“Do you think I’ve gone round the bend?”
“I’m afraid so. You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
It never seems to happen like I plan. The idea for this shoot started out as something completely different. I found the skirt last year at a time when Giuliana was obsessed with ballet and princesses. I could picture the joy on her face when she got the chance to twirl around in it. I thought it would be amazing for Grace’s newborn portraits. I envisioned Giuliana finding her new baby sister swaddled in a basket, deep in the woods. That shoot never happened. It turned out to be much too lofty a goal for a sleep deprived new mother.
The summer came quickly and I had a new vision for the skirt. I could see Giuliana running down the beach at sunset, the tulle of her skirt skimming the shallow water, stomping in tide pools, twirling in sunflare. That never happened either. Then autumn approached and I pictured Giuliana as a woodland fairy gathering fallen leaves and picking apples. You guessed it… never happened.
And so, the skirt collected dust atop a pile of props in our studio basement. Every time anyone tried to pull a prop, the skirt fell down and consumed them in a maze of tulle. Everyone began asking me, “Are you ever going to use that skirt?”
I was. But when?
I had started thinking that perhaps I would wait for a snowy day and finally get the pictures of Giuliana in the skirt before she outgrew it. I was waiting for the perfect winter day. I needed fresh snow cover, but warm enough temperatures that my kids wouldn’t freeze or be miserable.
Coincidentally, this past Friday I started looking around for a favorite photograph I took of Giuliana in the snow a few years ago and found that the original is gone. All I have is the watermarked version from Flickr. Do you remember this one?
Still grieving the loss of my favorite snow photo, on Saturday morning I saw the forecast for the weekend and decided I would FINALLY use that skirt for once and for all! While I was at it, I would recreate my old favorite portrait and include Grace in it as well.
Contrary to popular belief, Giuliana does not like modeling for me and no amount of bribery will change her mind. When I tell her we are going to take pictures she gives me a giant “aaaawwwwwww I don’t want to!” and proceeds to hide behind the nearest large object while sucking her finger. She’s a typical four year old, only probably worse because she’s had a camera in her face her whole life and she’s a pretty shy kid. I actually showed her the “Princess Skirt” that I bought thinking it would be her dress-up dream-come-true and she immediately whined, “Mom, I’m not wearing that! It’s silly. It’s too big. I don’t want to do pictures.”
Given her aversion to having her picture taken, whenever I do a photo shoot with her, I have to turn it into something fun so she forgets she’s having her picture taken. As I hurriedly shopped and plundered the studio for the shoot, the idea for a scavenger hunt came together.
Giuliana ended up having a ball running through the woods, trying to sound out the words scribbled on tiny slips of paper and finding each of the treasures I had hidden for her amidst the snow. Sweet Indulgence was the icing on the cake, giving us some sweet little confections to scatter throughout our set. G has never met a jellybean she doesn’t like! We even brought Grace out at the very end for a quick snap to pull off the infamous bunny tea party, version 2.0.
It all came together even better than I could have planned. Sometimes, things just happen that way. Here is my Alice, in her winter wonderland.
“Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood: and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.”
- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland