mother and son, brother to brother, brother to sister and father and son.
I chose a dress that could not be more different than the utilitarian cotton shirt dresses that are my maternity favorites. It is a dress that made me feel beautiful but also was a dress that highlighted the striking difference between the unfinished state baby’s room (and our chaotic lives) we chose to shoot the photos in and my whimsical and hopefully serene appearance knowing that all of this felt right- the baby, the house- and it was my privilege to witness.
I’ll tell you a secret, this dress was the last of its kind and did not fully zip up but carry on we must even if that meant taking photos sitting on a window sill with your dress back open and landscapers on their lunch break right under this window!
When I shared the news that I was pregnant, my friend Melissa messaged me and asked if she could shower me in petals for my maternity shoot, something I hoped she still wanted to do when I asked her if she happened to have Wednesday the 4th free and if her beautiful mind could dream up something for me sculpted from flowers. Melissa made me little gardens that danced in the breeze of the three fans we had blowing and an umbrella of blooms. In her floral designs there were 4 roses, one for each of my babies, a secret message written with petals. One of the memories I will always carry with me, is at one moment in the photoshoot I looked at her and she had this look on her face and she told me I looked like a goddess and she felt so honored to be there (in our unfinished house that didn't have air conditioning on a 115 degree day) and I realized the beauty I had in my life, it abounded in my friends. It felt very much like a sacred moment, three women gathered together to create and two of them had lent me their light and blessed me with their talents.
These are some of my favorite captures of the day:
This is the umbrella Melissa designed for me, have you ever seen anything like it?!!! I love that I could be held above my head, casting delicate shadows, or to the side looking like a beautiful spray of botanicals.
My husband Steve didn't quite understand the vision for this photoshoot plus I think he was worried about me because it was so hot and the air conditioning hadn't been fixed in the house yet. He came two nights in a row to paint this room for me (and the baby) and then the day before the shoot he bought us several fans, one of them was designed to make the air cooler with water although it really just made it more humid, but we were happy to have them and I think the humidity added to my glow factor! This is also when he told me he was a little embarrassed that I would be taking these photos in the house where there would be multiple contractors working. I told him to say I was the lady of the house, and an artist and this was actually perfectly normal behavior for me!
I wore blue lipstick for some of my photos because I feel like as adults we forget to play and choose things that amuse and delight us!
5 THINGS I WORK THROUGH WHEN PLANNING A PHOTOSHOOT
You may not think you qualify as a creative director when you book a personal photoshoot like a maternity portrait session but indeed you are! This is a chance for creative expression and capturing a beautiful story in time and in turn giving meaning to your moments. How much of a production you would like this to be is up to you but I’ll share a few steps to my method when organizing a photoshoot either for personal reasons or as part of my ceramic business.
This is usually where I begin, it’s my vision, my story, it’s all the WHY’s and WHAT’S before working on logistics and translations which are the HOW’S. What would I like these photos to say? Are you craving creative expression, whimsy, story telling, documentation, authenticity, emotional release? How do you want these photos to FEEL. Once I have an idea of my concept I usually begin collecting to see if any new themes or directions emerge.
This is the gathering of ideas, objects, and themes like color stories or light. As I gather I can usually clarify and refine my concept. For instance when working on my maternity photoshoot, I kept finding myself attracted to blue ( which is very unlike me as I tend to gravitate toward warmth) so I found a blue dress that was my “moment”, chose a blue paint color to paint my baby’s room, I went to Sephora and found some blue shades of lipstick and eyeliners to try out in case I wanted to be very on theme. I collected just a few props- a dropcloth, a large brush with a wooden handle, a wooden handled paint roller, and a paint can that was silver without any labels on it. I also tend to lean towards gold but decided I wanted to wear my great aunt Emmy’s silver heart earrings. I liked the idea of generations of women in my family being there. I matched my silver earrings with silver flats that I already had. When I have these items and ideas gathered I usually share them with my photographer, Kendyl is my neighbor so she usually pops over and we talk the creative direction through or I text or email her photos of everything I’ve collected and been dreaming of.
Photographers have a unique gift to share. A capture is more than a photo, it encapsulates so many feelings and senses for us we will remember for years to come. When we look with our eyes at a photo we can remember small details that welcomed all our senses but belong uniquely to the experience of being there and feeling the magic of that day.
