José Francos Fotograf
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From industry to nature... a preparation for a love-filled day

One thing I love about pre-wedding photoshoots is that it gives me time to really get to know a couple before their big day. I'd hate to spend 2 hours on photos when the couple are all nicely dressed up and excited after their wedding ceremony only to find out a week later that the groom doesn't like photos of himself from the left. So, we do a practice shoot. That way, they also get to know how I work and get used to the weird faces I pull when I'm focused behind the camera!

Elin & Erik will be married on May 27th and seem really excited about the prospect! Their instagram feeds have become a countdown to the big day and the process of planning is very much at full speed now (not the most enjoyable bit, I must admit!). I can't wait to shoot their wedding in central Norrköping with all of the creative possibilities afforded by an old industrial city in fantastic condition. They're also incredibly photogenic. Some people make my job ridiculously easy to do!

We went out to the beautiful oak-filled woodlands in Ingelsta where we also had the back of some stores in an industrial complex. The lines and textures there were amazing so we tested out a few different shots, and here you can see what came of the afternoon. A lovely selection of dramatic black & whites and some dreamy woddsey pictures. How fun it was to show their adorable little critter how to use my camera too. She made some guest appearances herself but was more than happy to be my assistant for the day.

If you want to see the full gallery, click here.

An afternoon in the glory of the woods and water

Now is officially the start of the busy season! Wedding shoots and family shoots tend to look best when the weather is at its finest, and now that spring has finally kicked off, I'm inundated with beautiful people wanting their photos taken! 

This lovely couple are getting married in just a couple of days (3 to be exact!) and this shoot is part of the preparation for the big day. I chose some shoot locations which will be similar to those on the wedding day and we learnt all about each other, learnt some tips and tricks about posing and how much I HATE awkward poses! Both Linnéa and Micke were naturals. Having gone through the fact that posing for me basically means being in a particular spot and just doing what they usually do, the flew with it and it was such a great experience to witness how naturally close they are and how excited they are to become Mr and Mrs! I tell no lies when I say that I was very emotional when I edited the photos after the shoot. This is why I love being a photographer!

Here is a selection of the images we took on that afternoon in Getå & Kolmården. To see the extended gallery, click here.

Preparing for a family photoshoot - Six super tips

Ok, so you've booked a photographer to take pictures of you and your family. You did your research, you've found the right person for the job and now they're going to show up and magically take great pictures of you. Well, with any luck, yes. But there are a few things you should think about first in order to ensure that the images you end up with are the ones you were after in the first place.

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1. Think about what kind of photos you want - There are basically two different types of photos you can end up with (to simplify a very wide range of styles). One type is images in a documentary style. By this I mean that you invite the photographer into your everyday routine or to a trip or event and ask them to document what really happens. There is little posing and very little direction involved on behalf of the photographer and things are allowed to flow naturally. Some photographers are great at this and will really capture wonderful images where the context plays almost as big a role as the subjects.

The other type of photographs are posed ones. These most often involve either a visit to a studio or perhaps a portable setup that the photographer will take to your home or somewhere outdoors. These images will feel less natural but will have sharper lighting and more control on behalf of the photographer. 

Both these types of photographs are charming and produce wonderful results, but you should have an idea of what YOU want so that you and your photographer can plan accordingly.

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2. Clothing and colours - Another important consideration is what you all wear. You may want to look and feel natural and let the photographer document what you look like on an ordinary day. On the other hand, you may want to scrub off those barnacles and really look your best. Either way, one thing to consider to make the most of the fact that you're paying for someone to come in and capture you and your family in all their glory are the colours that you wear. If you're anything like me, you may want to consult the handy charts (at the very bottom of this post) which highlight the colour combinations that work best. 

Don't forget that if you're going to be outdoors, there is likely green grass involved or a yellow/orange sunset (if you're gong for that sort of thing), so don't forget to take that into account.

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3. Your home (if you're going to be indoors that is) - Do you want your home to be spotless so your images represent you at your finest, or would you like a permanent document of what your life was like at that particular point in time? Your answer to that question will dictate how long you spend meticulously scrubbing floors and sweeping things under the sofa. As more of a documentary photographer, I love mess. Twenty years down the line, it'll be so much fun for you and your kids to see the toys that were played with when the kids were just wee babbers, the corner where your little monsters would unroll toilet paper in and rip it to shreds as well as the pile of books thrown from the edge of the bed onto the living room floor over and over. But again, this is all a matter of taste and something you should decide on before you discuss the final details with your photographer.

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4. The time of your shoot - This may seem like an obvious consideration, but plan the time of your photoshoot to best suit your desired outcome and the makeup of your family. As an example, many families want pictures of their kids playing happily with a stunning sunset dominating the background. Those pictures are wonderful, but if it's summertime and you live in Sweden, the sun doesn't set until 10:30 PM, meaning that your kids will be more interested in tearing each other to shreds rather than playing joyfully in a wheat field. These shoots are better suited to mid spring or late summer/early autumn.

Also, if you want to capture your everyday life, then mornings, bathtime and mealtimes can be a great time to schedule your photoshoot so you can catch the spaghetti strands streaking across the kitchen table and water splashing all over the bathroom.

And whatever you do, if kids are involved, make sure they have eaten/napped shortly before or that they will eat during the shoot. There is nothing quite like the rage of a tired, hungry child to turn your photographs into season 7 of Game of Thrones. 

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5. What will you be doing? - This is not anything to think about if you've scheduled a studio photoshoot, but if not, think of a variety of activities you can do while you have the photographer around. Great ideas for indoor activities are... eating a meal; painting and drawing; reading; playing a game that usually involves action and laughter; dancing to music. If you're going to be outdoors, then take some balls, bubbles, water (for throwing at each other) and anything else your kids usually enjoy playing with. These activities may well take place after some prim and proper pictures have been taken, but it's always good to walk away with images in many different contexts as opposed to 64 different angles of you trying to hug your child as they try desperately to wriggle away from you.

6. You and your poses - Most people are very nervous before a photoshoot and often try and practice poses before the photographer arrives. Please feel free to do this if you enjoy watching yourself in a mirror and trying out some new funny faces, but THERE IS NO NEED TO! A good photographer will not only make you feel comfortable through their tried and tested people skills, but they will also know how to direct you to best flatter you and your unique body, clothing and facial features. Remember, you're paying THEM to take nice photos of you, and therefore the pressure is on them to produce the goods. If you paid a mechanic to fix your car, would you walk in expecting to crawl under the hood yourself and hand the mechanic his tools?

Now that photo season is about to get up and running, I hope this helps you to make the most of your photoshoot. If you're not sure which photographer you should go for or how best to search for one, I'll be writing a blog entry on that very subject in the coming weeks, so subscribe to my mailing list below to keep ahead of the game.

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The colour schemes

An afternoon in light and newfound closeness

A few weeks back I was fortunate enough to be asked by some friends and colleagues if I would be able to document the newly arrival child of someone I have known for a while, yet never really got round to making a close connection with. You know how you regularly bump into someone at work and instantly see that you share some kind of connection, but your desks are far away, you don't share the same copier and you would have to make a concerted effort to bump into them in order to really get to know each other? (No? Just me? oh well) Well, that's the story here.

One of the things I love most about being a portrait photographer is that I get to meet and get closer to people. Photographing someone is often a very intimate experience. I have to closely observe them in order to see how I can best take beautiful images of them; the contours of their cheekbones; texture of the eyes and smile lines which bring out their cheeky personality. Then you also get to follow them around (without anyone having to call in the authorities) and see; their swagger when they walk; the way their hands rest on their lap when focused on something else and the transformation of their expression when a myriad of varying things occur over the course of a few hours.

This photoshoot was such a wonderful experience. I got to spend time with someone who I've long respected. I saw an incredible majesty and beauty in him that I never gave myself the opportunity to see previously. Added to that, his partner (whom I had never met) turns out to be a reflection of his warm and caring character; someone with a warm glint in their eye; a welcoming smile; open arms to welcome a stranger into her home and an artistic soul. I'm sure she wouldn't mind if I direct you to her wonderful artwork https://www.sanjadimicart.com/ (Tip: check out her "circus" project. It's sombre and playful. I love it!). Let's not forget their newly arrived baby. Six weeks old at the time, his delightful cheeks, helpless cries and sense of safety and comfort when held close by his loving parents was a delight to witness. 

The pictures I took in their home of them and their newly arrived son were a joy to take. Their enormous windows allowed light to pour into their lives, illuminating their relationships in a way that made clicking the shutter a delicious experience where stunning images poured out of me. Thanks to both of you for letting me come into your home and be a part of that special thing you've got going on.  

The Perfect Family Part XI - Kids and books

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I wrote a while back about kids and their attitudes towards technology. Today I want to explore books and how my children experience their wonder. It's perhaps not as straightforward as you may think. I've made some observations which I think are worth sharing (please feel free to disagree and go and pour yourself a glass of whiskey instead):

1. Kids LOVE to hold the books they're reading.  

At first glance, this may not seem unusual, seeing as they are the readers, but keep at the forefront of your mind that an adult is usually doing the actual reading while the child is sat on their lap, which in case you hadn't noticed, is much lower than eye level. As angles and eyes work, it's virtually impossible to read the words on a page when the book is being angled virtually at your crotch. Yup, good luck reading that! Fortunately for my kids, I have a very flexible spine as well as blind determination and can somehow make it work out. 

2. They will not stick to a single book in one sitting.

Oh gosh, just when I think I've placed all the books back on their shelf in nothing resembling actual order and I've sat down with my little treasures to read their favourite story, they catch a glimpse of a cast-away book peeking out from beneath the giant teddy bear pile. This leads to continuous glances over and eventually ends up as cries to stop reading and pick up that other one which they can't quite make out because it must SURELY be way more interesting if we don't know what it is.

 

3. They love to read a good story over and over and ooooooover again.

43 times. That's how many times I estimate I've read The Jungle Book to my eldest. By all counts, that's probably not all that much compared to other families who probably read more than we do, but it is enough to ensure that Mowgli and Baloo's dance poses are permanently etched in my wavering and tired mind. 40 years from now, test me, and I'll cut off my frontal lobe if I can't recite the entire bloody thing to you. From an evolutionary standpoint, repetition is essential to progression as it ensures learning takes place, but equally, I'm confused as to why fewer parents have fled from their children in sheer frustration.

4. Real life suddenly BECOMES the book

Have you ever read the story about a rabbit lost in the woods, only to find out moments later that you, apparently, are the rabbit and that you must cry and call for help? This is my favourite part of reading books to my kids. They explore the story in so much depth in real life and it can be such a fun experience to run around putting on ridiculous voices, wearing stupid hats and getting hugs and kisses out of the cute little monsters by pretending to be hurt or in pain. But I dread to think what this play would look like if it continues into their teenage years and The Hunger Games becomes a family favourite...

5. They love to replace characters with real people  

Selma's favourite version of the Jungle Book is actually the one where Bagheera's name is José, Baloo is named after her mother (not the most flattering of choices!) and the rest of the characters are played by varying family members. Naturally, the lead role is reserved for none other than herself. Ego ego ego. I try not to read too much into her choices of alternative actors for the characters, but can't help but laugh at the fact that her favourite person on Earth (auntie Johanna) has been relegated to playing the ape King Louie. Love and closeness certainly do not guarantee flattery.

6. Get a word wrong and prepare to be reprimanded.

"No pappa! You're supposed to say skirt, not clothes!" Well, excuse me if I thought I could recite it without looking and drifted off into my own thoughts while remaining on reading auto-pilot because it's the 5th time in a row I have read the same flipping thing! Don't... get... words... wrong. It's a recipe for a swift telling off and in extreme cases, a full-blown fit of rage.

7. Carry on from where we left off!? NO WAY! 

Reading stories at bedtime is a wonderful way to wind down at end of the day on a relaxing and purposeful note. Cosying up together on a comfy bed and exploring both the story and the illustrations together is something I treasure. But there comes a point when reading on to the end of the book would just take too long, so the bookmark slips its way into the appropriate spot and the books goes to sleep beside the warm little monkey that has so enjoyed reading it. "We can continue the book tomorrow darling, sleep tight". Well this "continue the book tomorrow business" simply does not happen. "I WANNA START OVER PAPAAAAAA!" she says the following night, beating on her chest like a silverback marking its territory. This can go on for as many nights as you can wag your finger at until I finally give in and just read on until the end anyway. I enjoy the illusion of possessing control over my kids, but moments like this pop the bubble and expose me to the truth for a brief and painful moment in time.

   Well that wraps it up. I'm gonna go and try and squeeze in 5 minutes of my own reading time now. Hopefully I won't have any tiny humans trying to yank the pages out of my hands or attempt to climb me like a jungle gym. What would you like to share about kids and books that I've missed out? Write a comment below to share your experiences with us.

 

A New Year's Wedding - How we fought through the crowds

I received a message some weeks into November from a friend who asked me if I could take some portraits of him and his family on New Year's eve. Hmmmm, I thought, I had planned on having a few wines, a couple of beers and a few cheeky schnapps to see out 2016, so I wasn't so enamored by the idea, until he mentioned they would be portraits of his wedding day, at which point my reaction was rapidly overturned! Henke would soon be adding husband to his list of other notable titles (father, teacher, friend, and class clown).

Henke & Lina's wedding in central Norrköping was the perfect location for a photoshoot. Beautiful architecture, a river, a city-wide light festival illuminating the streets... great! The only problem was the growing popularity of the Norrköping New Year's walk, where thousands of people take a stroll through the wonderfully preserved industrial heartland of the city which is skillfully lit and full of wonderful sights... that being the EXACT location we would be attempting to take our portraits in.

It seems however that with a mix of lucky timing and well planned-out locations, the crowds were pretty much avoided, though I'm still not quite sure how! At certain points, we were wading through a river of people marching in the opposite direction we were heading in, like salmon swimming upstream, yet they were not visible in the final shots. There must have been a guardian angel hovering above somewhere (dammit, why didn't I get a picture of that!).

Thanks Henke & Lina for asking me to come along to what was a really enjoyable shoot and many congratulations once again!

Here are a selection of the images we took on the day. 

6 unbiased reasons why a photoshoot is the greatest gift

With Valentine's day just around the corner, the time has come for many people to wonder how on Earth they can show their loved one that they are wanted, loved and appreciated in equal measure. This doesn't apply exclusively to valentine's day of course, birthdays, anniversaries and milestones all involve gift-giving, and neither is this exclusive to an amorous relationship. Children, grandparents, pets and friends are all great examples of people you want to celebrate and remember. If you're anything like me, you find this gift-giving process very difficult! Well fear not, I'm here to help! (cue Superman theme song). Here are 6 reasons why a photoshoot is the best gift you can give your partner or a loved one:

1. It's eternal - Unlike; a gleaming watch which can be lost or broken, a delicious dinner which is done and dusted after a couple of hours (or slightly longer if you count the time taken to digest the meal) or a trendy gadget which will be out of fashion before you can say "selfie-stick", photographs with loved ones will last forever. They are a lasting memory of not only your relationship but of a particular time in your relationship. In years to come, those pictures will be so much fun to revisit. Whether you hang them as a giant blow up over the bed, in frames across the house or simply in a photo album/a folder on your computer, (probably unlabelled if your filing system is like mine!) there's a wonderful quality to a photograph which captures the emotions two or more people share for one another (you can also include pets in the photographs. Pets are people too!).

2. It's not material - Although a printed photograph is something which you can purchase and hold in your hands, the purchase of photographs is wildly different to grabbing the latest electrical gadget in a desperate attempt to show affection by splashing cash. It's difficult to find a gift which is thoughtful and doesn't rely simply on it being expensive. Well, now you have an idea of how to put your relationship in the front seat. And, quite importantly...

3. It's not a tattoo! - As much as I enjoy browsing through online galleries of regrettable tattoos (you can join my in my guilty pleasure http://runt-of-the-web.com/bad-tattoos#1), I would hate for you to suffer the same fate! Let's face it, we all make mistakes and tattoos are pretty permanent things. Save the tattoo space on your bicep for something cooler, like a Banksy or an anchor with "mummy" splashed across it, and invest the cash in immortalising your joy at being together in beautiful images crafted by a professional. 

4. The future - For many couples, children are a realistic possibility. Having children of my own, it's hilarious seeing the looks on their faces when they see pictures of my partner and I when we were 10 years younger than we are now. And she is not even 3 years old. The joy she will experience 5, 10, 20, even 50 years from now when she looks at a portrait of her parents from the bygone days of 2017 is immeasurable! Just think of the times when you've sat down and looked at old photo albums (if your parents actually kept any!), well you can secure that experience for your own children.

5. Cheap (or at least cheaper than some of the alternatives) - A photoshoot will cost anything between 600-2000 SEK (£50-£180) depending on the photographer's skill, the amount of time you book them for and how many images you want at the end of it. Given that I've seen people fork out well over 2000 SEK for gifts such as bags, shoes and tablets, a photoshoot can come in quite a bit cheaper in the end. But I guess that all depends on what you're used to spending.

P.S. A kind photographer will even let you spread out the cost over a short amount of time if you ask them nicely :)

6. Avoids the cheese factor (depending on the photographer you choose!) - Roses and chocolate are part and parcel of the tradition of gift giving, especially valentine's day. Roses are nice, chocolate tastes good, DO IT! But if you are worried about your nearest and dearest rolling their eyes and wondering what you were doing that whole time they thought you were planning a trip to Rome, spend some of that time looking up a local photographer. I stress, RESEARCH the photographers first. Don't just pick the first one that pops up on google, because their style may not be what you want to hang up on your walls. Some photographers excel in posed studio portraits (and that will reflect in their portfolio) while others are skilled in capturing candid moments where the magic between you is caught with wonderful skill. Go to their website and have a peek at their work. The sooner you start looking, the better. High-quality photographers often require a minimum of 2-3 weeks notice to get prepped, find a location and plan your shoot.

Here's hoping this was of some use to you. If you would like to receive more nuggets of wisdom or thoughts around photography, kids and weddings, sign up to my newsletter by popping your name and email address in the form to the right and receive exclusive subscriber offers (including a 20% discount on a couple's photoshoot if you subscribe before the end of January! Perfect for Valentine's day).

The Perfect Family Part X

Finally, here we are at part 10 of the Perfect Family blog. Here, we discuss issues revolving around family and the everyday realities they bring. Among those realities are a depressingly short supply of personal time in which to write blogs and edit photographs! My my my, I gawk at the amount of time the little ones require from us feeble big people, but I suppose you can argue that it's worth the time investment... when they grow up and become hormonal, crater-faced teenagers. Hmmm....

This week, I'd like to discuss kids and technology. Prior to becoming a proud first-time parent, I read many books in preparation for my new role in life. As someone who has always been interested in the sciences, I searched for, and found, a truly fascinating book revolving around the neuroscience behind babies, toddlers and children and the stages they pass through on the way to becoming fully-developed adults. What a great read it was. I would strongly recommend the book for any parent, particularly those of us who geek out at the sound of the words "neuron" and "synapse". I did notice though that among the fascinating information and golden nuggets of advice for raising happy and stimulated children was a piece of information which flummoxed me.

Tablets & phones... they apparently retract from a young child's understanding of the physical world surrounding them. Avoid exposing young children to technology such as tablets and smartphones, it said, as the result of touching the screen is not directly attributable to the act of having touched it. As an example, if you take a stick and hit it against your father's head, it will make a sound. A dull sound which hints at the echoing chamber of emptiness below the scalp which is now swelling up like an ant mound. However touching a screen can cause a spiralling shower of colours and shapes which children cannot connect to the physical world. All of this makes sense. "OK", I thought, I'll give screen-free childhood a try.

It quickly became apparent however that I AM one of the gawking buffoons which the book clearly implies will be created when exposed to large doses of screen time.
   Exhibit A) I watch TV. Football, documentaries, Game of Thrones, gangster stuff with lots of shooting and Agatha Christie crime dramas (courtesy of wifey).
   Exhibit B) I use my phone. Facebook, Instagram, sports news, world news, photojournals, games, jumping games, driving games, games where you make YOUR OWN BLOODY GAMES! 
   Exhibit C) My brain is mush. When I walk outside in the real world, I see Pokemon instead of real people. My local bakery is run by an enormous yellow bear-thing which uses hypnosis to trick me into buying too many cinnamon buns. Then the weird fish-like creature that lays on its side constantly tempts and succeeds in making me eat half the buns before I get home to my family (who are famished because I've spent my monthly earnings on pokecoins so I can top up on my diminishing supply of pokeballs and potions).

Oh dear, I never really stood a chance of keeping screens away from my kids. Yes, they watch TV. They also occasionally play on my phone (which I'm surprised to say has miraculously survived the many spills and tumbles). We have however made the whole system work productively, with great thanks to some wonderful online resources made for parents and a whole host of apps which have capitalised on the potential of modern technology to encourage children to speak and learn to read. http://www.bestappsforkids.com/ is an example of such a resource which has meant that the guilt I had once begun to feel has long ago dissipated and I have embraced the technology as a small part of a wider experience for my kids. To attempt to ignore the technology was never really a possibility for me, nor do I think it is something which will do the remotest bit of harm to my little ones. There are doubtlessly plenty of families who will make do with row upon row of books, enriching trips to the local art gallery and a systematic approach to involving their children into cooking mealtimes and scrubbing the floors while their parents lounge in leisure in a hammock home-woven by their nobel-prize winning 3 and a half year old. That however, is not my perfect family.

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The Perfect Family Part IX

Summer holidays here in Sweden are winding down to a halt now. Teachers are back in school and students are following close behind, their shadows looming like a dark mist, meaning an end to the wondrous freedoms of roaming in the countryside with absolutely nothing to do except enjoy the company of family and snap away like a lunatic, attempting desperately to document the special times we share together.

