I had a new BFH +1 (that is what I call the adults attached to my BFH Seniors, haha) ask me recently why I only offer prints, and why they cannot simply get a handful of digitals emailed to them, or stuck on a USB. and it is a question I get every now and then, and one I LOVE to answer.
I show them this portrait of my youngest (and only) daughter I have hanging on my wall. Every time I look at it I smile. I beam with pride at the young woman my little Noa has become. And I also remember. The surge of memories hits me like a wave. While the stunning piece of art in front of me reflects the portrait of a lovely young woman in her stunning yellow prom dress, I still see that little girl in her yellow short set, sweet and sassy, and wanting absolutely nothing to do with Minnie Mouse at the special lunch I spent saving and planning for. That little girl is still there, hiding at the edges of her smile, reminding me that she didn’t follow the crowd then and she doesn’t follow the crowd now.
I grin ruefully as I think back on that botch trip to Walt Disney World. By nature of the fact that you are reading this, I am sure you either ARE a high school senior, or have one, and I’m sure that if that is the case you can relate to this: sometimes the things we try the hardest to give our children, are not the things that will stay with us. I cannot tell you how many toys she NEEDED to have, that lie forgotten in a closet somewhere. Truthfully, she was not even really sure she would love having a portrait of her in our house, but that all changed once she saw it hung up on our wall.
Every time I pass this picture, I stop for a second and I remember. I remember a time before the word COVID, when the world was still open and shopping for prom dresses in person was still a thing. She had been saving up her money from her part-time job for months and I loved that she understood that the things that count are worth investing in. My daughter Noa really is wise beyond her years. But still, I knew the photos we created for her prom portraits were going to be something special, that I would hold onto for years. So after finding nothing that really left an impression on her at the first two shops we went to, she ventured to a dress shop in Georgetown.
I knew she had been before with friends to browse because she walked among the gorgeous dresses with a familiar ease. But this time was different because she went with me. It was a mother-daughter memory that I will treasure forever: the sight of her standing there among all the dresses.
Our salesperson was wonderful, he pulled the dresses that met her criteria and then she began trying them on. You’re probably thinking that I am biased, and you would be 100% correct, but the fact remains, they all looked gorgeous on her.
Then she tried on the yellow one. It took my breath away. It took her breath away. Heck, it took everyone’s breath away. She shied away from all the attention she got in the store while wearing that dress but only for a moment. She saw herself in the mirror and knew that the yellow dress was the one and she settled into the dress with an air of finality.
Regardless of what I have going on in my day, when I pass the artwork of Noa in the hallway I remember us getting up VERY early on a chilly Saturday to go down to the Lincoln Memorial for her portrait session. Planning this shoot had been an ordeal in and of itself, and Noa had been reluctant at first, to act as a “client” instead of acting like my daughter, but she warmed up after she began answering the questionnaires I send to all my BFH Seniors. She ended up loving the entire process, much to her chagrin. Based on our planning sessions, her questionnaire, and location scouting, I knew that I wanted to catch the sunrise and didn’t want a lot of people in the background.
She has seen me work with my BFH Seniors for a while, and has been an integral part of the Blue Fire Hydrant Photography brand since she was a child (and the mastermind behind the name, which you can read about HERE) but having my own daughter as a client was an incredible experience. Her senior year had thrown a lot at her, but here she stood, proud of her accomplishments and ready to tackle whatever the next chapter of her life may bring.
We arrived at 5:45 on a cloudy morning and my sunrise planning app told me we had only FOUR minutes until the sun rose. I hustled with her down to the reflecting pool and we began her session. She was a bit tired, excited, and nervous. I think those three verbs would apply to 99% of all of my BFH Seniors, haha.
After a few minutes (and gentle prompts from me) she hit her groove, just like all of my seniors do. I was capturing some amazing shots one after the other. I had a few specific ideas that I had planned, and she had mentioned in her questionnaire that she had one or two ideas she wanted to see if we could bring to life. The sun was still hidden behind the clouds, even after half an hour of shooting. I really wanted a shot of her with the sun behind her and just as we were getting ready to pivot and switch locations, the sun broke through the clouds. She beamed with delight and I saw that glow inside of her finally shine through. My little trouble maker at Disney World was still there, shining through in moments like this. I clicked the shutter a few times and she could tell by the look on my face that I got what I needed.
I am brought back to that feeling every time I look at the portrait hanging proudly on my wall. This piece of art holds both those girls, my little girl, and my big girl, tucked away within each other like nesting dolls, and that to me is why investing in professional artwork of your children is so crucial. A portrait is so much more than a portrait. It’s a gateway, a memory holder and teleportation device, and deep within the fiber of each canvas, and the glow of each print keeper are moments in time that can be revisited with each glance. That is why I print my photographs, and why I guide all my BFH Seniors and their families to do the same.
I cannot tell you how many photos I have on floppy disks, USBs, CDs, tucked away in a folder on an extra hard drive somewhere. you know how often I revisit them, or even have the ABILITY to revisit them in their outdated state on my new computer? never.
But I revisit all these memories and more each day when I pass this portrait of Noa, and the joy it brings me is priceless. That is what I told that kind BFH +1, and when I finished telling this story, she looked at me and said “you are absolutely right. How big is TOO big to print” and I laughed as I explained to her there is no such thing as TOO big to hold memories, but there is definitely too small!
As always, this is Stephanie with BFH Photography, remember to trap those moments, because in the words of Noa’s favorite character from The Office
“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” that way is through quality photographs and prints.