We will remember the details like how the dress we ordered didn’t quiiiite fit on the day of our photo shoot so we just didn't take any photos from the back. Or we can remember that there was a faint smell of paint and wood that mixed in the hot air, the 115 degree air because the air conditioning was broken. Or while looking out the window in a dreamy state there were actually landscapers casually having their lunch under the orange trees and wondering what was happening up there! For these reasons when organizing a creative photoshoot I find communicating with your photographer to be one of the most valuable things you can do.
Have you shared a mood board or photos of your collected items or ideas, one that each of you can add to? Created a shot list together ordered from most important to least important and leaving room for your and your photographer’s intuition and creative expression? Have you chosen a location that you can visit together at the specified time of day or does your photographer have experience shooting photos in that location or at your agreed upon time? Is the creative direction you are hoping for play to their strengths, sometimes my friend and photographer Kendyl will practice new techniques or learn new skills for our shoot. Is there anything creative that your photographer would like to try (for instance Kendyl walked into the bathroom next door to where we were shooting and found a piece of plastic and came out and said “hey I found this in your bathroom and I want to try taking a few photos through it.” Photographers also crave a change of pace, subject matter, and scenery. When you have built a relationship you trust where they place you in the frame, when they tell you to tilt your head down a little, or when it’s time to run off in a different direction to chase the light beams.
(this is the image photographed through the piece of plastic Kendyl found)
I find building relationships in your creative communities to be one of the most important and fulfilling things not only when planning a photoshoot or creative event but also just as a means of experiencing joy and to find those souls who will help add color to your life. These will become the talented people you can entrust elements of your vision. Building these relationships will take time and intention but I promise it will be one of the most fulfilling things you can do as a Creative. So boldly send that invitation you drafted weeks ago, ask them to meet for lunch, offer a collaborative idea, send gifts, remember important dates, cheer them on in their successes and failures. You will be able to support each other in living a joyful and creative life! I have friends who have graciously allowed me into their homes to photograph collections, friends who work on collections and collaborations with me using their unique talents and skills sets to create something that I couldn't even envision! It is a beautiful experience to be a part of. I have friends with such fine luck finding thrifted treasures and the good fortune of bringing those pieces home who then allow me to borrow their treasures for styled photos. I enjoy the company of friends who use the same medium who I can say those weird words like ‘“I don't know why my luster is acting like it's being repelled by something,” and they can offer their experience and knowledge. I have friends who create such beauty like my friend and floral designer Melissa, owner of Moelleux Events who created the floral arrangements for my maternity portraits, that you hope you can hire them because you know whatever they make will transport you and your senses to a uniquely beautiful place. I also try my very best to be ready and willing anytime one of my friends asks for something ceramic that might help them in their creative expression.
Nurturing relationships with people you admire both within your online community as well as your physical community will be one of the greatest blessings to fully expressing your creative voice.
AUTHENTICY WITH THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF WHIMSY
When I’m feeling prepared and have worked through these other steps one of the last things I like to do is check in with myself and ask what version or part of myself am I going to be harnessing, releasing, or modeling? Am I channeling an alter ego or spirit of someone I admire Like Georgia O’Keeffe? Am I expressing all of the emotions I’ve been carrying and just needed a way to release them? Have I styled myself and collected pieces that feel authentic to either myself or my vision (we always welcome a little bit of whimsy but I don't particularly love being overly self indulgent.) Then I practice a bit. I try on the wardrobe. I decide if I’m going to paint my nails. I experiment with how much makeup feels right for this moment. I get into character as it were, enlisting all of the elements I’ve been collecting and thinking about. On the day of the photoshoot I remember to say my affirmations, I always have a few butterflies and some nervousness but I try to bring a confident energy that will carry over and showcase all the preparation work in a glorious way!
We must refuse to let our moments lose their meaning whether those moments serve as a way to document our growth as an artist or our growth as a person, take the photos. Remembering is a gift.
creative direction: Krista owner and artist Her Name Is Mud
all images captured by: Kendyl Hawkins Photography
floral designs by the magnificent: Melissa, owner of Moelleux Events
paint color used for baby's room: Oval Room Blue by Farrow and Ball