One thing has become apparent to me over the course of the last 8 weeks... a fact which I had considered previously but never truly appreciated the value of. I'm referring of course to the immense value of extended family. On several occasions through these past weeks, the pressure of being a parent and the requirement to be a pillar of patience and reliance was relieved by some of the other special people in my children's lives. Auntie Johanna, uncle Jonas, grandparents and friends, my gosh what joy they bring to my kids and what a relief it is to me when I can take time to myself and relax for a few hours (even up to a few days!) Letting my guard down means I have the opportunity to observe a little more from the perimeter of my role as a parent and see the beauty that comes with a happy child surrounded by people who would give their all to return the joy which she brings to them.

Even the most mundane, everyday events like spending time at home are transformed into opportunities for unadulterated attention and play. The image I have chosen this week was a moment I captured between two kindred spirits who spent an entire weekend submerged up to their eyeballs in one another. This picture is very special to me and warms me to my core. It shows the intimacy that can be shared between people who binge on each other's enthusiasm & energy and form a bond which not only survives, but decimates the physical distance between them and the inevitable amount of time they spend apart. Their enthusiastic relationship can be reignited at the flick of a switch despite an absence of several months. 

To lack these relationships is tragic, to possess them is a richness beyond anything which material possessions can provide. As a parent, I also feel a sense of relief that when my kids reach that difficult pubescent age where they sling a cloth, filled with essential clothing and toys, over a hobo's stick and sneak away from their draconian parents in the pitch of night, I know which auntie and uncle they will be running to. A knowledge that they will be looked after when their needs stretch beyond what I can provide makes for a feeling of safety which I am relieved and grateful to feel. 

The Perfect Family - Part VIII

How lucky I was to be in Stockholm at precisely at 13:20 on July 25th 2016. To have an opportunity to take the photos I did felt like a moment custom made for me and my photographic tendencies, though my camera would beg to differ. Let me rewind a little.

A few weeks back, I received contact from a Russian family who were travelling to Stockholm and were looking for a photographer to document their son's 3rd birthday, a day in which they would traverse the wonderful archipelago of Sweden's capital city. A trip to a museum (Junibacken) themed after some of Scandinavia's favourite children's tales made for a delightful experience for all, myself included. I couldn't help but imagine my own little critters springing from the giant ape to the Mumin merry-go-round with the same joyful expression as their own child did. Having my camera in-hand was a thrill. Needless to say, a trip with my own kids is already in the pipeline.

Cool in the face of the storm

Walking back to the hotel along an avenue sheltered by vibrant green leaves, we spotted across the water in the harbour that an enormous cloud had collapsed in on itself and had released its full might onto the poor onlookers below. Knowing we would soon be on the receiving end of the downpour (but not quite knowing what was really at hand), we casually began our search for a taxi to safely take us home and spare me having to claim for a new camera from the insurance company. We were doomed from the start however, and soon found that our search was in vain, as the winds swept up to frantic heights, showed the city how puny we humans really are and forced us to take cover under the safety of a café tarpaulin under a veritable blitz of hail pellets. Chairs fell and flew, people scrambled frantically and drivers lost all sense of the rules which govern the safe navigation of such a grand metropolis. Saying this, the father of the family, a fine, calm young man, was completely unphased by the unfolding events and casually strolled into the abyss with the aim of securing safe passage for his beloved kin. While the rest of us cowered, he prevailed.

Having jumped in the cab, the relief was palpable and the unrelenting laughter was both relieving and invigorating, as we found ourselves drenched from head to toe and completely helpless at the hands of the elements. The creative spark in me was activated just there and then as I sought to document in as accurate a way as possible the feelings and fears that come about in such a sudden change of conditions. I snapped what is probably my favourite image of the entire trip and one of my most accomplished images (all according to me of course!). My Russian friends will not be framing this week's title image above the mantle, but it will remind them of that unexpected 20 minutes we spent together in Stockholm's fragile weather bubble. Though the raindrops and humidity did not make for the world's prettiest picture, they sure sculpted a unique moment for a wonderful family who are likely to remember their trip through these photos for a long time to come. 

I did also manage to capture some heart-warming beauty  ;)

If you would like to see more images related to this week's wet and windy post, please take the time to sign up to my weekly newsletter. You will receive 1 email per week in which I share some more intimate moments in family life, and I promise (pinkie promise!) NEVER EVER to give your details away to evil doers. Have a lovely week!

The Perfect Family - Part VII

A very warm and loveable welcome to you, my dear readers. An especially warm welcome to any new readers to the blog who may be confused about what on earth is being written about here. Please don't go away until the end! My aim is to reclaim the image of the family from the perfectly groomed to the perfectly imperfect. Families are places for unscheduled fun, unadulterated pride, and immense surprise and disappointment. All of which makes for a superbly unique experience which I dearly love to recount (though ask my daughter what she thinks of this in 15 years and I may have changed my tone!).

We have moved out to the countryside for the summer to a lovely little cottage we rent. Placed smack bang among swaying grain fields and wave upon wave of stunning pigments delicately blending together, it makes for a truly perfect landscape for a photographer with delightfully naughty young children to photograph.

Below is a picture which encompasses the experience of being out in the country for my 2 year old daughter. Flinging herself back and forth on an enormous rock which supplies a view of the fabulous landscape before her, she pounces from one mossy tuft to another with an expression that displays the freedom and exhilaration that we are so fortunate to live with as a matter of routine. With the worrying events which regularly unfold across our continent, I feel a particular pang of gratitude at being able to provide my children with experiences which will, with any luck, mould them into contented and purposeful people full of life and imagination, ready for a future which holds a myriad of unknown elements. 

A countryside adventure

Happy children in fields? Positive and bright futures!? WHAT AM I READING!?... I hear you cry. Worry not, this is not a soppy call to arms for our potentially crumbling continent and political institutions. 

I get to the point... Despite all of the stated benefits of being in a landscape as idyllic as those in the fairytales of old, fits of rage are nonetheless unavoidable. "Suggest to count up all of the wonderful stones which she has collected," I thought to myself. "What a superb, pedagogically inspired idea!" I concluded upon reflection of the aforementioned thought. Was it truly a worthwhile suggestion? Not according to the beast which tore itself through Selma's joyful facade and snatched away the stones which were so lovingly plucked from the sacred Earth beneath her feet. The fate-filled stones were then flung as far as a sausage-length arm could muster, deep into the golden, swaying mass of wheat which awaited the blow with the grace and humility one would expect from such a stunning pasture. A prolonged roar promptly followed and bellowed across the plain, which in translation to human-speak would sound something like the words I would like to use to describe a politician who holds a very special and permanent place in the darkest torture chamber of my mind and who I am delighted to have witnessed the mouth-watering demise of. No names will be mentioned.

Ahem

Ahem

Every once in a while, I can't help but feel a pang of guilt for exposing the world to the abuse which I know is waiting for it with the arrival of my perfectly imperfect little bunch of critters.

Thanks again for taking the time to read my tales. I take immense satisfaction from writing these and your thoughts and comments have been very much appreciated. If you subscribe to my blog, you will also receive a short weekly email with some extra images related to the current week's post. The list is growing, so thank you to all my wonderful subscribers who get to share a little extra piece of the most wonderful aspect my life with me. 

Here's wishing everyone a lovely week, completely devoid of depressing news!

The Perfect Family - Part VI

On occasion, our nightmarish "children" (I hesitate to imply they are fully human) show glimpses of the finer aspects of humanity. I, of course, see right through the little beasts and their guile. Despite the occasional glimpses of innocence and genuine generosity, the true evil behind them is clearly visible to me.

Take the above image. What a beautiful capture! As a photographer, moments like these caught on camera feel like true masterpieces. After the hour-long ordeal of running after her, repeatedly flinging myself to the ground and hoisting myself up onto perilous heights, to come away with just one image like this feels like a veritable achievement. Needless to say, most would be excused for thinking that this is an ideal candidate to be artistically fitted into a shiny, new frame and given pride of place above the mantelpiece.

When I stare at this image, however, I see something different. The cheeky smile gives me a crystal clear clue that she has either just done something she was forbidden to or, alternatively, had formulated an atrociously cruel plan which she would execute with the clinical precision of Moriarty himself. You may think me a cynic, and you would probably be right, but one of the perks of parenting is that you get to know your children like the palm of your sleep-deprived hand, warts and all, and I'm telling you, that look is dangerous... life-threateningly dangerous.

The real reason behind her grin is no secret, however, as I discovered mere seconds later. Here she is 30 seconds after the initial image, after she had torn up a chunk of grass (with soil-attached) and flung it directly at me, maniacal grin-and-all. Fortunately for me, a) grass is not usually deadly, not even with soil still hanging from it, and b) she possesses the aim of an armless drunk and missed me by a country mile, and c) I can always count on the local police to resolve her horrific behaviour on my behalf.

You see, as someone who has worked as a teacher of young children for seven years and has been a father for going on two and a half, I have learnt their tricks; Their admirable ability to play on adult human emotions for their own personal gain, their willingness to lie through their teeth and deceive in order to execute their dastardly plans and a scant disregard for the emotional well-being of other fellow humans in their pursuit of power and glory.

...nasty, nasty characteristics which make for rather wonderful little people without whom my life would feel empty and worthless. 

The Perfect Family - Part V
Sharing a cosy moment with little sister

Sharing a cosy moment with little sister

As a parent of two, my everyday life is filled to the brim with conflicting emotions. JOY at seeing my eldest daughter madly infatuated with her newly arrived sister, so much so that she experiences demon-like convulsions in the same way a teenage Bieber fan would upon seeing him bounce onto the stage after months of anticipation. Fear at having realised that my child has a 50m headstart on me and is speeding her way directly towards the nearest road. The fear is so instant and gripping that I don’t consider to look whether there are actually any cars coming. I just leg it like my life depends on it (although in reality, it’s someone else’s!)

A third, and very regularly occurring, set of emotions are those of anger and despair (oh what a lovely light I paint parenting in). The above image was taken as my darling wife was forced to pick up Selma's stiff frame and lug her across the road to our car, much to the enthusiastic disappointment of our little terrorist. Not so terrible I hear you say… I’d completely agree, but her reaction would suggest otherwise (hence the limp body in protest of the unforeseen initiative of dearest mother).

I’d like to rewind a few moments to something that my roadrunner regularly says. In fact, she says it on average a thousand times a day and in varying situations. The words are - “You MUST hold mamma and pappa’s hand when you cross the road”. We may be reading a story about something not remotely road-related and she would eagerly swirl herself round to initiate eye contact with me, open up her bug-like eyes so they are virtually bursting out of their sockets, and state as if I had no knowledge of this fact of life, that you absolutely MUST hold mamma’s and pappa’s hand when you cross the road. “Ok, darling”, I say, “that’s correct. It’s fantastic that you know this” (even though you decide never to bloody do it!). This ritual can be witnessed at many points in time; When peeing on the toilet, watching the 1970s television production of Pippi Longstocking on the telly or building and decimating lego towers which were elaborately built by her overbearing father. There is one time of day however when the words are never said…

So on to the image again… Did she hold her mother’s hand when crossing the road? Of course not. Did she repeat the often recited phrase which she seems so sold on? Not on your life. Did she pretend she would hold mother’s hand only to duck away as her leaning parent was disabled in a low crouch, and sprint directly towards oncoming traffic? The answer to that lies in the look of anger and despair on her mother’s face, a look which is seen many times during a bog-standard day, sometimes from mum, oftentimes from dad and occasionally simultaneously. My perfect family.

The Perfect Family - Part IV

The perfect family... is there such a thing? If so, I'm certainly not a part of one (though I wouldn't change a thing). In my series, I document the wonderfully imperfect moments in my own family life, in the hope that others will share my sense that it is ok to be an imperfect parent, because the opposite is an unattainable dream which leads to low self-esteem and a constant and pervasive sense of guilt. My view is that I can just blame my child's behaviour on society and energy drinks and that clears me of any wrong-doing.

image.jpg

This week, I went to the public library. The word public is crucial to that sentence, as in a public place, there are written and unwritten rules of conduct which the vast majority feel a certain level of responsibility to follow. All except small children. Although at the time of this week's event happening, I felt like the only parent that could ever allow such a blatant disregard for rules to occur, this sort of thing has almost certainly occured to every parent on the globe.

The children's section at the public library does not subscribe to the same rules as the rest of the library. I mean, you try to keep a 2 year old quiet when they spot a life-sized cutout of a Mumin troll greeting them at the entrance to the hundreds of shelves lined with colourful and exciting books. Not possible I tell you. However, there are other adults present and many of them (myself included) feel a need to set the example with their own child to show what an in-control parent they really are. The unwritten rules live strong in me. I want to set the example too. Try as I might, I cannot help but to cringe at the parent of the child who has just thrown a book in the face of their baby brother in an uncontrollable fit of rage. Tut tut, my mind says. Only until my child goes and does the very same thing just moments later. Erm... now I feel like a twat.

I was enjoying time at the library with my delightful wife and 4-month-old baby daughter (number 2). Taking pictures of the little has becoming more interesting. She is now finally smiling and laughing at the slightest bit of stimulation. No longer will my squeaky coos be misjudged as a screech of oddly-masked pain. In my distraction and obsession with catching the right moment on camera, I totally lost track of my eldest, who had disappeared round the corner of the large red-leather sofa which sits neatly in the middle of the children's area. Snapping away, I noticed out of the corner of my viewfinder a midget-like figure stealthily creep up onto the sofa and crouch down as if ready to leap into the abyss. Refocusing my camera, I just managed to catch her trajectory as she flung herself off the sofa, with scant regard for the potential death-inducing crash she would surely face, down onto her new crimson throne and screamed with all her might. "HOPPPPPPPPPPAAAAAAAAA!!!" (translated from Swedish as "JUUUUUUUMP!!!").

Watching her screaming like a Viking warrior, I felt the inevitable sense of self-guilt, believing that she was ruining the precious family time of others in the vicinity and felt the hot gaze of at least one other parent on me. Realising that I had still not moved but was sitting on the ground happily snapping away at my unruly child repeatedly leaping from a height, each time with greater fervour, I realised that the stares were probably more to do with my unwillingness to get up off my fat arse and be a parent. I took a couple more snaps and then proceeded to pick her up and have a quiet word about not bursting any eardrums or skydiving off high surfaces.

Naturally, looking through my viewfinder just 2 minutes later, Erik The Red had returned...

The Perfect Family - Part III

Welcome back to the Perfect Family Series, where parenting is depicted in as honest a light as possible, highlighting, in particular, those memories which many of us attempt to lock away in the deep dark cellar of our minds, but will appreciate memories of when retirement finally comes and can dedicate all of our free time to taunting our children with embarrassing toilet stories.

I wonder what she wants

The above image is one which speaks for itself. Countless parents have encountered the same moment where a quick trip to the shops, which started out so wonderfully, quickly takes a turn to the more sinister side of human emotions... when your child lays eyes on the oh-so-tempting Pick & Mix counter (cue Darth Vader theme with fit-inducing strobe lighting).

Subscribers to the blog will see a couple of bonus images related to this wee trip to my local culinary sales establishment (in the mood for inventing unnecessary terms José?). But to briefly recount, my little jelly bean of a daughter was so excited to come to the shops with me that she sprang off the sofa, snatched her life companion (a teddy called Mia) away from the parquet floor which its face had been viciously forced onto just hours earlier, and made a beeline for the front door. 

Fast forwarding through the eventful walk to the shop, where several cats and bees were the topic of excited discussion, we arrived at our local shop and made our way down the aisles, with Selma excitedly clutching at anything which contained a semblance of colour or shape and slung the poor items into the trolley. She enjoys this, and so I allow her the pleasure of popping any item she likes in there, before snatching it away when she is distracted. This makes for a delightful trip to the shops. We are also very lucky in that they keep mini shopping trolleys which she can boss around and navigate around the store (amazingly without nipping at anybody's ankles).

Note the squashed teddy bear with pink feet

She generally carries all of the contents of our mini shopping trips, so she follows me around, happily organising the items I hand her into neat piles next to Mia, the teddy which tends to sit up in the corner, blissfully enjoying a moment of calm (before metallic items come raining down like a speed-fueled napalm shower). However, the same story plays out with every trip. I arrive at the counter, ready to pluck Selma up, pop her onto the bench next to the conveyor belt and help her to lay out the items so they can be counted and paid for, only to see that she is nowhere to be found. Except, I know exactly where she is. Taking a few steps backwards and turning the corner, I take out my camera and click the shutter, revealing this week's image... one which will always remind me of the immense conflicts of childhood. Joy at seeing the colourful delights which are craftily guarded in their glass cages, cheekily showing their forbidden fruits to all who are short enough to see them at eye-level. Surely this time, my loving father will not be able to resist my tricks, the eyes gleaming with puppy-like desperation, shoulders slumped enough to imply a potential meltdown of cataclysmic proportions should he refuse my request. She seemed so confident. She always does...

I'd like to say a quick thank you to those of you who have committed to reading upcoming episodes by subscribing to my blog. All of my wonderful subscribers will receive not only an email alerting you to a new episode being released, but I will also include some additional content in the form of beautiful images related to the current episode. So please sign up if you have enjoyed these 3 parts and I look forward to sharing even more moments with you.

 

The Perfect family - Part II

In my Perfect Family series, my aim is to highlight the moments in my family life which are very much unposed and imperfect, yet are remarkably special to me in a myriad of ways. I see and hear too many parents who feel guilt over not fitting the unattainable image of the model family which is often put out there by photographers. I hope you will see that I feel an intimate connection to the beauty in the everyday and aim to capture it in as beautiful a way as possible.

I give up

I give up

This week's image is of my daughter Selma during a lovely trip to visit our friends out in their summer cabin in Norrköping, Sweden. Having spend a wonderful few hours in the evening sunshine, dining and enjoying the outdoors, a fascinating umbrella appeared in my daughter's line of sight. Its surface was dotted with images of ripe red strawberries and it was clear that a love affair had been struck. However, despite the sumptuous fruits on display, it soon became apparent that this delightful object held a sinister secret underneath its protective wings. 

Problem #1 - It wouldn't fit through doorways. Selma looked like the confused dog desperately attempting to take the knobbly stick it had found to its owners, who would surely be overwhelmed with pride at the incredible discovery, only to find the stick is too wide for the gate. Oh well, try again... Nope, still too wide. Try again. AAAARRRGGHH! 

Problem #2 - Once closed by concerned parents, it would not reopen. Much to her frustration, all that would happen was the painful trapping of her fingers in the metal maze that made up the umbrella's frame. Pain and frustration then led to problem #3. 

Problem #3 (as represented I this week's image) - In a regrettable, rage-filled incident, Selma slammed the umbrella down to the ground in frustration. After a quick stamp of the foot to assert her dominance and ethical superiority, she had realised her mistake and made a desperate attempt to retrieve the object before the ground swallowed it up and deprived her of the potential for joy and laughter. However, a combination of short, stocky arms, the curved surface of the umbrella and feet which seemed to be unable to avoid stepping on the strawberry coated treasure, all led to her inability to pick it up from the ground. The more she tried, the more painful the failure became. 

All that was left of her optimism was drowned in sheer despair. Head dropped, shoulders drooped, she slumped away back to the porch where her father would surely be waiting to pluck her up and comfort her in her time of need (daddy was of course snapping away like a crazed maniac at the sight of her battling with an inanimate object).

What a wonderful memory for me of the highs and lows of childhood. One minute filled with hope for the immediate future, the next... hopes crushed into smitherines by the very thing she had regarded so highly. Naturally, she was running around, arms flailing happily through the summer air, singing the theme to the Litlle mermaid seconds later. Such is the wonderfully volatile nature of an ordinary family day. 

if you have kids and would like to share a moment which you hold fondly in your memory, I would love to hear it. Please write it in the comments below and be a part of showing the world how beautiful the unexpected everyday can be.

The Perfect Family - Part I

With my photography, I have one principal goal: To capture real moments in people's everyday lives which are worth remembering. This is a picture of my own everyday, one where my mischievous and hilarious daughter decides that it's not enough to simply pick out the pesky bit of snot that's been bothering her for several hours, but that she needs to do it in a way that stretches her nose out so it contorts the entirety of her little face. She does it with flair and a flick worthy of any seasoned darts pro. If only I could show you the missile which followed...

I'm pretty sure nobody is watching

I'm pretty sure nobody is watching

The ideal family image

The ideal family image

As a father who wants desperately to create valuable photographic memories of this time in my family's life, would I want a staged picture like the this on the left, where everything is clean and perfectly laid out? The answer is a resounding NO! How wonderful it would be if my kitchen could look like this every so often, but the truth is that it never does. I want to represent the true family life that I experience. I don't need a photo of neatly dressed kids to show the world how perfect and in control I am as a parent, because I'm far from perfect and most often feel like I have no idea what to do with the screaming little monster whom I love so dearly, yet screeches at the top of her lungs that she will NOT eat the sandwich which she has been screaming for since daybreak. And it's perfectly normal and OK to feel that way. I'm hoping that more parents take my lead in admitting that despite the many books I have read and the theories that my wife and I have prescribed to with regards parenting, I don't know what the hell I am doing half the time. Theories are all well and good, but when your two-year-old turns into the Kraken, which book do you turn to then?

In my weekly blog, I hope to share with you the spectacularly imperfect moments which I truly hold dear in my heart, in the hope that you will also be sold on the idea that families are not places where kids help to cook your dinnertime meal as perfect robotic angels. We have enough reasons to feel inadequate or guilty about things we do without turning the most crucial roles of our lives into a guilt filled ride where we miss appreciating and recording the good stuff and have little to remember it by when we are wrinkled like raisins and abandoned by our selfish children.

If you would like to be kept updated on my future posts, please subscribe to my blog (over on the right hand column or at the bottom of the page) , and should you have any precious pictures or tales of your everyday, please share them on here so we can all bask in the glory of your own beautiful imperfections. I would love to hear your stories.